The last days of Peggy's life

Back to mater 2002: Date last edited: Friday, October 16, 2009

Thursday, December 5th: Thursday, a day of disaster and frustration. Firstly, I was up out of bed, looking at the ongoing construction work just opposite. There were knocks on the wall, that I presumed were coming from Mum. Not so, it was Dad requiring help since Mum was collapsed onto the floor, between her bed and the dresser. I asked Dad to move out of the way, and picked her up. We then got her to the toilet and back to bed. She seemed extremely weak. This is a summary of what followed today:
1. Firstly,  I phoned Dr Rambert, but his surgery is closed on Thursdays.
2. Next, I phoned the PsychoGerries, and spoke with Louise Roy. She agreed with my opinion that her condition required hospitalisation. She said that she would fax them the case history.
3. I phoned 911, and the Paramedics came by at about 0930hrs. Eventually, she was talked onto the gurney and taken to the Civic. We were told that we would be phoned.
4. We advised Louise and waited, and waited, and waited. Dad went out to pay his Rev Canada installment and that was it. No phone calls, until about 1630hrs when Dr Parker, at the Civic, phoned and wondered if one of us was going in to inform them of Mum's condition. I gave her a lot of information over the phone, and was told we would be informed by phone later.
5. Just before 1800hrs Louise phoned and said that she had had phone messages that the Civic staff could not contact us!! At this time I was told by Louise that Mum was probably suffering from internal blood loss of some type. We had not been apprised of this before. This was decided after looking at her blood test results of a week ago.
6. Eventually we had another Doctor at the Civic phone us who required information: a repeat of the earlier conversation. We were told she was going to have a PET scan. Nothing was mentioned about possible colonoscopy or other test.
7. The results of the tests that were given to Mum were simply that, apart from her confused state, she was suffering only from anæmia and that the PET scan had not shown stroke or other damage.
8. We were told that she would likely be staying overnight, but that the psychiatric unit would be checking on her later.
9. We were phoned by the Psychiatric aide twice to determine what was going on. I confirmed that he had received the case history, sent in by Louise Roy.
10. So, the result was Dad and I eating takeout from the Mekong with him in worrying mode all day long. Then, at 2300hrs we were asked to come and bring her home, because Dad needing a rest from this overall situation was deemed immaterial, and they needed spare beds. Actually, it is procedure to eject mental patients if possible, because they have had a history of people being abandoned there.
11. When we arrived and found her in the observation ward she was on an IV. Mum told us that she hadn't eaten, but we had been told she had. She said the food they gave her was horrid.
12. She was delighted to see Dad, and held his hand all the way home, him sitting in the back with her.

Friday, December 6th: 'I am feeling as if I am burning all over,' says Mum. Well, if only she would eat. Her fatigue can be directly attributable to her anæmia, or its cause. So, Dad had to lead her to the toilet, and he has chores to do, including shopping. I noticed that when he wasn't in the room that Mum seemed capable of fetching her own water. We shall see. 

The system is not capable of dealing with my parents' needs, is it? It seems to lack granularity.
I apprised Dr Rambert of yesterday's events. Dad spoke with Louise Roy. What next, pray?

Saturday December 7th., 2002: The final day:
1. I woke to the sound of Dad replying to Mum's statement that the devils had covered her with water, and she was sopping wet. In other words, at 0915hrs, I heard that she had peed the bed. I went around the corner to see, and Mum was lying on the floor, probably upset with Dad's tone of voice. She had been in tears.
2. I told Dad that I would have a quick shower and then do the wash, including Mum's bed sheets. I took the stuff down, noticing that Mum was now sitting on a chair in the bedroom, and had risen from the floor on her own. I said that I would call the ambulance because she wasn't looking good, and Mum told me strongly not to do so, several times. I told Dad that I would again check when I came back upstairs. Dad went into the kitchen, to start making their breakfast.
3. I came up from the laundry room and noticed that Mum was having a glass of water. But, she was too weak to hold it. She managed to put it back onto the dresser. I saw that she seemed to be breathing fine and left her for a while to continue with the laundry. After I put the wash into the dryer I came back and noticed that she was breathing really stertorously and went to call the ambulance, because I couldn't get her to respond to me. When I had done so, I discovered that she was jerking a little having placed her head on the side of the dresser. She was warm and I thought she was still breathing. I realise now that I had seen her die. 
4. Four paramedics, two firemen, and two police officers turned up.
5. I had phoned at about 10.05hrs, and the paramedics were there within fifteen minutes. One of the paramedics, who in my opinion was out of place, and totally obnoxious, demanded that I provide him with her medical history. She has only been with Dr Rambert of late, maybe in total one year. Most of our worries have been with her mental state, so I really did not know what to give him. He was sarcastic when I said that all I had was the note from the emergency department of the Civic for last Thursday. I wrote down a minimal amount and gave one of them that together with the paperwork we had from the Civic emergency. That included a note to arrange a meeting for her anæmia, to be made within a fortnight. 
6. I overheard the tall paramedic, the one who spoke to me, tell someone else that she was DA (Dead on Arrival). Dad tried to see her, but they kept him from the bedroom. They left a large packet of used medical stuff when they left. I saw them trying to resuscitate her. Simply following procedure, I presume.
7. Dad and I then had a chat with the two police officers that turned up, probably because the paramedic wondered about foul play. We gave the police a rundown of what had transpired and they seemed fine about the situation.
8. Eventually, the paramedics came out with Mum, with her on a drip. The tall paramedic then demanded that I, in hearing of everyone, gave my recollection of events. When I stuttered with my output, he gave me the circular hand, hurry up, motion. I glared at him and he semi-apologised.
9. The paramedics removed Mum and the tall paramedic told us there was no need to hurry ourselves as he went through the door. 
10. The police stayed behind and gave us a phone number for support services should we need help. They were decent people. They left and we waited for a phone call.
11. That came at about 10.45hrs when Tabitha Rogers phoned to ask us to go to the Civic immediately. I told Dad this confirmed my thinking her dead. We drove up and were immediately met by Tabitha, a care worker. She put us in a room and told us the Doctor Farion would see us. They both soon came back and asked us about Mum and why I had called for the ambulance. I gave him the story, including the emergency last Thursday. He said that the coroner did not think that in all likelihood an autopsy was necessary, but asked us if we wanted one. We mentioned her dementia, etc., and said that they could do an autopsy if they wished. They did not want to, and neither did we. 
12. So, either they suspected that I had done something wrong before Mum died this morning, and were trying to find inconsistencies in my recollections, apropos the Paramedic's impropriety. Or, they thought that we had grounds to be upset with the Civic for the fracas last Thursday. 

13. My opinion should be obvious. But, I am angry, upset and worried about Dad. 
14. Finally, we went and saw Mum, after she had been prepared for us, and then drove home. 
15. When we were home, I made some phone calls and we then went for a walk. On that trip we visited the Main Library on Laurier whereupon I emailed a few people, but not everyone, and not well, because I was in a right state. Lynn and Peter phoned, as did Michelle, my estranged wife. I spoke with a couple of my friends, too. 

What follows on
Today, Sunday 8th December
, we had a phone call from Sarah, my eldest daughter. But, this follows:
1. Rather significantly, another call came from the home care worker who had recently started visiting Mum. 
2. It strikes me as rather odd that Mum can be sent home on Thursday evening by the Psych staff at the Civic, after the Med doctors had thought she would be staying at least overnight. 
3. It is more than a little odd that they can presume she is fine and then she dies within two days. 
4. Saturday, the very day she died, was the day the home care worker was called to cancel her visits to Mum. Gide (sic) was kind enough to offer her condolences to Dad, which were much appreciated. However, my concern is the rapidity with which they ejected Mum from emergency on Thursday, as usual it was late in the evening, and then cut off the care service on a weekend day. 
5. What an indecent rush to save pennies and show seemingly no consideration for the remaining members of the family involved. This was a disaster not only for my mother, but also my father. His health has been suffering, too. Not that he admits it. Stress can be a killer.

    I know my opinion is not worth much, but I, and my father, had been trying endlessly to get something proper done for her. What a pathetically poor system we had to deal with in this city, I do declare. Other than a specific few, I am not casting aspersions at individuals, but certainly at the bureaucratic mess that blasts the lives of many of those in need. One only has to read any daily paper.
    In several conversations with me and to our relatives, Dad has repeatedly said he is glad that Mum never had to go into a home. He was really worried that he would die and then she would have suffered in one of those prisons for smelly ancients. Even if I could look after her in other ways, I can't see myself doing her ablutions, even were I allowed to do so. (I subsequently discovered that a male child is not required to do so, at least in Ontario).
    Dad is tearful, frequently, and has today gone for a walk to clear his mind, no doubt to think about his life with her. They had ups and downs, as do all couples, but he really loved her. In her inimitable fashion, she loved him, even when she was ill of late. She was so delighted to see him on Thursday, when we picked her up. Damn, damn, damn, I am tearful just writing this!
    Of course, Mum had repeatedly stated that she wanted to die. Nevertheless, no matter what her wishes were, on Saturday, watching the charade, Dad was fearful that they would resuscitate her and she would be left as a mental cabbage. Thank God that proved impossible. I am really upset that my mother has gone, but I am really glad that she is now out of the complete mess her life was these last months. Mum declined for years, in reality, but the pace increased over the past few months.

    I do hope that you realise that a lot of my sarcasm, present within the totality of this chronicle, was well meant, and that I was as frustrated with her as anyone else might well be. But, I also remember her as she was in the dim and distant past. I do remember her when she was raising Lynn and me, and all of our holidays, and the really good Shrove Tuesday pancakes, and the wonderful Bramley apple, and lemon meringue, pies. Cupboard love, what?
1. Not insignificantly, Dad told me a story yesterday. It seems that, in his opinion, Mum's father Robert was also psychic. When I was very small, on holiday in Belfast, Robert told my mother, in my father's hearing, that I would be with her at the very end of her life. Dad said, 'See, it is really odd how things happen sometimes'. My response to hearing this was utter shock. I am not a psychic, although I have had a few odd experiences, but there is Schrödinger's Cat, nicht wahr?
2. When I was in bed last night I could not stop thinking about seeing her lying on the floor and then on the chair, and finally realising her stertorous breathing was a sign of her death, happening in front of me. Shows how ignorant of first aid I am. But what could I do? She had laid her head down on the edge of the dresser, and I said to her that she shouldn't, that it would hurt her. Was I not a bloody useless twit?!

Saturday, December 7th continued: This evening there was a phone call from Louise Roy of the PsychoGerries: she was upset about the whole issue and shocked that Mum was dead. What transpired is odd, since Louise stated that the Civic had been made aware that Mum continually refused to eat correctly. Also, that it had been posited that an invasive procedure of either oral or rectal nature should be made to determine the cause of her anæmia. The cause of her red corpuscle loss would, we had thought, be discovered. Nothing was ever done. Note that her hæmoglobin count was appreciably lower at the hospital than that shown in the blood test taken at the PsychoGerries in Bytown less that two weeks ago.

Also, Louise stated that her preference, and that of Dr Gobessi, of keeping Mum in hospital for a while was countered by the Civic. Their policy statement insists in dealing with this level of anæmia in a patient external to the hospital. Costs, don't you know. 

To repeat, we don't know why no colonoscopy or other procedure was made. This statement is apropos of Louise Roy, and everyone else it seems, not knowing what was actually wrong with mother's insides: what exactly was causing her blood problems.

December 9th: Spoke with Dr Julian Rambert's wife and receptionist, Sophie (they're Michelle's Aunt and Uncle, and mine by marriage, for however long that lasts legally if not in fact). Advised them of Mum's death. Apart from offering condolences and remarking that Mum looked reasonably well at the surgery last week, Sophie remarked that people with Mum's hæmoglobin count are usually not at too great a risk. She has seen many with lower counts who survived. 

Dad is not too swift. He blames himself for not caring for her, but we as witnesses should remember the events in this chronicle. Dad provided Mum with a home, food, clothing, holidays and mostly everything she wished for. He drove her around. He helped her in the past when she preached her Spiritualist Gospel and he printed her sayings using an old typewriter. And yes, there were a few bad moments, both Lynn and I know that, but the sum of his caring for her was totally positive, was it not?

We phoned Vancouver, because of Mum and Dad's prior paid funeral arrangements, and then went round to Kelly's Funeral Home, close by on Somerset Street. Nothing other than cremation, no ceremony, nothing more than us bearing witness.

If procedures follow their expected course, Margaret Dickins will be cremated, and Raymond Ernest and I will witness the event, at 3pm Thursday, December 12th.,  at Beechwood Crematorium, Ottawa. Mum will have her ashes distributed in their garden come the spring.

December 10th: The funeral parlour people phoned, and have Mum's wedding band. I will pick it up for Dad. He's gone for a hair cut and then he'll go grocery shopping. When he did that with Mum, lately all she did was follow him around, rarely asking for anything or pointing out any of the goods. A good indication, I think, of her status, both physical and mental. Surely, we can agree that it is better for Mum for this to have ended? 

Dad and I have had one decent meal together, and one that was inefficiently cooked! Veggies done, salmon not! Oh, well, at least we are measuring the spaces, feeling the emptiness, and wondering how it will develop. Practice will make perfect. 

Two days now to the cremation. On a hill in Ottawa.

December 13th: And it's Friday! Yesterday's cremation went as well as could be expected. The visual experience was unpleasant. At least for me, although Beechwood itself is a very attractive place, hilly and well landscaped. Where, in fact, a great many of the good and famous are buried.

Today, Dad is going down to his local travel agent to book his six week trip to New Zealand in January. He is not taking Mum's death very well at all. He has constant feelings of guilt, and of thinking he has gone off his own head. This situation is temporary, I hope. The trip to Auckland should give him some peace.

We have had a few calls from Vancouver, and from DrG of the PsychoGerries. Everyone I have spoken to is surprised that she died in these circumstances. Dad is against anything being done to determine the cause of Mum's death, or to take any action against the Civic. When I have quietened down, I will have to think about that, because she was my mother, as well as his wife.

2003: April: I phoned Beechwood. They had forgotten to let us know when the ashes were to be spread in the ground. That had been written on the contract. They were apologetic. I was disgusted with the error, one that is totally basic. How not to keep people happy, in a horrid situation.