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!

2 comments:

  1. It's hard being a caregiver. I know my husband has done more than his share (especially recently). It's just one of the things you do when you love one another. Hang in there brother. If you ever need to talk or vent give me a call, I know I live too far away to physically help but at least I can listen. Know that I love you and send my prayers to you and my sister-in-law.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. I knew that you'd weigh in on this one.

      It's not an easy thing to do. Helping out someone you love knowing what the end will be.

      Steve

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