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(The following is excerpted from my memoir-in-progress, Missing Dad. All conversations recounted here are accurate transcriptions, made at the time they occurred. All incidents described here are accurately reconstructed from contemporaneous notes and emails. No names were changed. There are no innocent people to protect.)

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Dad, Walter, Janet, Chris, Nancy, and Grant, accompanied by Barbara, George and Alyssa, return to Kessler East Orange on Sunday at around 11AM.
They find that Mom is still asleep in her hospital bed, still wearing the same clothes she had been in the day before and the day before that.
(What do the nurses and aides actually DO in this place? Can’t they even keep a post-surgical patient clean? Where are the standards of care? This is the #4 facility of its kind in the whole country?)  
Mom’s breakfast is untouched. (Hospital breakfasts are usually delivered by 8AM. Where IS everybody is this place?)  
Mom has an IV in her arm. (For what? Meds? Nutrition? Hydration? For what?)
Nancy tries to wake Mom, without success.
Nancy gets the charge nurse to check Mom. Mom has a fever. The nurse decides to have Mom immediately transferred to the ER of the hospital next door.

The ER at East Orange General Hospital is very different from the ER at Union Hospital. There are gunshot victims and overdoses here. There were gardening and golfing mishaps there.

Nancy accompanies Mom to the ER, where the doctor on duty observes that Mom’s surgical wound looks infected. Mom is hooked up to another IV, and after awhile, she wakens and becomes somewhat lucid.

Plans are made to transfer Mom back to Union Hospital on Monday.

The sibs call me from the hospital throughout that afternoon to give me updates. It’s a busy, rain-soaked Sunday at Crate&Barrel in Manhasset.  I can’t leave the store because we are short-staffed due to call-outs. It would take me about three hours to make the trip to East Orange on public transportation. By the time I got there, it would be too late to see her, and time to turn around and come back home anyway.

The sibs say that at this point, it doesn’t seem to be too serious. Mom was able to converse, even make a joke.

Nancy, Chris and Grant leave the hospital late in the afternoon to go back home to Maryland. Before they leave, they hire a private nurse to watch over Mom, just to make sure that she is properly tended to. We do not want a repeat of the treatment she received at the collective hands of Kessler East.
Janet and Walter and I speak on the phone before they leave the hospital. We make plans for them to pick me up early Monday morning on the way into Jersey from their home in Long Island. We will go the hospital together.
Dad, Barb, George and Alyssa go back to Dad’s.

I get home from work at about 7PM. My part-timer, Cherie, gives me a lift home so I don’t have to wait for the N20/1 bus that runs only once an hour on Sundays. I open the door to our apartment.
 “Oh God, what a day this has been. My mother was admitted to the ER, she has an infec…”
At the same time, Frank is saying: “Are you okay? There are a lot of calls on the answering machine. The kids…”
I listen to the messages.
There’s a garbled one from the private nurse, saying “I’m leaving. Your mother was already brain-dead when I got here.”
I moan/shriek/cry out loud and Frank comes running to me.
“Wha…”
“My mom, my mom…”
Another call comes in.
It’s George. It’s not true, Mom’s not brain-dead, but she has been put on a ventilator. The nurse has in fact left.
Maybe she was just prescient.

Mom is in the ICU of East Orange General Hospital now. It is late Sunday night.
Sometime in the middle of the night, she has a heart attack, and then a massive stroke, caused by sepsis.
We won’t find out that Mom is in a life-and-death struggle for several hours.

(Concluded tomorrow, with the events of Monday, July 18th 2005,
the last day of my mother’s life)

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