Today my mother and I sat across from two brilliant endocrinologists at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. “Your case is just so FASCINATING!” they both gushed to my mom. My mom and I looked at each other and rolled our eyes, but we both laughed.
The (six hour) appointment went really, really well folks.
These two women (the endocrinologists) did some fast forensic work and found that my mother has likely been suffering from bouts of elevated calcium since at least 2003. They are 99% sure that the calcium levels are high due to hyperparathyroidism.
See those little yellow things? They are there basically with one job: to keep your body’s calcium level within a very narrow range. If you have hyperparathryoidism, they aren’t doing their job.
In my mom’s case, her likely (99%!) hyperparathyroidism was exacerbated by a medication she was taking for blood pressure that also happens to raise calcium levels (a medication, in fact, commonly used to help people with LOW calcium levels), combined with calcium supplementation that all American women are told to do. This led to all of her symptoms; weakness, cognition issues, fatigue – you name it.
They had her stop taking that medication just before Christmas. She’s steadily gotten better since.
Why wasn’t this found at her last hospitalization? I don’t know. I’m angry about it, but there’s nothing I can do. She does, indeed, have Homocysteinemia (as I mentioned in a previous post, and they discovered at the last hospital) which contributed to her issues. She also had some renal issues. The reason she seemed to get better after the last hospitalization is likely because the fluids she received in the hospital reduced her calcium levels.
Now? The doctors believe that my mother’s issues are reversed. Yes, reversed.
She still has some hurdles to get over. She likely will need surgery to get the parathyroid glands that aren’t working removed. Her calcium levels will have to be monitored forever. She’s got much physical therapy to do to get back her agility and strength. There is still one pending test that could reveal a more scary diagnosis, but the doctors feel comfortable saying she’s on the road to recovery.
As to where she’ll live, we have to work on that. The waiting list for the elder care apartment (it’s not a regular apartment; it’s a building for seniors with many accommodations for handicapped access, etc, with pull cords in every room and regular check ins from staff) is substantial, so she will have to wait. We’re going to meet with her social worker this week and try to figure out if she can actually stay where she is now; she really likes the facility and she feels safe there and it would give her plenty of recovery time (we don’t know what the insurance will allow, obviously). (Side note: the new place is so nice Charlie is actually looking into moving his mom there as well.)
She’s scheduled to start teaching classes a week from tonight. She’s already completed and submitted her syllabi (she teaches part time at a local community college; she hasn’t taught full time for nearly seven years for reasons that are complicated and academia related). I have absolute faith in her ability to teach, and am willing to drive her to classes until she feels ready and able to do it herself.
But best of all? Today my mother gave me a lecture.
Y’all. It’s been years since she’s lectured me. Seriously. A decade.
Not only that, but we had a lengthy conversation about the internet, about the Steubenville rape case, about Anonymous and hackers and The Hive and… it went on and on.
I never once had to repeat myself. I never once had to offer more than a cursory explanation for anything. It’s amazing. It’s been a difficult year living with someone with cognition issues (and I haven’t always been patient or kind about it, I admit it), and it’s such a relief to see my mom back. She’s back mentally in a way that she wasn’t even after the pneumonia – yes, I’m saying she’s BETTER now than she was in 2011 when she moved in with us.
As usual, bless you all. Bless you for listening, for holding me up, for sharing your struggles, and for not judging (much). Life is feeling pretty good about right now.