Friday, January 08, 2010

Bad, Bad Choices.

Texas isn't exactly known for its mercy toward the poor. Medicaid is almost impossible to get onto here, food stamps are even tougher, and medical services for people too rich for Medicaid and too poor to afford a doc are practically nonexistent. As bad as my state's attitude is, though, there are states that are even worse--and those states send their neurosurgical patients straight to the Sunnydale CCU.

She was a great-grandmother and not even fifty. Three decades of poor nutrition, nonexistant dentistry, crappy medical care for her hepatitis, and cooking meth to feed her ever-growing number of kids had left her in quite a state. She came to us with three abscesses in her brain, a pseudoaneurysm in one carotid artery, and a mycotic aneurysm that had blown out in a spectacular manner, leaving her mostly unresponsive. We put her on three different antibiotics, two different drips to keep her blood pressure up, and clipped off what we could of the aneurysm.

Her family kept showing up, all of them living in one room of the short-rate motel two blocks from the hospital, all cranked out of their fucking minds. Not a one of them, except her youngest daughter, had the slightest idea that things might be really, really touchy and bad. Nobody seemed to understand that no, she wasn't in a coma, and she wasn't just going to wake up and ask for a Coke if they talked to her. Eventually, either because they ran out of money or ran out of meth, they all went back whence they came--except for her youngest daughter.

She'd taken care of Mama for the last three years, in between taking care of her own firstborn and getting pregnant with a second. When Mama didn't take her lactulose and her ammonia went up into the one-twenties, it was Youngest Daughter that called the meatwagon and got her to County. When Mama's meth lab blew up in her face a few years ago, it was Daughter who learned how to change the bandages on Mama's arms.

Daughter, contrary to what I expected, was incredibly sharp. Ignorant as hell, but by no means stupid. She had no clue as to what the basic anatomy or processes of the human body were, but once I explained things to her in fairly simple terms, she caught on immediately. More than that, she drew the correct conclusions about what was happening to Mama and what was going to happen, and was sensible about them.

I thought about her--the daughter--last night when I couldn't sleep. The odds are against you from the get-go if your mom had her first kid at fourteen and those kids have kids that are as old as you, her last child. Between the amphetamines, the men coming and going, the near-certainty of domestic violence, the lack of cash for groceries, it would've been easy for her to have had five kids by eighteen rather than just two, and that last with a guy who seemed pretty stable. Not one person in a hundred would be able to get past the handicap of being a poor, Midwestern, meth-cooking-trailer-trash-high-school-dropout statistic, but at least she had brains.

At one point, as we were talking about Mama's chances of survival (dismal) with her family, I wanted to grab Daughter and drag her out into the hall. "Ditch the weed until you can piss clean for a drug test," I wanted to say, "then get your GED and have somebody watch your kids while you do a two-year RN program. You can earn seventy grand a year, get out of that shithole you're living in, and send your kids to college. You're an extraordinarily smart woman. You can *do* this."

Maybe I will, if she's there when I get back.


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

That could be the best thing that's ever happened to her. Even if she doesn't do it right away, you might plant a seed...

Anonymous said...

You are right about the way Texas is. I see it everyday.

molly said...

I'd say do it. What could either of you possibly have to lose?

AtYourCervix said...

Do it. Seriously. If she has the potential and the brains, she can finally get ahead.

anonymousrn said...

Sometimes knowing someone else (a perfect stranger) thinks you can do it could be what makes for her to believe she can do it. We can only hope, for her and for her little ones...

me said...

Do it ~

Elizabeth said...

Do it. Even if she doesn't change things now, she will think about what you have said for the rest of her life. And it will make a difference.

danielle said...

Go for it!! What can it hurt???!!! We had the 14 year old with the baby in the NICU for weeks. She came back to visit to tell us that because of us, she actually flaunted her family's expectations and returned to HS becuase she wants to be a nurse!!! Who knows how far she will really go - but hopefully, at the very least, a HS diploma!

Uro*MA said...

I agree with the rest! You never know who's life you can change by one conversation and a little faith. This could most definately be the best thing that ever happened to her and her children. However, if she doesn't take the advice, at least you know you tried...

~Uro*ma

Homemaker Man said...

You have to do it. You've seen the need for it and you know what to say. It's become your responsibility, if you get the chance.

marie from akron said...

Do it. I'm working on a BSN/RN right now thanks to some frank talk from an aunt about 14 months ago. Sometimes you just need a kick in the pants. Wish I'd gotten mine when I was younger!

Laura said...

To join the chorus, talk to her if you still can. You might be the first person to ever tell her that her life could be worth something and that she has options.

woolywoman said...

Do it. My life was never that far down the rathole, but it was one conversation ( actually, more like a talking to) with one person that made me wake up stop drifting through life. A cop, actually, and I wish I knew who he was, because I'd like to thank him.