Reasoning with Madness
"This is a barbaric yawp, and it will be sounded over the roofs of the world."
My mom passed away on St Patricks Day 2020 from multisystem organ failure due to multifactorial caridogenic, hemmorrhagic and hypovollemic shock.
Significant conditions contributing to her death include: Toxic metabolic encephalopathy. Acute GI bleed. Ischemic bowel. Hypertensive emergency. NSTEMI. Cerebral Vascular Accident.
These were the reasons listed on her death certificate. But it is becoming clear that what triggered all of this was COVID-19. My father also fell ill with similar symptoms - pneumonia, respiratory and heart failure - and nearly died too. At one point they even shared a hospital room.
Neither were tested for COVID-19. The doctors were mystified by how sick my mother was and how it kept getting worse. She suffered for 6 weeks, traveling to 3 hospitals and one life flight helicopter trip to her final destination of OHSU in Portland, OR where she died.
She was in ICU for most of February, in Lebanon, OR and Corvallis, OR, only briefly regaining consciousness for a few days and transferred to a PCU in Corvallis. Doctors neglected her for three days, as her health deteriorated into brain damage from strokes, shock, and more. She was transferred back to the ICU and was flown to OHSU a day later.
She suffered horrifically. My father and I were by her side during her final days and I was right next to her as she took her final breaths. This all happened as COVID-19 ramped up across the country and the world. No one was prepared, not doctors, not government. This took down our whole society.
We have not been able to hold a funeral or memorial for my mother. Her ashes rest in a bamboo urn on my dining room table. I can't even bring them to my father. She was supposed to walk me down the aisle this summer for my wedding. A wedding that has sadly been postponed.
In addition to my mother being slaughtered by this virus, I am one of the millions of Americans instantly devastated by the hellish economic damage that is being wrought on this nation.
A week after my mom passed, my work closed their doors and furloughed most of the staff. I was fortunate enough to keep some hours, but they are not enough to cover my bills. I have not received unemployment yet despite filing nearly 3 weeks ago, nor have I received the $1200 that Steve Mnuchin said should last me ten weeks.
We are watching the destruction of every industry from healthcare to manufacturing to retail to well, take your pick. Tens of millions are immediately out of work with no help but a mingy $1200 and maybe some unemployment. If they can get it actually filed.
So many businesses shuddering staff and closing down, some forever. Heritage staples of communities, legendary restaurants, pillars of cities, gone forever. Poof. Like that. How many shattered dreams? How many families are and will lose everything?
Had our president acted properly when the alarms were going off, much of this could have been avoided. We could have braced for this better. But we all know that's not what happened.
My mother's death has been a tragic blow to me and my family. And the reality that it was most likely COVID-19 that caused her horrible death is another layer to our agony. But we may never get confirmation. You can't test ashes.
As I learn more about this virus, I realize it did many of the things to my mom that it has done to many of the elderly and immune compromised. It rips through the vulnerable like a typhoon, from the brain to the toes, every part of the body is attacked. Lungs are flooded, the brain is shredded, the stomach bleeds, nerve endings are eaten, kidneys break down, blood pressure tanks and skyrockets, fevers rage, pneumonia never goes away, the heart collapses, blood starts to clot, all organs fail from catastrophic shock.
The fact that our nation's response was so slow means the medical staff wasn't even thinking of this. It just wasn't on the radar in any significant way. I asked every hospital and none of them took it seriously. One nurse in Lebanon even joked early on as my mom fought a fever, that, "at least she doesn't have corona virus." Yet the medical record doesn't reflect that. In her only lab results, way back in Lebanon, there's even a note to make clear she was tested for all strains of corona virus. Except for the current 2019 novel corona virus.
From there, no further tests were done, despite a bizarre pneumonia that mystified the OHSU NICU doctors. A sickness that did not end or respond to antibiotics that seemed to spread throughout her entire body, through every system, destroying her piece by piece. Ruthlessly.
Had it been clear in January how serious this coming threat was, when we still had time to prepare and the government could have acted appropriately, perhaps the hospitals would have the ability, the foresight and the tools to fight this. But they did not. And in many cases, they still don't.
And sadly, my mother also faced the tragedy of neglect during a crucial time in her hospitalization. Her medical records expose this quite clearly. For three days in the PCU in Corvallis, OR following a lengthy stay in ICU in two hospitals, her health deteriorated rapidly while her doctors practically did nothing to address it.
It wasn't that they couldn't figure out what was happening, it was that they didn't even admit something was happening. They considered her failing cognitive functioning, her inability to speak, form sentences or swallow anymore, they considered that to be her "baseline" functioning.
It took crucial days for the medical staff to agree to do any basic tests, as they grossly assumed my mother simply had dementia, a disorder that develops over years, not days. They were hesitant to perform even a MRI that ultimately showed the storm of strokes in her brain that exploded during that time. We begged them to do this test. The nearly blank medical record during these crucial days in the PCU speaks volumes.
By the time the medical staff decided to take any action to save my mother's life, it was too late. While they ignored her, her brain was collapsing worse by the day and her vitals were failing, her fever came back and a slew of bizarre health concerns became very apparent until it all culminated in respiratory failure, sepsis and shock. We sat helpless watching as nurses made limited efforts to help my mother as she was dying.
It was clear my mother was in serious trouble and for days, our begging of the doctors to do anything went ignored. It wasn't until I filed formal complaints, threatened lawsuits and media coverage with the hospital administration that they took the situation seriously. Keep in mind, this is before any hospitals had any cases of COVID-19, so there was no reason she should have been neglected at this time.
The afternoon my fiance and I met with patient relations and laid out our concerns, which patient relations agreed were grave and serious, my mother's health collapsed into shock. That evening she was rushed back to the ICU.
By then, the damage had been done. On Ash Wednesday of 2020 my mom was life flighted to Portland, but it was merely her body that went. Her mind was gone, destroyed from the army of strokes and seizures that took her sight, her cognition, her ability to swallow and ultimately her life.
I share my story hoping to put a human element into all the stats and death rates that get shared. My mom wasn't a number. She was a beautiful, kind soul who loved kids, flowers, comedy, reading, cats, Native American and Egyptian culture, vikings, aliens and the paranormal. Born and raised in Florida, she loved going to the beach.
She was an old shaman of the 60s, a flower girl hippy with the soul of a rock n roll sage. A piano player and lover of music who never complained even as she lost the ability to perform, as she suffered crippling pain from multiple disabilities throughout her life, only to succumb to something more horrific and brutal than anything she ever suffered throughout her entire life.
My mom lived for hanging out with family and friends, going out to eat (so she didn't have to cook she would say). She was always the heart and soul of all holiday gatherings. Everyone loved her.
Carla Sundberg was only 66 years old.
She was a mother of three. Grandmother of six. Wife of 47 years to my father, who is now a widow.
I haven't even been able to visit him since she died as I don't want to risk getting him sick or causing his death. He turned 72 a week ago and we all celebrated on chat.
I miss my mom tremendously. I miss my dad. This new reality has been very difficult to comprehend and adjust to. But we're trying.
I don't know what's next but I wanted to share my story. I have been in a very dark place for some time now and I feel like me, my family, and millions of others have similar stories.
We need testing. We need to help our healthcare workers. We need supplies not just for them, but for all Americans. Masks, gloves, etc. should be easily available to us all.
We need to pay all essential workers a living wage once and for all and we need to pay all of them back hazard pay for every hour worked during this time.
We all need time to regain our financial footing. The federal government - not the state or local government - needs to put an indefinite moratorium on ALL bills until we can go back to work safely again. Not a forbearance. A total hold.
Also, double the check amounts to Americans and pay that every month we struggle. Or offer expanded SNAP to all families. Federal government can prop up state and local govt under national emergency measure to ensure regular services continue.
Add the months we couldn't pay our bills throughout this time period to the end of the loans, spread the cost of utilities of the missing time out over 2-5 years of slightly increased rates (a few bucks on top of the bill) and no one will feel the pain.
We could weather this storm. There are solutions. But we have to make them happen. If our elected leaders cannot do it, we must fire them. We elect new leaders who can and will do the right thing.
November is coming. The ghosts of the dead will be in every voting booth, on every ballot and in every heart that votes. I know for a fact my mother's death will be behind every one of my votes. She will be guiding my family's votes. We will make sure her death is not in vain. Her voice will be heard. And we will not be alone.
Who Am I?
I am Ahab.