Friday, June 06, 2008

MRI Update

We got the test results back from the MRI, and my mother apparently has one or two fractures (depending upon who we were talking to) in her L4 and L5 vertebral bodies. I haven't really had time to spend trying to figure out exactly what that means, as most of my time the past couple of days has involved trying to get her health insurance straightened out. However, it does mean that this was indeed a milestone event, although there is some hope that she can come out of it in more or less the same shape as she left it. 

The health insurance component has it's interesting side. My mother was married for a few years to a retired Army Reserve brigadier general who provided her with health coverage. They divorced early this year after his Alzheimer's got to the point where she could no longer care for him (and his family could). However, the divorce was never recorded in DEERS, the DoD database on service members, and until it is I am unable to get her insurance transferred from the standard TriCare service to the COBRA version. After a few phone calls, I finally made an appointment with the local Army office in downtown Portland to bring in the divorce papers and get this straightened out. I also may need to be sure that her information is correct - they seem to think that she was born five years later than she was. So, Tuesday morning I go downtown with my passport and ODL (because terrorists never carry a passport or driver's license), present them with the papers, and wait however long it takes to percolate through the military bureaucracy. On the plus side, she's covered until then.

As far as what her situation is and her options going forward, there are apparently some surgical options that are plausible for someone of her age. Recuperation and risk are critical issues, and quite frankly my mother is feeling like maybe she's lived long enough. We have been able to get an appointment to see a neurosurgeon on the 16th, and we'll have a better idea of her options then. In the meantime, she's exhausted and sleeping quite a bit, and my wife and I (as well as my siblings) are trying to get over to spend time with her about three times a day. She's also agreed that driving is now out of the question for her, and she's allowed me to pay her bills for her. While these are positive steps for her (mostly letting me do most of the work), at the same time she is giving up autonomy and responsibility that helps her keep going every day. This is a delicate time for her, and I am encouraging her to keep an open mind about her future at the very least until we have a chance to get a good assessment of her options.

In talking with her, I've learned that the things she enjoys most is time spent with her family, especially her children. My sisters (one in particular) have spent a lot of time doing some genealogical research, including two trips back to Missouri over the past year. While I suspect that these will be the last trips my mother makes (that involve aircraft, at any rate), I think they are nice bookends to her life. That is where she was born and spent her first ten years of life, and now she has gone back to those places, even the home she grew up in. 

As for me, I'm finding that I am having to choose what my exact role is. On the one hand, I am her advocate, carrying out her wishes. On another, I am an advisor, making suggestions. On a third, I am her parent now, making meals, tucking her in and setting limits. On a fourth, I am a friend and confidant, allowing her to speak openly and honestly about her thoughts and feelings. I can already see that some of these roles will begin to conflict at some point, and it is this tightrope that I find the most draining, even moreso than the emotional realization that my mother will not be with me much longer. I have told her repeatedly that it is my honor and privilege to be her son, and that I will be with her from now until the end. As I told her earlier today, if she feels that I am a good man and a good person, it is because of the example she set and the lessons I learned from her, not the least of which is to choose your friends carefully. Those of you who read this know that I am very particular who I play games with, and it is because life is too short not to spend it with people whose company you enjoy and treasure, and so I thank those of you I game with for being such good friends. 

I'll give one more update before we speak with the specialist to talk a bit more about caring for my mother and the challenges that brings, especially during a time when we don't know exactly what the future holds. 

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