I talk to either Ricky or Marina every three days or so.
I call Ricky in the late afternoon, as he sits in my grandmother's hospital room. It's an isolation room, with double doors and (I presume) negative air pressure. It feels drafty and she is always cold. If he puts on the heat it quickly gets too hot. He sees climate control, and making sure an appropriate order gets put in with dining services, as what his job is right now, why he's there every day from 10:00 to 6:00.
Marina calls me in the late evening, usually as I'm trying to get Miss T. to sleep. Marina is exhausted. She works all day, then goes up to relieve Ricky at the hospital for a couple of hours. She tells me how frail Nana is, and how bitter; how she tries to refuse treatment, even things that might make her more comfortable. She doesn't think Nana's really about to die -- except for moments every now and then.
Nana is too weak to talk. I haven't spoken to her directly -- my God, since I was there in August, actually. On Thursday night her oxygen saturation went down into the 80's, and they wanted to put on a face mask of 100% oxygen -- she's had tubes in her nose the whole time. She refused, and Ricky supported her. He stayed that night and about four hours later her levels went back up, "after she calmed down some," he says.
They gave her a blood transfusion last week. I think they were planning two, but she spiked a fever after the first, so they stopped.
Ricky has started crushing all her pills into applesauce or pudding, since she was having a hard time swallowing them.
It sounds like the plan now is that once they're sure the drugs are working they'll move Nana into a regular hospital room and keep there until she's stable and stronger. Because of the TB, it sounds like a nursing home is not really seen as an option. When they let her out for real, she'll get 9 weeks of a home aide covered, but no more beyond that.
Both Ricky and Marina tell me not to come now, to protect myself and my family from the possibility of contagion. (They got chest X-rays on Thursday, but haven't heard the results yet. Both will need to be on drugs for a long time regardless, given the positive skin tests.) I never told them I was pregnant, so there's no need to tell them that soon I won't be.
Direct flights from Rust City to the suburban airport nearest to them have been discontinued -- just this week, in fact, and I didn't know until I searched on the airline web page and was offered itineraries that included e.g. eight hour stops in Pittsburgh and cost $2000. Of course I can fly to one of the main New York airports, but that'll be a huge pain, especially since I want to rent a car -- it's hard to see how I'd be useful as a visitor if I didn't, now that they've lost Ricky's free taxi access.
It is, of course, exceedingly unpleasant to contemplate the possibility of starting to miscarry on a plane. From what I've read on line it seems like I'm pretty unlikely to just start bleeding all over the place for a couple weeks yet -- if and when anyone offers me a D and C I'll take it -- but still.
Also, I don't think I should take Miss T. along -- but I don't want to leave her. She's had a horribly scattered couple of months, with the travel for the IVF cycle, and moving to a new room at day care, and Beaker having a couple of business trips, and now Mama being tired and sad, and the stress is showing. She really doesn't need for me to disappear for a couple of days.
So: I am risking not seeing Nana because I don't want to travel. There are several reasons, all of which should be trumped by the possibility of her dying soon. Yet here I am this weekend in Ohindinois, grading away in my office.
Directions from Cornell: "Keep taking the progesterone as long as there's a heartbeat." Well, that phrasing makes certain assumptions, doesn't it?