Losing Mom

December 18, 2010 at 4:24 pm (Uncategorized)

My mom, Jennie, was diagnosed with an aortal aneurism late in 1987. She was 65 years old at the time. None of us were familiar with what an aneurism actually was, but we learned that it’s an abnormal bulging of an artery. Such a bulge is extremely dangerous, since it can burst at any time. Mom’s was particularly worrisome because it was located in the aorta, the main artery coming out of the heart. According to her cardiologist, this was the worst possible place for an aneurism. If Mom underwent surgery to repair the bulge she would probably live to a ripe old age. Without an operation there were no guarantees.

Several of us sat down with our mother and discussed the situation openly and frankly. My sisters and brother were not in favor of the surgery. Too risky, they believed. I felt otherwise. “Mom, I have to be honest,” I said. “If you want to have a normal life there’s no other option.”

I could see that she really didn’t want to do it, and who could blame her? This was not some minor elective surgery we were talking about. She thought it over for a couple of days and then decided to have the operation. That decision has haunted me all the days of my life since.

Mom’s surgery was set to take place at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan. She was scheduled to be the first procedure in the morning. We all gathered there early and waited. For some reason, the surgeons kept pushing back the time for her operation. In the meantime, my sister Sue, Maureen and I and my father took turns keeping her company in her room. Aunt Marlene Matland and Cousin Mary Olivieri were also there to lend their support. As the day dragged on, we felt that the long delay was cruel, and we were beginning to become agitated.

Late in the afternoon, the attendants finally came to take Mom to the OR. As they wheeled her away on a gurney, I walked beside her to the elevator. In a lame attempt to lighten the mood I joked, “Make sure you don’t get off at the Maternity Ward!”

Those were the last words I ever spoke to my mother. She glanced blankly at me through drug-glazed eyes and said nothing. The elevator door closed and she was gone.

The group of us sat nervously in the waiting room watching the hands on the clock move ever so slowly. I’m not sure how much time passed, but it was probably several hours. Then Mom’s cardiologist, a woman, came out to speak with us. She had just assisted with the surgery. “Everything went well”, she said. “We’ve got her resting in recovery.”

With that, I thought we should all go home and get some rest. It had been a long day. My father, especially, looked exhausted. Sue said, “Let’s stay until we can see her.” So we sat down again to wait. As it turned out, that was a wise decision.

Another hour passed, and the cardiologist reentered the waiting room. Her face was grim. “Something went wrong,” she said. “We’ve got to go back in.” With that she retreated to the OR, leaving us in a very fearful state.

Again, I’m not sure how much time went by. We hadn’t said much to each other while we waited. Then the cardiologist returned again. From the look on her face, I knew she didn’t have good news. Since I was the nearest to her, she grasped my hand gently. “We did our best,” she said. “But your mom didn’t make it. I’m so sorry.” Then she reached up and patted my arm.

We were crushed. After believing that everything was going to be fine, this news was devastating. Sue and Maureen began to cry. Dad seemed disoriented. He blubbered, “I lost my buddy.” It was a terrible scene.

My brother Augie and sister Denise hadn’t wanted to come to the hospital and remained at home waiting to hear from us. The awful task of calling them fell to me. When Augie answered the phone and I told him what had happened, he just hung up without saying a word. We then left the hospital, Maureen and I driving home to Baldwin in one car while Sue took Dad back to Cedarhurst with Cousin Mary driving. It was a bad night for everyone.

The next morning the hospital called. New York City law required that someone come to identify Mom’s body. Dad was in no condition to do it, so I offered to go. Fortunately, Uncle Ralph Bevilacqua and Uncle Bill Fearns, God bless them, heard about this and volunteered to drive me there. When we got to the hospital, they showed us all into a small room where Mom lay covered on a gurney. The attendant drew back the sheet. I won’t go into detail because it wasn’t a pleasant sight. I simply nodded and we left. It was over as quickly as that.

We all got through it somehow. I gave the eulogy at Mom’s funeral, although it was a very difficult ordeal. Afterward, my brother-in-law, George Petri, shook my hand. “You chose the perfect comments,” he said. I was very appreciative of that. But little did I realize then that it wouldn’t be the last time such an awful and unwanted responsibility would fall to me.

10 Comments

  1. John Capobianco said,

    Sad story but it was the right choice for her, a burst Aorta can cause a person to bleed out in less than a minute. In todays world that operation is almost routine.

    • yeeditor said,

      Thanks for the comforting comments, John. Much appreciated.

  2. Natalie Oliveri Gordon said,

    A very sad but thorough account of your mom’s pre-op, operation and her sudden passing. Something (I think) that needed to be told. I never knew the exact details of what the reason was for the operation. Suzanne did call me then to tell me the sad news. I was very heartbroken. Your mother was a very positive part of my life. She was such a wonderful person. I will never forget dear Aunt Jennie. Thank you cousin Jim for a very well written “Losing Mom.”

  3. Cousin Michael Mollo said,

    Special visits to Aunt Jennie and Uncle Augie’s house with my mom was always filled with tears and laughter. I remeber how sad I was to hear the news. Thanks for sharing Jim. Love this blog…Very proud to be your cousin.

  4. Michael DeRosa said,

    I remember like it was yesterday. Way too soon for such a great lady.

    • yeeditor said,

      Many thanks, Mike. You know only too well what that’s like, I’m sorry to say. Hope all is fine with you.

  5. jeanine ferrara said,

    Wow! What a heart wrenching story. Surgery was the realistic option but as always, the surgery turns out well, but afterwards is left in the hands of God. May she RIP. ❤

  6. Donna Mollo said,

    My mom died from the same thing. I did not think she should have the operation but she really wanted to have a chance to live longer. She came through the operation fine but only lived another month. Today that operation is very common and it does save lives. My mom was early seventies but also to young to die. We can only keep them in our hearts and love them every day.
    Donna Mollo

    • yeeditor said,

      Thanks, Donna. Sorry to learn that you went through the same thing with your mom. So many procedures that are commonplace today were much more dangerous thirty years ago. Sometimes even when you make the right decisions they turn out wrong. But we do have our memories. Best to you, and hope Joseph is doing well.

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