23. WHAT IF….?
After sitting with David in the ER last week I got thinking. What if I was the one carted off to hospital unconscious? what would happen to David? Would the EMT’s take him along in the ambulance and have him admitted too? They surely wouldn’t just leave someone so clearly disabled to fend for himself home-alone. Worry. Worry. My mind raced. Hadn’t thought of this WHAT IF before. But I’m now spurred into getting some practical plan in order abvout his care.
I imagined the worst scenario: David slumped sideways, his eyes frozen closed, unable to phone for help. No food. no water. Perhaps lying on the floor for days. Not so farfetched as one would suppose. Only three years ago a friend in the village felled by a stroke, lay semi-paralyzed and helpless for thirty-six long hours before a worried friend called the cops and he was discovered. I was across the road from his house that night at a yoga class in the Community Center. Felt such guilt being so near and yet unaware of his distress.
I lay awake. Wracked by a bout of coughing. Damn. My turn. Must have caught whatever dreadful chest thing David suffered last week. WHAT IF this morphed into pneumonia… then what? The list of what ifs multiplied in my head leaving little room for sleep.
I woke to the crippling symptoms of flu. In its fog our young Ayurveda doctor’s wise words floated to me from seven years ago, when David and I spent a month in a Kerala Ayruvedic Nursing Home.
“Rest. Be quiet. If a disease appears, allow it to do its work then move along.” I remembered her smile. Her politeness. Her way of saying,
“Don’t fight. Lie still and allow the sickness to pass. You Westerners…” she chided, “The minute it turns hot you rush for an iced drink, switch on the A/C…but a dog? What does he do? He lies in the shade. Keeps very still.”
Easy to say but no such chance with David to tend to. Of course I should have stayed in bed tucked up warm to sleep and sweat it off. Instead forcing to my feet I moaned,
“Done it before. Can do it again.”
Could it be fifty years ago? I saw myself a single Mum and three months pregnant, my face swollen with mumps dragging out of bed to care for my toddler firstborn with no family in sight, and my then-husband sailing the China seas and far away. And I, a Navy wife newly posted to Australia not knowing anybody yet.
But here in New Mexico I do have friends. In hindsight I could have/should have phoned around, but… well, at the time it seemed so feeble.
Truth is, the thought of asking someone to please take David off my hands never entered my head. That damn British hang-up again I suppose. Just can’t shake it. Help for David? Yes. I’m only too happy to accept. But help me? My toes curl at the thought. Yet…how I’d have welcomed a gift of steaming chicken soup.
I had a roll-over accident once. Hung upside down, held by my safety belt. Now why couldn’t I simply say, “Help me please. Just get me out of here and quick?” instead of,
“I’m stuck,” I hesitently told the stranger’s face peering through the car window. “Do you think you could help me? I don’t seem to be able to release my belt?”
“Of course,” the stranger said amazed, crawling inside through the window releasing me.
Back to last week’s boring flu. Day two, reluctantly I rose from my bed, off-loaded David at his Acupuncture appointment and swim class. Was I daft that I didn’t cancel? What made his needs more important than mine?
Turned up the car heater and slept curled in the front seat counting the seconds till I could be home and lie flat. The wind howled from the East threatening snow. Finally home, I helped David battle from the car and propelled him along the path. No relief yet. The daily routine clamored.
“You need to rest,” David said, “to get your fever down.” His hand lay gently on my shoulder. “What’s for lunch?”
“And how… may I ask?” I snorted under my breath looking round for the invisible helper who could take over. “Who do you think will…” David meant kindly. No point arguing. Zipped my mouth. Snatched catnaps when I could.
Better now, I once again tussle my what if scenarios. Scribble down my what I want to know is…questions.
“What Emergency protocol is in place for David’s safe care if I’m not there?” I asked our Doctor’s receptionist. “Pretend the worst and I’m unable to communicate.”
“Good question,” she paused. “He would not be allowed to ride the ambulance…hmm. And he needs 24 hour care? Problem.”
I asked the guy from Senior Services.
“Tricky question,” he pondered. “There’s nothing. You have to make your own arrangements.” He shrugged his shoulders.
I asked the Caregivers at the Parkinson’s Coalition. “Compile a list. Tack it behind the front door. Or pack a VIAL OF LIFE with information and store it in the refrigerator.”
The local fire department agreed to have someone stay with David till the contact person arrived.
Contact person..Top Priority. Passwords..unravel.. I penciled placing the slip of paper in the growing MUST-DO pile. Will..check. Power of attorney..set up. Respite Care..arrange…
“STOP. Just listen to yourself,” my inner voice roared. “Do what you need to do, then drop it.”
That was it. In mid worry I stopped. Can’t believe how negative I had become — a worrier, even. How far off my center I’d wandered.
I looked over. At peace, David sat still in his chair. No wonder the leader of our Grand Canyon river raft trip awarded him the Buddha prize. (Mine? The most improved camper.) And that was fifteen years ago at least. Skirting whirlpools of icy water, un-fazed, David clung to the dinghy’s rope, rode the rapids, and lazed when we were becalmed. When we landed ashore each evening, David and a like-minded guide sat crossed-legged on the sand puffing smoke clouds towards the raging river, while the rest of the party, me included, scrambled the rocks on wild hikes, hunted waterfalls, gathered sticks and…
Hmm, I could be like that dog the Ayurveda doctor spoke of. Or follow my David’s example. I took a breath.
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Next week’s blog: Hanuman and me have a birthday
Previous blogs: Previous blogs:
1.Wearing a Hat from Hell * 2.Back Story before the Tidal Wave. * 3.There’s a Mouse in the Room. * 4.Shape-shifting — Husband to Patient:Wife to Caregiver. * 5.Think your Home is your Castle? Think again. * 6.Vision Quest beyond the Box. * 7.Cats in the Belfry. * 8.“En Guard Messieurs”…Dare me: cross this Line. * 9.Like it or No — Prepare to Play God. * 10.’Tis the Season to be Jolly — not for me it isn’t. * 11.Hello. Hello? Anyone Home? * 12.The Blue Hole — 90 miles ahead. * 13.Disabled — Daft — Demented? * 14.Up. Up and Away…* 15.Humble Pie. * 16.What do I have to Complain About. * 17. Come Back Tooth Fairy. * 18. Promises Promises. * 19. Fly Fly Away. * 20. Refresh. Reboot. * 21. Can this be Happening * 22. Hate when David… * 23. What if…?