Caring for a parent, crises, Health care, hospitalization, mother daughter relationship

Crisis: The Latest Poop

How do you write an interesting post—one anyone would want to read—about sitting in a hospital room waiting for your mother to poop?

We’ve been here since the wee hours of Saturday morning when an ambulance delivered her. Last time this happened we drove her. Then we sat in the waiting room forever. This way she got right in and we didn’t have to get her up the stairs to the car. Later Mama wondered why they carried her in a chair, “surely the gurney would have been more comfortable.” Because the gurney couldn’t make the narrow 90º turn up the steps. Princess and Pea Syndrome (PPS), though the  official diagnosis is bowel obstruction.


I rode in the ambulance with the driver who was from Philly. When he and his wife were looking for a change a year ago they visited Raleigh, but it was way too hot so they came here and love it. People and their stories and connections.

The nurse in the E.R. was a high school classmate of Rebecca’s, the hospitalist (a word that Google doesn’t know) on the floor when she was admitted was my father’s doctor and is in the caroling group that sings to Mama every Christmas, the weekend night nurse was the sister of the man who has washed Mama’s windows and is also owner of the coffee shop that generously donated coffee for her 100th birthday party. We are grateful for this village that knows her.

She endured the extreme discomfort of the insertion of a nasogastric tube up her nose, screaming in pain while Rebecca and I held each other and sobbed. At Day 5 now, I can tell you pretty much anything about what that particular torture device is for and I have increased my woefully inadequate knowledge of anatomy. Mama apparently thinks that should have been enough discomfort for one hospital stay and has kept the DOD of the hour on her toes (along with the staff): bedding (too much, too little, wrong combination), pillow adjustments (I don’t want it under my shoulders! I want it under my shoulders!), water (I want ice chips), ice chips (I want water), lip balm, change the temperature (too warm, too cold), etc., all usually ordered just when we’ve closed our eyes to try to get five winks. It’s a good thing PPS is not the condition they are trying to fix or we would be here for the rest of time.

Meanwhile, during Mama and Rebecca’s Monday night from hell when she got three enemas that didn’t work and no sleep at all, I was home alone overnight for just the second time in the four years since I came back here. I got up Tuesday morning to a fog-filled valley. I felt cocooned—separated from the worries—in a home that never feels like mine when my mother is here; and the world was cooperating, shrouding me in silence. I made apple chutney and canned nine half-pints as the sun burst forth. I opened the doors so Smudge the Cat could venture from her confined space and roam the house. She stayed on the bed. She has become enured to her fate. It made me sad. It’s what I worry about for myself sometimes.


Sunday morning I made apple pancakes—my father’s specialty—for my visiting family without having to think about my mother’s presence and needs, nurturing and enjoying them in my home. I don’t want Mama to be sick and uncomfortable, I want her to come back to her familiar space; and…

She is getting excellent care at this hospital she has a huge dislike for. I hope it can alter the tape that plays in her head and the words “I need to go to the hospital but only in Olympia” will be erased. However she told the nurse, “I have just begun to lose my short-term memory,” (😳) so perhaps she will still only remember that they get it all wrong here. Or something will yet happen that will erase the good days.


The nurse and I gave her a bed bath yesterday. I washed her feet and massaged lotion into them. It was a pleasure to provide that ancient rite of love and service to the mother that nourished and nurtured me, and know the comfort it gave her. And we had a good night, sleeping between bathroom breaks, vitals gathering, blood draws. Hospitals are not places of rest, but I’m glad not to be dealing with it all at home by myself.

On a sobering note: so far the suppositories, enemas, Miralax, and walking the halls haven’t worked sufficiently. She is not a surgical candidate. Doctor F. told me Tuesday evening there is another option with a long name that involves the NG tube, but he is taking it one thing at a time and staying hopeful that it will clear itself. The bottom line, though, is if they can’t clear the blockage it will be the end of the line for her.

I would hate for poop to be the cause of death, though it would be ironic since she has been obsessed with it—her own and others, going back at least as far as the enemas she gave me as a child—for decades. Not a sexy way to go, but it would make a good story. They say you die as you lived.



12 thoughts on “Crisis: The Latest Poop”

  1. Gretchen, I embrace you and your mother in this harrowing time. IYour post today flashed me back to more than five decades ago. We were praying for our premature 4-pound baby, Jocelyn, who had just surgery for a blocked intestine, to poop, which would be proof of successful surgery. But it wasn’t successful She lived 11 days. I want to say it’s a crappy or shitty way to go, but that feels disrespectful. May your mom, after this century of her very good life, be spared, if possible, from this pathway to the next life. thinking of you both….


  2. Such an array of emotions around waiting for your mom to poop! I can relate to so much of this. I sat with Dad in the hospital when he had his obstruction and he wasn’t a surgical candidate either. Prayers for all of you as you wait!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “The latest poop” and “the bottom line”? These made me smile. It’s amazing how often bowel issues (so to speak) become problematic in the last months and days. Well, I guess it’s *not* amazing, really. Pretty basic stuff. I’d just never thought about it before caring for my parents during their final illnesses. Thinking of you as you wait for the… um, outcome? Sorry, couldn’t resist another poop reference. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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