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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Watched Someone Die Not Once, But Twice!

Today is World Alzheimer's Day. Do you know of someone that has been touched by this awful disease? Or, are you yourself inflicted with it?

My grandmother (Nana) had Alzheimer's. It started off slowly when I was still living in Nevada. Actually, I take that back. I strongly believe for her, it started while we were all still living in California, where I was born and primarily raised.

At first, it was very subtle. Nana would place something down in a pretty conspicuous place, where anyone with pretty good eyes (and back then, they were pretty good for her) could clearly see the object in question. Only, minutes later, she would get up and do whatever, only to search long and hard for what she "misplaced" moments earlier. When one of us (being myself, my dad, or my step-mom) would find it sitting practically in front of our face, we all would just laugh it off and chalk it up to Nana having a "blond moment".

But as time wore on, and after we moved to Nevada, things with Nana's memory was getting worse. And worrisome. She had gotten to a point where she could tell you about her childhood and teen years, but could not recite to you what she ate for dinner the night before.

Eventually, long after my dad and step-mother divorced, Nana's Alzheimer's really took a hold of her, along with the other factoring health problems (such as her COPD and her Emphysema). At this point, my father's own health was starting to rapidly decline, due mainly to the stress of being his mother's primary caregiver. Even with outside resources stepping in to help with her care...

Eventually, there was no other choice. And it was primarily for my father's health and sanity, that Nana was placed in to a Nursing Care Facility. Not too long after her transfer to the home, her mental status declined dramatically.

No longer could she tell you what she ate just a couple of hours before, for dinner or any other meal. Now, my father became my uncle. Because whenever my dad went in (almost daily) to see her, Nana thought that he was her oldest son, not my father. That really tore him apart inside. No longer was he the son that was REALLY there, and that was her main caretaker.

About a year or so after her entrance in to the Nursing Home, and at the point where that God-awful disease, Alzheimer's robbed my grandmother of her mental faculties completely, I got the call that I was dreading for the last couple of years. The day before her birthday, no less.

That next VERY early morning, I hopped on the first of THREE planes (stupid layovers!) to get to her, hopefully in time. She was in the hospital, her organs shutting down. Her mind now ravaged savagely by the Alzheimer's. They gave her (at best) 24 hours. It was then about the 23 to 25 hour mark when I got in to Reno, and hence to the hospital with my dad.

Somewhere in between his waiting for me at the airport and us getting to the hospital, Nana apparently suffered a Stroke. Her Hernia that she developed made her look AT LEAST seven months pregnant.

At one point, I had to leave the room. I could no longer take seeing her in that condition. For me, that was NOT *my* grandmother. That was *not* the same woman, by looking at her, that helped to raise me the rest of the way after my mother's death in 1989. So, as calmly as I could, I told her I would be back in a bit, as to let her rest.

For a brief moment in time, she had a twinge of clarity within her ravaged mind. Which of course, by then was moments that were far and few in between. She started mumbling and her hands started to go erratic. She was (in the only way she could, being she couldn't speak due to the stroke) trying to tell me not to leave her. She was getting so upset, I told her (through yelling, being the stroke damaged the nerves in her ears) I'd be back. She calmed a bit, but not much..Finally I had to leave. I almost got sick all over the ward's floor from seeing what I did. It was horrific..

Before that point, all she did was breath and stare at the ceiling without literally batting an eyelash. That alone brought me back to being 12-years-old and seeing my mother in pretty much the same condition after her stroke. For me, history was repeating it's self and rearing its ugly head before my very eyes.

The next day, we went back. She made it through her birthday. But later that next evening, something inside me said to NOT go and see her when they transferred her back to the Nursing Home. To die.

Not even an hour after I had changed my mind, we got *THE* call. She was gone. Free now, from the pain that she had to endure at the end. And finally, Alzheimer's Disease no longer had it's horrible grip upon her mind. She was free.

A few years later, my father and I were talking about Nana. He finally admitted something to me. Years before, when Hayley and Bryce were 2 years and 3 months of age, it was the ONLY time that she (Nana) was able to see, touch and hold her great-grand-babies. I'm so happy she was. And he even posted a family picture of us on her Nursing Home room's wall.

It came out in this conversation with Dad, that about a month before she passed away, Nana had forgotten who I was. She would look at the picture and without missing a beat, would ask my father who it was (the young lady) in the picture that was on her wall. Then she would ask about my (now) husband, Scott and the kids.

To hear that she no longer remembered the woman whom she helped raise tore me apart inside. It made me angry. Not at her, but at the disease. It made me resentful. Why me? Why did that nasty disease have to rob me of her, and in turn, her of me?

It's truly sickening to watch and know of someone you love, and that (more than likely) took care of you, just waste away to practically nothing. It is a disease I don't care to wish upon my worst enemy.

For me and my father, we didn't lose our mother and grandmother just once in our lives. We had to endure losing her twice. The first time, she was 'dead', but still breathing. And that is the worst kind of death, in my mind, to see someone you love go through.

If you wish to know more about Alzheimer's disease and it's history of origin, please CLICK HERE.


Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Beautiful memorial to your Grandmother/Mom.
I'm sorry you had to deal with this. But you highlighting this is such a positive.

Unknown said...

It is a horrific disease and one I would not wish on anyone. I am so sorry you had to see that and endure the loss of such an important woman in your life

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