It’s hard to believe I haven’t really written anything in 10 days. The longest I’ve ever neglected my blog, perhaps. It’s been a tough month. I wonder how many subscribers I’ve lost in the past few months due to my depressing posts. Good thing I don’t track my stats too often. 😉
Today I’m going to tell you about my mother-in-law, Pilar. I’ve only known her for a few years because she lived in her native Bolivia up until 2005, though we talked on the phone for years prior to that.
In these 5 short years, I’ve gotten to know her well.
- I know that she doesn’t like to mix sweet with savory… and isn’t a fan of brown rice.
- I know that she is strong-willed and has a short temper.
- I know that she loves to tell stories. Sometimes the same ones over and over.
- I know that she loves her grandchildren more than anything.
- I know that she’s extraordinarily emotional and can cry at the drop of a hat.
- I know that she welcomed me into the family and loves me more than I ever expected her to.
- I know that I’m going to miss her.
My memory may deceive me on all the details, but if I recall correctly, it all started in October of 2008, when Pilar underwent surgery to remove an ovarian cyst. Complications arose; she had internal bleeding, a second surgery, and a variety of different infections in the months that followed.
Matters got worse in August of last year, when she was hospitalized with a bowel obstruction and had to have a good portion of her intestines surgically removed – 8 inches or so? Or maybe it’s centimeters and I’m exaggerating considerably. Regardless, it was a major procedure. The recovery, long and painful, and again plagued by infection after infection.
At some point – I’m not sure exactly when – her liver became an issue. She saw a specialist and was diagnosed with liver disease. This is a broad term, encompassing everything from cirrhosis to fatty liver and Hepatitis. In hindsight, it makes sense why she had so many digestive problems and would contract infections remarkably easily. Those are all symptoms associated with liver dysfunction.
Unfortunately, the only real treatment for chronic liver disease is a liver transplant. Up until just a few weeks ago, her MELD* score was too low to make her eligible for this procedure. She was simply not “sick enough” despite the fact that she never seemed to get better.
About 10 days ago she was admitted to the hospital because her ascites** could not be controlled with her prescribed diuretics. This is when her doctor informed us that she would push for Pilar to go on the transplant waiting list as soon as possible.
4 days later, we were told that it was too late. Her frequent infections made her ineligible, and her kidneys were shutting down anyway, making her too weak to survive the transplant. This made me so sad because it’s the same reason my grandma couldn’t undergo chemotherapy this past January and is now dying of peritoneal cancer. Her kidneys couldn’t take it.
I’ve had enough of the illness and death that has preyed on our family this past year.
My heart breaks for my husband… who just adores his mom. He’s been at her bedside for countless hours this past year and a half. I think the reality of it all is beginning to set in, though. He doesn’t want to talk much, but did cry in my arms yesterday for a few minutes.
My heart breaks for Maya and Maura… who will be losing their abuelita. Having both my grandmas still, I know just how special they are. It’s just not fair.
My heart breaks for my sister- and father-in-law… who are now planning her funeral. I’ve visited a handful of funeral homes with them this week; it’s been a blur of prices and funeral terms. They want her to be buried in Bolivia, which complicates things even further.
My heart breaks for my other two sisters-in-law… in Bolivia and Argentina. They’ve applied for humanitarian visas – which haven’t yet been granted – so they can at least come to the States for a few days to say goodbye. It’s not an easy process and time is running out.
I spoke to Pilar for the last time this past Thursday. She was alert, happy even, judging from the twinkle in her eyes. I pulled out my iPad, and went through album after album of photos. Mostly of the girls, who haven’t been able to visit her in the ICU. Pilar told me repeatedly that I’m her favorite daughter-in-law, which brought my to tears, yet made me laugh, because… well… I’m her only daughter-in-law.
Now, she’s unconscious most of the time, rarely opening her eyes. Yesterday afternoon, the doctor pointed out that Pilar’s diuretics are, again, not doing their job. She has another bowel obstruction, thus hasn’t eaten anything in over a week, so it’s only a matter of time before she slips away…
*MELD is an acronym for Model End stage Liver Disease. It’s a disease severity scoring system for adults with liver disease, designed to improve the organ allocation in transplantation based on the severity of their liver disease rather than the length of time on the waiting list. The MELD score is based only on laboratory data in order to be as objective as possible score.
**Ascites is an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen. It can occur as a result of a number of conditions, including severe liver disease and the presence of malignant cells within the abdomen.
Medical definitions: MedTerms.com