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In Arizona

Sunday night I got a text message from my mother, saying that my grandma was in the hospital. Monday I got an update: my grandma had a 97% blockage in the left pulmonary artery and was facing three choices, none of them great. They could do nothing and she would have a massive heart attack at any time (hours, days, or months but more likely sooner than later). They could try to do a bypass, but the area of the blockage is particularly hard to bypass and grandma’s other medical conditions made it highly unlikely she would survive that surgery without other serious complications (including risk of losing her leg or not making it through the surgery at all). They finally decided to put in a stent as the third option. There was up to a 25% chance that she wouldn’t make it through this procedure, especially after she fell into a coma a few years ago after another procedure. I got this news at 7:00pm on Monday night and was on a plane by 9:00pm. I had to come.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a direct flight, or even a flight to somewhere like San Diego or Phoenix or Tucson. Instead I flew to LAX and drove the rest of the way to Yuma overnight so I could be by my grandma’s bedside before she went in for her procedure. I made it in time to spend a good few hours with her before she went under and I’m really glad about that. She was so happy to see me, even as sick as she was.

She made it through the stent procedure alright and was more or less lucid, though in pain and very groggy, most of yesterday. Her husband, my mom and i took turns sitting in the room with her and keeping her company (or just being nearby). Before the procedure, there was talk of having her on a balloon pump for a few hours after the surgery, but that turned from 6 hours, to “until 6pm”, to “overnight” and they finally did remove it late this morning. Unfortunately all this meant that my grandmother was very uncomfortable and has spent her time today almost completely sedated. She has several gruesome and painful hematomas. After removing the balloon pump today they had to apply hard pressure to the wound for over 2 hours to keep the wound from bleeding.

I have to leave tomorrow evening to get back to the LA area so I can make my Friday morning flight. I was really hoping that she would be in much better shape by the time I had to leave. When we left her tonight the nurses were saying she might still be looped on the drugs until “afternoon” tomorrow. At this point I’d really like to be able to say goodbye and have her remember that I was there. Seeing her in the condition she’s been in, I also hope this is the last time she’s in this situation. While I don’t wish for her death in any way (and she’s told me she’s not ready to go… “I have to get better, I told that little boy [that would be the x-ray tech] in x-ray that I was going to come dance the tango with him!”) I don’t want her to suffer anymore, either from the symptoms from her failing body or from the effects of the interventions. This has been an emotionally draining trip, with some really good bonding moments for the family and a lot of stress and difficult feelings too. I hate uncertainty.

Even so, glad I came. I hope for better news tomorrow.

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