I have been debating whether or not to publish this blog post. It is very personal and very sad and I was afraid of “lowering” the tone of the blog which, after all, is meant to be about our supperclub and kitchen and the food that we prepare.
However, as regular readers know, the whole reason I started the supperclub is very personal and built on tragic circumstances. I also need to write it so… read it or skip it, I don’t mind – this post is for me.
In November my Mum developed severe pain in her hip which, combined with persistent unexplained anaemia, led to urgent CT scans to see what was going on. These scans not only revealed that she had lost all the cartilage in her left hip socket but also a 5cm tumour on her pancreas. There followed two months of endless tests, delays, mix-ups, investigations, transfusions etc until finally on 31st January she was given an operation date for an operation to remove her pancreas on 27th February. During all that time she was increasingly immobile resulting in phone calls throughout the day and night when she got stuck in her recliner chair, or stuck on the stairs or in the toilet, meaning a frantic 10 minute drive over to her house to help her out.
The operation was a success and the good news was that the tumour was NOT cancerous. Mum made an impressive recovery physically from the operation and came home on 14th March.
With a downstairs toilet in place, a carer coming in of a morning, myself doing meals, my Brother went over every evening to help Mum with her bedtime routine and my amazing husband went over at 2am every morning to help her out of bed, to the toilet, and back in to bed. All of us were waiting on her recovery and her appointment for a pre-assessment for a hip replacement.
On 8th April Mum rang me very distressed. She had gone to get out of her chair and could not support her own weight. I went over there and was unable to work out why Mum couldn’t stand. Her leg was at a very funny angle. It took me 20 minutes to get her along the hallway to the toilet but just as she got in there, she collapsed. We were both trapped – Mum was a dead weight in my arms, the zimmer frame was wedged between the basin and the toilet, and I couldn’t move, drop her, get her onto the toilet seat or anything.
In near hysterics I managed to get my mobile (thankfully in my back pocket) and call my husband. He rang my Brother and told him to come straight over. For 10 LONG minutes I held my Mum up. I still have no idea how I managed to hold her for so long. I was hysterical by the time my Brother got there. Between us, with huge difficulty and a lot of tears, shouting and panicking, we finally managed to manoeuvre Mum to sit on to the toilet seat so we could let go.
We phoned an ambulance – which took an hour to arrive. With terrible bad timing this all occurred at the same time as the Prince Royal University Hospital in Locksbottom had a major crisis resulting in A&E being closed three times during the day. It was statistical blip, the like that the ambulance crew said they hadn’t seen in a decade of working in the service. Once we finally got to A&E we waited for four and a half hours IN THE CORRIDOR with Mum still on the ambulance trolley and the crew unable to leave. Eventually she was seen and admitted.
The doctors then spent 10 days running lots of tests trying to establish what was going on. At one point they considered bone cancer but it turned out to be an aggressive infection that had totally destroyed the bone in her hip resulting what was called a “spectacular collapse”. On 20th April she had an initial operation to remove all the infected bones and prepare the area. The plan was for 3 months of antibiotics to ensure there was no infection left leaving it safe to carry out the hip replacement.
The op went well but Mum then spent 5 days being very sick and unable to keep even water down. As she had already lost weight from the pre and post pancreas operation this was not good. In total she’d lost over 2 stone since December. They believed at first that the sickness was due to the massive antibiotic dose that she was on. Anti-sickness medication slowly took affect and she was finally able to keep something down. By that point though, understandably, depression had set in and Mum couldn’t FACE the idea of eating and her weight continued to plummet.
Her bowels weren’t opening and they began to suspect a blockage. A few days later the sickness returned. They put her back on the anti-sickness meds and managed to get the nausea under control within a further 48 hours. By now Mum was just skin and bone and frankly exhausted.
On 13th May Mum’s heart-rate suddenly rocketed – up to 160 – and she was put on yet more medication to stabilise. Artificial feeding was started to try to get nourishment in to her and stop any further decline. They stabilised her within 24hrs.
Overnight on 16th May her heart-rate dropped and by 8.30am the hospital called me to say that she was asking for me – her blood pressure went down to 72/45. The surgeon said they had discovered she had a bowel blockage which had led to the bowel perforating but she was now too ill to survive an operation to remove the bowel.
For the next 10 hours my Brother and I sat by her bed. Once her blood pressure got down to 59/30 they turned the machine off and transferred Mum to palliative care. At 9.25pm in the evening of 17th May she died. Finally reunited with the love of her life.
We are devastated. Just 7 years 4 weeks and 12 hours (to the minute) after losing Dad, and with a similar shockingly quick decline, I’m now an orphan. Mum was only 71.
Life goes on. The practical, bureaucratic nightmare that one has to go through following a death has to be dealt with. The funeral will be on 11th June – I’m still going ahead with our next supperclubs on 14th and 15th June though. Mum would expect nothing less.
The theme for the evenings are “Retro Night” and the menu I had already drafted is ironically based on my parents’ favourite dishes. Throughout the 70s and early 80s we would go out as a family regularly to eat – the foundation for most of my food memories. I’m looking forward therefore to recreating those dishes – with an Annie’s flair – in honour of Mum and Dad. Whilst it will be hard, it is the right thing to do.
If you have read this this, thank you. It was a personal indulgence, something I needed to do for myself.
Normal service will be resumed shortly.