My Wife’s Survival Guide to Our House: Our Just-in-Case Manual

Sam Kirton helps his wife, Susan, have all the how-to information she needs

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by Samuel Kirton |

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My 2017 diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis changed all our plans. Over the course of our journey, my wife, Susan, found herself responsible for many tasks I’d normally take on inside and outside of our home.

Susan has told many people over time that if she asked me to do something around the house and it was stagnant on my to-do list, she discovered how to make it happen. She would simply walk by me with a power tool or a hammer in her hand.

In preparation for my bilateral lung transplant, Susan had access to all our financial accounts, my passwords for my online accounts, and my computer. Surrendering that information didn’t scare me as much as what I hadn’t thought to tell her.

What I hadn’t thought to tell her led to the creation of “Susan’s House Book.”

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How it started

This project was a step toward being prepared for whatever might come our way. It began simply enough with the creation of a phone list for Susan, which contained the home-maintenance businesses I usually dealt with. If there was a specific person I dealt with, the entry might also include their name and an email address.

Imagine if you will all the types of regular maintenance a house might need. The list contained contacts for heating and cooling systems, chimney cleaning, plumbing, septic service, and many more. It also contained important house-related information, such as insurance, taxes, and utility account information.

These were all things I dealt with. Susan hadn’t found it necessary to know about them.

That goes in the book

It wasn’t long before we began including instructions for tasks that Susan wanted to know how to do herself. Susan would see me do one of them and say, “That goes in the book.”

When I was no longer able to work following my diagnosis, we sold our home in the Virginia suburbs of Washington and moved full time to the home we’d purchased for our retirement years at Lake Anna, in south-central Virginia.

There is no city water or sewer. There is no curbside trash pickup. In fact, there are no curbs.

Technical writing

The entries in Susan’s book are best described as technical writing. It was not simply a narrative, but step-by-step instructions for each task. If I used photos, they had to provide captions related to the instructions.

One of the more complex tasks that went into the book was how to change the filters on our water system. YouTube does a great job explaining this in how-to videos; however, they’re not our exact setup. In order to write step-by-step instructions, I would do the process while recording it as a video.

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Components and valves in our water system. (Photo by Sam Kirton)

What’s missing

Since my transplant in July 2021, we still maintain the book. It’s a living document that must have regular updates. When systems are replaced, for instance, that drives updates to the book.

Susan has the dimensions of the filters for the heating and cooling systems as close as her laptop screen. There are instructions to open the document safe, the formula we use for an organic weed killer, and the location of the shut-off valves for the outdoor hose bibs.

Even today we find tasks that go in the book.

Our book

Contrary to the title, the book is actually ours, though it was created to help Susan with many of the routine home-maintenance tasks. Though my recovery has gone well since my transplant, it gives me peace of mind that she has the information she needs.

“Susan’s House Book” isn’t likely to appear on The New York Times Best Sellers list. It was something written with love to make every breath count.

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.


Karen Carns avatar

Karen Carns

Again, another worthwhile message for ALL OF US! We 'talk' about these things and share information, but no book has been involved, but sure is a good idea. Can we start now? Of course, we can, but will we? Not sure, but hold on to hope that it may get done!
Thanks Sam.

Samuel Kirton avatar

Samuel Kirton

Thanks for following the column. The priorities of life take over for all of us. Optimism is a wonderful byproduct of hope.
Sam ...

Darlene Cochran avatar

Darlene Cochran

Great idea and action. I am going to do one so that when my family moves in or takes over the daily chores they will know what and how it has been done. They will probably change some things, but that is OK. Just had not thought of that as I prepare my all the info for the future. Thanks, and thanks for the column I enjoy it a lot! Breathe easy, Darlene

Samuel Kirton avatar

Samuel Kirton

Thanks for your note and for reading the column. It will give them a good resource to start from even if they make changes.

Sam ...

Steve Dragoo avatar

Steve Dragoo

Appreciate your article, Samuel. You have a good gift for writing...

Stay well

Samuel Kirton avatar

Samuel Kirton

Thank you for following the column and for your kind words. Much credit goes to the fantastic editors here at BioNews.
Sam ...


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