Let Us Now Praise Famous Caregivers
August 11, 2009
O Best Beloveds, there will be a health update soon. I’m having trouble formulating it properly, because it’s day by day, and there is so much. Short version: I was feeling really bad, every day I feel incrementally better, and there is “cautious optimism” afoot for my overall condition. Don’t get too excited about that latter. What it is is better than “your goose, it is cooked,” nothing more.
Before I get to my point, I want to pass along that Nettie is “doing okay.” Which is as good as one can do under the circumstances, which is to say, unquantifiable grief. She is a wonderful, remarkable person who, speaking of caretakers, worked very very hard tending to her own Beloved long before his final illness, and she made it clear to him that that was What She Was Going To Do.
Now here is where I say flat out–I could not, not, not being doing this if it weren’t for my sister Deborah, and Steve. No freaking way.
Deb, for those who don’t know her, is a multi (six?) credentialed Nurse Practitioner. She’s worked ob/gyn for years, but also geriatric oncology, and general practice as she was the nurse at a small private Texas college, where she treated or diagnosed everything from bad bug bites to leukemia. She has literally saved lives. She is a brilliant diagnostician; you can call her up and say “it’s small and green and shaped like a dinosaur, plus I have a hacking cough” and she knows what it is nearly immediately, and she’s right. She’s been my secret weapon all these years; not only could I call her about whatever weird thing was happening, but I always had in the back of my mind that when things got bad, I had a free private duty nurse, ready to go.
And she was. “Ready to go” meant she dropped her job (well, leave of absence), her beau (well, he’s still there, holding down the home fires with unlimited patience, which is so so kind of him) and everything else, and she has been with us for nearly three weeks now. Her knowledge is ridiculous; she knows when to avoid the ER and that a cool washcloth feels really good rubbed over a gagging person. I have to take various meds at various times; she puts them out early every morning, in order, and reminds me throughout the day–eat something, this has to go with food; no, you wait another hour, you need at least six between doses; yes, you can have another pain pill now. She watches my various weird biological things and sorts it out–“this could be a reaction to the Prednizone, this could be from that, let’s see what happens if we space these out thusly.” She’s made calls to people who are experts in what I am going through and has told me what we can do to make things more comfortable now and in the future, which is incredibly helpful in easing my mind. Above all, she’s been my sister, the most important person in my life since I was a newborn and she was 13. I really worry what I would do if the tables were turned.
Steve. Dear God, I got lucky that night at McCabe’s when I greeted an old acquaintance and we decided to go hang out some time. A sad number of spouses bolt during times like these; you couldn’t pry Steve out of here with Archimedes’ lever. This is tremendously hard on him, but his emotional support for me integrates his own pain and gives balm to mine. As if that weren’t enough, he fetches, he carries, he gets me a new computer monitor and, knowing new computer things freak me out, just sets it up the way I like it so I have no transition to fret about. He puts my neglected car back in shape. Every single day, he asks what I want to eat that day, and he makes it or he goes to fetch it (or some other thoughtful friend gets it, which is so lovely of them). He does it all cheerfully, I swear to you, be it getting my pain pill lollipop or taking a sushi order (I know! But it sounded good then!) or just sitting and being. All of these pieces come together to make my life, well, live.
Of course, the hell of it is is that I’ve always secretly dreamed of having everyone else do everything for me. Now I’ve got it–as assumed, it’s awesome!–but I had to get deathly (can I use “deathly” without hyperbole here? I think so. How remarkable) ill to get it. Bummer!
Hey, want to tell Deb and Steve how very very much they rock? You might!
Coddled like an egg,