From PF patient to caregiver: Navigating life’s twists and turns

A role reversal leads to new insight and understanding

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by Ann Reynoso |

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It has been two months since I last shared my thoughts in this column, and in that time, life has unfolded in ways I could never have anticipated. The lessons I’ve learned during this period have been profound, leading me to confront the blatant reality that life rarely adheres to our plans.

An older man lies in a hospital bed surrounded by monitors and machines. He's wearing a hospital gown and bracelet, and though his expression is solemn, he's giving the camera two thumbs up.

Tivo Reynoso’s last day in the hospital after his ministroke. (Photo by Ann Reynoso)

Life has a unique way of surprising us and shaking us down to our core. For me, this took the form of suddenly transitioning from a patient to a caregiver. The shift happened abruptly on Jan. 4, when my husband, Tivo, expressed feelings of dizziness, nausea, and a sense of being lost, which required urgent medical attention.

Because we live in a rural area and time is of the essence, my daughter and I rushed Tivo to the hospital ourselves, avoiding the wait for an ambulance. As someone with pulmonary fibrosis, I suddenly found myself on the other side of the hospital experience — answering medical questions, managing insurance details, and ensuring my husband received the best care possible.

The role reversal felt both strange and revealing. I typically experience the hospital from a patient’s perspective, but this time, I was a caregiver advocating for a loved one. The experience provided a beautiful and emotional twist, stressing the importance of reciprocal care.

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Stepping up to the plate

The diagnosis revealed that my husband had experienced a ministroke, requiring a three-day hospital stay. Throughout this ordeal, I never left his side, gaining firsthand insight into the challenges faced by caregivers. It was an eye-opener, helping me understand the depth of dedication required to care for a loved one during a health crisis.

A husband and wife lean toward each other to take a photo. They appear to be sitting together on the couch at night, as the window behind them is dark. The woman is wearing a nasal cannula which provides supplemental oxygen.

Ann and Tivo Reynoso in good spirits. (Photo by Ann Reynoso)

This unexpected journey has provoked a change in perspective. Daily, my strength and resilience are tested, pushing aside any fragments of selfishness. It’s my turn to step up to the plate, honoring the vows of “for better or worse, in sickness and in health.” The experience has deepened our understanding of each other’s pain and worries, bringing us face-to-face with the delicateness of life.

During this trial, we’ve learned to lean on each other without guilt. My own battle with pulmonary fibrosis has taken a back seat as we face this new challenge together. Contrary to concerns about being seen as “the blind leading the blind,” we find strength in each other, making plans that benefit us both and refusing to travel alone.

Being a caregiver to Tivo has become a cherished chapter in our journey. We laugh, engage in serious discussions about end-of-life wishes, and find comfort in time spent together. It’s a role that comes with emotional challenges, but we are fortunate to have the steady support of our daughter and others in our lives.

While I know that my days as a caregiver may eventually come to an end, for now, I am grateful for the opportunity to continue this life journey alongside my husband, discovering the spirit that flourishes in the face of unexpected twists and turns.


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

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