IT'S MOTHER'S DAY in the UK today. As someone who grew up straddled between New York and London, with a little bit of Hong Kong mixed in, my mother has always enjoyed having two days in the year to celebrate her. But let's be real, our mothers' deserve a day to be celebrated everyday. My mother is an intricate and incredible woman, and everyone loves her. We have a complicated relationship, as every mother and daughter does, but this whole experience was a harrowing one for her, as it would be for any parent. And she helped me get through some of the most terrifying moments. She was a warrior with me and held my hand every step of the way. Don't get me wrong, she drove me mental in hospital, but she was incredible both then and in the ensuing months of recovery. And I can't begin to imagine what the horror of facing the idea of losing her only child was.
She is a writer by trade and has an incredible way with words. During my seemingly interminable hospital stay she would post every so often on Facebook to give family and friends updates, since information was at a real premium during this time. In honour of her being such a badass and my own inspiration for being as strong as I am, because she's been through some tough situations in her life and made it out the other side, I've lazily copied and pasted some of these posts here, to give you another perspective on the story, if only a small glimpse. I'm sure she has a lot more to say on the subject if probed.
Here is where she spills the beans to all her Facebook friends, and the love poured in--hey, social media is good for something. It shows you your community in a crisis.
'Nora has been in ICU at Columbia Presbyterian for the past week with a mysterious and sudden onset of liver failure. She's at the top of the transplant list and could get the operation any day now. I have no more words to say except to ask that she be sent love and strong positive wishes from those who love her. Deepest gratitude to my friends and family who helped prop up me and Tom during these unspeakably awful 8 days.'
Ed. note: This is how out of her mind she was. I wasn't at Columbia Presbyterian, completely different hospital all together. I was at Cornell Weill Presbyterian. Ok fine, I'm splitting hairs but what is a child's existence if not to correct their parents.
'Nora went into surgery last night at 5:30 and finished at 1am. I'm still trembling with gratitude to the donor and how close we came to losing our baby--liver was maybe three cells short of total failure; something totally fried it in two weeks. Thank you all for prayers and healing thoughts. She needs them more than ever now. Post-op is a fiercely challenging period, but she is ferocious. Breathing tube still in, she managed to communicate during the brief periods she was conscious. The medical team at NY Presbyterian is unbelievably gifted, I could only watch in dumbstruck awe as they danced the tightrope of balancing all the meds and monitoring on this terrible and wondrous first day. Big gratitude for family and friends who have kept Tom and me from losing our shit.'
'To all of you who've been with Nora through this ordeal, here's the latest. Hiccups, bumps in the road, pain, grace, horrific physical alterations and insults, all of which she has gone through with the kind of determination most of us only know from books and novels. Everyday I notice another bruise, another puncture, some new torment that surgery like this must inflict--I couldn't take it in at once. She had an acute internal bleed that kicked off a series of setbacks starting yesterday and growing through the night. I have been staying at hospital with her and I knew something was very wrong yesterday--she was taking a turn and it was terrifying. When the lab results caught up with her obvious symptoms, an MRI was done this morning, followed by 4 pints of blood, antibiotics, blood draws, and the worst, an ultrasound on her abdomen which was so tender and swollen, we didn't see how it could possibly be done. After checking to see who'd ordered the sono, she laid back in bed, and I held her hand watching her battle the pain with her eyes closed--I hoped she was passed out during this, but I saw her grimaces and knew she was going inside and learning to handle her body's torments.
Forty minutes of pressure around her incision, while her wounds wept as did I. I knew this was just one of the trials of the day--she was to have her abdomen aspirated and blood clots drained under light sedation, and her bandages changed under none. It never stopped until she was finally on her way to the Internal Radiation floor. Nausea all day, resistant to the anti nausea meds. But the liver is functioning, kidney function slowly improving, but labs still mystifying with fresh hell each day. After the worst of it, she laid back in bed and looked strangely radiant. I went through the hospital at one point and saw a newborn baby and I was undone entirely. But we keep learning from Nora that there are wells of fortitude so deep that they can only be accessed by walking through fires paved with sharp glass shards. Tom and I have had plenty of experience with hospitals and sudden reversals of health, but nothing like this, and nothing we wouldn't take on again to the tenth power to trade places with her. But she is steady, valiant and has been so through three weeks of the most aggressive and unpleasant medical torture imaginable. She wants to live, she knew she almost didn't and although I watch her sleeping with the vigilance of a new mother with a sick infant, fear gnawing at me constantly, I know she will make it through. I thought I knew my daughter, but this War Lord Woman I always suspected was there, has become full grown and I am awed by the enormity of her power and grace. She keeps me from losing my shit over the missteps and bad timing inevitable in a big hospital, because she keeps calm. I can't wait for her to feel the sun on her face again outside the hospital. She's got so many people rooting for her, including so many of the medical people along the way who, more than anyone, can see that this life they saved belongs to someone worthy of the effort and equal to the exigencies of this arduous process. Still no clue as to what caused this hell-fire to rip through her, but if it remained unknown, what is known now is that it was a revelation of this woman's extraordinary character. Keep your good thoughts pouring in on her, she has been using every wish for her recovery with great skill and wisdom.'
'First two weeks here at hospital were like riding the Dragon Coaster at Flayland, trundling up to hope then the plunge into fear. Past two weeks more like The Old Mill, designed by the Dementors, bumping along in the dark on a boat floating on bodily fluids, with periods of profound alienation punctuated by unexpected floodlit scenes of unspeakable horror. Falling from the frozen tundra of over air-conditioned fluorescence face first into the big butt of humidity of a NYC august stun-guns me into dark thoughts. Nora being reopened made me wish surgeons had to be cut and stitched--just a small incision--as part of their training. But enough of the recent past: the patient improves by the hour and parole is in sight! Home this week, failing any fresh hell.'
'This evening at 6:30, after 4 weeks in the hospital where Nora was discovered to have sudden onset liver failure, and had only 5% liver function left just a day before she got a transplant; where seven days after transplant she was again circling the drain with complications and was re-opened and fixed, she finally got streeted and is now home, sleeping in a real bed, with only family and friends to bother her. Thank you transplant team, donor, the good wishes and hard work of of so many friends and family, and NBC health insurance for keeping her from death's door.'
There is no doubt of her prowess as a writer when you read these words. The fact that she could paint such an accurate and vivid picture of the macabre scene during that otherworldly time speaks volumes to her talent. Both as a mother and an artist.