Oops…We Left Without Her!

Some years ago my Mother-in-Law was in a coma and in critical condition after having contracted the deadly infection Encephalitis. At that time, the doctor told us that she had a 50/50 chance of survival, and all they could do was try and keep her vitals as much in the safe zone as they were able. I remember as Irene and I stood there, the sensation of blood rushing out of my head. Immediately I became dizzy and thought surely I would faint. The doctor noticed whatever visually was going on with me and immediately sat me down. While I wasn’t the one in grave situation, I’m guessing caretakers often experience this reaction.

The family was in her hospital room 24/7. Not all of us were in the room at the same time, although there were times when we were, but everyone took ‘shifts’ to make sure she was closely watched, and although non-responsive she could hear our voices – hopefully. We believed that she could hear us, and placed utmost importance on that belief.

We all made sure that she received consistent physical contact. We held her hand, we softly stroked her face. Her eyes were closed and she had numerous machines connected to her, but she was still alive and we hoped and prayed that she would somehow, someday come out of her coma.

I remember on one of the days while visiting her, I held her hand and just spoke to her. She was still unresponsive but I bent to whisper in her ear and told her that if she got better, Irene and I would take her on our summer trip to Italy. Frances had always wanted to go to Italy at some point in her life and it seemed that at this point, this was the only gift I could offer.

As days passed there were hints of hope on the monitor screens. If Frances was to come out from her coma, then in what physical or cognitive state would she be? If she awoke, what would the prognosis be for long term? There were so many questions in all our heads but we were first counting on life.

Once while visiting, Irene spoke to Frances and asked that if she could hear us and if she was able, to wiggle her toes. There we saw a slight movement of her big toe. To ensure this action was not accidental, we then asked her a series of yes/no questions and that she would wiggle her toe for an answer. We were now experiencing a glimmer of hope in her condition. What joy that brought everyone as we knew there was cognitive functioning ability, at least to some level.

After nearly two weeks of being in a coma, Frances awoke. She was weak, but her mind was in seemingly good cognitive condition. What we didn’t yet know was that she would ultimately need to have months of physical and occupational therapy, as she had to re-learn most all psychomotor movement. I kept reminding her of the recovery incentive that Irene and I had promised, and she pursued.

After months of rehab and a lot of work, Frances was still improving. Although nerve damage to her vision and balance would never allow her to drive a vehicle again, she was mending quite nicely. Irene and I went ahead and booked our two-week ‘tour’ in Italy. We made the booking for three, to include Frances as I had promised.

The trip to Italy was one of those ‘once-in a-lifetime’ experiences. Not only was the entire trip magical for Irene and I, it was also a lasting memory for Frances. While in Italy we visited and toured many cities and towns including Milan, Verona, Pompeii, Pisa, Rome, Venice, Capri, Padua, Vatican City, Florence, Naples, and Sorrento.

Every location we visited was magical in itself. So much history and stunning works of art are housed in this beautiful country. It was absolutely incredible. The day we visited the island of Capri, off the Amalfi coast where a most memorable experience occurred. Unless you have your own boat, one could only visit Capri via ferry.

At the onset Dante, our personal group tour guide informed us to ensure return to the boat dock at a specific time so that we could load our ferry and return to the mainland. Capri, like all of the destinations we toured, was beautiful. After a day of walking and touring the island, we realized that time was short, and we were expected at the dock soon. To make up some time, we decided to take motorized trams which at this point would be much quicker than travel on foot. Our group was divided so that we could ride two small trams back to the boating dock. Frances was with a group that took one tram, Irene and I were on a different tram with the other half of our group. Our trams would ensure that we arrive at the dock on time so as to not miss our ferry.

When we arrived at the dock, there were a lot of people and many were loading and unloading from other docked ferry’s. Everyone hurried to board the ferry so that we could all return to the mainland on time. Our tour bus, driven by Marco, would soon embark on our way to our next incredible Italian destination. Fortunately, through all the crowds, everyone managed to board the ferry and we were on our way. Or so we thought everyone boarded the ferry.

Now that the rush of getting to our ferry on-time was over, we could all relax a bit and enjoy the boat ride to the mainland of Sorrento. After our ferry backed away from the dock, Irene and I started to look for Frances within our group. No Frances. Where’s Frances? Does anyone know where Frances is? Have you seen Frances on the boat?

The look on Irene’s face when we spotted her mom standing on the dock at Capri, amongst all the other people. We left the island without Frances! Dante, Dante! We left without my mom! She’s there standing on the dock and we left without her!

Dante, in his relaxed Italian demeanor and voice and a big smile replied “Well-a, in about a week-a, you will probably receive a post card with a message like-a Having a Good Time-a Wish you Were Here-a.”

His spoken approach was certainly a good one to make light of the situation. Dante had ‘connections’ and was able to ensure that Frances boarded on the next ferry to the mainland. This all turned out to be one big laughable adventure for everyone. We could all learn something from our relaxed Italian friends. Their passion for food and drink, and people, and life, is infectious.