the memory becomes unlocked

imgresI just finished reading The Heart.  The author, Maylis de Kerangal, is French and the book was translated into English.  The story surrounds a tragic accident and everything unfolds over a 24 hour period.  The writing is beautiful and vivid.  Kerangal draws you in from the first sentence.  It is an intense book.

The first third of the book brought me back to the first insane 24 hours when my Mom was checked into the hospital after a MRI showed a mass in her brain.  A completely different story but the book brought the 6 weeks of constant decision making back to my thoughts and dreams.   Looking back at how hospitals function is mind boggling.  Learning how to navigate that world isn’t one that anyone prepares you for.

After the MRI the doctor came out to tell me the information and wanted me to take my Mom to an emergency room where he practiced immediately.  It was a Friday evening.  I called Fred and when he got on the phone it was a rush of emotions that came out of nowhere and I could barely speak.  I called my sister (and eventually my brother who is in LA) as well and we all met up in the emergency room at Sloan Kettering.  Friday night is probably the worst time to show up in an emergency room.

We filled out all the paperwork and waited for a room.  They told us that there is a chance that we will have to sit until early Saturday morning to get a room.  Really?  To us she was an emergency but to them they understood that she was about to go through a process.  My Mom was 72 years old and we are told to sit around and wait. They finally tell us that there is possible bed and through chatting up a few people I figured out which part of the hospital it was in and what floor. I took the elevator up to the floor to see the bed completely empty just waiting for her arrival.  I went back downstairs and asked about it.  They had to wait for a person to take her up there and that could be a few hours…aka union rules.  I told them that if someone did not show up with a wheelchair to escort her up there in the next 10 minutes then I would just take her up there myself.  They heard me loud and clear and before we knew it an orderly shows up and takes us upstairs.

It was 2am by the time I got home.  Then came the week of tests to figure out what was wrong.  It was stressful spending a week of them ruling out everything until they narrowed it down.  I knew it wasn’t good.

Hospitals deal with life and death every second of the day.  They are the front end of talking to the people who are overwhelmed with emotions and that can’t be easy.  Six weeks after the day she had a MRI my Mom died of brain cancer.  I have written about it before.  It happened so quickly.  Each day a new decision had to be made.  It was an emotional roller coaster for all of us.  Each doctor wanted to own their own space after all it is a business even though they are in the business of making people better.  I would not have made different decisions although if they knew what she had before having surgery then we might have chosen to not even operate.  I am pretty sure they knew but they have a process.

It is strange how the memory works.  This book literally sent me back to a place that I am not sure I want to revisit but maybe it isn’t so bad to revisit it after all.