Deadly Oversight

You see, it was just an ulcer
Her doctor lingered in the dark
noting abdominal pain
nausea, vomiting, low blood count
but the source remained a mystery
despite exotic tests on bone marrow

You see, it was just an ulcer
Examined for months, the cause eluding
she presented nervous, she knew
antibiotics offered temporary relief
but the pain re-exacerbated
scenario repeated, leading to a question
of hypochondriac proportions

You see, it was just an ulcer
After in and out hospitalizations
it exploded, stimulating her heart to protest --
X-ray taken in the early morning
overlooked until late in the afternoon when
the radiologist demanded, “Why wasn’t
this brought to my immediate attention?”</em>
By then blood pressure dropped dangerously low
poisons ran rampant in her gut, and fearing
her body too compromised to withstand urgent surgery,
they warned she’d die without it.

You see, it was just an ulcer
For 5-1/2 months she suffered
from a deadly oversight
   (I’m so sorry, an endoscopy should
   have been the first test performed)</em>
each surgery unsuccessful
innovative ICU treatment falling short

You see, it was just an ulcer, and
my mother was a strong woman
who wanted to live, so she weathered
the complications, blood clots, small
strokes, organ failure, one by one
until chances for recovery melted
in the blood she choked back
and there was nothing left but
to let her go
It wasn’t cancer, not
incurable disease, you see --
It was just a fucking ulcer


I’ve never been able to write about this aspect of my mother’s death and doing so now was very cathartic. It wasn’t like she ignored the doctors’ advice or refused treatment… they just didn’t find it. For some reason her doctor thought it was a bone marrow problem and when it was discovered that it wasn’t, he expressed his concern that she was perhaps exaggerating because she appeared so nervous. And when it was too late, the ICU doctors didn’t disguise their horror that the most obvious test hadn’t been performed. This was fifteen years ago, so access to information was more limited than it is now. We couldn’t Google her symptoms... (Google officially launched a month after her death). And truly, she didn’t seem that sick. One doctor said to me, “You usually don’t find patients sitting calmly in a waiting room when a duodenal ulcer is readying to burst.” So they guessed she must have had a high pain tolerance, but I’m not sure how that was supposed to make me feel better. She fought hard and for a time it looked as if she might recover, but then the bleeding started again and another surgery took its toll and we had to make the decision to stop her treatment. It took me a long time to make peace with the fact that it was just an ulcer. Although in the end, it was much more than that. My mother’s name was Ruth and she was 69 years old. Thank you for listening.

Linked to Poetry Pantry @ Poets United</a> & Open Link Monday @ Imaginary Garden with Real Toads</a> & Open Link Night @dVerse</a>