Thursday, October 19, 2017

From My Hospital Bed...

John delivers the flowers sent by our kids and grands.  
I would have hoped never to write a post with the title I've given this one.  

I must confess that during the last few years, and against all my best advice to others, I have let my own health go.  I really had planned to see my nurse practitioner for routine blood work and screening tests, but I thought I'd do that just as soon as I'd lost a few pounds and had spent some focused effort getting into better shape.  In the interim, grandbabies were born, Mom's needs increased, and we became increasingly busy with the stuff of life. 

The pain came in the middle of the night: all-encompassing and overwhelming.  I thought it was a reaction to an antibiotic I'd been prescribed, and so I "toughed it out." Once the pain was gone, I gave it no more thought.  A few months later the pain returned, but this time I thought it was my version of a virus my grandkids had suffered.  And so I waited two days, two days, before I went to the emergency room.  

In retrospect I can't believe my stupidity.  It could have been a heart attack.  As it was I waited nearly too long for an emergency cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal).  Much longer, the surgeon said, and it would have ruptured, or caused other complications such as pancreatitis.  "It was a bad one," he said.  

Everyone together now, "DUH, LINDA!" 

This is a cautionary tale for my fellow caregivers: do not neglect your own health.  Get those routine screenings.  Fear of medical procedures and personnel is a malady that often strikes caregivers in the wake of a white-coated professional's delivery of a terrifying diagnosis for a loved one, but you must not let this fear keep you from taking care of your own well-being.  I'm here to write this post only because we live just 20 minutes from the nearest hospital, and I was met with knowledgable experts who knew what to do to ease my pain, save my life, and then send me on my way a mere 3 days later.  

This is also a word of warning to the families of caregivers: when the person who makes all of the health decisions for your family falls ill, don't expect the store of wisdom and knowledge upon which you've come to depend to extend to any kind of common sense regarding the caregiver's own condition.  

My husband finally said, "Let's go to the E.R."  

He was probably surprised when I said, "OK."  

At the hospital I was dimly aware of the efficiency and knowledge of the people who provided my care, but it was the occasional word or gesture of kindness that meant the most. People who are afraid and in pain will trust kindness when they do not trust (or are frightened by) medical procedures.  I learned that fear can be medicated (would you like a sedative?) but it can't be alleviated apart from genuine caring.  The takeaway for this caregiver turned patient is that our loved ones don't care so much about our skill as they do about our love; kindness reassures where expertise might be ignored or misinterpreted.

This is day nine following my surgery, and I'm feeling better.  Friends and family stepped to the plate and took over visiting Mom so that she has not noticed my absence.  Two friends delivered meals that have nourished us body and soul.  And today I mapped out a health plan with my doctor that includes those overdue screening tests that I just hadn't got around to doing.  

God has extended His grace to me through the kindness and skills of human healers and caregivers, and I am humbled and grateful.