Sometimes, you just need a banana. That's especially true if your doctors have overlooked your critically low levels of potassium, as was the case with writer Cathy Free's mother.
In September 2017, Cathy's mother, 77, collapsed while they were setting up for a yard sale. Her knee had given out and doctors diagnosed her with sepsis, a blood condition that they believed had spread from her knee to her kidneys. Her medical team gave her dialysis and sent her to a rehab center.
Three doctors told Cathy that her mother was on death's door and all she could do was make her mother comfortable and say goodbye.
As her mom drifted in and out of consciousness, Cathy told her:
"Mama, I love you. This is hard, but I will try to be brave."
Cathy's mother replied:
"I love you, too. Think of the happy times. Remember your pink canopy bed? I can still see you sleeping there."
One year ago today, on Bright Friday, I saved my mother's life. ❤️ Here's my latest story for The Washington Post: https://t.co/YAnufeVWz1— Cathy Free (@Cathy Free) 1542990340.0
She also made plans for her own funeral service. Cathy said:
"'Nothing fancy,' she told me. 'Let's keep it simple.' She wanted sunflowers at her memorial service and lots of family photos. 'Champagne,' she said, 'would also be nice. And happy music.'"
But something inside Cathy couldn't believe her mom was dying. She tracked down a phlebotomist (a professional blood drawer) on Thanksgiving weekend to come in and run an "independent blood panel." It's a good thing she did, because the test revealed Cathy's mom's true ailment: critically low potassium levels.
I’m really glad the author advocated for her mother and that she survived. But something’s missing from the story w… https://t.co/K0ujqhF7CV— Dave 🌮🇲🇽 (@Dave 🌮🇲🇽) 1543190908.0
@washingtonpost Congratulations on not accepting the easy answer by doctor's standards and digging deeper to find a… https://t.co/6zdXzKIj9W— Annya Millini (@Annya Millini) 1542980990.0
@washingtonpost FYI; Other foods besides bananas that have good levels of potassium include; yogurt, spinach, tomat… https://t.co/PFcVcfVXsE— Jennifer McMahon 🔱🐚 (@Jennifer McMahon 🔱🐚) 1542981249.0
In other words, she was dying for a banana.
@cathyjfree @Patbagley Three cheers for bananas! Hip hip, hooray! 🍌🍌🍌— Ken Marshall 馬康澤 (@Ken Marshall 馬康澤) 1542996047.0
@washingtonpost Great piece! As much as we want to believe medical professionals know everything, they don't. My da… https://t.co/4HoVVVAn36— A L Katz (@A L Katz) 1542982280.0
@washingtonpost Hmm, I'll have to remember that.— stephenlesliejones (@stephenlesliejones) 1542980694.0
@washingtonpost My mother eats bananas almost every day. Thankfully.— Gretchen Conley (@Gretchen Conley) 1542981172.0
The nurses wouldn't give Cathy's mom any potassium without a doctor's clearance, so her brother rushed to the store and bought some over-the-counter potassium pills, which they crushed into water and gave her immediately. The blood test showed no signs of the sepsis three different doctors had agreed upon and, before long, Cathy's mother was on the mend.
@cathyjfree Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. The way my days been going I'm going to have to go out and… https://t.co/r7Xtx0o8e1— Bob W Garner (@Bob W Garner) 1542995879.0
@washingtonpost Lovely story, doctors are not always right. Unfortunately my story went in the opposite direction.… https://t.co/4sWoejXhaB— BSB since forever (@BSB since forever) 1542981206.0
A year later, Cathy's mother is still alive and well, though significantly weakened by her health scare.
When a priest mistakenly entered her room at the care center to deliver last rights, she said:
"Oh, hell no! I'm not going anywhere!"
@cathyjfree To Ms. Free from Ms. Freeman: Your story of how you saved your mother's life made my heart sing with jo… https://t.co/Np3ndpvxF2— Paula Kenley Freeman (@Paula Kenley Freeman) 1543172092.0