Why I Heart L.A.
Access to the best healthcare.
Access to the best healthcare.
Last Monday morning, my mother's neurosurgeon walked into her room before surgery and asked "How are you?" She responded with a single word, "Ready."
I couldn't have agreed more.
The last month leading up to the surgery has been an emotional rollercoaster...to put it mildly. My mom has fluctuated from denial to anger to depression - sometimes all within the same exhausting day. As her only daughter and only immediate family member in L.A., I've had a front row seat. I've been the one holding her hand as she struggled with an array of crippling fears.
Her greatest one has never been death. No, what kept her up at night was the thought of surviving the operation but losing her memory or hearing or vision or use of her limbs or all of the above. One day she crumbled in my arms after uttering the words, "I just don't want to ever be a burden to you." The day I had to review her will, instructing me to make the "do not resuscitate" decision, was probably the most surreal of my life.
I never expected this process to be quite so hard. After all, my mother is the strongest person I know. The things that woman has overcome in her life...well, I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy. Her story has never been one marked by neat, happy endings; it has been one defined by endurance and survival instinct. To me, her story has always been proof of the magnificent resillience of the human spirit, proof that what doesn't break us does truly make us stronger.
That's why, despite her tiny frame, she has always seemed larger than life to me. And yet during the last month, she has seemed so fragile, so small...like a beautiful little china doll that could break at any moment. It's been heartwrenching in ways that I haven't even begun to metabolize.
Then about a week before the surgery things seemed to shift. She seemed to surrender and embrace acceptance. And just like that the fear retracted. She stood a little taller, a little bolder every time I saw her. As if she was ready to face the unknown with everything in her. Sure, there were still the moments of tears and fears but overall she had a serenity about her that was reassuring. I recognized her again.
As I struggled to fall asleep the night before her surgery, I felt a calmness wash over me. I felt confident that everything would be fine. She was in the best hands. And I suddenly remembered: she is a lioness, always has been, always will be. This wouldn't be the thing that beat her.
The morning of the surgery we walked into Saint John's ready, ready to get this done and move on with our story.
We took it as a good omen that her surgery coincided with the opening day of the new wing of the hospital. Everything was pristine and the staff was giddy. Excellent energy to walk into. Didn't feel like a hospital at all. There was promise, not fear in the air.
Another source of great strength: Mr. Diabolina. He is a blue-eyed blessing. Not sure my mother or I could have made it through all this with out him. His unwavering love and constant devotion to the two of us - no matter how witchy we are - is humbling. And his decision at 4:00 am to put on a suit for my mom's surgery day equals hilarity ;)
Not sure how the two of us made it through the five torturous hours that my mom was in surgery. Quiet time in the hospital's new chapel, Wi Fi in the beautiful new cafeteria and lots of piglet snacks helped.
As we were waiting, we even peeped the man who made the $100 million gift for the new wing of the hospital. He was taking a tour and graciously speaking with patients and staff. Felt like hugging him and thanking him for making a difficult day easier with a beautiful new facility.
At about 1 p.m. my mother's surgeon Dr. Daniel Kelly and his team finally appeared and scanned the cafeteria for me. I stood up just as they saw me. Their faces were so expressionless that I felt my legs buckle underneath me and I grabbed the table to steady myself. Thankfully their words were more comforting than their faces. They said the operation had gone perfectly and they were able to remove the entire tumor and that it looked largely calcified which was consistent with a meningioma not cancer.
For the first time that morning I exhaled. And I allowed myself to cry. I thanked them profusely. And as I looked into Dr. Kelly's kind eyes I thought what a gift doctors have to be able to help people at their most vulnerable, most human moments.
It was another two hours before we could see my mom in the ICU. The first thing I noticed was that adorable side ponytail. Have never been happier to see her open her eyes and talk and hold my hand and wiggle her toes. Was even happier when she asked me to take her picture. Before the surgery, she had said she wanted me to document all of this, to share her story on the blog, to give other mothers and daughters strength during tough moments.
During the following 24 hours there were plenty of tough moments. I spent the night in her room on the windowsill but barely slept. She was up every few hours vomitting from the pain. Throwing up is awful enough but imagine how awful it is after brain surgery with all the pressure that puts on your head. Ugh.
On Tuesday, they moved us out of the ICU and she had a parade of visitors and flowers. She was able to sit up and walk to the bathroom and change into the matching Paul Frank jammies we bought at Target on Sunday. I went home for a few hours while Mr. D stayed with her. Felt incredible to shower and nap in my own bed after 40 hours at the hospital.
Tuesday night unfortunately wasn't much easier than the first night after the surgery. My mom was in so much pain that they kept giving her morphine which kept making her sick. Vicious maddening cycle.
The nurses at Saint John's were amazing both nights. Talk about unsung heroes. But it's important to note they were mostly amazing because I kindly but forcibly demanded that they be. If I wasn't there with my mom, they just wouldn't have been as attentive or known exactly when she needed something. She would have thrown up on herself all night, writhing in pain. She would have been like other patients moaning for help in the darkness.
Wednesday morning finally came (never been more thrilled to see the sun rise) and we spent most of the day quietly awaiting her surgeon's arrival. Her general doctor had given the OK for my mom to go home so it was up to Dr. Kelly to look at the incision and make the call. Thankfully, he removed her bandage and tested some motor skills and said she was progressing amazingly well. She was discharged and out the door by 5 pm. We'd arrived for her crainiotomy at 5 am on Monday. Isn't that bananas?
We've been home for almost a week now and her recovery is coming along, slowly but surely. She can't walk too fast but she can sure eat fast. We've been doing quite a bit of soup and oatmeal snarfing along with watching DVDs, online shopping and napping. She's been telling me stories from her childhood and we've been making plans for the future.
I'm still processing everything that's happened, hope to write about it all more eloquently in the near future but just wanted to share a quick update with you - friends and strangers alike. Wanted to let you all know that this Christmas my mother and I are grateful for the support you've all given us over the past year. Thank you and kiss you and happy holidays to you and your family.