It happened so quickly. One moment I’m sitting next to Brenda watching an episode of This is Us, and an hour later I am admitted to the hospital for nine days. In my narcotic numbed and pain-wracked mind, I heard the doctor say, “You have acute pancreatitis and could be in the hospital for 7-10 days.” It felt as if the air was sucked from the room and my lungs. He then said you will have to be NPO, which is an abbreviation for “Nil Per Os.” This meant no food or liquid through the mouth until my pancreas could settle down. I was then placed in a double room with a very nice man who was very ill. All night long he required care. Lights, beeps, moans, doors opening and closing, snoring, blood pressure checks, blood draws, pain and fear robbed me of sleep. Thankfully the drugs they were giving me helped me nap for a couple of hours. Then the pain would begin to grow. The last hour, waiting for the next dose of meds, was almost unbearable. The caregiver had become the patient. The co-founder of David’s Refuge who preached self-care was now being cared for. I quickly realized I am a better caregiver than I am a patient. Just ask Brenda!
I’m still processing what I experienced but wanted to share two things I learned from my nine days in the hospital and the two weeks I have been recovering at home.
- I needed to know and be reminded that it was not a sign of weakness that I was the patient and no longer the caregiver! This was hard for me. I felt useless, dependent, and weak. I needed help getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, and showering. To be honest it was a pride issue. I didn’t want to ask for help or admit that I needed it. How silly…OK, how stupid! I needed to accept the fact that I was ill and needed the help of other people. My dear brother-in-law and sister-in-law said they were going to fly down to help in any way they could. My first response was, “That’s crazy! There is nothing they can do. We don’t need them!” Oh, how wrong I was. They loved and cared for Brenda, they called to check and see how I was doing, and they prayed for me every time they visited. They poured life into me and Brenda. Lesson: Don’t be silly and not ask for or accept help! It is not a weakness. Be bold. Lay aside your pride. If someone is willing to serve you when you are in need, let them. Don’t rob them of the joy of loving and serving you!
- I needed to know and be reminded that I was not alone. It has been a long time since I felt the loneliness I experienced during my nine days in the hospital. Lying in a hospital bed, in pain, afraid, hungry, and tired played with my mind. Brenda would visit every day from early morning until it got dark. But when she left I started planning and throwing one or two epic Pity Parties. I felt far from my children, friends from New York and Wisconsin, and even those here in Florida. While I have a strong relationship with God, I have to be honest and say He felt a little distant as well. Thankfully Brenda was communicating with friends through Facebook, Texting, and Email. Every day she would read to me the comments, prayers, and thoughts passed on by so many of you, my friends. Lesson: Don’t be afraid to communicate with your friends what is going on in your life! Often we hear the little voice that says, “Oh, they don’t want to be bothered with my issues.” NOT TRUE! If you are too tired, weak, or sick, ask someone to be your lifeline to your friends. Every time Brenda read to me one of your comments, I was reminded that I wasn’t alone and that people cared for me. One more thought about God feeling distant and aloof. I have walked with God for enough years that I know He has never or will never abandon me. Never. I may feel it, but I am confident that it is not true. So I began to simply rehearse this truth in my mind. Lesson: When you feel God has turned a blind eye to you, claim this incredible promise made in the book of Psalms: “Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit, to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute—you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.” Psalm 139:7-12 Even in my hospital room at 3 AM when the nurse woke me up to weigh me, He was there!
I want to thank everyone who emailed, sent a card, called, or even just sent a thumbs up on one of Brenda’s Facebook posts. I was encouraged and reminded that I am not alone and loved by many and by God. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an organization that reminded the caregivers of children with special needs or struggling with a life-threatening illness these incredible truths? Love you all.