Last Friday I happened to look out my bedroom window to see an ambulance pull up across the street at my elderly neighbour’s home. My stomach began to churn and I looked on with dismay as the paramedics gathered their stuff out of the back of the ambulance and entered into the house. I did not realize the effect that seeing this scenario play out in front of me would bring back such vivid flashbacks to a day back in October when my Mom had her heart attack. I had to call the ambulance. I remember how calm I suddenly became – like someone just took over my body and was directing everything for me. I don’t know if this is an autistic thing or not but I do react this way when there is a crisis. When I worked with special needs kids at school I would become very calm when they went into crisis. I read in a book on autism once that this is one way we react to a crisis situation. I remember gathering Mom’s things – her list of pills, her pill bottles, her purse with her health card, her coat, and on and on. I do not remember feeling anything except a strange calmness – a blankness except for the task at hand. The paramedics brought Mom downstairs on her chair lift and then transferred her to a special chair that they would use to lift her out to the stretcher waiting in the driveway. I remember wondering if all the neighbours were watching my Mom and how embarrassing that would be for her – just like I was fixed on watching my neighbour across the street. I remember the paramedics saying she was in heart failure and how I wasn’t sure what that meant or what it would mean down the road. I’m glad I didn’t know right then. The paramedics invited me to ride up front to the hospital. I will never forget that ride. We raced along the road, lights flashing and the siren was blaring. I thought to myself, “Is this the end?” Is what I have feared for years actually going to happen? When we got to the emergency department they asked me to go into the waiting area and they took Mom into the emergency dept. area. It was then that the feelings began to sweep over me. I wanted to be with Mom and they wanted me out here. I got out my phone and fumbling with the keys I started phoning people – my brother, my pastor, my friends. I gave the facts as I knew them at that point – just the facts! I was like a reporter reporting on the story at hand. Brief, concise, to the point. No time to waste with what ifs or should I ‘s. I finally after asking to be let in to see Mom, got to see her. She was hooked up to machines but she was awake and we chatted briefly. For the next week Mom stayed in the hospital and I stayed in my role as caretaker, provider, supporter, and information seeker and giver. I don’t remember if I ever cried. Maybe I did. I just know I had a job to do to look after my Mom. I was in extreme exhaustion but I kept going by some unknown strength – well, I actually know what strength it was. It was God giving me the strength I didn’t have myself to do what needed to be done. God was with me every moment, through every decision, every overwhelming moment. He never left me for a second. He’s like that. He’s a good God and He was my rock during this incredibly difficult time.
As I saw my neighbour come out of the house and get put on the stretcher I watched as he was taken off to the hospital alone. His wife stayed at home. Alone….. No matter how hard this job of looking after my Mom gets I will never leave her alone. We are stitched together with intertwining thick threads that will never break. Mom is home now. She has been since that week. She is basically palliative care in heart failure but she is doing well. I live down the street from an ambulance depot. I hear sirens often and I see flashing lights often. I also have flashbacks often. Guess it just goes with the territory.