Saturday, July 12, 2008

In Italy for a sad reason...

First, this is not my mom. This is the other lady in my mom's hospital room with me and my sister behind her. More on this in a moment.

I came to Italy very suddenly Wednesday, arriving Thursday after flying from Boston, where I was working, to DC, and then onto Zürich, Switzerland, where I hopped on three trains to get to Reggio Emilia, Italy, where my sister's friend picked me up and took me directly to the hospital where my mother has been for two weeks as of today. She came because she had a bad stomach ache that wasn't going away and just when things seemed to be going better, she suddenly fell into a semi-comatose state. The doctors said they believed she had had a stroke.

As soon as my sister told me on Tuesday, I cashed in 100,000 of my 140,000 frequent flier miles on United Airlines to book my ticket and flew out the next day. I wanted to fly to Italy directly, but the airline won't allow frequent fliers to use their miles to fly to Italy because it's too popular a tourist destination, at least not from June 1st until August 31st. So I found the closest city I could to which I could fly, and that was Zurich. I would have spent the cash to fly more directly, but cash is short right now. After two days of traveling, I arrived at my mom's bedside.

What I saw of her frightened me. I am not prone to easy tears but I was not able to stop crying. She was totally unresponsive, alive but in a deep sleep from which she would not wake. I returned and spent the whole day there yesterday and finally in the afternoon she woke up some and tried to talk but was not able to make much sense; her words not even recognizable.

My mom actually woke up today and talked a lot, clearly. The only problem was that she kept repeating the same sentence over and over, one that didn't make much sense. She appeared to be reliving the same moment from many years ago over and over. Sometimes she would answer our questions. We asked her what her name was and she said she didn't know. After we told her her name she then repeated it back later fine. My sister and I asked her who we were and she said she didn't know. That much didn't change. Her body is rather swollen, including her feet, from all the IV liquids she has been getting, and my sister asked her if her feet hurt and she clearly answered that, no, they did not hurt! Believe me, after the last two days of seeing her do nothing but sleep and occasionally murmur something that I couldn't make out, today was a joy. I doubt she'll ever be back to normal but I do hope to see a lot of improvement in the coming weeks.

I'm staying for at least two weeks. The doctors still don't know what is wrong with her. They have done many tests and think it's a virus, maybe one like Mad Cow, though clearly it's not Mad Cow.

My mom is only 73. She shares a large hospital room with two ladies, one who is 94 and the other, the one in the picture above, who is 92. The 94-year-old does not look good, but this lady, whose name is Onesta, is perfectly coherent and a lovely person with whom to converse. Onesta means Honest in Italian - what a nice name, no? She keeps an eye on mom during the night when we can't be there, though she herself is a patient. Unfortunately, she had to miss her sister's birthday the other day - her sister who just turned 100!

Onesta doesn't know much about the States and so she has asked me some interesting questions, based primarily on old westerns she has seen, I think. Here are two of the more interesting ones:

  1. Do people in America eat snakes? I saw it in a movie. What do they eat in America?
  2. Are there really people with dark skins in America? Do they live in huts?
The second question pained me so I explained carefully how the situation really is. She seemed very accepting of my answers!

I will post what I can from time to time, and I will also post some photos I took getting down here and being a passenger in my sister's car as we drive back and forth to the hospital twice a day.

Thank you to all my blog fans (both of you!) for your continued support!

Scenes in Italy Driving to the Hospital

Do click the photos to enlarge them and see them better.


Flying into Zürich

The last Starbucks I'll see for a couple of weeks - in Zürich Airport

In the airport train station to take the first of three trains

The train station sign showing we are Zürich Airport

What you see after leaving Zürich through the rain window (you really should click the photo to enlarge it!)