Our Family Came Through When My Caregiver Needed Caregiving
After contracting respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and having an exacerbation of my idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, I was homebound. I wasn’t able to walk more than 15 feet and was having some anxiety.
The majority of my anxiety issues pertained to coughing episodes. When I stood up from sitting, my heart rate would skyrocket into the 120s and immediately throw my body into a hacking and coughing frenzy. Unfortunately, these episodes were painful, and I felt like they would never stop. I was on sick leave, and my wife was at work.
Anxiety crept in when I was home by myself. This feeling had never come over me before, but then again, I never had a terminal disease before. Some days I wouldn’t eat anything but snacks because I was terrified of going into a coughing episode. My wife prepared my meals and placed them in the fridge and I only had to put the meals in the microwave. Unfortunately, I was not able to function on some days. The days seemed long waiting for my wife to come home. I was happy and felt safe when she was there. It’s too bad I didn’t tell her these words.
After six weeks of being home by myself and recovering from a bout of RSV, the unthinkable happened. My wife separated her shoulder at work. When I first received the phone call, I was enraged, but of course, there was no action I could possibly take. I could barely walk 15 feet. I knew something was wrong because the person who called to tell me was a former colleague of mine. She usually was jovial when she spoke, but this time she talked to me in a soft and comforting tone. She told me she didn’t want to upset me.
My wife is right-handed, so of course, it was her right shoulder that became separated. She isn’t ambidextrous. She had some complications using her left arm, but she did the best she could. She looked clumsy when trying to do things, but my safety blanket now was home with me for at least the next two months. I was happy in that aspect but also empathized with her pain.
My mother-in-law came over to help. She was, and is, helpful with us, and we’re lucky she lives near us. Now there were two incapacitated individuals in the house. We didn’t want to overwhelm my mother-in-law, so we called my sister who lives in Florida.
My sister came about a week after my wife suffered the injury and stayed about two and a half weeks. My mother-in-law and sister worked out an arrangement: My mother-in-law tended to my wife, while my sister took care of me. This arrangement worked for me, and my wife didn’t mind the extra attention, either. My sister did most of the cooking, which was nice because she cooks like my mother. I have Polish heritage, and I am the only sibling born in the U.S. The others were born in Poland.
My wife was getting stronger and regaining more use of her right arm. By now, my sister had gone back to Florida and my mother-in-law would come over to help out, but not every day. Friends and co-workers made frequent visits, engaging in conversation and dropping off food to make our lives easier. I felt badly that so many people took pity on us, but I was happy my wife was home and my anxiety had subsided. I felt guilty feeling this way, but you can’t change how you feel.
Upon reflection of this time, I think it was like a “Three Stooges” skit. How many other things could go wrong? It was almost comical except for the part about me suffering from a devastating disease and my wife injuring her shoulder. But we persevered and made it through the ordeal.
Having my mother-in-law and sister here was extremely helpful in our recovery and made our lives much easier. The support we received from our friends and family will never be forgotten.
How have others helped you during a difficult time in your journey? Please share in the comments below.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.