Celebrating Mother’s Day–at a Distance
In times of war, famine and plague, everyone begins to take careful measure. Some things need to be rationed. Other items must be carefully monitored. And everything must be valued.
On this pandemic-plagued Mothers’ Day, I am measuring and monitoring the following quantities and conditions:
the days since I last saw her (63)
the number of days she has had a normal temperature (11)
the number of sketches I made of her since she entered the nursing home (46)
the numbers of days since we spoke on FaceTime (7).
When my mother’s doctor called me on April 12th to tell me that she was a likely COVID-19 patient, I knew that the numbers did not look good for her. First off, the number of tests available is so low, rationing precludes nursing home patients of advanced years from getting tested. And at 92, a high temperature alone can be deadly. Any virus-related respiratory distress would seal her fate. Preparing for the worst, I requested and obtained a hospice order. Crowd-sourced opinions from Facebook immediately confirmed my faith in hospice.
Even though this was the third family member I have sought hospice care for, it felt like a surrender each time. However, a hospice order is not a death sentence. Nearly one in five hospice patient is discharged because of survival beyond the six-month life expectancy required for eligibility. In fact, resources provided through hospice can slow, if not reverse, the progression of a patient’s illness.
For over two weeks my mother has maintained a normal temperature. Screen shots that I took during our weekly FaceTime session on April 12th and April 20th illustrate her dramatic rebound.
My mother went from a bed-ridden patient with a 103 degree temperature to an upright-seated rehab patient with a voracious appetite and a winning smile.
The airwaves are thick with talk about a timetable for ending the quarantine. But the conversation almost exclusively focuses on how and when we open the economy.
As this Mothers’ Day approached, I wondered, “When will I See Her Again.” Nyack Ridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center owner Michael Braunstein has been spending weeks preparing to reopen for visitors, when he is not providing staff with materials to handle the increased demand of a pandemic on a health care institution.
“We want to get families back as soon as possible. The residents crave them. They need them. We ended visitations to protect all our residents from exposure to the coronavirus.”
He was unable to give me a target date, explaining, ”We can’t do anything until we get guidance from Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health.” He could, and did, tell me that things will not be the same when the doors reopen. “For the immediate future, everyone is going to have to wear some kind of PPE – gloves and masks. You’ll be scanned for a temperature and if you don’t feel well, you should stay home,” he reported.
We will also need to rethink how our communities interact with nursing homes. According to the Wall Street Journal, as of May 8, there were 56,000 COVID-19 cases leading to 10,000 fatalities in 4,800 nursing home facilities nation-wide. When the virus returns in the fall, as expected, we will need to insure that nursing homes are at the top of the triage list, providing any additional equipment, and staff testing they need. We must also reconsider having COVID patients inside facilities packed with vulnerable populations.
I credit the staff of Nyack Ridge and United Hospice, and her doctor for my mother’s reversal of fortune. And I remain hopeful that she will be discharged from hospice and live to see my wedding, another Thanksgiving and Christmas, and another Mothers’ days, with contact. Since FaceTime is a very foreign concept for her, I often sing to her on our calls. The music elevates her mood and jogs her memory.
The next time, I’ll sing these lyrics made famous by the Philly Soul group The Three Degrees:
When will I see you again?
When will we share precious moments?
Will I have to wait forever?
Will I have to suffer and cry the whole night through?
When will I see you again?
More on Bill Batson, his work and products inspired by his work can be found at Nyack Gift
Bill Batson is an artist, writer and activist. He has worked for non profits, labor unions and government in New York State as an organizer, writer and public relations specialist.