Add Another Hero To The List
Three years ago, I was working as a medical assistant at the pain clinic here in town, writing out prescriptions, running the x-ray machine, taking vitals, etc. I had just finished earning my MA certificate having aced Anatomy and Physiology I and II. I knew just enough, you know, to hold the job and use the every day experiences to grow and learn further.
I was sitting in the triage office downloading voicemail after garbled voicemail of patients in more pain than they could mentally handle, others that needed prescription refills and still others that needed appointments that had been inadvertently dumped into the wrong mailbox. It was almost the end of the day and as I logged and recorded what was left in the mailbox in the waning minutes, the receptionist poked her head around the corner of the doorway and told me that Tall Boy was on the phone for me.
I took the call and could tell immediately that he was somewhat frantic. He told me that he was on his way to work but that he had just been at his parents and had spent most of his time there convincing his mom to go to the emergency room. He was sure, he said, that she either had or was having a stroke. He then asked if I could go to the hospital after I left work to check on her.
There was no waiting until the end of my shift after a phone call like that so I went and told my boss I was leaving. When I got in my car I called my mom and asked her to pick up Bam-Bam, then a recent two-year-old, then called his babysitter and told her mom would be by. I rushed to the hospital and found MIL (mother-in-law for those not familiar with message board speak) sitting up perky as can be on the guerney in the room adjacent to the radiology room. FIL was with her and so was Tall Boy's sister and brother-in-law.
I got the low down as to what was going on, what they thought had happened and was the plan going forward was, at least at the moment. Apparently four days prior, her left hand had started going numb. Gradually over the following days the numbness had crept up her arm then into her left foot to the point of interfering with her walking around the grocery store that day. It had also started to affect her face but she hadn't noticed.
As Tall Boy's siblings all came and left and FIL also decided to go home and get some sleep, I told her I would stick around until they came to take her up to her room. Once they'd all finally left, I asked her why it took her 4 days and all this damage for her to speak up that something was wrong and she said it was because when she does have an illness, FIL "always has what you have but worse and I didn't want to have to listen to him". Yeah, that's a glimpse into their relationship right there.
At any rate, I casually went over to the side of her bed, leaned in close and said "Mom, from now on if you have trouble taking a shit, someone better know about it." She promised me she would make sure.
In the days following, we learned that MIL had a Transient Ischemic Attack, also known in the medical world as a TIA. TIA's are similar to strokes because the symptoms are so similar. In a stroke, a blood vessel bursts which makes flow impossible to the affected areas beyond the break. In a TIA, there is a clot that has made it's way to the brain that blocks, at least temporarily, the area beyond where it is lodged thus damaging the brain that is deprived of the blood flow.
It is important to note here that had MIL spoken up when the symptoms started, she would have almost certainly 100% recovered from any damage to the affected areas of her brain.
Because she didn't, she still struggles with her function in her hand and walks with a slight limp. She spent 6 weeks in an in-patient rehab and at least another year in out-patient therapy.
But none of that is why she's ranking as a Hero today.
She's a hero because prior to her stroke, my mother-in-law would drink no less than a 12-pack of beer every night and more on the weekends. She was hammered every minute she wasn't at work. She was the typical alcoholic, repeating stories, eyes half shut, slurring and being belligerent. She wasn't much fun to be around and I struggled often with the idea of having she and FIL babysit for us, even when they were the only option.
Since the day after she checked into the hospital (I say the day after because I'm certain she was hammered at admission), she has not touched another drop of alcohol and I am so incredibly proud of her.
I am here to say now that I really love my mother-in-law. I love the strength and determination she's shown not only in her recovery from her episode but also in her sobriety. I enjoy talking with her and having conversations with her because I only have to tell her something once, and she me, and we are able to joke and laugh with each other often. I love that I can trust having Bam-Bam in her care. I love that instead of drinking the night away, she's voraciously reading book after book. We're now able to share books between each other and buying gifts for birthdays, Christmas and Mother's Day can be something meaningful because we know she'll enjoy it.
I love that she's never felt sorry for herself or asked us to pity her, even in the beginning when she could hardly do anything for herself. I love that in the beginning she wasn't ashamed to ask for help and that now she's determined to do things on her own. I love that whenever I need her, I can count on her. And, even though we struggled when Bam-Bam was a baby to see eye-to-eye, I love knowing that now that she's sober, she can see that I'm a really good mom. And I love that she's got my back with him too.
Bravo to you, mom, for the last three years and for many more sober ones to come.