The Emotional Support Tiger

It is time for me to admit that I have not been entirely forthcoming. My family has been in crisis for the past two weeks or so, as my mother has become very sick. I'd been receiving regular reports from my siblings about her condition, which seemed to be deteriorating.

About a week ago, Mom had gone to the emergency room and been given fluids, and released. She got better for a day or two, then worse. She was reliant on my dad, age 89, for daily care. My brother and his wife and my little sister had been taking turns going to their house help out.

As the story unfolded, I learned more details: shortly after Mother's Day, when we last saw her, Mom had been diagnosed with Lyme disease and prescribed an antibiotic. She had a bad reaction to the antibiotic; her tongue swelled up, and it became difficult for her to eat or drink. Most recently, she had begun to hallucinate. She saw water on the floor; she heard the phone ring.

We were in a quandary: what to do? The true purpose of Wednesday's visit home was to observe my mother, help my mom and dad out for the day, assess the situation, and make a recommendation of what to do. My mother had had some medication changes recently, and my husband suspected that might be part of the problem.

So on Wednesday, when we left to go to Mom and Dad's, he packed his Merck manual, and I packed my striped pal Tiny Tiger, for emotional support. (You may recall that Tiny Tiger and my mother bonded on Mother's Day; and so of course, he was concerned and insisted on going along.)

We found my mom's condition to be of great concern. She was not able to eat or drink or walk by herself. She was having sleep disruptions, coupled with agitation, which also caused my father to be unable to get good rest. I helped spoon feed my mother her lunch, a task I was not very good at.

I helped move her around; and learned first-hand that even a 100-pound woman is surprisingly difficult to maneuver. She was confused and ungainly; she could not be left alone for even a few minutes unattended.

After lunch, my parents went down for a nap, and my husband and I went to sit on the porch. We were both worried; in a discussion with my dad before lunch, we had agreed it was time to hospitalize my mom. She needed way more care than he could give. I can only imagine how difficult it was for him to admit that.

As we waited for my brother and his wife and my little sister to arrive (yes, that's the family pow-wow I mentioned, which we'd arranged via Facebook chat the night before), I got out my camera for a few pictures around the yard.

"Where's Tiny Tiger?" my husband asked. And I remembered I'd tucked him into my bag, and got him out, and took some funny pictures with him around the yard. What a great little friend, and such a source of joy, even on the darkest of days.

Then we had our pow-wow, and we all agreed that my husband and I would drive my parents to the hospital in Lewistown, which was on our way home. So we went inside to wake my parents. My dad awoke immediately. My mother, we could not rouse; she was unresponsive.

So my little sister called the ambulance, which arrived very quickly with lights a-flashing, and took both my parents. The gurney wouldn't fit in the front door so they had to carry my mother out in a sling. My dad got to ride up front in the passenger seat. The whole experience was surreal, to say the least.

The ambulance took them to Lewistown, and my husband and I followed in our car. My mother was weak from malnourishment and dehydration, and they began her on an IV pretty directly. She failed the mental status exam; the only question she got right was her name.

They gave her all kinds of tests, and determined she had a UTI, for which they started her on an immediate course of antibiotics (NOT the antibiotic she had reacted to previously). At some point, once they were settled in, my husband and I left for home. My little sister arrived a short while later. Eventually, my mother was admitted and my little sister took my father home.

The picture you see above is my friend Tiny Tiger, peeking out from the daysack I carry to work each day. I took the photo on Thursday morning shortly after arriving at work. After the day we had on Wednesday, I felt I might need his support; and it turns out that I did. As an emotional support tiger, he knows his stuff. He is a real pro.

As I am writing this post, I am happy to share that my mother is improving each day. She is less confused, and they plan to release her to rehab in the coming day or two. We look forward to her return home, where she is well loved and greatly needed, but only when she is strong enough.

So while the story had a rough beginning, it has a better ending. And I want to give credit where credit is due. I was impressed, as I always am, by how much LOVE my family has for one another. And I was touched by the tender care my father provided to my mother.

And I was impressed, but not at all surprised, by the competence and concern displayed by my little sister, and by the helpfulness of my brother and his wife. They have been the hands that helped when my husband and I could not be there, and we are grateful. But after all, that is what family is for: to love and take care of one another.

And here, at the very end, is a shout-out to my pal, Tiny Tiger, who helped keep me calm and focused during all of what transpired this week. It was a very big job for such a tiny tiger, but he was up to the task. Sometimes it only takes a little thing to make a difference. Sometimes that one thing is a little friend with a peaceful disposition, who wears orange stripes.

The soundtrack song to accompany this image is the Rolling Stones, with Emotional Rescue.

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