The Passing of May Ikemi

May Ikemi
May passed away on the Summer Solstice, June 21, 2008 from a massive stroke.

I’ve been meaning for six months to describe how my mother died. The last time I talked to her was June 19 when I talked to her on the phone while I was on a business trip. We discussed the elections. I tried to keep her interest up in it to keep her interested in life. We said we’d see each other the next day.

I had a a very early flight home and landed in LAX by 9AM. I tried calling Mom then, but got no response. That didn’t worry me too much since there had been times when she didn’t hear the phone. I checked into work and kept calling my mother. I twittered my sisters ti see if they’d taken Mom to the doctor. When I finally got a response that they hadn’t , I jumped in my car and headed home.  I knew something was up when I saw the paper still on the lawn. If the paper landed in the driveway I knew that she couldn’t retrieve it, but on the lawn she should have been able to get to it. The door was still locked and the dogs hadn’t been fed. I found my mother unconscious on her bed.  It was 11AM by the time I finally got there. She was lying on her back with her left hand underneath her. The fan was running, which meant that she had made preparations for going to bed. There were also a bottle of gator aid and a bottle of water on her nightstand.  This was the time of the big heatwave in LA. 

Her breathing was very labored, but she didn’t respond to my voice or my shaking her.  The sheets were wet underneath her. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she had lost control of her bowels. I called 911 and tied up Bart. Unfortunately the paramedics were clueless, but it didn’t matter in the long run. They thought it was dehydration. My older sister showed up as the paramedics were taking our mother away. She was taken to East Los Angeles Doctors Hospital.

It turned out to be a massive stroke and my mother finally passed away on the summer solstice, the next day, when when her lungs became congested. My uneducated guess is that the stroke probably hit her like a sledge hammer after she’d already gone to bed. She didn’t have time to reach the telephone or the medic alert device she wore around her neck all the time. The nightstand wasn’t disturbed, and her head was resting squarely on the pillow. The only unnatural thing was the hand under the back. I don’t know if she did that normally. She was probably brain dead before I found her. She had made preparations for going to bed. The fan on floor was running and she had set a bottle of water and one of Gatoraid on the table by her bed.

Earlier that week she had her second cataract surgery and she was still recovering from that. She had only been able to enjoy the results of her first surgery for a short time. She had been amazed at what she had been able to see again. She was honestly thinking that she’d be able to drive again. We had recently convinced her to give up her car to my sister Robin. Except for practicing in the parking lots, she had never been able to drive that car on the street. Right before she was to pick it up, she her accident where she fell in the driveway and she was disabled for a while, and never fully recovered. During that time we realized she couldn’t see well enough to drive. Due to her numerous strokes, her judgement and reflexes were poor, so that even with her improved vision, we told her that she shouldn’t drive. Just as in the case of my father, in retrospect I think this broke her spirit. I hadn’t realized how important driving was to her. It had been her freedom and her ability to see her friends.

The second eye surgery wasn’t really necessary since her left eye was bad from burst blood vessels in her retina, probably caused by high blood pressure due to her tendency to get wound up about everything. I’d spent a lot of time trying to convince her that she was killing herself by worrying about things that she couldn’t control. For the eye surgeries she had to stop taking her blood thinner temporarily, and we thought this might have contributed to her stroke. However, the autopsy indicated that clotting hadn’t been the cause of the stroke, although later it played a role in her lungs, which actually stopped her vital signs. We made sure to have an autopsy since we’d forgotten to have that done for my father, and my mother had always regretted that.

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Last Update: March 26 2009
Web Author: Doug Ikemi