So, we did our annual trek to Cape May with my parents for the July 4th week. We left on Monday morning and came home yesterday afternoon(Friday). We try to avoid travelling the Garden State Parkway, or a better name would be “Garden State Parking Lot,” on the summer weekends. Last year’s trip was rough.
My mom’s memory is getting worse quickly and she does not want to go to the beach anymore, preferring so stay by the pool at the motel. She burst into tears one day while we were talking, apparently forgetting that Tim is not cured of his MM. Also, Tim was having neuropathy in his calves and feet and informed me that it had been going on for some time. A depressing vacation, to say the least.
This year, my younger sister came with her husband and 2 kids, 10 and 6. We are trying to get these family trips in while my mom still can and Cathy has wanted to come down with us for a number of years. I was looking forward to redeeming last year’s trip. Well, it was not to be. Me and Cathy are very close and crack each other up all the time. The weather was rainy though, Tim and Dad’s golf game didn’t happen, but we had gotten some beach time in by Wednesday afternoon, after being rained off the beach earlier that day. Wednesday night, we went to a restaurant on the bay called
Harpoon Henry’s. We do this every year. They have a little street fair along the bay and fireworks
after sundown. We had to wait for a table so we sat outside by one of the bars and margaritas were abound. Not for me. I am the best designated driver, I don’t drink at all and my sister was driving the other car and only had one. Tim and my brother-in-law Chris had several by the time we were done with dinner. After dinner, my mom spent a little while in the ladies’ room and we were concerned her meal did not agree with her. My mom likes to eat, a little too much, actually she likes it a lot too much. I didn’t eat at all at the restaurants. My stomach has been awful lately so I ate pasta before we went out and just enjoyed the company while everyone else ate.
After the meal, we walked out the side of the restaurant to see the fireworks. It was crowded. This is the only joint on that bay side and the streets were mobbed too. My sister noticed that it appeared my mom was not feeling well. We kept our eyes on her. She and my father were sitting on this little hill right outside the restaurant, next to the sidewalk. She stopped watching the fireworks and was looking down. I walked over and said, “Mom, are you OK?” She is unresponsive. I ask again, and she goes into what I’m pretty sure was a seizure and a stroke also crossed my mind. I yell out for someone to call an ambulance and say. “lay her down.” We lay her back and she is out. She stops shaking and is completely motionless. Her skin is cold, like I never felt someone’s skin before, and we can’t see her breathing. Her face is waxy and we think she is gone. I’m thinking about James Gandolfini, who grew up just a few miles from my house. Tim and I had to drop his truck off for service and drove right past the funeral parlor during Mr. Gandolfini’s wake, with all the dang news crews and their cameras all over. I’m thinking, this is it, big meal, heart attack, she’s gone, right in front of 3 of her grandkids. I see no signs of life and say, “she needs CPR”, and my dad says, “she’s having a heart attack.” He gives her 1 or 2 chest compressions and she starts vomiting, while unconscious and laying on her back. We roll her onto her side. It was the most horrific thing I’ve ever been through, with the exception of Tim’s diagnosis. I look up and Olivia and my niece and nephew are crying. Cathy is starting to break down, and the stricken look on Tim’s face says it all. We all think she is dying right there. A woman yells, “she’s catching her breath” and my mom is choking and waking up. I’m asking if anyone is a doctor or medically trained. 2 men wind up checking my mom out, one is checking her carotid pulse, another is asking for a watch with a second hand and a flashlight to take her wrist pulse. I don’t think they were doctors, but I wasn’t checking credentials at this point. The one on her wrist assures us and my mom that her heart rate is good. They can’t get an ambulance through the streets so they load her onto the back of a Polaris in a basket. Turns out, the rig made it through and they transfer her. I tell them my dad must be with her, as her memory is failing and she cannot answer for herself or make decisions so they bring him. My poor mom is a mess and out of it. My sis had my brother-in-law strip off his shirt and give it to my dad as he was a mess too and had to take his off. My little 6 year old nephew thought, OK we’re taking off our shirts so he whipped his off too.
(the kid is all for clothing optional time) We now had to fight thru the traffic to get back to the hotel, drop the kids and husbands off, and Cathy jumps in my dad’s car(he wanted his car at the hospital) and I jump in our truck and we’re off to find the dang hospital. Ambulance then goes past our motel as we are packing clothes for my parents, finding my mom’s medications list, and getting ready to leave. Turns out they’d stopped when EMT’s arrived to get her on a heart monitor and start an IV. It was 45 minutes from the time this happened until they finally reached the hospital, which was about 15 miles or so from where we were when it happened. I’m driving up the GSP thinking that she might not make it to the hospital. I thought for sure she’d just had a heart attack or stroke. We all did. I know that seizures are common right before someone dies too, so I’m thinking this is really bad. We get to the hospital and things don’t look too urgent. We’re giving nurses the medications list,
and other information. I look at her monitor and think, “DANG, I bet I wouldn’t even look that good on a monitor right now.” Heart rate was fine, BP pretty darn good, oxygen sats good. A while later, the most gorgeous doctor I have ever met in my life comes in and says, “we call this Lobster House syndrome.” That happens to be another restaurant my parents like to go to and just had several nights ago. He said, folks eat a big meal, after being in the sun all day, maybe have a cocktail(my mom hadn’t) and all the blood is deferred to their GI tract and they faint. He says, “they throw up and it brings them back.” OH IS THAT ALL?! Guy is cool as a cucumber. And we all thought she was dying. Gotta say, it looked that way to everyone present. I think this was a step up from a faint for sure though, but I suppose you can have a seizure when there is that little oxygen in your brain. After he walked away, I look at Cathy, she looked at me, it has to be said. I was like, “Mom, did you do this just so you could meet that doctor?” She laughed.
Cathy was like, “I think I feel something coming on, I may need medical help.” OK so we were trying to lighten the mood. We desperately needed to and the guy was movie star, leading man, weak in the knees (us not him) gorgeous. Anyway, this was so horrific for all of us. Mercifully, my mother remembers none of it. The rest of us will never forget it. She spent the night, and had a multitude of tests, what I call, “cover our ass medicine” but, in truth, she is almost 72 and this is what they do with anyone who loses consciousness like that. The woman passed the tests pretty well, looks amazingly good on paper despite taking terrible care of herself. She will need to start meds for Type 2 diabetes though and a neurologist told her to stop taking the 23 milligram Aricept pills and go back to 10. Are you ready for why? Turns out the company that makes Aricept came out with a 23 milligram pill because the patent on the 10 milligram was running out. This doc says they tried to say the 23 mg. works better, but, meanwhile, it is giving patients a lot of GI troubles, (my mom has to take immodium all the time now) and it’s probably not really working much better for their memory, just giving them gut issues. There’s your big pharma money making cr*p for ya right there. 23 mgs. so people don’t buy the generic 10 mg and take 2. REALLY?!!! My mother has refused to see a neurologist for her memory issues and this is the problem when you have a primary care doc. prescribing meds that should be prescribed by a specialist who has more experience with them. My dad pulled an all nighter at the hospital. Cathy and I got home about 12:30 am. Cathy drove up in the morning and relieved him, I made him something to eat and forced him to take a nap. Tim drove me up to the hospital and I relieved Cathy and then they decided to spring her outta there, so Cat drove back after she fed her kids and we got her home(well, back to the motel) while we let my dad sleep. There will be a lot to do to turn her health around. Oral diabetes meds and major dietary changes if she wants to avoid this type of thing in the future. Her carotids have moderate plaque build-up and it means her heart vessels probably do too. We need to walk a thin line between scaring the heck out of her and making her take this seriously and knocking off the garbage diet and no exercise routine. My poor dad is just traumatized. It will be hard to put this scene in the rearview mirror, that’s for sure. We are so lucky it was not worse and that we didn’t lose her, but, it was indeed an incident we all wish we could delete from our “hard drives.” So sad, so scary.
Wish the kids weren’t there. Olivia said she really didn’t see anything because of the crowd. I’m grateful for that.
So, there you have it: our vacation. I’m at a loss of words on how to wrap this up. It just was what it was. Onward.