Saturday, June 29, 2013

Being a Caregiver

My wife and I have been married for thirty-six years. It seems like yesterday that we met and fell in love. The 36 years have gone by very fast, or so it seems.

My wife has always had health problems due to her having been born premature. Parts of her body just never had time to develop fully. Her heart is smaller on the bottom than is normal and she's had at least one heart attack and maybe more.

She also has arthritis and diabetes and takes more than a few medications for all of this. 

In 2010 she had a knee replaced. She's had several surgeries for abdominal problems but through all of it, she's remained upbeat and cheerful. I doubt that I'd be handling things as well as she does.

Recently she's been diagnosed with Non-Alcohol Related Cirrhosis (of the liver). It's almost always a terminal illness without a liver transplant. Due to her age (60s) and other medical factors, she is in an "At Risk" category for the operation.

It has fallen to me to be her primary caregiver. A role that I do diligently and without complaint... mostly.

Following her knee operation, I thought that I would drop dead caring for her needs: Bathing, feeding, assisting her to get from one room to another, helping her with physical therapy, etc. It was a tough job. I was exhausted.

Her current status isn't as exhausting for me but it pains me to see her suffer through the different stages of the disease. She currently gets bloated - her abdomen fills with fluid which has to be drained from her through a tube inserted through her abdominal wall. This needs to be done every two to three weeks. The first time, the doctor drained seven liters from her. The most recent incident they collected twelve and a quarter liters. That's almost 30 pounds of fluid.

The reason for this is that her liver isn't making enough albumin. A protein that allows fluid to be retained within the cellular structure. Without it, the fluid leaks from the cells and into the spaces around the internal organs. It's like wringing out a sponge loaded with water. The water collects inside her and has to go somewhere - so she gets tapped like a Maple tree and the sap is collected in vacuum bottles and discarded.

I know that's not a pretty picture but it accurately describes the process.

During all this time between visits to her doctor, she is sometimes active and can care for herself, mostly. Other times I get to assist her with the smallest of chores. It's hard work being a caregiver.

I sleep when I can find the time. I catch an hour here and there between laundry, food prep and changing bandages. Sometimes she goes to her Sister's home and stays there for a week or so just to give me a break and to get out of the house. Other times I go out and shoot my guns or just find a big empty place here in Nevada and sit and talk with God.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm complaining. I'm not. In many ways this has brought us closer together. We see sides of one another that even the most intimate of couples keep private.

I'm thankful that I have my health so that I have the energy to devote to her needs. I don't know how much more time we'll have together but even though my new duties are difficult, I really enjoy the time we are sharing.

I don't mean to be a wet blanket on your day... I just had to share my thoughts on this. It lessens my burden.

Thanks from The Geezer!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Welcome to Camp TEOTWAWKI!

Wow!  It sounds like we're all going to some Summer Camp in the mountains.

I see these initials all the time on some of the online forums I read: TEOTWAWKI - The End Of The World As We Know It.

Most of the folks who discuss this topic envision several of many different cataclysmic scenarios that may (or WILL) befall humanity in the near or distant future. 

These disasters include Monster Solar Flares that may wipe out the Earth's power grid. 

An Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) from a nuclear detonation caused by some terrorist faction with the same results as a massive solar flare. 
Then there's the total economic collapse of the world's banking systems resulting in (they say) utter and total chaos for modern society. 

Let's not forget World War III which many predict will wipe out all but a small percentage of humanity. 

There's the possibility of a second American Civil War - especially if our government continues down the path to restrictive socialism/ tyranny. 

Last of the major causes of TEOTWAWKI would be a pandemic disease that cannot be controlled affecting all of humanity (Maybe there will be Zombies - who knows?).

Maybe one or more of these things will happen in the not too distant future. The folks I read about are preparing for the worst case scenario by amassing abundant food storage, gathering weapons and ammunition, fortifying their homes and/or their so-called "Survival Retreats", They have their evacuation plans and "Go Bags" or "Bug-Out Bags" all prepared. Their vehicles contain emergency supplies to last them 72 hours or more. In short, these folks are

preppers and are preparing for the very worst.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that by any means. People should be prepared by having some food storage and a means to protect themselves, their families and their homes. Some of these folks may get strange looks from their neighbors and friends but that's a small price to pay for your personal security, whether real or imagined.

I started thinking about the strict definition of TEOTWAWKI. This doesn't really have to mean any of the examples that I've listed above. The end of the world as we know it has happened several times in the past but I'll just give you a few examples from American history.

The Revolutionary War. Prior to this event citizens of the British Colonies on the North American continent were just going about their business. Some were happy and some were not. There was a revolt against King George and the Colonies were at war with England. This certainly fits the definition.

Let's look at the American Civil War. There were several
reasons why this war was fought depending who you listen to or believe, but it certainly was the end of the world as THEY knew it back then. Afterward - nothing was 
the same.

The same can be said for World Wars I & II, Korea and VietNam. These wars changed the way people lived and interacted with one another and looked at
the world as a whole. Things we do in this country
today, we never did before WW I.

The "Space Race" and man landing on the Moon changed forever the way we lived and our concept of who we are. Look at the Moon - It was much prettier before all those footprints mucked it up!

Terrorism is another aspect of TEOTWAWKI. Can we ever look at Muslims the same way we used to after 9/11? When we turn on the news and hear reports of suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism, can we honestly say that we feel safe in the world as it is today? 9/11 was definitely the end of the world as we knew it. Following that one day of terrorism, the world has not been the same.

Actually, when Obama was first elected it was TEOTWAWKI!

I'm sure that you can think of many more examples, world wide, that will fill the bill. How about the furor that followed the first discovery of Dinosaur fossils? After that we began to get a sense of how old this world of ours really is.

What I'm saying is that there really doesn't need to be an earth-shattering event to bring about massive change that we can say is the end of the world as we know it. Small changes can do the same thing so let's recognize these changes for what they are and not fly off the handle shouting doom and gloom.

Am I saying that we don't need to be prepared with a bit of food storage? No. Of course not. It will really help out should the main income provider lose his or her job. Should we allow ourselves to go defenseless? No. There are stories everyday about home invasions and physical attacks on individuals.

Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

That's what the Geezer does!