With the door ajar, I heard a voice. “Love you, see you in the morning.“
She walked out the room and headed towards the elevator. “If there’s anything, call me,” she waved at me.
“Your mom is so sweet,” I handed over a cup of pills. As a new nurse, I tried to juggle both- caring for my patients, while getting to know my patients. “How are you feeling?”
“Hi Soapie, it’s good to see you again,” she tried to smile. “But my chest feels tight.”
I checked her oxygen level, listened to her lungs, then ran a marathon: rushed to the medication cart, back to my patient to put her on a nebulizer, and reassessed her breathing. I repositioned her, raised the head of the bed, called respiratory and her attending, and gave all the PRN and STAT meds.
But her breaths became more shallow. The pink in her lips disappeared.
Please don’t die… you are too young to die… Before I knew it, my legs pushed her bed out the room and sprinted down a long hall.
Around the corner, I heard a soft, but labored, panting.
Curious, I walked into my patient’s room to find him breathing rapidly. I took his vital signs: blood pressure was a little high, pulse ok, temperature ok. His respirations were fast, but his oxygen saturation was 100%.
Normally, when I call a doctor to report a patient’s worsening condition, I’m ahead of the game. If my patient’s short of breath, I hook them up to oxygen. If they have ‘as needed’ medications available, I give them. If he’s aspirating (choking on fluids), I raise the
head of the bed, I shove a yankauer in their mouth and suction the crap
Clutching a syringe, alcohol swabs, bandaids, and loose leaf papers, I approached the double doors with my filled fist towards my sternum, and my right arm angled outwards, ready to push the lever forward with my forearm and elbow.
Then, through the glass, an older man started towards the entrance, on the opposite side.
Mom taught my brother-in-law, my sis, and I how to play Mah Jong. Pong!
It’s been 2 years since Mom, my mother-in-law, passed away.
Missing her is a constant feeling. Walking down the street, when the flowers are plucked off the trees and carried in the wind, I smile as I think of her. Other days, I’m overcome by waves of sadness. Like last weekend, at my sister’s wedding. Seeing my sister get married to my now brother-in-law filled me with unspeakable joy. But when I thought about Mom, how much she loved them both, and how she would’ve wanted to celebrate with us, my chest ached.
I cannot count all the things I miss about Mom. I miss her cheerfulness, how it filled the room with sunshine, even if the curtains were drawn. I miss her enthusiasm to try new things, like toasted squid in Tai O Fishing Village (in Hong Kong), butter and garlic crawfish (one of the last meals we shared before she died), and embracing the cold to go whale watching (during a chilly New England autumn). I miss her presence, even if she was asleep or quietly watching tv, how it brought so much comfort. I miss her cooking skills that introduced the vibrant flavors of Hong Kong home cookin’ into my life. I am so thankful for her, how she accepted me, how she loved me like I was one of her own, how she embraced me despite my flaws, how she welcomed me into her family from the very beginning.