Barbara and Mildred SwicegoodTwo weeks ago today, on July 27, my mom began receiving hospice care from Sun Valley Hospice in Arizona. She was moved from the Boswell Rehabilitation Center to the SPA at the Woodmark in Sun City on that same day.
My mom began to experience intense pain in her back about a month ago. She had several falls in her apartment and her care giver, Lucy Castillo, noticed she was more confused than ever.
Barbara and I took her to a Banner Health Care Clinic on July 10th where she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. She was sent home with antibiotics but her condition worsened so we took her to the emergency room at Boswell Hospital on July 15th. It was discovered she had a strep infection and an ecoli infection. The infection(s) had affected her kidneys, thus causing intense back pain. She also was experiencing a lot of nausea, and essentially has not eaten much since the third week in July.
She was admitted to on Boswell Hospital on July 15th and was discharged to the Boswell Rehab Center on July 23rd. Under the recommendation of the infectious diseases physician we agreed to have her discharged to the Boswell Rehab Center, where she needed to continue to receive drip iv’s to battle her infections. We were first told she would need them for two weeks. Barbara and I debated long and hard over this issue, but we felt that it would be akin to giving her a death sentence if she didn’t receive the antibiotics. (She can’t take many antibiotics in pill form because of numerous allergies.) We hoped that the antibiotics would attack the infection and at least give her a chance to get out of bed again and use her walker. She was completely bed-ridden by the time she left the hospital.
After two days in the Boswell Rehab Center we noticed how miserable she was and was not improving. We wondered if it was time to consult with a hospice organization. I spoke to her wonderful primary care physician, Dr. Karen Frank, and the infectious diseases physician, Dr. Amardeep Sodhi. Dr. Frank pointed out that the medical community will keep treating someone until they have one foot in the grave. Dr. Sodhi outlined for me that mom would need FOUR WEEKS of antibiotics, not two as we had originally understood (One of our learnings in navigating health alternatives is that it has been devilishly difficult to determine what would be the best treatment for mom among the various and conflicting recommendations from the doctors.)
Both Dr. Frank and Dr. Sodhi agreed that it was appropriate to have a hospice evaluation. Over the weekend of July 25th and 26th mom was evaluated by Sun Valley Hospice. She was transferred from Boswell Rehab Center to the SPA at the Woodmark on July 27th and came under care of Sun Valley hospice the same day.
Over the past two weeks many in our family have been in Arizona to see mom and say goodbye: Amie and her family are here from The Netherlands; Jeremy and his family were here from North Carolina; my sister, Melissa, has spent two weeks with mom; Shannon, my sister’s daughter, flew in from Dallas on August 8th. I have seen mom most every day, as has Barb.
Mom grows weaker each day, but she has a strong heart and her vital signs continue to be good. All of us in one way or another have given her permission to stop fighting.
There has been so much to give thanks for throughout this ordeal: the medical community and Medicare which enables mom to get appropriate treatment; our friend and mom’s physician, Karen Frank, who has been unfailingly wise and responsive; the Woodmark Community in Sun City; Bridgette Fette the director of the Monarch where mom has lived since last October; and Doreen Maniag the director of the SPA. The superlative staff at the Monarch and the Spa, and the world-class ministrations of Sun Valley Hospice.
And, above all else, the prayers and kind wishes of all our friends. I told mom recently how many people came up to me at Pinnacle during church telling me they were praying for her. Mom said, “I feel it.”
Our mom has “three children.” I am first-born, Melissa, second, and Barb since 1966. Barb has been mom’s primary care-giver for the past three years and we all salute her for a job well-done.
Mildred Wilson Swicegood has been a strong, independent, and competent woman for her entire life. She has always done her duty to work and family. Before she was no longer able, she was an active church woman in the United Methodist Church.
She loved her husband, Jim Swicegood, until his untimely death in 1975. She was blessed to find Charles Bunn, and they were boyfriend and girlfriend for 22 years until his death in July, 2012. She has been a great mom to Melissa and me. If asked, there was nothing she would not do to help and support us.
The Christian faith rises or falls upon one fact: the resurrection of Jesus Christ to eternal life. That fact–and that promise–is given to all who believe. We pray for a peaceful death for mom and for that wonderful promise to be fulfilled for her.