Sign language

While Mom was in ICU, and on a ventilator, she was still communicating with us.  She could nod her head, and even tried writing letters in the air.  i made a makeshift white board using a notebook and some dry erase markers, but her hand wasn’t steady enough to write.

We improvised – we played it as a cross between “Hangman” and “Wheel of Fortune”, with a little bit of “20 Questions” thrown in to narrow the topic.  One of us would slowly say the alphabet and she’d squeeze our hand when we got to the right letter.  “A… B… C… [squeeze].  C?  The first letter is ‘C’?” and she’d nod her head.

We’d move to the second letter… took some time, but she was able to tell us a few things.

First thing she wanted to say?  “I love you…”

Later that afternoon, she started writing in the air with her finger.  We played the game again and she spelled “C. O. L. D.” – she needed a blanket…

The next morning, she indicated she wanted to tell us something – she spelled “B. A. B….”

daisyfae:  “Baby?  You’re having a baby?”

Mom:  [glares at daisyfae and shakes her head]

She had been trying to spell out “Barb”, her best friend from church…. so we got Barb from the waiting room to come back and visit…

The last one was tough…  My sister, T, her partner, DQ and i were with her as she started to spell something new….   i used the white board to keep track of the letters, and help us guess what she was trying to say.

We went slowly through the alphabet, and came up with “N…   E…. E…. D…”  First word is “Need”….

Second word… “T”… “O”… “Need to….”

Very much like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” as he used his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring to decipher the secret message…

Third word, first letter…. “P”

DQ:  You need to P?  But Granny, you’ve got a catheter…

daisyfae:  Do you need to poop?

Mom:  [vigorous nodding]

daisyfae:  [hits the call button to summon a nurse] Sweet wounded Jesus, you poor thing!  It took 20 minutes for you to tell us that….

14 thoughts on “Sign language

  1. I’m sorry your Mom had to go through that. Hospitals have cards with all the letters on them that somebody can just point to. Maybe they didn’t offer you one because most ventilator patients are comatose or heavily sedated. Your Mom must have been exhausted after having to take 20 minutes to convey something that with a low-tech solution would have made her life easier. I’m glad she is at peace now.
    (PS. One of my worst nightmares is being alert on a ventilator. Well if I was Christopher Reeve I would adapt to it, but I’m still gonna tatoo “Do Not Resuscitate” and ” No extraordinary measures ” on my chest.)

    • Really wish i’d thought of that — or that someone on staff had seen us doing this and realized she could use the letter card. We all came away from that experience recognizing the value of learning sign language….. It must have been so horrible to be feeling awful, alert enough to know what was happening, and unable to communicate simple things. We worked hard to ask her ‘yes’ / ‘no’ questions to tease out what she wanted to tell us – and it worked fairly well. but it had to be so rotten for her…

      She went into ICU on Tuesday morning, and was still communicating with us through around Friday noon. After that, she just sort of checked out….

    • We didn’t have any “Whammies” either (i think that was another of his shows? Or was that “Joker’s Wild”?) She was always fond of game shows, so i guess there’s that….

    • Thanks, Ashley…. Even though i’m telling silly stories about her time in the hospital, it was absolutely heart breaking to know that she was so very aware of everything going on, and so very helpless… Hoping that you can find comfort and peace, dear lady…

    • The wedding was great – a little chilly and windy, but the rain stopped so there was a beach wedding! Jetted off to Miami from there, back home Tuesday, and then i launched to Boston for a 2 day business trip. i’m pretty sick of airports at the moment…

  2. I laughed and then awww’d, bless her soul. Time will make it easier, I’m still sad at your loss but enjoyed the giggle, very similar to my mum last year.
    be well, you really are cool to know.

    • She must have been so terribly frustrated, among the discomfort and indignities, never mind the sheer fear of knowing that things were not looking good. Doing ok here on my side of the earth – running far too hard, as always, and avoiding the down time that lets me think too much…

  3. “Poop” — that’s such an American word and raises a smile every time I see it. I don’t know what makes our word “poo” not funny and your word “poop” gigglingly funny though 🙂

    • i ADORE the word “Poop” – but my favorite is “Turd”. Isn’t that the best word ever? i frequently work that into conversation, and it is one of my most prized insults! You’re right about “Poo”…. somehow genteel and proper in comparison!

  4. I was reading the Bible to my mom in one of those last days in the hospice. She was really religious. Finally though, she reached a point where she said, don’t read the Bible anymore. Read me some O. Henry stories.

    • Welcome to The Park, Apathy – thanks for stopping by… i’m not sure O. Henry is the most cheerful deathbed choices, but you’ve got to give them what they want…

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