Pat's Mother's Day Story
By Patricia Reischour


I received a heart-stopping telephone call at 3:15 PM at the office from my sister (a nurse-educator for the Emergency Room) on Wednesday, April 16. "Mom is having emergency surgery now, you have to get here."  I was stunned and nearly burst into tears.  I quickly packed up and logged off my PC and ran for the nearest subway station to get me to the Staten Island Ferry.

Naturally I got stuck on the subway, standing up all the way (the Lexington Avenue Express had trains "backed up to the Bronx" due to an earlier incident), and then I had to run from Bowling Green for the boat.  The 4:30 boat was the most crowded boat I have ever seen (people were leaving early for Passover) and it being 5 PM on a beautiful day.

So, I stood all the way, in a near-panic, hoping my mother wasn't going to die while I was on the Staten Island Ferry.  There were no cabs at St. George -- just private cars picking people up -- so I had to run back down the "Taxi & Pick-Up" ramp and run up the right ramp to get the S52 bus to Staten Island University Hospital.  The bus, of course, made every stop in the rush hour traffic -- all along Richmond Terrace, Jersey Street, Castleton Avenue, Tompkins Avenue, and all along Sand Lane and through Rosebank and South Beach and finally turned up Father Capodano Boulevard toward Seaview Avenue and the hospital.

Arriving at the hospital, I got my ID "Sticker" and walked quickly to the new Heart Pavilion. To my great relief, two of my sisters were standing by the elevators and filled me in. My mother (71 years old, THS 1950) had gone to Staten Island University Hospital for a test of her mitral valve function earlier that day. This test involves the use of anesthesia and a long tube is fed down the chest area to take pictures of the heart's mitral valve.

As the test was completed, the 1 chance in 1000 "complication" happened -- her esophagus was perforated, requiring emergency surgery.  There were many anxious moments as the doctors soon realized something terrible had happened.  My mother thought she would just die in the x-ray machine -- she was in excruciating pain.  She told my stepfather to call all the kids.  Thanks goodness, the highly competent surgeon, Dr. M, happened to be there, and INSISTED my mother be taken into the operating room immediately.

I went up to the second floor of the Heart Pavilion to wait outside the Recovery Room with my stepfather. Let me explain that I have NEVER had surgery, been an in-patient in the hospital, or even broken any bones.

As I stood outside the Recovery Room, I had a feeling of lead in my legs.  I really was frightened.  Dr. W (Mom's cardiologist) came along and explained the entire mitral valve procedure to me.  He was so upset about what had happened, and I could see that he was mortified.  As he was talking, he made reference to "Murphy's Law" (sort of saying: If something is going to go wrong, it will be with family members of hospital personnel). I realized that what I call a "major league screw up” had occurred. I found myself telling him about my torturous trip to get to the hospital.  "I almost had a heart attack getting here," I said.

"I almost had one myself today," replied the doctor.  I could certainly understand that, I thought.  I found myself telling the doctor not to blame himself.

We were finally allowed into the Recovery Room at about 8 PM.  I was completely taken aback.  My mother was in that drugged-up, near-unconscious state, hooked up to high-tech, PC monitor-type screens indicating blood pressure and heart rates.  She looked awful and I thought, "My mother is going to die."  We could only stay a few minutes.  My sister (the nurse) and stepfather spent the night at the hospital.  I was so wound up my sister-in-law gave me a few tranquilizers so I could sleep over the next few nights.

My mother was in critical condition for a few days.  I was at the hospital Thursday and Friday, got home late -- but had to stay home Saturday to do errands.  My mother was exhausted Friday --- "Stay Home," she said to me for Saturday! My sister from Florida flew up.  We were so scared.   Late Friday afternoon Mom was transferred from the Cardiac-Thoracic Unit (CTU) to a regular cardiac care floor in the Heart Pavilion.

I went to Staten Island early Easter Sunday and stayed at my brother's all day -- he and his family live 5-10 minutes away from the hospital.  We went to the hospital before our dinner (after stopping at Ocean View Cemetery to see Dad). My sister-in-law had invited me to Staten Island for the holiday (prior to this disaster) and between her cooking and her mother's cooking we had a nice Easter dinner, then went back to the hospital on the way home.  My mother looked better Easter Sunday night -- she was sitting up in bed and had the TV on, but was still full of tubes and could not eat any food.

My sister has worked at SIUH for more than 10 years and is very well regarded, and I met many of her friends and colleagues during this ordeal.  All were kind, competent and professional.  I later found out that Dr. W (cardiologist) wanted to cancel his upcoming vacation. And then, even though Dr. W. went on his vacation, he got pneumonia and came home after two days.  I guess most everyone involved in this situation was very upset about what had happened to him.

So that was my Easter weekend.  I still have the feeling of lead in my legs from all the stress and I broke my eyeglasses the Monday morning after Easter, as I was getting ready for work. But, I am happy to report that after nine days in the hospital my mother went home to recover completely.  She is feeling much better, is taking short walks and can eat real food (no big meals and no crusty breads and hearty sausages just yet).  I will be going down to Forked River, New Jersey early the Saturday of Mother's Day weekend, for a nice visit.

Please email your comments about her story to Pat (click her name).

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