Mum is back home. When I saw her last Friday, she was cheerful and alert, and looking forward to be discharged. She talked about coming home to exercise so that she could walk again. Jenny, my former physiotherapist, has even offered to come help Mum back on her feet again.
However her condition took a turn for the worse on Saturday when she kept complaining of severe bodily pain which left her moaning in agony despite being given painkillers. When I went to see her in the morning, Mum was holding on to the side of the bed and crying. She told me that she was in pain and had breathing difficulties. I kept reassuring Mum that it was only a passing discomfort, as her blood counts were all looking good.
Yanti, the maid told me that Mum kept asking her to call me to go see her in the hospital. I gave Yanti my phone number so that she could call should Mum ask to see me in the middle of the night again.
Still, I dreaded to receive phone calls in the middle of the night. I feared the call would be the harbinger of bad news. And when I went to visit Mum, there was always a constant trepidation of finding her bed empty or the nurse telling me that something had happened to Mum. The only relief was seeing Mum still in her bed.
Mum kept asking me, “How am I supposed to go through tonight?”
She feared the pain that, oddly, appeared only during the night. Seeing her in such anguish, I decided to stay the night with her in the hospital. I wanted to be there to comfort her. I wanted to be there for her when she called out my name.
I told Mum not to be afraid as I was going to spend the night with her in the hospital.
“Where are you going to sleep?” she asked, worrying about my comfort despite her own sufferings.
“I can just lean over and rest my head on the side of your bed,” I told her.
Although Mum would very much have liked me to stay with her, I can sense that she was reluctant to let me do so because she knew there was no way I could have rested comfortably while sitting on my wheelchair. Nevertheless, I was willing to stay with Mum so that I could comfort her if she really needed me to be there, even though there was nothing much I could do to ease her pain.
I kept reassuring Mum that I could manage and that she should not think so much. Mum was prescribed Dormicum, a sleeping pill, to help her sleep. I left the hospital after seeing her fall asleep and making sure that she was tucked in comfortably.
When I went to see her on Sunday, she was still moaning in agony. Despite that, she put up a brave front and told me that she would be discharged on the next day. On Sunday evening, Mum’s condition deteriorated. As I entered the room, I could hear her moaning in pain softly. My neighbour Mr. Ong, his wife and daughter were there to see Mum.
Mum kept moaning in between consciousness. I leaned over to stroke her back again and again. She had asked me to do so as it made her more comfortable. When I stroked her, she would close her eyes and try to sleep.
During one of those times that I leaned over and stroked her, she said to me, “I am going to die soon. Everybody has come to see me. Even Ah Kau has come to see me.”
“You will not die so soon,” I retorted. “You still have the strength to whine.”
Come Monday, Mum was becoming delusional. In between her moans of pain, she kept asking me to take her home.
“If I die, I want to die at home,” she told me in between sobs.
This is the saddest thing I have ever heard Mum say. In my mind, she had always been a fighter. I had expected her to fight till the end. But now, she is giving up.
One part of me wanted to let her go, seeing her in such misery. One part of me still clung on to the hope that she will recover. I was not ready to lose Mum. I still am not.
“Please do not leave me,” I pleaded. “What will happen to me when you are gone” Who will love me? Who will look after me?”
I did not want Mum to go just like that. There are so many things I still want to give her. There are so many more years that I want to share with her. I wished she would live to a ripe old age, however old that is. I wished she could enjoy those last years of her life in happiness. Mum has had a hard life. I have done nothing to make it easier. Instead, I broke my neck and she had to look after me, even as a septuagenarian.
“I cannot help it,” she quietly whispered. Those words just totally hit me. I had expected Mum to live forever. I had never anticipated life without Mum.
“But Swee Wuan is coming to see you at the month-end.” I told her, trying to keep her hopes up.
“I cannot wait that long anymore.”
Mum kept insisting that I take her home while the doctors were preparing for her discharge. She said that she could not wait anymore. Mum was discharged at 3pm Monday. She came back in the ambulance.
When I saw her sleeping so comfortably on her bed in her own room, I wished I had taken her home earlier. She looked so at ease. She looked so contented. She looked so happy. However, Mum?s delusions have worsened. She has that distant look in her eyes; her pupils are dilated and glassy. She can hardly recognise me. That is not important. What is important is that Mum is back home where she wants to be. I know deep inside she is at peace. I know she is glad that she is home.
Despite Mum’s poor prognosis, I am still clinging on to that glimmer of hope that she will snap out of the stupor, her leukaemia will go into remission and she will walk again. Regardless of what Mum had said about coming home to die, I know that, like me, she is still clinging on to that glimmer of hope. I should know. I have her blood in me. I pray that her wish will come true.
Unwitting victims of other people’s misconduct - Breaking Barriers - The Borneo Post - 11 January, 2014
Flood preparedness for disabled persons — Are we doing enough? - Breaking Barriers - The Borneo Post - 4 January, 2014
The case for accessible homes - Breaking Barriers - The Borneo Post - 28 December, 2013
I was an angry man last week - Breaking Barriers - The Borneo Post - 21 December, 2013
Giving back meaningfully - Breaking Barriers - The Borneo Post - 14 December, 2013