In Praise for the Incredible Kindness of Caregivers

Believe that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Believe that you may be that light for someone else.”     Kobi Yamada

 Today I was rushing and I’m afraid to say, not slowly, as is my intention. But, still, I managed a one hour walk, with a friend, on this beautiful day and that feels like progress.

We were chatting away about poetry and other things, when the question came up about what quality matters the most in life.  She said “kindness,” and I agreed. Our conversation brought up a 48 year old memory of kindness.

I was the beneficiary of extraordinary kindness in 1971, when I was 24 years of age. I have forgotten his name, but not him-I just refer to him as my earth angel. He was an orderly at the Ottawa General, in Ottawa, and thanks to his dedication and caring I recovered from a car accident several months before the orthopedic surgeon predicted.

I like to tell this story every few years, in memory and gratitude to this deeply caring man.

Following a bad accident on a hot July 1st, I regained consciousness in the recovery room of the Ottawa General to discover that I had a broken pelvis and collar bone while deeply convinced that I was also pregnant.

The next few days were difficult for the nursing staff as I stubbornly refused all pain medication and as a result I frequently fainted from the pain. I was determined that my unborn baby would not be exposed to anything that was potentially harmful. Problem was it worried the nurses.

Songs, Laughter and Hand Holding

My earth angel was French but there was no language barrier. He appeared in my room at midnight, three days into my hospital stay. As he came through the door that steaming hot night he was singing and kicking up his heels. The song was a popular one that summer, “When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.”

He arrived at my bedside, took my hand, and questioned me on my reasons for being uncooperative. After listening to my story with his serious and open heart, he agreed to help me and help the nurses responsible for my care. “It is not good for you to be in so much pain, he said. “There is only one thing to do; I will have to help your healing through laughter.”

“The nights are quiet here,” he explained, “so I can spend time with you. And you aren’t sleeping anyway, so we will tell stories.” And that is how he began his ten-day midnight shift and I began my healing journey through nights of laughing and crying to his stories and songs, mixed in with the pain of broken bones, nausea, and bruised ribs.

At first I would beg him to stop as the laughter worsened the pain, but he kept on, while holding my hand and fanning me from the heat. My suffering, however, began to ease. The fainting stopped. I soon could sleep for a few hours, and physiotherapy began. As the days went on and I was able to be lifted into a wheel chair, he started the next phase, which was to get me to eat.

What Do You want to Eat?

“If you could have anything to eat in the whole world,” he asked me at two in the morning, “what would it be?”

“A pepperoni, green pepper and mushroom pizza from Mario’s Pizza,” I answered instantly.

“You’re in luck, “he said, “I will order out right now and when it arrives, I will bring you down to the nurse’s station and we’ll all have a pizza party. I’m buying,” he insisted.

Eating began again.

And so it went. Caring, kindness, skill, devotion, humor, thoughtfulness, songs, even his own money, to help a “patient” who was lucky enough to be there on his shift.

My daughter, born eight months later, and I are eternally grateful to this extraordinary caregiver of our lives. With lifelong appreciation and love, I remember him, and his words and actions of comfort that helped me heal.

Aldous Huxley wrote the novel “Brave New World.” Toward the end of his life an interviewer asked, “Dr. Huxley, perhaps more than anyone else alive, you have studied the great spiritual and religious traditions of the world. What have you learned?” And Huxley answered, “I think we could just be a bit kinder.”

Notes

Note 1:) I will always and forever be an admirer of the caregivers in our midst. Both the paid ones and the unpaid ones. They are an under acknowledged group of amazing humans beings. I can’t sing their praises high enough. I have been the beneficiary throughout my life of amazing care.

Note 2:) Dear caregivers, please take care of yourself too. You are needed. We want you around for a long time. Please ask for help when you need it.

Note 3:) Thank you, dear readers for reading this story with me. It means alot. I am lucky to be able to show up on the page and to have you show up on this blog to read my musings. With appreciation, Trudy

The Anxiety and Stress of Not Knowing

Waiting for bad news

Getting bad news about our health can be devastating. Waiting to get the news from tests,  probes, and puzzled experts is fraught with anxiety and stress. And especially when all we hear is “inconclusive – let’s just wait and see.”

In the meantime the rash is now all over your body. The pain is worse. You can’t sleep. And you wonder if you will see your next Birthday. It is not only stressful and fearful, it gets to be embarrassing. The numerous calls to the Doctor, the visits to emergency, the tears falling unbidden, are part and parcel of living with this kind of uncertainty. There is not much worse than waiting and waiting and waiting, to see how bad, the bad news is.

Well, there is one aspect that makes it worse. Being alone. Even when you are with others, it feels alone, when the person who could provide you with the most solace is absent.

As bad as it feels at the time, it is part of the human experience. We were built for this too. As nervous as it makes us, we can survive the waiting and the not knowing. But here’s the important thing. We don’t just sit by passively hoping for the phone to ring. We do our own investigation.

I am aware of all the useless, if not harmful information on the web. But that’s not all there is. I often will check out something on MD Anderson or the Mayo Clinic or other trusted sites. They have useful patient information that doesn’t scare you to death but can shed some light on a certain group of symptoms. We can also be the annoying patient once in awhile and go see our Dr. yet again.

Playing an active role:

Learning to be proactive, with our own health needs, is not being a hypochondriac. Sometimes we need to keep knocking on doors to get to the bottom of the mystery. And in the meantime, while we play an active role and find different ways to sit and move and rest to minimize the pain and the fear, we can ask for the company of another human who we like. It’s great when that person is close at hand. But that is not always possible. Sometimes we rely on words of comfort delivered by phone or text.

The relief of knowing:

And then the day comes when the bad news, you were sure was coming, arrives. The difference is that we now go into action. More tests get set up; additional appointments with specialists; a course of treatment, if you are one of the lucky ones, gets presented.

For some no active treatment will be available. But there are still ways to improve the quality of life. The relief, even with the bad news is this. “At least now I know what I’m up against.” How many times have I heard those words uttered through tears and fear. I think about those waiting to hear. My heart goes out to them.

If you are one of those people there are so many suggestions I could offer, for while you wait. But I wouldn’t dream of writing them here as though “at least” you could do this. We honestly don’t know what it is like for person X  to live with this kind of uncertainty.

No advice giving

Well, maybe two things. Play an active role. Turn over all the stones. Make the calls. Get the second opinion. Ask for company and/or help, when you go to appointments. Even if you live alone you don’t need to go through the whole thing alone.

OK. There is a second thing I want to say. When someone is waiting to hear, it isn’t helpful to say to them, “I’m sure it will all be ok. Don’t worry.” Better to say, “You must be very worried. I hope you get some answers. Can I do something to be helpful?” Or just do something. A bouquet of sunflowers can help.

I know several people waiting for answers. I’m thinking of you and you and you. It’s amazing what we humans can sustain. How resilient our bodies are. How strong and resourceful we are. How our bodies want to help us get back to equilibrium.  And sometimes we simply need to let the tears fall for a few minutes or a few days.

However, if you dear reader have strategies you use for waiting I welcome them here, either in comments or by email to me. I can always post them anonymously, if you prefer. If anyone wants a few suggestions of what to do while waiting you are also welcome to contact me. There are no formulas or magic pills, but that doesn’t mean there are no handholds or strategies to help. Help is everywhere.

I leave you with a small poem from a little known poet whom I like.

 

In this time of waiting

 and not knowing

how things will unfold,

 may you find a pool of calm,

a place of peace and rest

deep within your soul.

by Nancy Gibbs Richards from A Small Steadying Sail of Love

Notes

Note 1:)  Take heart and be a nuisance if need be. And always be kind to yourself.

Note 2:) A big shout out to those earth angels that always appear just in the nick of time to be the light and the strength for someone in need. You are the best and you are everywhere.

Note 3:) With thanks to all of you for stopping by here. I appreciate you. Warm greetings, Trudy

What Is It About September?

September has Arrived

Fall is in the air. You can smell it; see it; hear it and almost taste it. I can almost touch it. The quality of the air feels different. It is the most glorious season for me. My Grandaughter insists it is because I was born in September. There is truth to that as for me it represents fresh starts and new beginnings far beyond the calendar New Year.

At this minute, the sun is streaming through the south facing windows at my daughter’s home. The cat is curled up in a state of total relaxation. I have a cup of coffee close at hand. It is visceral, this sense of abiding hope, joy and beauty. And it has nothing to do with the reality of any of the demands or obstacles in my life. It is simply the gift and grace of this September day for me.

I see this energy in my Grandchildren, too, who were not born in this month. First day of school was yesterday and they are filled with plans, dreams, friendships. “Awesome day,” was the rallying cry from both of them.

It is so easy to take a day for granted and declare it good or awful depending on what happens. Yet, when we move out from ourselves and look back with a wide angle lens we see the sheer beauty of  today and the incredible good fortune of being alive amongst the people we love. This is no small matter.

I want to remember

So for today, I want to remember how lucky I am. That if this was my last day I want to be aware of my surroundings and be an appreciator of all the beauty and support in my life. And not succumb to a utilitarian view of measurement – in my favour or not in my favour. Imperfection is part of existence. Some things we can improve and others we can’t.

I have never related to the “bucket list” idea, although it works for most people. For me, it is less about “what would I be doing if” and more about how would I do this thing now, if I knew it was the last thing I would ever do.

And as always, I skirt back to the ordinary. Our ordinary encounters with the people who cross our path. The ordinary tasks that we are responsible for. The ordinary meal we prepare for dinner. The ordinary chatter with our neighbour. And the extraordinary good fortune to be able to notice these things at all.

I hope you create moments to notice the beauty and preciousness of the day amidst the turmoil that sometimes confronts us. Pause and notice your breath. Wait to respond. Sleep on it. Take actions now to change what can be changed. September is a great month to get the ball rolling again.

May you notice the wondrous moments in your life. You may be surprised how most of them are small, easily overlooked, taken for granted kind of things. Noticing them, however, allows us to live large.

Notes

Note 1:) Hoping to get new internet service this afternoon after 12 days of several people trying to fix it. It is important to recognize when something can’t be fixed and you have to start over. That realization happened last Saturday.

Note 2:) Guess what. It is now 5:53 PM ET and we are back in business with connectivity. Whew! Thanks to Omar from Bell, who came from Toronto to help with the back-log. We were fortunate to get this set up so quickly.(see note 1)

Note 3:) I so appreciate you stopping by. Don’t hesitate to let me know, if there is anything I can do to for you.  Warm wishes, Trudy