In April of 2009, my mom went in for a spinal fusion after years of suffering from spinal stenosis. Afterward, the surgeon told us that it was a success, and said that we could see our mom in the recovery room. She was very groggy, but we were so relieved that she was doing well. Little did we know what lie ahead.
The next day my mom was progressing as expected. She seemed tired, so I suggested that she take a nap while I went for a walk. Two hours later my mom was still fast asleep. I tried gently nudging her, but she wouldn't wake up. I immediately called for the attending doctor, and he also had no luck arousing her. When I told him that he had to do something he blurted out, "I've never seen anything like this before!" Then he stormed out of the room.
In a panic I called the nurse's station and asked them to page her surgeon. In the meantime, the nurse walked into the room, and began taking her blood pressure. As soon as she tightened the cuff, my mom's eyes opened wide. She never did like the pinching sensation. I wanted to wrap my arms around the nurse, but she was too busy asking my mom questions. Her responses were gibberish, and my heart started racing again.
My mom had an MRI of her brain to rule out a possible stroke. As the day went on, her speech would be fine one minute, and incoherent the next. I decided to stay overnight, because I wanted to stay close to my mom, and I also wanted to meet with her surgeon who started rounds between 7:00 and 8:00 am to discuss her care.
Fortunately, the results of her MRI were negative, and the x-rays showed that my mom was healing properly. I told the surgeon about the attending physician's negligence on the previous day, and another doctor was assigned to her case.
Although we went back and forth with several specialists during her hospital stay, we think that her periods of deep sleep followed by slurred speech were a result of a very powerful combination of pain medications. As they gradually lowered her dosage we saw more glimpses of the mother we knew and loved.
The best example occurred late one day when my mother drifted into another deep sleep. A different nurse was in her room at the time, and she tried another technique. She applied a few cold washcloths to my mom's head. This worked immediately, and my mom was so upset that she threw it right back at the nurse. My brother and I found this extremely amusing which only annoyed her more. Mom exclaimed, "You let her put those wet washcloths on my hair! What is wrong with you?" Then she flung the remaining washcloths at us.