My mom was a little dynamo who never thought of herself as elderly. She was known around town as the Little Butter Tart Lady. If anyone could get their hands on her butter tarts and pies, they did.
In 1995, when my Dad got sick and needed to undergo risky surgery, Mom went with him on a plane from our home in The PAS, to Winnipeg. It was never a sure thing he would come out of the anesthesia, but he did. Recovering in hospital, he was on a ventilator to assist his breathing.
Mom was a trooper, spending all her time with Dad. As their kids – me living in The Pas, and my brother in B.C. – we also spent as much time as we could with them.
One day my brother took Mom downtown to see the department-store Christmas displays. Mom was struggling. We learned it wasn’t just that she was overwhelmed by all that had happened with Dad. She had heart problems. At St. Boniface Hospital, a doctor sat the 3 of us down and told us Mom needed immediate surgery, or she likely wouldn’t last 6 months.
Mom needed a valve replacement. It was an operation with an excellent survival rate, we were told, and while she would have to take it easy for a bit, she should expect to recover nicely.
She was admitted to the Cardiac Unit and never saw Dad again.
Her operation that was only supposed to take a few hours went on longer. Mom had not responded well – part of her heart did not start after the valve was placed in. The alternative was bypass surgery. She was too weak, and suffered a major heart attack. She passed away in the Intensive Care Unit 2 days later. We were left in shock.
The nursing staff, knowing Dad was also in hospital, were so great. We couldn’t have asked for better care.
We had to let Dad know. Still connected to a ventilator, unable to speak, he wrote a note.
“I should have gone to her.”
As it was Christmas time, we put off Mom’s service until January, as we wanted to be with Dad. We arranged for him to return to The Pas. He lasted just 3 days, but at least he passed away at home.
St. Boniface Hospital remains a very special place for me. While it’s where we lost Mom, it’s also where my daughter was born and where my husband has received cardiac care.
When Mom was in the ICU, we got her a big soft cuddly teddy bear. She was 76 years old and she hugged that thing like you wouldn’t believe. That bear came home with me. My kids and grandchildren have cuddled it many times. Grandma was there for them.