And suddenly life imploded…

I have a book out right now. It is published by St. Martin’s Press, and IMO, one of the best I have ever written. But the marketing. Oh the marketing is killing me. I am trying, but I can’t do it. I can’t force you people to read a book that has been called “fascinatingly original.” That even my erstwhile former agent was STUNNED at the end. Because I don’t have the heart to push anything on anyone. I don’t even know if I WANT an agent anymore. Because aforementioned erstwhile agent “fired” me when she found out I was ghostwriting a book. Uh, hello? Ghostwriting is FREELANCE WORK. There are no royalties. Did she want a portion of the several hundred dollars I made freelancing for The Salt Lake Tribune over three years? I think not.

But the truth is, New York Publishing is going under. There is a new kid in town, and his name is e-publishing, and you don’t have to advance ONE PENNY to publish a book. Mark my words. This is the way New York marketing will turn in the next few years. A book will get e-pubbed, no advance, and THEN, if it sells, a big advance will be offered followed with a print run. EXCEPT, who would stupid enough to take this deal when they can do it on their own?

As long as you do it right. Edited, professional cover, professional formatting…..

But I go astray. My life. Imploded.

First my dad had a massive coronary, and they told us they had to do a bypass THAT DAY, and he had two choices. Leave the hospital and die, or have the bypass and MAYBE die. Those are always great options. So he had the bypass, and he lived, and he is now recovering.

This happened on July 25. He had been home from the hospital and acute care rehab for one week when my mother lapsed into poor health. We moved down here, following them, because they needed us. They couldn’t live without someone close.

So I shipped off my daughter to finish out school while living with her aunt and I made this move. And naturally, I got even closer to my mother and father. My mother was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in 2010, and just in case your wondering, no she never smoked.

One week. One week after my father returned home, my mother awakened me unable to get herself to the bathroom. This was a day after the drunken sailor routine in which my father tried to convince me that it was the Valium her pulmonary doctor gave her (because of her “anxiety” over my father’s condition), or that the Xanax the cardiac doctor gave her (again from said anxiety) was making her hyperventilate.

But I knew. On Saturday, August 25, I watched her lips turn blue and she almost passed out as she tried to prepare a lunch. I told her I was taking her straight to the hospital and she said to me “I am STILL an adult and I am STILL in charge of my life and I am not going to the hospital.” At that point, all I could do was point at the sofa and say, “lay down.” And I fixed lunch. And I knew. All she could do was sleep.

Three hours later, she frantically rang the bell in her room. The bell she had been ringing the night of the drunken sailor/”Oh it’s the Xanax” routine.

I got in there quick, because I knew.

She had to use the restroom. And I had to carry her. And I mouthed to my father, CALL 911. And he shrugged his shoulders at me, because the truth was, finally he knew. I got her to the bathroom, then back to the bed, and again told my dad to call 911. And he said, “I don’t know how.” Now, please don’t make a judgement on my father. He knew how. He is a smart intelligent man. He was in shock. His own life had almost ended just a month before. He could not fathom this happening now, just a month later? Who could?  What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

Well, I was done playing. I said “Watch her,” and I ran for my phone and called 911. They quickly arrived, and the paramedics came in and their oxygen tests showed her SATS were extremely low (60) and while they they told her they could not force her to go to the hospital (I had already told them about my attempt to get her there three hours before), that it was in her best interest to go. So she agreed.

I rode in the front and on the way they gave her a breathing treatment. When we got to the hospital, she learned her heart was in atrial fibrillation. After she got some intense oxygen therapy, and was feeling “better” I sent my dad home with my husband, and I stayed. I stayed through three times of shocking her heart, to try and get it back in an normal sinus rhythm. I stayed through the night as they stuck three IVs in her arm, did a CT Scan, and diagnosed her with…. Pneumonia. She told me it was a torture chamber. I didn’t want her tortured. This was before the stuck the horrid bipap machine on her. But we knew it was coming.

You see, for pulmonary fibrosis patients, pneumonia is the grim reaper. It almost always takes them out.

And my heart sunk. My two sisters arrived the next day, and my older sister got the peaceful night. But the pneumonia progressed, and by Monday morning they had told us to call the family.

She was kept alive not by intubation, because she had chosen not to go that route, but by a BiPap machine. Not comfortable. Ativan and other drugs helped some, but she was just waiting for my brother and my younger sister to arrive. Because the doctors had finally said what I had been asking them since we got her there. SHOULD I CALL MY FAMILY?

When my youngest sister arrived, the nurse said to her, “Okay, Gladys, we are going to remove the BiPap. Are you ready?” And I saw her hesitate. Because she knew, too. She knew what this meant. But then she nodded her head.

And we had hoped with the horrible bipap machine off that she would be able to talk to us, even though she had spent the day writing notes. We had hoped we would have a few more lucid moments with her.

But her body was done. She couldn’t fight. She mumbled some. Put her arms out to someone (which varies according to which member of my family you ask, and how religious they are), and they asked her who was there. My dad asked her, “Is Ethel there.” And this is the one question she answered. She said yes. Ethel was her mother.

And then her fingers went blue, and her stopped reacting to any stimuli, and they turned off the heart and lung machine that tells you what the body is doing, was a huge mistake. Because she would take a breath and stop, and would go a minute or more without a breath, and we’d be convinced it was done and then she would BREATHE again. Like, “Surprise, kids.” Except my mom never teased. Never. After two times I walked out to the nurse and said, “Would you please just tell us when her heart stops. This is too hard on us.” And he told me he would. So when he came into the room, we knew.

And my heart broke, into a million dizzying pieces. Yes, I know hearts don’t really break, at least those still beating in good health of the living. Hearts break, but they are the hearts of those who are nearly dead, or dying. This is logic.

I don’t feel like being logical today. My heart has been broken. My dad stayed through the entire ordeal, and an ordeal it was.

My wonderful friend from Leavitt’s Mortuary in Ogden made all the arrangements for us.

The day after my mother died, our great dane became quite ill. I had to take her outside every half hour throughout the night. My husband was staying with my father. She had sores all over her body, and horrible diarrhea, and I had to take her to the vet, where they told me, “Well, you can do tests, and we can do scrapings, but….” Yes, cancer. As if they were not convinced, Jinx had a major exposition of diarrhea all over the waiting room, and then again in the examining room and the doctor told me I knew what was best. And I did. So I stroked her head and cried while they put her out of her misery.

And then I went home and collapsed. I managed to get myself together to have a meeting with my family where we planned Mom’s services, and I took charge of that and the obit writing, because a) I knew the mortician and b) I write.

And then we made plans to head back north to bury her in her plot in Kaysville.

I won’t say much about Kaysville’s burial fee but if you are no longer a resident and already have a plot there, send me an email. I “talked” them into doing the right thing and not charging an excessive amount of money for a resident who HAD to move for health reasons. I’m sure I’m very popular there. I don’t care. It was what was right.

So I wake up the morning of the viewing and my right breast is covered in welts. Hives? I asked Jeff, and he thought hives, but we’re not doctors. But somehow I knew it wasn’t hives. I’ve never had shingles, but being autoimmune compromised, I figured this was a likely bet. We figured we better make a little trip to the IHC instacare. Our daughter Tasha did us one step better and got me an appointment. And the doctor took one look and said “shingles.” And gave me percocet, Lyrica and some antiviral I had to take five times a day. The lyrica made me loopy. The percocet made me sleep and made the pain tolerable, and after the funeral and trip back to St. George, we went to see my regular doctor. He was hanging out with the convicts at Purgatory that day (not because he’s a convict, but he’s a doctor and even convicts need doctors!) but his PA recommended pain management from a great place here in St. George. And it’s a little uncomfortable now but the “Why are you branding me” feeling is gone.

I have one more treatment.

So that’s how my life imploded. Along the way, one of the local church people suggested that if I knew anyone with a truck or station wagon that I have them take my mom’s body up to Ogden to save money. “What a great idea. Riding okay back there, Mom? Rigor setting in yet?” Luckily, my mortician friend was slightly more intelligent than that and took care of her from the hospital to a St. George mortuary home, and then he sent someone down to get her the next day. And called to tell me.

A station wagon? A truck? Drive her UP to Ogden to save money? Yeah, still trying to recover from that one. Oh, and I must point out she was not even DEAD at this point. I mean not literally. Her heart was still beating.

So, here I am. My world has imploded. My book, TIES THAT BIND, deals with a police detective whose world imploded. I should be able to market this. I can’t. I’m trying, but I can’t. My friend says I am tripling my posts because I am using bottlenose to handle my social media and I’m social stupid. I guess that will have to do.

Sorry it’s obnoxious, but I might have mentioned, my heart has broken, my body is not happy with me, and I’ve lost my mother.

I am the BIGGEST tease. I tease everyone. My mom never teased anyone. I don’t even remember her ever telling a joke. And now I know why. The answer came to me. It’s because she didn’t want to hurt anyone. And when you tease people, sometimes they get hurt.

She wasn’t perfect, but she was solid and strong. And I miss her terribly.

I’m trying to go on. I’m trying to market the books, and be the author I’m supposed to be and I can guarantee you I can still write those books. But push them on you?

I’m not sure I will ever be able to do that again.

But Sam, in some ways, is me. And I am her. I put a lot of my heart and experiences into my books. If you feel like reading a good, tense, book, please give TIES THAT BIND a shot.


About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
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4 Responses to And suddenly life imploded…

  1. Linda Watkins says:

    I am so sorry for all you are going through.One thing at a time would be hard but you got a buffet of troubles to handle. Please know it will get better.Time, rest, new perspective maybe a change of scenery might help. Reach out to those around you that you have been there for them.In time maybe this will be for a new book. Your stories are so good so don’t quit writing– maybe just a hiatus. My quick fix– if you have a pet, hug it! But best of all eat chocolate– LOTS OF CHOCOLATE-it cures everything. Seriously, give yourself a little time and allow yourself to feel all the good? bad– that’s life.


  2. Michael Mock says:

    Very sorry to hear all that. I don’t know if they’re any help, but have some Virtual Hugs:


  3. ctanglefoot says:

    My dear friend – we all have different beliefs… I hope mine might help you… 1) we all choose our own time to die (well except for the huge unforeseen someone screwed you over and now you’re gone when you’d not planned on it occasions) your mom chose her’s and gave you a chance to say goodbye – and you my friend took the opportunity to do your best, give to her of yourself and your love and you said your goodbyes. 2) Your mom may be gone from this plane, but she is always with you – watching you, listening to you, hugging you – talk to her. 3) Your mom must have been someone special because she gave us you. And finally 4) Linda is really smart…. HUGE MOUNDS OF CHOCOLATE… enough so you can share with Jeff… he deserves it too.


  4. aerin says:

    How does the saying go? It never rains?
    I’m very sorry to hear about all of this, your illness, your mom’s illness and loss, your dad’s illness. It must be a small comfort, but your mom’s mistrust of doctors and hospitals is not uncommon. You can’t argue with that. You can’t change it. All you can do is honor the person and their wishes, as difficult as that can be.


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