My mother had dementia and I was her family caregiver for nine years. All the while, I felt anticipatory grief, a feeling of loss before a dreaded event or death. This week my anticipatory grief returned. In 2007 my elder daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash. This week my remaining daughter learned she had received injections of a painkiller contaminated with fungal meningitis. A year ago, she had surgery to relieve nerve pain in her back. The operation took about five hours. Though her pain abated, my daughter still lived with pain, and looked it. When she walked she leaned to one side and walked slowly. Her physician recommended injectons to relieve this pain and she received many of them. News of the national fungal meningitis outbreak due to contaminated drugs worried me. Thankfully, my daughter received a call from her physician's office, saying the injections she received weren't contaminated. Everyone in the family felt relieved, until the doctor's office called again.
There had been a mistake, and she DID receive contaminated medication. My daughter was told to go to the emergency room and get a spinal tap immediately. After two tries, the third tap was successful. Hours later, results of the tap revealed no meningitis. But the spinal tap caused a horrendous headache and neck pain. Her doctor told her to go to the emergency room again for intravenus pain medication. As this story progressed, my anticipatory grief progressed. One daughter had already died. What would happen if I lost my remaining child?
Because I had studied anticipatory grief and written a book about it, I recognized my symptoms right away. I had many of them, including ongoing anxiety, interrupted sleep, lack of sleep, poor concentration, and a sense of dread. To make matters worse, my daughter had to return to the emergency room a third time for something called a "blood patch," taking blood from one area of the body and injecting it into the spinal tap site to reduce pain. It worked, but I'm still on alert. For I know the symptoms of fungal meningitis may develop slowly and stay hidden for weeks.
While I'm waiting, I am grateful for the friends who are praying for me and, as one said, "the daughter you love so much." I am grateful to all of the health professionals who worked so hard to help my daughter. I am grateful for the members of the Open to Hope community, an online community that provides grief support. I know the members understand my feelings and are pulling for me. I am grateful for the love of family and my devoted husband. Now I wait, wonder, and hope things will continue to go well.