I was recently thinking about how far we have come through my husband’s Cystic Fibrosis (CF), his 9-month long stay on a ventilator to keep him alive and his miracle double lung transplant. You would think that my mind would wander from one traumatic time to another over those many years but my mind kept coming back to a single point in time. It was the moment when I realized the true blessing of being a caregiver.
My husband was in the TLC ward of the UW-Madison Hospitals, sitting on the side of his bed with the life support tube attached to his neck. He was good at not having to be sedated on the ventilator and the doctors allowed him to move about as much as he could.
He was sitting on the side of the bed because I was armed with his electric razor, when his dad said from across the room: “You’re a good wife.”
I was floored. My father-in-law never gave me a compliment and this was one of those times I was least expecting it.
I was just doing something that normally came to me. It was important that Hubs feel as normal as possible no matter what condition his body may be in. Every day I would help him bathe, I would shave his face, I would bring his hygiene items to the bed and every day I would always walk into the room first thing in the morning and say “Hello, handsome” – even when he was almost fully sedated.
I’d even joke with him while he was on the ventilator as though the machines weren’t there and he was not on his “death bed” (as the doctors always liked to remind me). It kept him human, he kept him feeling like he was normal and could anything he set his mind to.
Here we are, 8 years after that winter that almost claimed his life – with a new set of lungs and back to being truly normal.
If it were not for my caregiver’s gift of keeping him normal, he would not be alive today. I know my husband and understand that it doesn’t cost money to make him feel like a million bucks – even when his body was failing him.
If you are a caregiver, what do you do to help the one you love? How do you make him/her feel special – like they can move mountains even when their body is broken? How do you share your gift?