My mother was in a retirement facility because she had a rare form of brain cancer. She was technically on hospice, however, she was flunking out of it as she was alive and doing well almost 10 months after she had been admitted. I spent every single day with her, watching movies or binge watching various shows, playing bingo, gossiping, reminiscing and yes, preparing for her eventual death. I took one day off each week from seeing her-that day was reserved for my sister and her young children. My mother adored her grandchildren. They played games together, shared meals, watched movies and caught each other up on all their lives. My mother had a very active social life prior to her brain cancer and her friends remained devoted to her, always visiting to have lunch, gossip and make sure her hair was done. When the pandemic hit and we were all cut off from her it was so difficult but my mother never complained once when we spoke on the phone though I knew she had to miss us as desperately as I missed her. In the beginning of April I noticed she sounded short of breath and hoarse. She told me she had a cold. I was scared to death. The next day I got a call from her facility. The nurse told me that her temp was 104.5 and she had a cough. They tested her for Covid. Two days later I received the news I dreaded most, my mother had Covid. Because she was a hospice patient she was kept in her facility with supportive care, but really, in April, there wasn’t anything to do in a hospital other than supportive care and intubation. Her doctor put her on hydroxychloraquine just in case. Her condition remained pretty much the same for about 10 days and then her temp trended downward. For a few days she seemed ok. We were able to speak on the phone again. On Easter Sunday she called every single person in her address book to say hello and Happy Easter. When I heard this, I actually got a feeling in my heart that told me my mother knows she is dying and she made all those calls as a way to say goodbye to all her loved ones. 5 days later, I received a call from her facility telling me that I could come in to be with my mother. They thought she was going to die. So my sister and I rushed in, donned the full PPE and entered her room. We were shocked to find her awake and alert despite a temp hovering between 104-105. We hadn’t seen her since March 13th and it was now 4/17. She said “this is the best day of my life”. I said “it is, why?” She said, “because I finally have both my daughters here with me. I love you both so much”. We spent the next few hours talking with her. When we left she was still doing ok. In the car my sister and I reflected on the generous gift of love our mother left with us by saying this day with us, possibly her last, was the best of her life. She did not die that day. I ended up being by her side myself all the other days leading up to her death, a luxury most other family members I know have not been granted. I watched as everything slowly started to shut down and eventually our conversations became one-sided and then just simply a vigil. On the day she died, I’d like to say it was peaceful and painless, however it was not. Covid patients drown in thick secretions. They poured out her nose and mouth for the last hour of her life. As a nurse I’ve never seen anything like it and as a daughter I was so heartbroken to watch my mother’s agony. I cleared her nose and mouth every few seconds as my husband pleaded with me to step away; he feared for my safety. But I could not let my mother down. She was always my greatest advocate and caregiver through so many health challenges regardless of the roadblocks. I owed her this last act of compassion.
– Karen Czerpak, Pennsylvania