Monday, March 23, 2009

Daily Updates on Mom

Since mom has been hospitalised, I have not had time to make calls and keep everyone informed. The best I can do is to squeeze in a group sms. In the earlier days, I just could not talk about it as she gave us quite a scare and her condition was changing from day to day.

Now that she has stabilised, I've set up this blog so you can keep track of her progress.

First, a little backgound :

She had a stroke in mid 2002. Then a year later, she was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a plasma cell cancer. This is being well controlled by Dr. Puru, a very senior haematologist at Ampang Hospital (govt hospital).

Then in 2007, mom had breast cancer and immediately opted for a mastectomy. She's amazingly decisive and very practical. No self-pity or dramatics.

Last year (about May), the Multiple Myeloma became less responsive to her oral chemo : Thalidomide. Her bones got thinner and developed lesions. A fracture in her lower back made her bedridden :( The wonderful people at HOSPIS came and loaned us a hospital bed and reclining wheelchair. They also taught us to maneouver her in and out of bed. God bless them, they are really providing a much needed service.

Soon after, her right arm fractured. Then her left leg. And all this happened while she was bedridden! Scary!

Can you imagine her discomfort when her right arm had to be bound in a plaster cast? Her left one is immobile cos of the stroke. Now she has no arms to eat, brush her teeth or even scratch her nose. And yet, she didn't complain. Our wonderful maid Bena was at mom's beck and call and attended to her every need.

The nurses warned us that the cast would be itchy and hot, but mom said sheliked it cos it made her arm feel more comfortable. Isn't that just amazing?!

In December, Dr. Puru halted this by adding on another chemo tablet : Cyclofosphamide I think(?). Mom's bones healed!

In January, we got some great news: there is a brand new wonder drug specifically for Multiple Myeloma. It's very new in the market but has been tested with fantastic results for the past 5 - 7 years in the US. Now available in Singapore, it's called Lenalidomide and it's so new that mom will be the second person in Malaysia to apply for it to be brought in. This should arrive in a month or so.

While we were ecstatic at the thought that mom's multiple myeloma will be stalled, and she can regain her strength and mobility... and maybe start going out again (you know how she loves going out to makan at shopping complexes!) there came another blow.

She started developing fever and cough. We admitted her to Pantai where she was diagnosed with pneumonia. Strong antibiotics soon put her right again, in time for her to be discharged and to receive the Henry Dunant Medal from the MRCS.

That was a very moving ceremony, and it was so touching to meet all her old friends and former colleagues who came from near and far to congratulate her. It was beautiful. But it was also tiring. She was exhausted.

A week later, she started coughing again. With lots of phlegm and fever. On Thursday evening (12th March 2009), we had to rush her to hospital again. This time, while waiting for the ambulance to arrive, she started choking on her phlegm and choked. She started turning blue! Thank God the ambulance arrived in time and immediatly gave her oxygen.

She was admitted into the ICU at Pantai and stayed there for 2 nights. Our regular Dr. Ridzwan referred her to a Geriatric Specialist Dr. Rajban. When she came out, she was disoriented, not talking much, not eating much, sleepy most of the time.

On Saturday, Dr Ridzwan called me and told me that her thyroids are defective and this is causing her tiredness. They'll start hormone tablets and she should improve in a weeks' time. Her fever came down but she was still sleepy and not eating. She grew weaker and weaker. She seemed to be too tired to even chew and swallow her food.

On Monday, Dr Ridzwan called and informed me that she is not swallowing her food. He thinks that because she is not swallowing properly, food particles goes into her lungs and causes the recurrent infection and fever. The doctors recommended that she be fed through a nose tube.

This was a severe shock for us. I took it a a sign of decline and was upset cos I know how much she enjoys her food. But no choice. She was too weak to eat, too weak to stay awake, too weak to even recognise us. This was a bad time.

So they inserted the tube and taught us how to feed her.

After we got over the shock, we were happy to see how fast she started to improve. Day by day, she got stronger and became more and more alert. She could recognise us. She could order us around and make her typical cheeky comments. Yay! Thank God!!

Now, she is quite stable. She still has a recurrent fever. Mild and easily brought down with panadol. But the drs don't know what is causing it. They just took a urine sample today for testing.

Tomorrow, she has an appointment with a speech therapist who can hopefully teach her to swallow. This will allow her to eat. Even a bit, just for pleaasure, will be great. They will replace the nose tube with a tube that goes directly to her stomach - a PEG tube. This will probably take place on Thursday or Friday.

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