I've been trying hard not to make my blog just about my mother-in-law's medical issues and the accompanying DIZZYING array of things that amaze/frustrate/anger/terrify/challenge me on a daily basis. But here lately that's what my life IS, and I'm not complaining. Just the facts, ma'am.
Today was one of those days that make me question my strength, my competence, and something so deep down inside that I can't even find a name for it.
Without going into a lot of details, mother-in-law has gone downhill lately as a result of her surgery (where 40% of the roof of her mouth was removed) and radiation. Her mouth is very sore, which makes it hard to eat or drink, and then she has battled nausea off and one for several weeks. She has lost almost 30 pounds since the summer, and she was fairly weak BEFORE this whole chain of events started.
She has been receiving i.v. fluids in the radiology clinic to help guard against dehydration. Yesterday they decided to give her a break from radiation for the rest of this week (but tack those two treatments on to the end of next week - sigh) and arrange for in-home nurses to administer i.v. fluids over the holiday weekend. We cheered and heaved a tremendous sigh of relief that someone would be coming to US instead of having to take her to the clinic.
I spoke to the nurse on the phone this morning, and she cheerfully said something along the lines of, "Oh, you're the one I'm coming to train to give the i.v. fluids!"
Uh...no. There must be some mistake. I don't DO i.v. fluids. I once toyed with the idea of going to medical school, but that was before I met Mr. College Calculus and Mr. College Chemistry and changed my major to one for which they would give me a degree just for reading novels.
Oh, not to worry, she said, it's easy. I won't leave you until I'm sure you can do it.
I was pretty sure she would be moving into the guest room, because I was pretty sure I could NOT do it.
Seriously, I was freaking out. Not in front of my mother-in-law, because I didn't want her to think I didn't WANT to do it, but to Hubby I was in tears. I almost called Frogger Blogger, also known as Nurse Jane, and asked her to drive the two hours over here to bail me out. I didn't because she's working two jobs and I knew she would do it anyway. I texted Sweet Girl, I texted Katydid, I stomped around the house muttering about my incompetence and generally fell apart.
I've watched them stick mother-in-law so many times now I can't even begin to count. And I know what a hard time they have on a GOOD day finding a suitable vein for anything. Draw blood, give fluids, whatever, it's a serious challenge for trained medical professionals to find a vein on mother-in-law, and they want ME to do it? With an afternoon of "training"?
I seriously began to question myself. What is it that made me freak out like that? I've never turned down a challenge. I've always said I could do anything I needed to do, with proper instruction (except scuba diving, but the lack of "proper instruction" may have had something to do with that too), and yet I could not convince myself this was something of which I was capable.
I didn't realize at the freaking-out time that they had no intention of having me insert the needle. Their plan was to put a needle in place and leave it for the five days mother-in-law is to get fluids at home. My job was (is?) to flush the catheter when the saline bag is empty, then attach another bag the next morning.
Well... MAYBE I can do THAT.
I still don't feel confident.
Plans sort of got screwed up anyway when the first nurse tried for an hour to find a vein, she called a colleague to come to mother-in-law's house, and when SHE was unable to find a vein, she called yet another nurse. Four hours and three nurses later, the i.v. was finally started.
A fourth nurse came to take the i.v. down, and she showed me how to flush the catheter and take it down. Because I haven't been properly trained for the beginning end of the procedure, someone else (a fifth nurse?) will come out tomorrow and show me what to do.
And I'm still a little nervous about the whole thing. While I don't have to stick anything into a vein, I still have to make sure the vein doesn't blow (!) and check that the saline is flowing properly. I can do most things, but I'm a hands-on type learner. I need to do it a few times before I'm sure of myself.
We don't really have a few times to practice. She is only getting fluids a few times, and this isn't a time to practice.
I'm still trying to figure out my own lack of confidence in this ordeal. Part of me wants to say, "This is somebody's JOB, and I shouldn't have to do it." Another part of me wants to say, "I'm a family member, of COURSE I can do this."
And both parts of me are pointing fingers at the other part and saying, "YOU figure this out."