Mom spent her last days at the University of Minnesota Hospital. She rode up by ambulance on a Tuesday morning. Her transplant doctor wanted to see her as soon as possible. This was the only way. Dad and I drove up separately and met her in her room, room 402 on 5C.
Doctor after doctor came to see her that afternoon. I tried, but I couldn't keep up with everybody's names. There was the guy who came to do her bloodwork, and then her nurse, Hyen. After that came somebody to do an ultrasound on her kidney and her legs. Around 2:00, Ken came to do an EKG. She was then poked and prodded by the kidney team--two men and one woman. Brandon came to do an ultrasound of her heart. I think there was a CAT scan or some such mixed in there somewhere too. Oh, and they put in a pick line (I'm not sure if that's how you spell it) at some point too.
Then her transplant doctor, Dr. Vercellotti, arrived. "Hello, gorgeous!" he said. "I'm so glad to finally see you!" He asked her lots more questions, and then told her that he thought he could fix this.
I went home that evening with high hopes. But by the next morning, things weren't good. The stuff that Dr. V. had thought would work hadn't. Mom's kidney was failing. (She only had one kidney, because she donated her other kidney to her brother several years ago. That's another story for another time.) At this point, she told Dad that she knew she wouldn't be going home again.
I was with her again by midmorning on Thursday, April 7. By this time, she was sleeping most of the time, getting harder and harder to wake her up. But when she was awake, she responded to people around her. She reminisced with her brother Johnny and her BFF Maryetta about some of the trouble they used to get into.
There were more doctors and more nurses, but by this time I had given up trying to remember all of their names. Dad probably knows.
My dad made an effort to meet every single person who came into the room, from nurses to med students to attending physicians. Whenever possible, he asked them about themselves. Where did they come from? What was their specialty? How many more years of med school did they have left? How many years have they worked on this floor? How long are their shifts? Some of them, he even remembered from past visits, even when Mom had her transplant four years ago. "That's Fadumo," he'd say. "She wears the most beautiful scarves. She once told your mother where she bought them, and the next chance we got, we went to the store and got a couple for Mom."
My dad also made an effort to thank every single person who came into the room. I was impressed by his gratitude for everything they were doing to help my mother.
Thursday evening, my sister brought her girls to the hospital, and we had a camp-out in the family lounge. There were no couches or cots. The girls brought blankets and pillows and slept on the floor. My sister and I both started out on the floor, but eventually pushed benches and chairs together to create makeshift beds. It helped a little, but I didn't get much sleep that night.
About 5:30 in the morning, I gave up trying to sleep. Dad was up by then, so I went back to Mom's room. She was sleeping, and we took turns rubbing her arm and patting her head. Dad sang songs to her. For a little while, she seemed to be groaning a bit, so the nurse gave her some more pain reliever. After that, she was peaceful.
I went to the cafe upstairs for breakfast. I had a very disappointing cold, rubbery breakfast sandwich. I remember "Ain't No Sunshine" was playing in the background as I forced myself to eat.
The next hour or so is a blur. A gentle snow had begun to fall. (Snow in April--that's Minnesota for you.) At some point, for some reason, I decided to walk down the hall to watch the snow fall over the river. That's where I was when Dad came running for me, saying to come quick.
That's where I was when everything changed. It was 8:30 a.m., Friday, April 8, 2016. (4/8/16--she would have liked those numbers.) As the snow fell, my mother left us. I was lost.