About the same time she was moved to a skilled nursing facility, a hurricane was wreaking havoc all along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. Namely, Hurricane Rita. Most people along the coast wereunder a mandatory evacuation, including Daisy and her mother.
Rita did her damage and had dwindled down to mostly rain and wind. The mandatory evacuation was over and people were now allowed to come back to their homes. Rita had left flooding and damage throughout Houston and the surrounding areas, including the hospitals. The Medical Center was hit the hardest, no one having been prepared for the major flooding.
Daisy almost never got phone calls in the early morning before leaving for work, so she answered automatically thinking it was a computer generated call or something similar.
“Hello” she answered.
“Hello, this is Jinny and I’m calling from Seaside Nursing Home. Is this Ms. Daisy Rivera?”
“I’m afraid your mother stopped breathing after having another small stroke last night and we had to transfer her to the Oak Grove Medical Clinic (OGMC).” This was an urgent care center.
“Oh my goodness!”, she exclaimed tears coming automatically to her eyes. “They can’t help her there! She needs to be in Houston!”
“Ms.Rivera, we tried. The hospitals are not taking patients as the whole medical center is flooded. We don’t even have access to Life Flight because of all the emergencies. If we could find a facility that would take her we could only send her by ambulance.”
“I will be there right away.” Daisy felt lightheaded and was unsure of whether she could make it to the OGMC safely so she called her bestfriend Aaron and he immediately agreed to take her.
After hanging up with Aaron, she called her brother and sister. Her brother was already on his way having received a voicemail from the facility. His flight would land in Houston within 15 minutes and then he would drive from there an hour to OGMC. They would be arriving within fifteen minutes of each other.
Next, Daisy called the hospital where she worked and was told that they were at full capacity. Over the next ten minutes, she called every hospital within a fifty mile radious of OGMC. None were available.
When Daisy arrived at OGMC, she was led to where her mother was. The nurses looked up at her as she entered the triage room, eyes full of sympathy.
Her sweet gentle mother lay there. Eyes closed. The nurse at her mother’s right was breathing for her with a Bag Valve Mask or BVM. The nurse on the right was monitoring the machines keeping track of her heartbeat. She learned that the nurses were taking thirty minute shifts in breathing for her. Had her mother been at a full hospital, she would have been hooked up to life support that would breathe for her.
Daisy’s heart began to break, tears quietly streaming down her face. Even though her mother had been sick for over a year, Daisy felt blindsided. Memories ricocheting through her mind at an alarming rate. Darkness began to frame her vision so she sat in the chair the nurse provided and so she leaned over to put her head between her knees. After a few seconds the darkness faded. Leaning back, she breathed deeply of the medicinal air, choking. Minutes passed as she watched her mother laying helplessly.
She stood and walked slowly to the foot of the bed, reaching out with her hand to touch her mother’s foot. She could feel her heart beating loudly in her ears, hear the stream of blood racing through her own veins.
“How long?” she asked breathlessly.
“Since she’s been here? About 5:30 this morning,” the doctor said. “We think she must have had a stroke right before they found her. When we could not find a nearby hospital to take her to, we started calling Houston. But with the hurricane they are all full and not able to take any new patients. Most importantly, Life flight is all over so she would have to go by ambulance.”
“You’ve been breathing for her all this time?” She saw that it was almost 8 o’clock. More than two hours breathing for her mother with the BVM. “So, she’s not able breathe on her own?” Her questions repeating themselves on their own.
“Okay, I’ll be right back.” Daisy calmly walked out and into the bathroom around the corner. She walked in and locked the door walking to the farthest corner of the bathroom. She leaned her head against the wall. A low moan escaped her lips and quickly escalated into frantic closed mouth screams as she attempted to not be heard. She covered her face turning her back to the wall. She slid down to the floor. Nausea struck and she barely reached the toilet in time.
After a few minutes Daisy rinsed her face and walked back to her mother's side. She pulled a chair up to her mother's bedside and took her mother's beautiful hand and held it firmly. She whispered, "Please, Mama, please don't go."
Daisy's mind traced back over the months since her diagnosis with cancer and the many months caring for her mother as she lay prone on her hospital bed. Daisy's whole life this past year centered on the occasional glance from her mother's beautiful eyes, saying more in one look than a lifetime of words.
The doctor held her mother's other hand as the nurses silently stepped away, taking the BVM with them.
"Breathe, Mama!" she whispered. She remembered her mother singing and dancing with Daisy's feet planted atop her own. Picnics by the bay, books in hand. Watching her mother sketch and paint beautiful landscapes. Weeding around her beloved rose bushes. Always laughing and smiling.
"Breathe!" she said firmly. Daisy's brother walked in, on the phone with her sister Glory. He reached over and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, holding firmly. Daisy impatiently shrugged out of her brother's embrace. She didn't even look at him or acknowledge his presence, angry that her mother would not breathe.
"Breathe, now, Mama," she said angrily. But her mother did not. Her heart beat slowed, and then stopped gently, as if she were really just sleeping. The beautiful light of her soul that could light up the room was now gone.
Daisy pulled herself together and handled every last detail of her mother's funeral, refusing the help offered by her siblings. It took a long time for Daisy to find her light after that.