Cirrhosis of the Liver Community
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Avatar universal

What killed my mother? i need answers!

I came to this website in desperate need for answers or to see if anyone has had the same experience that I have had.

My mother was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver 6 years ago. She was told she could not drink anymore but never listened to the doctors. I never saw my mother drunk, she had home cooked meals on the table every night, and maintained the household immaculate but she loved to have a glass of wine or rum while she did it.

For years my mother would drink until her eyes got yellow- then stop cold turkey until her eyes cleared up- then returned to drinking.

In 2013 she started to show signs of fluid build up in the stomach. My mom was always overweight and had two pregnancies over the age of 40 so we always thought that she was just a person with a big belly. It wasn't until she became severly jaundiced that we did some research and realized that she had aceties.

She had her first paracentisis in July of 2013 they removed 10 liters of fluid. My mom felt like a brand new person after the procedure. She was out of the hospital a day later. From that moment on everything began to go down hill. My mother stopped drinking and had been sober for about 5 months but i assume it was too late. Over the next four months the paracentesis got close and close together until they were done on a weekly basis. We were in and out of the hospital for the complete four months.
She had spells of encephalopathy where should did not understand anything anyone would say to her, didn't know what year it was, or even her name. She would also get very aggresive. She had two blood transfusions, and countless platelets. We were prepping her to be listed on the transplant list and a tumor was found on her liver but doctors were not concerned because it was very small. Just some of the medications she took were: xifaxan, lactulose, midrodine, albumen, lasix, aldactone, protonix, folic acid, rosefen, cipro, bicitra.
She had also developed renal failure, doctors were givng her saline solution to help her kidneys recover to normal function and were discussing the possibility of putting her on dialysis and even placing her on the list as a kidney-liver transplant. The fluid build up in her stomach had gotten into her lungs and she was having difficulty breathing- so while in the hospital they started giving her albuterol through an aerosol machine.

On November 4, 2013 around 3:45am the respitory therapist walked into my mom's hospital room to give her a albuterol treatment (i slept in a cot next to her bed every night.) My mom had- had a good couple of days, walking around, talking, making jokes and in overall good spirits. She was sleeping when the therapist walked in so i woke her up gently to let her know they were here to give her the aerosol. She told me she had to go pee, but that she would wait till after the treatment. She then asked me for a glass of water with ice, i gave it to her through a straw like i always did and laid back in the cot to wait for the aerosol to be done. The next thing i know my mother is having a seizure (she is not epileptic, and has NEVER had a seizure.) I ran out of the room screaming for the nurses... next thing i know a code blue is being called (after spending so much time in hospitals you know that- that means her heart has stopped.) An ICU doctor came out and told me that they suspected some upper GI bleeding and they were going to mover her to surgical ICU and probably have to do an edoscopy to stop the bleeding.
Once in the ICU waiting room I kept hearing the code blue alarms going off and knew it was my mom. About an hour later the same ICU doctor came out and explained that she had "coded" three more times in ICU and everytime they bring her back it is very traumatic for her body. He described it as having a doctor jumping on her chest. He explained to me and my family (who had driven over there) that he did not know how long they could do this. My father asked if he could go in and see her and minutes later my father emerged from ICU sobbing telling us that she didn't make it.

She had NO pain, a healthy appetite, and almost no swelling in her legs until the last couple of days.

My mother was 56 years old, she left behind 4 children ages 27, 24, 16, and 14 and a husband of 37 years.

We never had an autopsy performed because we didn't want them to cut up her body. I want answeres... I have reserached my brain out and cannot find what would have caused my mother to have a seizure and die. Doctors at the hosptial cannot give me an answer other than "she was very sick." I understand that my mother was very sick but i want to know what tipped her over the edge.... she had been in much worse conditions than that night. She seemed to be doing so much better....

Has this happened to anyone? I need answers...
3 Responses
223152 tn?1346978371
I am so very sorry for your loss.  I think you have done a pretty good job in describing what killed your mother.  I cannot address those final minutes when she had seisures and coded, but I know once you go into renal failure your whole body just starts to shut down and not much can be done.

It sounds like your mother had a decompensated liver for at least 6 years.  Maybe more.  Stopping drinking is not enough to stop the progress of cirrhosis once the liver has become permanently damaged.  I cannot imagine "drinking until her eyes turned yellow"and then stopping but only until they got better, but I know of other alcoholics who have done the same thing.  Cirrhosis is such a silent killer.  The warning signs - the yellow eyes and the ascites - only come when the damage is severe.  Sounds like your mom  played the "out of sight, out of mind" game on herself.  

It sounds like you did everything you could and you were there until the end and that she was very very loved.  I don't know what more to say except I hope you find peace.

Avatar universal
I'm not a doctor, so I can't answer specifically what caused your mom to have a seizure and code.  The doctors are right when they told you that she was very sick.  It sounds like the alcohol had been gradually damaging her liver over many years, her liver started to not work correctly about 6 years ago (decompensated Cirrhosis).  Once the liver is not able to work correctly, it isn't able to filter out all of the toxins in our body (various foods, various medications).  When that occurs those toxins build up and enter the brain (Hepatic Encephalopathy).  When the liver isn't able to work correctly, the body isn't able to get the proper nutrition and balance of nutrients that it needs, which leads to extreme fatigue and weakness.  Also, when the liver isn't able to work correctly, there can be a build of of pressure in the main portal vein in the liver (portal hypertension) which can cause internal bleeding (sometimes in the esophagus, sometimes in the digestive system), which can be life threatening because people can bleed to death.  Portal hypertension also causes the build up of fluid (ascites and edema) which affects mobility, breathing, etc.  None of us can tell you exactly what caused her to have a seizure and code.  It may have been related to the Hepatic Encephalopathy, it may have been related to an electrolyte imbalance due to the fluid build up, the seizure may not have caused her to code, but internal bleeding may have caused her to code.  Essentially, your mom was very sick.  Her liver had been not working correctly for about 6 years, and by last July it sounds like her liver began to fail.  Transplant centers have very strict criteria and will not list a patient for transplant if they are drinking alcohol, and I know the Transplant center in the city where I live requires people to be sober for at least 6 months, so I don't know if they couldn't list her for a transplant sooner because of her drinking, or if it was just too late for a transplant.  At the point where your mom was in her liver disease, after last July, the only thing that could have saved her life was a liver transplant.  But it does take a long time to meet all the criteria, get listed, move to the top of the list, and wait for a liver to become available, because there aren't enough donor livers available for everyone who needs them.
I am very sorry for your loss.  I know you want answers.  Only a doctor would be able to specifically say what caused the seizure and what caused the code, but my guess is that her liver failed, couldn't do it's necessary functions, and she had a catastrophic event because the liver couldn't do it's job any longer.
The period of time from when the liver decompensates, stops working well, and death, is called End Stage Liver Disease (or ESLD), and a life threatening event can take place (ascites or edema can build up to the point that people have severe infections or can't move and the heart becomes too stressed; variceal bleeds can occur causing the patient to lose too much blood; hepatic encephalopathy occurs and can cause seizure, coma, and death).  At the point where your mom was in her illness, her medications were helping to prevent these things from happening sooner, but medications cannot reverse the liver damage at this stage.  Usually the goal in treatment at that point is to treat and manage the symptoms to keep the patient alive and well enough to undergo a transplant.  However, if the patient doesn't meet the criteria for a transplant, they must first work to meet the criteria before they can be listed.  There are many, many factors here and many that are unknown to us here on the forum.  I hope you can accept the simple answer, which is that your mom's liver failed, and that caused her death.
317787 tn?1473358451
I am so very very sorry for your loss.  You did a really good job explaining everything that happened.  The two people above have done an excellent job of explaining.
They are right, once the liver fails then the heart fails.  You mentioned that the doctor  said something about an upper GI bleed, when the var ices (veins in throat/esophagus) burst it can be very sudden and it can cause death.

A member on here had it happen and she was lucky enough to get emergency care to save her life, not everyone is so lucky.

I am so sorry for your loss.  You were such a good child to sleep next to her in the hospital.  You did everything you could

Take care
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317787 tn?1473358451
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