“. . . In Sickness and in Health”
by Diane Burton
We’ve all heard those words as part of wedding vows. They sound like a great promise. In actuality, it can be quite different. I’m sure you’ve heard of wives who leave husbands after a severe injury, or a husband who divorces because a wife has cancer or a debilitating disease.
I’ve been very fortunate to have a supportive spouse. My health problems started during my first pregnancy and continued periodically ever since. Hubs always took care of me. He’d bring flowers and treats to cheer me up, drove me to the doctor, made meals (or brought home take-out). And he put up with my bad moods when I let pain dictate. Luckily, the surgeries or sickness didn’t happen often—long periods of good health.
Everything changed five months ago when Hubs learned he had to have an aortic valve replacement. After tests, they discovered something on his lungs. Scary thought since he’d had a friend die recently of Stage 4 lung cancer. Then came the night he couldn’t breathe. A call to 911 (my first ever), a rush to the ER—congestive heart failure—three days in the hospital, two hours after discharge he started speaking nonsense.
Really scary. I’d read a sign with symptoms of a stroke and that was one of them. Back to the ER in time to get a clot-busting drug, a scary overnight while the nurses woke him every half hour to ask questions and getting odd responses, gradually turning the corner then finally a diagnosis easily taken care of with meds. The back-to-back hospital stays delayed the pre-valve replacement surgeries a month.
Throughout all of this, our kids were there. They rushed to the hospital to be with me. They brought the older grandkids, stayed with Hubs so I could go home and get some sleep. After he came home, daughter prepared meals for us so I had one less thing to think about. Thank goodness, they live close enough to do this.
Then our new reality kicked in. Hubs couldn’t drive. That more than anything else drove him nuts. He loves to drive, so not being able to run to the hardware store or hobby shop, or for a “Sunday drive” left him restless. He had other restrictions, too.
My turn to step up and take care of him. Staying home for days never bothers me—gives me more time to write. But now I had to take him everywhere. Driving from our small lakeside resort town into Grand Rapids to the heart center was not fun (never mind we’d both grown up in/near Detroit and had lived there for many years). Thank goodness for GPS.
Changing the way we ate was another challenge. After our daughter’s meals, I had to cook again and learn to cook differently. We’d grown accustomed to eating out often. He usually did the grocery shopping. Now, not only did I have to do it, I had to read labels for sodium content. A big turnaround in our lifestyle.
The upshot was that it was my turn to be the caregiver, a role I had no problem taking on. While he often thanked me for doing such-and-such, I reminded him of how often he took care of me. Despite the restrictions of home health care, he would grouse some but never lost his temper. It’s hard for some people to accept help. He’s one of those people. 😊
We weathered those five months, he had his valve replaced, everything has been going smoothly. He could drive again, no restrictions other than to watch for weight changes and limit the salt intake. Hey, we made it through what could’ve been a really difficult time. Just as he took care of me through knee replacements, gallbladder surgery, etc., I took care of him during this heart thing.
A week ago, I broke a bone in my foot. Don’t know how but, for now, I can’t walk on it. So, here we are again, Hubs taking care of me. And I’m trying very hard to remind myself what a good patient he was. LOL I’m grousing but trying not to snap at him when he doesn’t do things the way I want.
Isn’t that’s what spouses do? Sometimes one gives and the other receives then vice versa. Marriage is never a 50-50 deal. A time may come when one of us cannot take care of the other.
My mom had Alzheimer’s, so we’re both aware of the emotional turmoil that dread disease brings. Physically, it can be worse. Hubs and I have talked about this. If the time comes, one of us may need to go into a nursing facility. That doesn’t diminish the vow of caring for one another. It may be a fact of life.
Until that time comes, we muddle through, with our family’s help, taking care of each other.
About the Author
Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction.
Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mystery series.
She is also a contributor to two anthologies: Portals, Volume 2 and How I Met My Husband.
Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and five grandchildren.
You can read Diane’s “Family Life” column on the 3rdWednesday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.