There is a prevailing myth in the world about hospice and morphine. I know I believed it and hospice tells us they encounter this almost every time they go into a home. I knew hospice came in before the coma stage but the myth we all believed was that when the morphine started we were essentially starting to put her into a medicated coma and she was going to start sleeping a lot.
We would have started the morphine weeks earlier had we know that she would not only be alert but happy again! Its not a drugged silly stupor either. She is comfortable enough to be herself. How I wish we had known! The last few days have been wonderful. Smiles are back and she just seems....comfortable. I feel like we are abusing that word but its really the best description. They mean what they say in the term comfort care. From what I understand when the morphine levels get really high there is a lot of sleeping, but I'm not sure if at that point its from the morphine or because the body is shutting down.
We are lucky we had started the medication and had her comfortable because she had what I would describe as her first experience with "air hunger." It wasn't horrible but we should have figured something was wrong earlier. She was telling me that she hadn't been given her anxiety meds and I was telling her we had given them to her but she was still really frustrated and agitated. She seemed really uncomfortable and fidgety. I could kick myself for not evaluating her all overall but we were working so hard to distract or make her comfortable that we were missing how hard she was breathing and that her retractions were really deep.
She finally told us she couldn't breath when we looked it was shocking. We put her mask on her and she calmed down and we eventually got her comfortable again. Its been busy with all of the different hospice workers coming in and we had a new bed delivered that is the TURBO comfort low air loss alternating mattress. She was having a sore spot on her tailbone and thighs, a sure sign of a pressure sore starting, but that is already getting much better just after her nap in the bed.
It feels good to know we were on top of things enough that when we hit this first air hunger type of moment she was already medicated enough that it was not too traumatic. (Sigh) At the same time its like we just got everything figured out. There were smiles and peace for just a brief moment and now we are moving right along into the next stage. I guess that's good, its what she wants. The process is just exhausting! Its hard when you see her uncomfortable and so you do everything you can to make it better but you get so caught up in the pressure when all you really need to do is take a step back. That is the hardest lesson to learn, and just when you think you've mastered it everything changes again.