A Caregiver’s Story….The Exacerbation

Mom lives 24/7 with a condenser which supplies oxygen to her body through a nasal cannula and 50 foot hose.  She wears the cannula when she sleeps, bathes and eats.  The green colored tubing snakes around the house and follows her were ever she may wander within the confines of her four walls. If we leave the house she has a portable condenser that does the same thing her big machine does at home. Normal for mom is 3 liters per minute of oxygen.  Sometimes mom’s body rebels against her and 3 liters is not enough to satisfy it.

Mom’s last exacerbation, or episodes as we call them, wound her up in the ER.  She felt crummy, was having a hard time breathing and ANY exertion would leave her gasping.  When we first got to the hospital, to get her blood saturation up above 90, (in general, any blood saturation below 90 is considered low.) the ER staff had to push her O2 to 6 liters per minute.  Since mom was not exerting any energy and the ER staff couldn’t drop mom’s oxygen level below 4 Liters they decided to admit her. At this point, to me this was like any other stay in the hospital.  In my head mom would stay a day or two, they would get the extra fluid out of her and they would send her home. 

In general I do not get hysterical when mom goes to the hospital, we have had many visits to the ER and multiple stays in the hospital.  I have always felt confident that she would be going home when the doctor pronounced her healed. But this time, the doctor was asking questions like, “Has anyone ever talked to you about a prognosis?” or “Has anyone ever talked to you about long-term care options?  The doctors questions where stressing me out and I needed to communicate with my siblings about what was going on and THEY were asking questions.  “Do we need to fly in? How serious is this?”  I… don’t… know… I think it’s going to be fine. But In my head I’m thinking … what if I am WRONG?  So as the day wore on, I got more unsettled and couldn’t shake the feeling that this hospital visit was going to be different.

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