Dinah's Second Chance

I am overwhelmed. I am tired. I need help.

Three weeks ago, on November 10th, my mom thought she had food poisoning. After 3 days of trying to treat herself using over-the-counter meds, with no improvement, I took her to the hospital on Friday morning, November 14th. I had to drag her to the doctor’s office!

She didn’t call me, and didn’t want me to take her, primarily because she did not want me to miss work. I thank God that I dropped everything going on in my world, and took her to the hospital, because her condition was deadly.

Her white cell count was 44,000 (normal is about 8,000), she had a “gang-green” gall bladder, the CT scan found a mass on her right breast, and a second mass in her right pelvis. 

The doctors and surgeons knew that the emergency was to remove that gall bladder, and start her on a road to a complete lifestyle change, before any other issues could be addressed.

The “simple 30 minute surgery” became far more complicated. At 1 am, when the surgeon finally returned to the O.R. waiting room where I was anxiously awaiting news of her progress…he was stunned. The gall bladder was in a far worse condition than he imagined, so he had to open her up much wider to remove it completely. She woke up briefly after surgery, and was confused and agitated, but then fell back to sleep.

So the doctor sent me home at 2am, and assured me that they would be keeping a close eye on her, and call me if there were any changes.

Two hours later I received a phone call at 4am. I had missed the call as I was home sleeping from a very long day. On the voicemail message, the doctor said she “took a turn for the worse,” her blood pressure had dropped to very dangerous levels, and she was now on life support in the ICU. I called the family together and made my way to the hospital…

During the ride to the hospital, the memory that I kept playing in my head is the last conversation I had with my mom while they were prepping her for surgery. The doctors were explaining the gall bladder surgery itself, and having her sign consent forms.

The doctors said "the less-invasive surgery is only about 30 minutes, and requires only a small incision through the belly button. The recovery time is about 1 week". He said "the other option would require a big cut, and the recovery time would be about 2 months".

She signed the forms, and the doctors went away to discuss the process amongst themselves. In this moment, I smiled at my mom in silence, and she whispered, “I think they are going to have to give me the big cut.” I replied, “me too.” Then we both let out a small nervous giggle.

Then I kissed her on the forehead, told her I loved her and I would be there when she woke up, and I left her in their hands…in God’s hands. If I knew, that was my last chance to love on her, to talk to her and know she’s hearing me, and to hear her voice back…I would have insisted on 5 more minutes. But none of us could have known how her body would react…

That Saturday morning, my heart was in my stomach. My mom always smiled and held herself together, she never wanted anyone to see her sweat, or break down. She helped my grandmother raise her 6 siblings, was the first to attend college, get a “good government job” and served as everyone’s safety net. She always took care of business, and made sure everyone else was OK, before even thinking about herself. She wasn’t just my mom, she was all of our mom. So I conjured up the strength she instilled in me since I was a little girl, updated the family, and played the “next of kin” role with the hospital staff.

When my grandmother received a kidney transplant in 2007, my mom and my aunt took care of her. At the time, my mom was working for the State of California, and was applying for a big promotion in her division. Then, her mom needed her. She put in the paperwork of FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), and tended to my grandmother, with my aunt’s help, until my grandmother passed away in May. My mom handled all of my grandmother’s final wishes and business affairs, and reprised her role as the nurturer to her 5 remaining younger adult siblings. One of my uncles had passed away suddenly, just months prior.

When she returned to work, the job she dedicated her life to, the job she loved…she found that her FMLA paperwork was still sitting on her boss’s desk. Her boss never sent it for processing, so it was never approved. Although she had multiple doctor’s notes, funeral documentation, a death certificate, insurance claims, etc., none of it mattered, that lady wanted my mom gone. Her 30 years of experience made her a threat, so my mom only had 2 options. Retire at the age of 53 and receive partial benefits, or accept an “AWAL” (absent without approved leave) separation, also known as, get fired and get nothing. So she retired.

I remember having multiple conversations with my mom, begging her to fight for herself. And although she never said it aloud, she just didn’t have any more fight left in her. She was my grandmother’s rock. Losing her mother and her job in the same year, was a turning point for her.

In the years since 2007, I watched my mom shut herself in. She let her car get repossessed, even when she had the money, didn’t leave the house unless she absolutely had to, didn’t cook, didn’t bathe very often, didn’t do her own laundry anymore. She left all of her  things in storage.

That “spunk” she had over the years was now gone, and none of my attempts, were enough to spring her back. I want to help give her a second chance at life.

After about 4 days in the ICU, she was examined by a neurologist. Her body is recovering nicely since the surgery…her new battle is all mental. The MRI showed multiple sub-acute strokes, and the drop in blood pressure after surgery prevented the right side of her brain from receiving blood and oxygen.

So now she is laying in the hospital, able to open her eyes, shake her left leg, and slowly raise her left hand. But that’s it. She is still not responsive, meaning if you give her commands about moving her eyes back and forth, or squeezing her hand on command, you will not get a response. She will likely go back to sleep.

As I research her retirement income and benefits, she has a small fixed income, health care, dental, and vision, but no long-term care insurance, and no life insurance. I started looking at quotes, and at her age (60), with her conditions, a long-term care premium is approximately $2000 per month to move her into a facility…and that’s the best case scenario. Worst case scenario, a cheap cremation funeral is about $700.

Every time I visit her, which is twice per day, I take a ton of notes and photos. I pray with her every day. I even pray with some of the staff members every day. But now the doctors are talking about releasing her in the next week…and I do not know what to do next…now I’m required to make some money decisions. I am not ready. I am not even close to ready.

I’m barely scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck, and not able to save a single penny. The hundreds of jobs I’ve applied to are entry-level and do not pay very much. My mom didnt sign up for long term care insurance, at this point once she is released I will have to pay for her care "outta-pocket". Thats how your gifts will HELP us and GIVE DINAH A SECOND CHANCE.

I am currently an independent contractor, freelancing on-site for a few clients, until I can find full-time employment. These small income streams are not consistant, and barely pay me enough to get by, so I'm  a bit overwhelmed now that I'm responsible for my mom's bills and my own, until she recovers.

Colleagues, friends, and associates that I talk to on a regular basis, believe I am very talented. I am not just a graphic designer, website developer, or marketing professional. I am also a tech-savvy operational consultant, business planner, financial analyst, and even salesman. I’ve helped them spec out their concepts, brand their businesses, and develop marketing elements to help facilitate the process for generating revenue. I never thought that I'd find myself unable to find stable employment with a Bachelor's degree, and 2 MBA's, but that's our economy right now.

So I spend my days, visiting with my mom, praying with her, researching procedures that might help her, smiling to keep from crying, praying with strangers in the waiting rooms and lobby areas…then I open my computer and apply for jobs while in her room, go home, eat something, and pretend to sleep. Then, repeat the next day.

I am overwhelmed. I am tired. I need help. Your gifts will help me and...

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Jaime Conway 
Los Angeles, CA
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