Thursday, July 7, 2011
The Best-Laid Plans ...
My mother and sister flew out from California for my grandmother's open heart surgery last week... The trip did not go exactly as planned:
Horses and Planes
My mom is a polio survivor and has significant weakness in both legs requiring leg braces; she is also a paraequestrian rider, and fell off her horse the day before she was scheduled to fly to NY. It turns out she pulled a groin muscle and fractured her pelvis in the fall. She, of course, was told not to fly; which she ignored.
The next morning the car service my mom had hired to take her and my sister to the San Diego airport (1 hour away) broke down, so my sister threw everything in her own car and drove as fast as she could. She pulled up to the curb, unloaded the bags and pulled out my mom's spare wheelchair - only to find that in the confusion they had forgotten the footrests - and my mother couldn't use the chair without them. After my sister got another wheelchair (with footrests) from the airline, she sped off to long-term parking... which was under construction - so she had to go to the overflow lot, which was even further.
When the parking shuttle picked her up, my sister told the driver that her flight was leaving in 30 min and she had left her wheelchair-bound mother on the curb... he quickly replied "don't worry, I know a short cut" and went flying down a dirt road. He dropped her off, pointed in a general direction and said "just run through that field... the airport is on the other side."
Dutifully, she got out and ran across the field and into the airport "on the other side" just in time to see my mother in an elevator - like a movie - with the doors closing... later they found each other - and somehow managed to successfully negotiate two planes across the country.
Med Student Diagnosis
I rented a wheelchair and picked them up at the Westchester airport, swung by my grandmother's house to pick her up, and the four of us headed over to my grandfather's nursing home / rehab facility, and met up with my uncle. (We told my grandparents that my mother was in a wheelchair because her leg braces broke - we didn't want to scare or upset them.)
While visiting my grandfather, my sister - who just finished her first year of medical school - was able to recognize the signs of C-Diff (a serious intestinal infection), which was being ignored. After her initial assessment was confirmed - we still had to make a big fuss to get him the medicine he needed. Thank goodness for med school!
Hairdryers and Fire Alarms
So then it was back to grandma's house for some sleep before her big surgery day.
We all turned in at a decent hour, only to be woken up at 3am by an alarm. At first we thought it was a fire alarm in the hallway - which my sister unscrewed... it wasn't that. Then we found another fire alarm a few inches away, which we couldn't seem to disconnect. As we were trying with all our might to get the second alarm down from the ceiling (and figure out why my grandparents' house has two fire alarms within 5 inches of each other), my grandmother - without explanation or hesitation - plugged in a hairdryer and started blow-drying the hallway. We finally got fire alarm #2 disconnected - but the beep - beep - beep - beep didn't stop; neither did my grandmother, despite our pleas.
Serendipitously, we looked at where my grandmother plugged in the hairdryer and saw a carbon dioxide alarm - which was going off... not in a way that was alerting us to deadly danger - just to a dead battery.
Once we got the alarm switched off, my grandmother slowly lowered her hairdryer, like a gunslinger from the Old West who had just killed the bad guy in the black cowboy hat... at which point my sister and I began hysterically laughing at the absurdity of the last 48-hours.
I'm happy to report that things have settled down: mom is healing, grandma has two new heart valves, and grandpa is about to be released from rehab. There were many more ridiculous moments over the past week, but luckily our family is blessed with both strong genes and a healthy sense of humor.
Idiom Side Note
The common expression "the best laid-plans of mice and men often go astray" comes from Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men, which took its title from Robert Burns's poem "To a Mouse. On turning her up in her nest with the plough".