“It’s time to take your medicine.” “Have you done your injection yet?” “Let’s take your blood pressure before you take that medicine, in case it is already low.” “Let’s take your O2 Sat reading before you leave your canula off for a bit…I know the tops of your ears need a rest from the oxygen tubing”.
If you were to listen in, you might think we are a couple in our 70’s or 80’s, each reminding the other of things to keep track of to stay at optimal health. Another thing you might notice is that the exchange is very one-sided. However, this IS a typical conversation at our house. It becomes more and more one-sided as we overcome each medical hurdle. And we are far from elderly. He is 50, I am 49.
This recovery has been the most challenging yet. I knew it would be, and I thought I was ready. In fact, most days I AM ready…I wake up ready to do my part as a now full-time caregiver to my husband. However, it only takes a few nights of fractured sleep to send me back into my own personal downward spiral. The despair turns to anger, then back to despair. At some point I will accomplish something that will give me back my sense of control. Then I am able to finally drag myself out of the pit. It happens more and more frequently now….usually when I allow myself to stop and think about things.
This time the catalyst that brought me back to myself was the taking down of the Christmas tree. Although I had planned to leave the tree up longer than usual because I had not been able to enjoy it during the Holidays (see previous post), I had not meant for it to stay up THIS long. To be honest, our days (and nights) have been comparable to what it was like to have a newborn in the house. By the time I have cooked breakfast, we eat, I clean up, supervise medicine and vitals-taking and help him get ready for the day, it is time to cook lunch. Repeat for the afternoon. It is sometimes 4:00 before I can even get my shower….usually while he is napping. I am barely able to clean up after the immediate details of the day. Any extensive cleaning is out of the question. By the time I fall into bed at night, I know it will be brief. Between helping him to the bathroom and doling out pain meds, I know I will be up several times through the night. Then we repeat. Day after day. After day.
It is hard to articulate what it feels like when you lose your literal sense of stability. When the unimaginable occurs, the reality of it is always there. The fear that it could happen again is always present. With the knowledge that a fall could cause another brain bleed, or a bone fracture, it is very difficult to allow him to flex his wings and gain a little freedom. Also with bleeding on the brain, memory and balance are affected. I have to be a part of everything he does, in order to make sure he remembers to put on his nasal canula after showering and remembers to take his medicine. I have to be with him when he walks around, travels up and down the stairs, and goes to the bathroom. It is paralyzing for us both.
I recently took one of those Facebook quizzes in order to find out what kind of wife I am. It said that I am a Caring Wife. Ironic. I look at other couples our age. They are enjoying quality time doing fun activities together, now that the kids are on their own. Taking day trips and vacations, working on home-improvement projects together, or just sitting by the fireplace together. Our days are filled with doctor’s appointments, medicine, supplemental oxygen, restricted diets and physical therapy. I have gone from being a wife to a nurse. An old nurse: I feel like a 49 year old woman in a 79 year old body. Each day precious time ticks away and we are powerless to stop it, to make it freeze and wait for us to get back to normal. All these days of togetherness and carefree time that we will never get back. How do we ever make sense of it? We feel cheated.
Then I think back to a sunny day in August, 1983. The day that I said I would stand by him through sickness and health. I never imagined that part of our vows would be challenged so soon. Some days I don’t think I can do it anymore. Then I remember them. The vows. Whatever the reason that God decided we needed this challenge, and whether my tasks blur my job description and I morph from a wife into a nurse, the bottom line is: I said I would.