In Time of Turmoil, Eastside Medical Steps Up

Marlene interrupts her series on breast cancer to talk about her mother's health and the help of numerous medical professionals in Snellville.

We interrupt this series on breast cancer to take care of Mama.  I know you have heard the expression “When it rains it pours.”  It is flooding at my house.

On a recent Wednesday, Mama cut down a small tree and was trimming shrubbery. The following Monday, she was hospitalized for pneumonia. 

A few days earlier she had a sore throat and a cough. At 93, I didn’t want to take any changes so we headed for the doctor.  She protested the entire time that she didn’t need to go. Dr. Bruce Sabin, her internist, put her on an antibiotic. She seemed to get better and was back to her old self. 

She is in the yard more than in the house. She putters around trimming, sweeping leaves, just whatever she and Pepe the cat can find to do.  They work an hour or two and go inside for a glass of tea, a bite to eat and to snooze for another hour or two. Then they are back in the yard.

A few weeks later, still coughing, she said she thought she should go back to the doctor. For Mama, this is a major declaration. She used the excuse that since I was recovering from surgery and about to start radiation treatments that she didn’t want to have anything she could pass along. I knew better. 

Pneumonia or Something Else

Dr. Sabin took an in-office X-ray. He called me into the hall and showed me the film. Her left lung was completely clouded. He said she had pneumonia and maybe something else was going on. He sent us to the emergency room at . I believe this was the first day the new ER was in operation. 

I cannot tell you how wonderful the staff was to Mama and to us. Rodney is an EMT who also is a fireman at the Buford Station. Mama has tiny little rolling veins. A vampire will pass her by in a heart beat. Rodney hit it the first time. He kept Mama distracted all the while he was prepping her. I don’t think she knew he had slide the needle in until the IV sleeve went in.  I don’t care what you do.  It hurts.  It hurts badly and it is NOT fun.

Terry has been at Eastside for many years. I remember her taking care of James on a couple of our many trips to the ER. Due to James' disabilities and fearless, spontaneous nature, (a parent’s nightmare) he had a lot of stitches over the years. Terry checked regularly on Mama, whose blood pressure was going through the roof. At Dr. Sabin’s office her blood pressure was perfect. As soon as he mentioned hospital, her blood pressure began to climb.  Mama does not like hospitals and ain’t none too crazy about staying in one.

We do not have a diagnosis, but it appears that Mama has cancer in that lung.  The entire lung is clouded.  And, she is in severe pain in her back and legs.    She was admitted to the second floor where she was well cared for. I wish I could remember all the names of the people she saw. To the transport people, Harold the Wonderful Giant; to the CT scan folks; to the speech pathologist and radiologist, Bill; on to the nursing staff, Elaine and Ann Marie -- a HUGE thank you.

Helping Hands

A couple of weeks later we had another trip to the ER where we encountered Terry again, and this time an ER nurse named Allen Tillman. Here was another with that special touch.  In talking to Allen, we realized that his sister Pam went to Parkview and was the office aid in the counseling office. 

His parents opened the Little Gardens Restaurant. If you graduated from a Gwinnett County School in the 70s through the 90s you went to at least one fancy dinner at Little Gardens. It was nice to visit with Allen and catch up on some my kids from years ago.

Additional X-rays showed damage to the third lumbar vertebra. We were referred to Dr. Craig Mines of Eastside Orthocare. That is a delightful staff of people. I can’t tell you all the names, but I can tell you that you get superior attention and care. Dr. Mines sent Mama to South Gwinnett Radiology for a CT scan. That revealed that she had a crushed L-3 and kyphoplasty was required--ASAP.

Kyphoplasty is interesting surgery. Dr. Mines made two holes in Mama’s back on each side of her spine. He injected cement that lifts the broken bones up and back into position and hardens within a few minutes. When Mama awoke, she had much great movement and so much less pain. Trust me. Mama does not give in to pain or any other misfortune that would break a mere mortal. She was crying and begging for help before surgery.

She was admitted late one evening and had surgery at 7:30 the next morning. She was released the next morning with a great lessening of pain. There were no beds in the back and spine floor, so she was placed in a room just outside that area on the fourth floor.  If you ever have to go to the hospital, ask for the fourth floor and nurse Anna T and Chere. They made a frightening situation so much better.

I wish I didn’t have to end this with this announcement, but now one month later, Mama is on hospice. Mama is in less pain thanks to the kyphoplasty, but the lung issue is not going to get better. Gentiva Hospice Services is working closely with all of us. I am sure I will write more.

Crystal Huskey February 14, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Oh no, Marlene, I am so, so sorry. I love reading your stories and feel like I have gotten to you know you through them over the past few months. My heart is broken for you. I will be praying hard for you and your family.
Gina February 14, 2012 at 10:36 PM
marlene buchanan February 15, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Thank you. Mama died on Jan 31. I just can't believe she is gone.
Cyndi February 16, 2012 at 01:04 AM
I can imagine our healthcare workers don't get near the "kudos" they deserve. How amazing you are to remember to thank them in such an honorable way even amidst such difficult circumstances. Kudos to them ...and kudos to you for genuinely caring for and respecting people.
Chesta Drake February 16, 2012 at 06:28 PM
You are amazing. I'm reading through tears. Burt Reynolds once said, "Gallantry is the only thing that makes me cry." You would have the Bandit blubbering. I love you. Chesta


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