Many of you know that I have a disabled sister whose life is nothing but drama. I won't bore you with the details of her mental state, but I will share with you the last few days.
Friday was her birthday. She turned 49. I have been distant with her lately (that's another long story), but I had arranged to take her for a birthday lunch on Saturday. However, Friday morning, at about 6:30 a.m., she called me from her local hospital (she goes so often they all know her by sight) to tell me that she had fallen and broken her hip. Just like her: not only the fall, but on her birthday!
Later in the day she calls me to tell me that she needs surgery right away because of all the pain she is in. By the time I can leave work, she is scheduled for the surgery. There's not much I can do that evening, so I decide to check in by phone and visit her the next day. I wish her well before she goes in and I call the hospital often to check on her. She's in surgery for a couple of hours and all is well.
The next day, I visit her around lunchtime. She is in high spirits: Everyone is WONDERFUL! Everyone treats her well, and the nurses even come in with a cake for her at lunch and sing her Happy Birthday. She is ebullient and manic in a good way and talks nonstop for 45 minutes about how her world is perfect and her life is grand and she is planning to lose weight, get a job, and make something of her life now that this has happened. This is THE thing that has finally set her on the path of success, blah, blah, blah. (Do you get the idea that I've heard all this before?)
So, I stay for a little while and it really isn't a bad visit except that when I tell the nurse that I am her sister and need to be put on her chart as being able to get reports (HIPPA and all that, you know), my sister hems and haws and doesn't agree. (That's a warning sign immediately. She always suspects that I might put her in a home so she avoids letting me be her health advocate. Sometimes, I have come close!)
The plan is to have her spend a couple of days there and then go to a rehab center to help her get back on her feet (pun intended). So, Sunday comes and goes. I don't visit, but I call her a few times. She is in Heaven. She is waited on and catered to and she's in a single room. (All rooms in this hospital are singles--it's a new place and quite nice as hospitals go.) My plan is to go to her home on Monday and get some things she needs (glasses, cellphone, robe) and then visit her after work.
Monday comes. We speak on the phone a few times in the morning. She tells me she is being transferred to the rehab/nursing center that afternoon and that I should visit her there. My Monday becomes busy and I don't get a chance to check my cell voice mail all afternoon. At about 5, when I am ready to leave work, I see that I have FOUR URGENT calls from her.
I listen to the voice mails...they begin with concern. "Linda, I don't like this place. Please come and get me." Then, the next two become more rambling...she is panicking and she talks and talks, repeating that I must come and get her right now! She is in HELL. She has a roommate that she cannot stand. Her nurses are too busy to take care of her. Her bed wasn't ready (no sheets?). They don't have a walker (she left one at the hospital and she has two at her apartment). Someone is leering at her through a window and a man is walking up and down the halls groaning at the top of his lungs. Someone even told her that they do cavity searches on all new patients! (Now, I admit, that would have prompted me to leave, too.) And the stories go on...(I thought I had a limit on how long voice mails could be, but apparently not.)
As I listen to each successively more manic call, my own brain is leaping ahead. Should I go straight there? Is she hallucinating? Is it really that bad? Is she exaggerating? Did they put her on a mental ward? Will I need to force her to stay? My guilt quotient is rising unchecked and I am already envisioning the scene we'll have when I get there....
Then the final voice mail begins. "Lin, never mind. I've taken care of it. I'm going home. I'll see you there." Oh my!
So I drive to her apartment. Sure enough, in those 4 hours that I was unavailable, she had been transferred, thrown a fit, demanded transpotation home, checked herself out (against doctor's orders), and gone home.
What a gift! No scene. No decisions to make. No actions to take. I just drove to her house and helped her get situated on her bed. Of course, the drama isn't over. She needs rehab and physical therapy and who knows how she'll get it. But, it's not my problem. She didn't get an immediate response from me and she took care of herself. She really is self-sufficient when she wants to be. And, that's what I have always prayed for. To not have to take care of her. And, not feel guilty that I don't.
I'm sure this tale isn't over. She may have complications from the surgery. Who will change her bandages? Who will see that she gets the proper post-surgical care? Nonetheless, she did so well yesterday that I will save my own sanity and let her take care of herself.
It's her life, her decisions, and her sickness. It's a full time job to not make them mine.