November 26, 2013

Thankful for the Real Caregivers

Cancer Center on the left, view from the hospital at sunset.
Twice in the night his cell goes off with the ring that sounds like an alarm. More than once I thought it was a fire alarm. I have acclimated and now I remember the alarm means the hospital is calling.

When it rang in the dark, he didn't have the phone on speaker but I hear the nurse’s voice, direct and to the point, “C-section stat.”

He hurries to crawl into his jeans and shirt. I know he had left them hanging on the knob in his closet just in case. Most times they hit the laundry bin the next morning. But this night, he got the call. He doesn’t know exactly what he will find when arrives. He’s been called hundreds of times. Every time I pray.

I know he’s praying too.

He closes the door gently, thinking I hadn’t heard his commotion getting to the door.

Later, I didn’t hear him slip in beside me, so when the second call came, it jolted me from a deep sleep. He was out the door in minutes, and back to the New Life Center again.

The next alarms we heard had been set to wake us. They rang simultaneously. I didn’t know we set them at the same time. I swipe mine off and reach over with my foot so I can feel for his presence, see if I need to turn his off too. He had snuck in on me again, and I felt his warm leg. He wasn’t quite as quick to shut it off as with the other alarms. I didn't blame him. Morning came too soon. 

He rolled out but I rolled over. He got ready for work in the clinic with less than four hours of sleep.

I heard him heading to the kitchen to get the coffee dripping before he came back and turned on the shower. I wake up slowly. I have never been one to jump out of bed unless I am going on vacation.

He heads out to take care of babies and I get head out to take Dad to his daily appointment, day 14 of a seven-day-a-week attack on multiple myeloma. There no end in sight at the moment as the battle wages and we await the day when he will receive his own stem cells---a bone marrow transplant. The treatments have started to take a toll but we have learned to be flexible to expect the unexpected and be thankful that he sleeps in his bed at night.

We parked in the deck and I opened a mask in a cellophane package before we step into the cold. He puts it on in the parking lot. I dig mine out of the blue bag. We walk masked to the revolving door. We will take no chances in the close quarters of the elevators. 

I signed Dad in at the reception desk, grabbed a rubber glove from a box sitting near the CaviWipes. Pulling a wipe from the tub, I wiped down the chair where Dad is waiting for me. Germ-free chairs, we sit to wait.

Twenty minutes pass and we hear his name coming from the door that has now become familiar. We move toward a flexible routine we have come to know. I was scrambling to get my computer stashed away, grab our coats, and hurry to catch up with him.  I caught up and stood looking over his shoulder as he stepped onto the scale for his vitals. Suddenly, time slowed as I watched his body began to fold up. The nurse caught him, a wheelchair appeared, and fifteen nurses flocked to the scene.

We got the unexpected.

We are in the hospital tonight. He recovered quickly after we rode in an ambulance across the medical campus to the ER. His collapse was most likely a side effect from getting up in a hurry and medicines that are messing with his blood pressure and slight dehydration.

Dad tells me later, “It’s hard not to hurry when you’ve been hurrying seventy-one years.” I know he's telling the truth and I know this experience will change that. My dad compensates easily when he needs to---at least most of the time.

Last week, I went to a class for caregivers. It’s nice to be called a caregiver, and somewhat weighty. But this I have figured out: I am not one of the real caregivers. The real caregivers are up in the night with sick babies, and with their momma’s bearing down; and they are catching father’s who are battling cancer and side effects. They are hanging bags of fluid and chemotherapy. They are giving shots right into the belly without flinching. They are dispensing medicine and making schedules and asking if we need anything else. And they are bringing supper with a smile even when they don't have a clue about what is on the plate under the dome.

They are every race, both genders. They are jovial and pragmatic. They are old and young, seasoned and learning. Above all, they are committed to their callings.

The men and women who work in the field of medicine are the real caregivers. 

From the kid who talked football with Dad while he took his blood pressure, to the genius I am certain was working an algorithm in his head as he looked over gene studies and body scans, these serve others in ways that comfort and confound, help and heal. 

Last night I was thinking about Thanksgiving and how the schedule says we will be at the Infusion Clinic twice on Thursday, (at least Dad will be there twice.)

I know that we can give thanks in all things because all things are working together for those called to God’s purpose. I determined to set my meditations toward thankfulness even in this, even when battling cancer means riding the roads 130 miles most days.

I walked back over to the cancer center to show gratitude to the ladies who caught my daddy as he crumbled. One of them grabbed my scrawny self up into her arms, whispered in my ear, "God answers prayer."

I tear slipped from my eye. Because He does and she is my sister. 

Tonight I am so thankful for the real caregivers. May they receive many crowns in glory.

I know many of you are caregivers (or you love one.) On behalf of those you have cared for, I thank you and I thank God for you. I pray you have blessed Thanksgiving, even if you have to work. 

Who is the caregiver you thought of as you read this post? Will you share your gratitude in the comment box below?

Linking with Jennifer at #TellHisStory

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