From Aid To Poison

I heard her yelling “Help! Help!” from down the hall.

My mother-in-law had gotten up out of bed and was sitting in her chair, looking agitated. Her oxygen line was pulled out and strung along the other side of the room. It was 6:30am, about 3 ½ hours since I had last helped her get into bed. “We’re all sick,” she announced. “They are making us that way.”

I stood in middle of the room, speechless.

It’s possible she had a bad dream, or had somehow associated what she had in her head with something that was happening on the TV. This had happened before.

“Do you want to sit there for awhile or go back to bed?”

“Bed I guess,” she replied.

After helping her get comfortable, I went downstairs to make a pot of coffee and get her some ice water. She’s VERY particular about her ice – confusion or not. On the way back upstairs, I measured out some hydrocodone cough medicine to help her breathe.

“I’m not taking that,” she said when I got back to the room. “There’s something in it.”

“What’s in there?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “But it’s what made me sick in the first place.”

In her mind, the medicine which is helping her stay comfortable has become the very thing which gave her cancer. I don’t even know what to say when confronted with a statement like that. I know it’s “not her talking.” More likely it’s the lack of oxygen or a brain tumor that has started growing again. When confusion turns aid into poison, there aren’t many things one can say to calm a situation. Instead I sat with her in the room and said nothing – quietly watching a ZumbaFitness infomercial and wishing I could drop another 40 pounds. She eventually drifted off and began breathing calmly.

When bad dreams are made real by disorientation, they can scare any of us. Add terminal illness to the mix and that bad dream can seem like the apocalypse. I hope to somehow find the words to calm her fears if this happens again.


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