Friday, September 17, 2010

Holding Our Breath

I was actually writing about the recent Hari Raya family visits we had with the whole family, just like we have been doing since more than a decade ago.

I had not finished writing and posting it when something unsettling we felt actually happened. We, meaning Wifey and I.

I did not think much about it at first, not until Wifey talked about it just before bedtime, recalling the day we had and how things were during the whole outing.

Wifey noticed, and I am sure many of my siblings noticed it too, that Mom appeared sad and distant throughout the day, only to smile when being spoken to. She was otherwise very quiet and appeared somber.

Knowingly, we knew how she felt.

It is the first year that we celebrate Hari Raya without Dad. Though Aidilfitri is a major cause for celebrations, the thought of Dad not with us, him beside Mom during all those visits from one sibling's place to another, is heartbreaking.

It was the face she put forward that was more than just being sad. There was more to it than just having no appetite to eat all that delicious food spread everyone dished out at their homes.

"Mom appeared more sickly than sad." Wifey said while we were lying in bed, all dark in our room except for the lights cast up on the ceiling from the street lights below.

Her intuition was accurate enough when I received a call from Sis. Mom was feeling breathless and had spent time sleeping sitting down on the sofa for the past 3 days. She has been staying with Sis since Ramadhan began.

No one knew she was having breathlessness for several days until Brother-in-law saw her at the living room when he got up to drink a glass of water in the middle of the night. Sis did suspect something was not right when she eat so little even for her usual small portion.

I took an urgent half day leave from work to accompany Mom to Woodlands Polyclinic, the place where she gets all her medical treatments and the doctors who monitor her medical condition and general health.

She got her ECG done there after the doctor examined her. She was referred to the hospital to perform a thorough investigation for her complaints of breathlessness and the fact that she felt pain after swallowing food and even a sip of water. The doctor suspected that she has some water in her right lung but only X-rays would show.

Mom stopped eating her regular portions of meals after Saturday, the day after we had our coach-load of family members on for Raya visits. It took some convincing on Sis' part and finally mine, to get her to see the doctor.

"I don't want to be in the hospital on Hari Raya and spoil the celebrations for everyone." Was her reply when I asked.

We stopped at AlSalam Restaurant that was adjacent to the polyclinic because Mom was hungry. She skipped lunch because "it was too painful to swallow" anything but the hunger was too strong that she wanted to eat something before we left for the hospital.

The Indian Rojak was virtually untouched as Mom almost cried quietly pain after her first mouthful. The cleaning man at the restaurant was surprised her food and hot barley drink was not touched when we left. He asked if we wanted it packed to go.

Mom was immediately processed at Tan Tock Seng Hospital or TTSH A&E. It took less than 5 minutes for Mom to see the Triage doctor at A&E and immediately got her wheeled to the ECG after her BP and blood sample were taken. Her last stop was at X-ray to her chest.

Soon Mom was lying in a hospital bed and waiting in Observation Room 25 before she was processed to be warded for her condition. I was with her all the time. With the blue wrist band on me, I was the only person that was allowed to accompany her in A&E.

Sis was soon joined by her husband from work, her daughter and my youngest Brother, waited outside and anxiously waiting for any updates.

"Salam. Mom in TTSH Ward 8B Bed 67 for breathlessness." Was my broadcast text message to all my siblings. Soon calls and text messages poured in, asking for more updates about Mom's condition.

We stayed on till past midnight. We were joined by 3rd Sis and her hubby, and 3rd Sis with hers sitting outside once Mom fell asleep after taking her medications.

I knew I could never be alert at work and that I was better off by Mom's side at the hospital the following day than being any productive at work, worrying about her.

Dear Sis stayed through the night in the ward by Mom's bedside as only "Caregiver" allowed. She was given a special Caregiver card to access in and out of the ward freely regardless of the visiting hours.

Not much improvement was seen with Mom on Wednesday as far as the chest pain when swallowing. The test results were not back yet and the medications given helped to stable her diabetes and reduced her swelling on both her legs.

I was back at work on Thursday but soon had to raise another urgent half day in the afternoon to meet the doctor and Senior consultants to discuss her treatment path and options.

I am so very thankful the my boss was again very understanding of my plight as she was when I had to attend to Dad throughout the whole of last year, taking urgent leaves and time-offs until his passing in early January.

By Thursday, good news came pouring one after the other. Dr. Ana who was attending to Mom told us that her heart, though weak, had been stable and ruled out as anything to be concern about.

So too was her lungs. The medications given thus far and worked well to flush out water from her lung, evidently with her able to lye down to sleep.

The consultants informed that Mom was not in any critical state and wished to monitor her with the medications that had worked well so far undergoing endoscopy and possible colonoscopy next week.

Since Mom is responding well to the medications, she is able to swallow with little pain now, she was discharged yesterday. A relief from everybody that Mom is on the road to recovery faster than we anticipated since she is an emotional person and the fact that she is still somewhat mourning for Dad.

The first hint of loud laughter and her spirits lighting up was when after her discharge, a whole group of my Sis and their daughters all went for a hearty meal at Novena Square and especially when we went shopping for 2nd Sis' birthday gift she is celebrating this 24th.

Mom bought her a handbag and she got another one too from all of us.

"I'm so happy to be out and about... shopping with you all." Mom said wholeheartedly. Everyone smiled with a sigh of relief and enjoying the impromptu shopping spree.

"This is such a beautiful place." Mom smiled. It is indeed.


  1. So glad to hear the happy ending and that your mom is much better. It is so difficult to celebrate when one is not feeling well, so it sounds like she had grief and illness to deal with and trying to be part of everything with a brave front. Hope she is now getting good sleep in her bed and eating well.
    Please, oh please! Post the yearly photos of your family celebrating. It is a highlight of my blogging adventures! A feast for my eyes, all the beautiful people that is your family and all the lovely colorful clothing and homes. And I can only imagine! the foods ;oD So... I hope you will do this and of course it had to be difficult also missing your father. Grief does not end at a prescribed time limit. Nine months is a very short time in the grief process as there are anniversaries of so many different times to revisit and this was a major one for all of you. I honor your ongoing process of grieving and do believe that weighed heavily on your mother and all of you because "someone was missing". Bless you all!

  2. much worry for you but am so glad she is more comfortable.
    They seem very thorough at the hospital and the suggestion of further tests prove this.

    Hope she continues to improve. Smiles.

  3. I'm happy for all of you; I hope Mom keeps on getting better and better.

  4. I'm glad to hear that your Mom is feeling better, Muhd. She is blessed with a loving family.


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Muhd Imran
PAL Blogger