Letting Go … and yet I can’t

 “I can’t breathe”, my mum said.

Those are the most frightening three words to hear at 3.30 am. What do you do then? I woke my sister up and both of us agreed that we would admit Mummy into Emergency at University Hospital (UH). We then needed to get ready for emergency admission. First things first, this was the checklist:

A. My mother is on peritoneal dialysis (home based dialysis) and her next exchange would be 9 am. Hence, we proceeded with early dialysis because she could be in the emergency ward for some time.

B. Packing:

  1. NRIC (Identification card) – the ambulance and hospital will require this.
  2. Clothes – to include socks, a warm blanket and jacket, as the hospital can get really cold; adult diapers – just in case she can’t get to the toilet,
  3. Water and dry food. There is no water and food provided in the emergency department.
  4. Credit card and money.
  5. Face mask.

We then called 999 for the ambulance. The ambulance (Bulan Sabit Merah) arrived within 20 minutes. But they informed us that they could only take us to HKL (Kuala Lumpur General Hospital) because there was a directive that day and all the ambulances to UH were fully occupied. We were to admit Mummy ourselves. They took Mummy’s vital signs and helped her into the car.

Upon arrival, the hospital was efficient in attending to her and she was wheeled straight away into the emergency department. No visitors were allowed in and so we waited outside.

Through the gap in the door, I caught a glimpse of Mummy on her bed. Sometime later, I peeked in again, she was no longer there! Suddenly the intercom called out her name, she was at RESPI 1 now. My sister and I rushed there and then a doctor was there to inform us, “your mum’s condition has taken a turn for the worse, her blood pressure shot up, everything went haywire and she has difficulty in breathing. We have put her on full Oxygen and something to calm her down. Now, we would like your consent, do you agree to intubation and resuscitation if she gets worse?”

My mind just went blank. This topic has come up for discussion many times over the years and my Mum has always been adamant – “No Resuscitation” she has said before. “No tubes, just let me go.” But when faced with the stark reality, I was not so certain. My sister was more quick about it. She told the doctor “I know that she does not want resuscitation, but I need to see my Mum regarding intubation and I would like to get her consent while she is still conscious. Because once she is intubated, she would practically be in a coma, and I would not be able to see my Mum in her conscious state. Please, this may be our last time to see her.” As we pleaded with the doctor in these critical moments, the doctor relented and allowed us into RESPI 1, but only 1 visitor at a time. My sister went in first. She came out and told me “Mum says no intubation, no resuscitation”.  

Then I went in. “Mummy, I called her”. She was still conscious and held my hand.

Me: “Mum do you want intubation?” I asked.

Mum: “No tubes, no more suffering, it’s enough.” (She said san fu which means laborious suffering.)

Me: “Mummy I love you. You are my life.” And I just broke down and cried.

Mum: “Don’t cry, go, and enjoy your life. I love you, Tammy.”

Me: “Mummy, I love you very much. And I thank you for all that you have done. I am sorry for any wrongs. And I forgive you too.”

Mum: “I love you too. I love everyone. Tell everyone. Love one another.”

I then put Mummy on video call with my sister and brother-in-law in Singapore. I could hear them calling Mummy and saying, “I love you.” Mummy reached out her hand and touched the mobile screen, as if to stroke them, whilst saying “I love you, love one another.”

Then we left the emergency ward and my helper went in next. My Mum wanted to see her. She walked out of the emergency room in tears and sobbing.

Then we just had to wait, there was nothing left for us to do. Just sit and wait, stand up, pace up and down. Eat and drink something. Time passed slowly. I could not really pray except for short snatches of prayers either with my sister or by myself. But I could WhatsApp and asked for friends and family to pray. There was a flurry of WhatsApp’s and calls, and I think there must have been a prayer life-line to heaven. For that I have to thank friends, family and Bangsar Lutheran Church, other churches for their love, support, and prayers. A good friend, Elsa turned up in hospital and came to sit with us.

What if this is the last day with Mum? One part of me just cannot bear to let her go. Yet who am I to stop anything if it is Mummy’s time? Will I deny her right to see an end to her suffering?

Will I deny her right to graduate with flying colours? She has done well in her life. In her own words, Mummy has told me many times “I am satisfied, I have had a good long life. Who knew that a girl with only standard 6 Chinese education would end up with a happy marriage with a good man (English educated) and have 3 beautiful, successful daughters, and a good son in law? Even as a child I always knew that Someone was watching over me, even before I knew God”

Who am I to deny her to return home to glory to be with God and to see my late dad? Yet I want her to stay. Please stay Mummy. I love you. Don’t go.

By the grace of God, my Mummy pulled through. Thanks be to God. God gave us more time. Now every day is a bonus. We hug more. We love more. My Mummy smiles at us, laughs with us with great appreciation, life, and love. As I am writing this, I can hear my sisters and brother-in-law going downstairs, greeting Mummy. They are all shouting “I love you, Mummy”. Yes, I love you.

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