Today on this sunny Monday morning we have yet another superb guest writer for you to read and enjoy. ‘Counting your blessings’ is written by a woman known to her friends as ‘Soupy’ or perhaps Anne. Delighted to call her my friend she is one of the people who makes out town shine just that little bit brighter. The giggle is that this morning as I write I’m not 100% sure what her right name is lol… Anyway take it away girl:
A recent conversation in my house went something like this. “Isn’t Tiffany dead?” (not 80’s pop princess but small, fat, cute and demanding Yorkshire Terrier belonging to my mum). “Yes mum she died”, I replied. “Why do I not remember that?” she worried more to herself than me. My heart broke a tiny bit, and admittedly my patience probably dropped a notch too, as we had now had the same conversation 3 times in the past hour. You see, my mum has vascular dementia.
But this story doesn’t start at this point, but 2 years ago one week in April.
I was just back to school after Easter having had a wonderful Disney vacation in Florida with my wee Disney freak of a mum and was up to my neck in marking assessments and assignments for deadlines in May. Staying late each evening to ensure I coached the best work from students even at this late stage in the academic year.
From being oblivious to recognising that something odd was going on towards the end of the working week, I noticed that my normally busy wee mother was not ‘all biz’ – managing the chaos of our house but had fallen relatively silent letting each day settle on and around her. She was ravenous in the late evenings; eating copious amounts of toast (white, well done) and nibbling on dark chocolate digestives like they were going out of style. From this and other clues I came to the conclusion that she wasn’t eating from breakfast each day. I wondered was she ill and not telling me.
On Friday night the vast gap in her short term memory loss and general well being led me to a wakeful night of fretting and then a decision to take her to the hospital on Saturday morning.
The Ulster Hospital A&E was as busy as you would expect but we were triaged quickly, vitals taken, seen by the doctor who did a dementia test with her (she scored 26/28), sent for bloods, later back to same doctor who said that the bloods were showing clear for the usual strokes, kidney infections etc that could cause this issue with memory but that she wanted to keep her in for observation and get a head CT also. On to the ambulatory ward to await bed assignment, saw a staff nurse then afterwards the ward doctor there, next down to CT for the scan and back on the ward were we saw the ward doctor again but this time accompanied by a specialist (nothing showed in the scan ). A little later the staff nurse came and told us we would be going up to Ward 21 in about an hour and he was going to take her blood pressure and temperature before this.
By this time my mum had been efficiently seen at 10 different stations within the Ulster Hospital (I want you to remember this fact). She was dead tired, it had been a long day and I suggested a wee snooze. She closed her eyes and drifted off almost immediately… Less than 10 minutes later, there was a crash and she was startled awake by it. “Where am I?” she asked me. I gave her the standard answer I had given her a half dozen times during this long day. “We are at the Ulster Hospital as you haven’t been too well this week and we need to get to the bottom of it”. She was accepting of that, looked around her and said with feeling – “And I’ve been here all ‘F***ing’* day and not a person near me!
I laughed heartily at the absurdity of what she had just said and the use of uncharacteristic colourful language but was also struck by a realisation that nothing would be the same again.
Forty eight hours in the hospital brought no further joy and it took another 4 months and a very understanding and helpful GP to get a diagnosis of vascular dementia.
Why ‘count your blessings’ as a title for this piece when I seem have recounted to you ‘the day the backside fell out of my world’. Well, I am truly grateful of the time I spend with my mum even on the days that are hard and my patience wears thin. It isn’t her but her illness which robs her of her smiles on these days. She has become very tactile (hugs like a bear and tells me she loves me all the time), has developed a wicked sense of humour (think Sophia in golden Girls) and we have a wee sing song and a dance most days between repeat episodes of 1980 quiz shows hosted by Les Dennis, Roy Walker and Bruce Forsythe. Like I said I count my blessings knowing that there are limitations on her future, knowing that I am building memories everyday that will keep me afloat when times get tough.
Bio: I am a 50 year old teacher of teenagers who sometimes thinks she is 16 too. I am currently on a career break to act as a carer for my mother. I love guitar bands from the 00’s and the 90’s and of course the 80’s as this was my era. I have three sayings in life that never steer me wrong
- There is always room for a wee one
- You catch more flies with sugar than vinegar
- I’ll be alright if nothing falls on me