Vicky Burcham

First post: Aug 26, 2021 Latest post: Aug 28, 2021
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This is Carol (Vicky's daughter) writing on mom's behalf.  Most people know that mom has been in nursing care at Bethany Nursing Home.  Back in November, both my Uncle Chuck and I came to the conclusion that it was time to begin hospice care. Mom was under 100 lbs., was having issues with dehydration, and it was obvious that the end was in sight. Mom has been ready to go to Heaven for the last couple years, and has talked to lots of people about how she is prepared.

On Saturday (8/21/21), a nurse from Bethany called because mom had fallen. She'd tried to take herself to the restroom, and lost her balance. She fell hard, hitting and lacerating her head.  They sent her to the ER via ambulance, where they ran a battery of tests. They found an arachnid subdural hematoma and a fractured C3 vertebra. In layman's terms, she cracked her neck and gave herself a brain bleed. If mom were 20 years younger, she would have surgery to stop the bleed. But she is 91, has end-stage dementia, and is in hospice care already. White the choice was heartbreaking, it was obvious. We had mom returned to Bethany for comfort care until she is called Home.

Becca and I were planning to drive up to Sioux Falls on Wednesday, 8/25, to move her into her apartment at Augie. Her car and my van were both going to be packed. Instead, I packed up Becca's car with some things for me, and a lot of things for her apartment., and headed for Sioux Falls on Sunday afternoon. I spend the night in a motel in Missouri, and got to Sioux Falls about 1:00 Monday. I expected mom to be comatose. I was wrong. Her left eye was purple, with bruising all the way up her temple and down her cheek. She had a bandage on the side of her head, covering the laceration on her scalp. The left side of her hair was red at the roots, and pink all the way to the ends.  Mom has always had a tender scalp, and she won't let the aides wash her hair or brush the blood out of it. While she had few words, she smiled when I took her hand, and talked to her. After a bit, she started trying to get out of bed. When I stopped her, she looked down and said, "Those are cute shoes!" A few minutes later, she said, "That dress is really pretty." We'd talk a little, she'd doze, then we'd talk some more. That went on for nearly 5 hours. It was a good day. That said, the hospice nurse admitted that mom is "actively dying."

The next morning (Tuesday, 8/24/21), mom was sleeping when I got to Bethany. Waking her up was much more difficult, and when she's move, she'd grimace. A quick consultation with the nurse told me mom had slept well, but had seemed in more pain this morning. they gave her some morphine, and kept it coming every 2 hours. With the morphine, the pain seemed to ease, but mom was deeply unconscious most of the time.  Becca arrived with a vanload of apartment stuff 30 minutes before Jerri arrived from Illinois. Jerri sat with mom, but even hand-holding, singing, and backrubs wouldn't rouse her.

We did not have high hopes for today (Wednesday, 8/25/21). I walked in just before 8:30, expecting to see mom in serious decline. Instead, as soon as I said hello, Mom smiled and tried to sit up. I took her hand, and sand "Children of the Heavenly Father." She smiled the whole time, even when the notes were wobbly and mildly flat. I called Jerri and asked her to come over right away. Mom was chatty, smily, and completely interactive. Becca showed up, and the three of us sang some songs from the Balcom family repertoire. Down the hall, we could hear a music therapist singing with another patient. We joined in for "Rock of Ages." Mom kept smiling. When the music therapist got to mom's room, she brought in an electronic keyboard. She accompanied and helped us sing more songs for nearly 20 minutes. After every song, we'd ask mom if she'd like us to sing another. "Yes" was the answer every time.  Just as the music therapist (who was actually not a music therapist, but the activities director) finished, my Uncle Chuck and cousin Cindy arrived. More smiles, more chatting, and an "I love you" to Chuck.

We wore her out. We all went out to lunch, and the hospice nurse sat with mom while we were gone.  When we returned, mom was asleep, and stayed that way for the rest of the afternoon. This may be the rally before the end. It's what we expect. But we will see what tomorrow brings. Then again, the original estimate for her post-fall life expectancy was 2-3 days at the longest, and today was day 5.

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