Chapo the dogHe’s not even her doctor. Dr. Carlos has never met my mother. But when she thought everyone had left her alone to die, Carlos Rish stepped up big time. He was there for me. He was there for me -so I could be there for my mother. There when it counted most.

At 84 my birth mother has COPD so her breathing and heart are a challenge already. Then she got COVID in her nursing home in Swainsboro, Georgia where some patients had died of complications from the virus.

She signed not one but two DNR’s. She was adamant with anyone who would listen. She did not want a vent – a ventilator tube shoved down her throat. The woman was a nurse for 50 years. I think she’s pretty clear on the implications. Do not resuscitate. D. N. R. If she stopped breathing, she’d go see the Lord.

When she got worse they transferred her to the adjacent hospital, Emanuel County Medical Center, the very same place she’d worked for years. They gave her oxygen through her nose. She got better. They planned to discharge her. We were elated. At last…good news. Her younger brother had died after contracting COVID just a few months and what seems a lifetime ago.

Then she fell. IN the hospital room. Broke her hip. This is bad, I thought. This is really bad.

My Aunt Jan worked tirelessly to get her into Savannah Memorial two hours away for emergency hip surgery.

But after surgery no one called Jan to tell her if my mother had lived or died. Jan had to dial numbers for hours. The hospital seemed disorganized, apathetic, and completely overwhelmed.

My mother did indeed survive surgery and was transferred back to isolation in the nursing home in Swainsboro. She was terribly confused. And no wonder. The poor woman had been through a lot.

It didn’t help that Savannah Memorial lost her precious flip phone and charger, her eyeglasses, AND HER TEETH! This time I called and called. My call was very important to them. Three days later they emailed me a form. They would pay for the glasses and teeth but not the phone. I got pretty hot about that. It didn’t help.

So my mother could not see, chew or talk to her closest kin. She’d rip out her hearing aids in frustration. She was in solitary confinement and searing pain. She said to my aunt, “You have left me here alone to die.”

I could do nothing. I couldn’t visit. Even wrapped in a moon suit, I couldn’t get in her room. Aunt Jan would occasionally stand at her window and prevail on the nursing home to bring her a tablet to talk by webcam.

“CALL THE POLICE!” my mother screamed at my aunt. “I’M COMING TO LIVE WITH YOU!” I can’t even tell you how upsetting this is.

I decided I would at least visit her window. Jan talked to the nursing home about the webcam. It would be a nine-hour drive round trip to Georgia for a chance at a few minutes of conversation at her window.

This is where my friend Dr. Carlos stepped up big time. “Do you need a driver?” he texted me. “Are you offering?” I texted back. I didn’t need a driver. I needed a friend. That day Carlos was both.

His wife gently asked me to take a COVID test at their home, which I did. Chapo their giant poodle looked on. The little minus sign ➖ popped up in minutes. Carlos grabbed his wife’s car. We’d be more comfortable.

It’s not as though Carlos is not completely overwhelmed by COVID cases himself as a front line physician. He took his Saturday just to be a friend. I was able to show up and be strong for my mother in large part because Carlos was there for me.

“DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?” I yelled into my aunt’s webcam, tapping on my mother’s ground floor window. “You’re my darling son,” she said.

I had only one message for her. You are not alone. Her sister Gayle was there. My Aunt Jan was there. And I was there.

My mother was transferred back to her room the day after Thanksgiving. She’s got a new phone thanks to her son-in-law and granddaughter. She’s not out of the woods by any means.

But I hope she knows she’s not alone. Thanks to Carlos I know I’m not.

On the @ManListening #Podcast Thursday – a special sneak peak at Stuart’s audiobook WHAT SHE SAID & WHAT I HEARD with Stuart narrating his own writing about discovering his birth mother. That’s FREE on Thursday, December 3.