Saturday, January 4, 2014
Marriage in Sickness and in Health: By the Grace of God, My Husband is Alive, and Will Be Well
In mid-October, my husband's back went out on him. This is not unusual, he has bad disks and thus has occassional trouble with it. But this time was different: nothing improved it, and he could not lie down. After trying all his usual methods of healing it, he finally asked me to take him to the ER in the middle of the night. A routine blood test showed he was anemic. Anemic? A great ER doctor in our small hospital knew how odd this was, and ran a CT scan.
Paul had three iliac aneurysms, two of which were 10 cm and one of which had already ruptured*. Our hospital sent him by ambulance to Hendrick Medical Center in Abilene, where he had emergency surgery. God blessed us in every way, with top notch care all the way through, and a talented, experienced surgeon who was able to overcome some extreme challenges in the surgery - not least of which was that all were within the pelvic area, so simply accessing them was an ordeal. When his surgeon came out to speak with me after the surgery, the phrase he kept repeating was "it was so difficult".
After 13 days in the hospital and 19 days in nursing care, his Dr prescribed at-home physical therapy and home health nursing visits, so I was able to bring him home.
The trauma of the surgery injured the nerves in Paul's legs, and he has not been able to use them since. They WILL heal, and we see tiny improvements each day, but for now he is generally confined to bed. He cannot transfer, so I have a Hoyer Lift that I use to move him from bed to wheelchair. He can sit for about 45 minutes before he is hurting and needs to go back to bed. For doctor visits, we use the state-funded rural bus that has a lift so that he can be transported in his wheelchair. We have a great therapist who comes 3 times a week and there are several exercises we do throughout the day on our own.
Both of us are Christians, and we know that God has saved his life. Understanding that the only alternative would have been death (most people with this condition simply die - there are usually no symptoms - and even with surgery after rupture, 50% do not survive the operation), our spirits have been buoyed all along with gratefullness for Paul's now-extended life. We are also blessed with a loving family that have been unflagging in staying in touch and helping in what ways they can. Finally, our church members and friends have shown their care for us in so many ways. During the 32 days before Paul came home, not a single day went by without visits from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Two weeks of that was in a hospital 75 miles from here, but people drove it to visit for 10 minutes, just to encourage us.
It is at times like this that one learns what one is really made of, and how strong a marriage can be. Because we are good friends, we are able to enjoy the 24/7 togetherness that we have right now. Paul can accept very personal care from me, and I can give it, because our relationship goes beyond our individual selves. Our time revolves around a vast number of new daily tasks and schedules. I've had to learn to do a lot of new things. Paul is having to cope with a kind of helplessness that we never imagined. We both approach the day one hour at a time, and we don't think too far beyond that. And God has blessed both of us to be able to travel this road in good humor and hope.
I can say that when I try to count my blessings, I run out of numbers. Paul's life far outweighs any possible inconvenience or detour in our plans. The knowledge of that alone makes me wake up happy each day.
There will be much to write about our journey through this part of our lives, but that will come later. For now, I am happy to have a bit more creative energy available to resume blogging, and to start peeping over our own four walls again once in a while.
*There is a simple Ultrasound screening that your doctor can order for you to check for Iliac or Aortic aneurysms. There is a greater risk as people age, and if you have had heart trouble. Paul did not have any heart problems, and he is only 61. I am guessing the ultrasound is painless, and it can relieve your mind if the results are negative!
[The art is Winslow Homer's "Moonlight", painted in 1874. Winslow Homer was the Norman Rockwell of the 19th Century. He chronicled American life and the Civil War with great realism and beauty. His images of the sea are magnificent. He also produced a fine body of work around the Caribbean islands.]