Here is a small narrative of the past 36 hours, which I will assure you from the beginning, has a happy ending.
10:00am: I confirm after an hour of staring at mom's NG tube that it is not working. After close analysis of my constant companion, the GOMCO pumping machine, I discover that the problem lies not with the position of the tube from my mother's end (a solid relief since we've learned that means a trip to the ER), but in fact from the manufacturing end of the machine. No suction.
10:01am: I call the hospice hotline to report the problem and I am assured by Martha, the lovely and apathetic Nurse Mgr., that a new machine will arrive via Apria Healthcare soon.
2:15pm: Apria Healthcare delivery arrives with a new box, which they switch out for the old one. Alas, it is still not working. I am then told by the driver that it takes a while to get the thing working. We wait. It's still not working. He calls whomever with his walkie-talkie and he is advised that it will take an hour to get started. This is not so, I tell him. I am quite familiar with this machine after 2 weeks of use, I explain, and it should be working. It takes an hour, he says. Please sign here. I sign, more to get rid of him than to appease him.
2:45pm: I call the hospice hotline again and speak with Martha, who is again understanding, and she tells me that a nurse will be out to help with the machine. She is also going to ask Apria to bring another machine out just in case.
5:00pm: I receive a call from a different Apria driver who tells me he is supposed to bring a new machine out though he confesses he's not familiar with the device and then begins to ask me inane questions about a machine he doesn't himself understand. I ask him not to call me, but rather to speak directly with hospice to arrange the delivery. What's hospice, he asks. I breathe in. I breathe out. You know, I think, I've been waiting for a reason to let off a little steam. Now's as good a time as any. After he fails to grasp my explanation of hospice, I hang up.
5:30pm: I call hopsice again and ask them to take over full control of the situation as I am losing patience. All this while my mother is not getting drained.
6:00pm: I get another call from Apria. The same guy. He doesn't improve. We argue. I hang up again.
7:00pm: I get a call from hospice (it's Margaret now) explaining that they've spoken with so and so's supervisor and a new device will be delivered. I also hear that the hospice nurse has been delayed by an urgent patient and will arrive as soon as she is finished.
7:45pm: I get a call from Apria again. Different tone this time. He's very sorry. He's leaving San Jose and picking up the machine from Menlo Park.
7:55pm: I call hospice again. Again, Margaret is a joy to talk with. She asks how I'm doing through all this. I tell her the truth. She understands. She then offers the first practical solution to helping my mother in the moment that I've yet heard: if you feel up to it, she says, I can walk you through manually draining your mother's tube in an effort to relieve some pressure. Agreed. Success. Relief.
9:00pm: Apria calls from Menlo Park asking for my address and directions. Really?
9:15pm: Chris, the hospice nurse calls. She's in San Jose. She needs directions. This takes far too long. She's on her way.
9:30pm: Apria arrives with the machine. I leave the room. John stays and it's a good thing too, because after the Apria guy breaks the new filter for the new machine, John realizes that the old filter is the problem... not the machine. It's water logged. So, we've discovered the problem, but again are left with no solution. I'll put an order in tomorrow, the driver explains. It should get here Thursday. No, I say (I'm back). She needs it sooner it's urgent. He repeats himself. I sign his paper. He leaves.
10:00pm: Just as Apria is leaving, the nurse pulls in. I explain about the filter. I explain about the machine. She is thorough and agrees it is not working properly. She takes mom's vitals. Is content she's in no immediate danger.
10:45pm: Mom is finally able to sleep.
9:20am: Martha from hospice calls. She has reviewed the notes from last night. She apologizes again. No, it's still not working, I tell her. A filter in the mail on Thursday, I tell her. No, it's not acceptable, I agree.
1:30pm: Apria arrives. New driver. He brings 2 filters. Could you set it up please? It takes an hour to get started, he says. That's incorrect, I repeat and repeat. He sets it up. Let's test it, I suggest. Marvelous! It works - and we didn't have to wait an hour!
2:00pm: I hook mom up to the machine. It's not working. I wait. I fuss. It's not working. John comes home. We wait. We fuss. It's not working. I breathe in. I breathe out. Leave it alone, mom says. I'm fine. It's still not working. A little morphine. A pull here. A tug there. A little suction. A little pleading from my soul.
3:00pm: A little of John's magic touch. It's working! We put mom to bed, where she rests now. In the comfort of a functioning NG tube. I told you... happy ending.
I'm only sharing now, because... well, because I needed the therapeutic exercise of getting this experience on the outside of my being. Also, although this was a rare complication, it is the stuff of our everyday. I'm not complaining, I'm communicating. So, please forgive us if we're not quick to respond. If we seem frazzled or over-exhausted.
I feel like a new parent. Clumsy, unsure, restless and bumbling. All of your encouraging words have meant the world to me. To us. Please know that even if I don't respond right away. I'm reading. I'm appreciative. And, most importantly, I couldn't do it without you.