Celebrating an Annual Close

New YearI hear noisy fireworks outside, the sign of people celebrating the close of another year. I needed the reminder that there is always something to celebrate when we finish a year.

I always suffer with melancholy at the end of the year. As a child, it was because the Christmas season and break was coming to an end. As an adult it’s because I’m haunted by the goals and resolutions I didn’t achieve. My unfulfilled expectations discourage me. I’m plagued with wondering how I can better plan for the New Year and actually complete my goals. Instead of progressing each month, it feels like I’ve been regressing.

The antidote to my despair is hopefulness in the things I have accomplished, and gratitude for the people in my life who make it possible. A change of heart occurs when I reflect on the blessing of family, friends and experiences of the past year with a grateful heart. When I’m thankful I find peace with my life and my relationships.

When something good happens I like to write about it in detail. When I’m feeling down, I’m lifted when I read it. I’m finding it hard to write lately, partly because I’m out of practice so it takes more time, and secondly it’s difficult to make the time. Fortunately, I’ve taken time to at least capture some of the good times with pictures.

These pictures help me remember the joy I’ve experienced this year. Maybe I achieved more than I originally thought.

Forgive yourself

This month I didn’t accomplished near the things I traditionally do in December. It’s the first year I didn’t hang Christmas lights outside, or send out Christmas cards. I didn’t bake sweet bread like I wanted to for my neighbors and friends. Luckily the world didn’t come to an end and my neighbors and friends are still good to me. I hear them outside with joyous fireworks. They are finding reasons to celebrate tonight. I think I will close this article and go join them.

 

Give ThanksI thank you for being a part of my life’s journey.

 

What 2017 accomplishments are you celebrating tonight?

Ending a Thanksgiving Month

This month has been hard, harder than usual. So another fitting title came to mind, Grateful This Month is Over. However, the word thanksgiving makes me smile, so it quickly became my preference.

Sammy

Sammy at 22 years old.

The first two days in November were uneventful, like the calm before the storm.  The cliché is most fitting due to the unseasonably nice and warm weather we were enjoying. On the third day, my month fell apart when our twenty-two-year-old cat, Sammy, disappeared. He seemed anxious that day, meowing and pacing the house. The weatherman predicted a storm coming and I assumed Sammy sensed it too and wanted to go outside to enjoy the nice weather while he could. I let him outside and took advantage of the empty house by vacuuming. When I finished, I opened the back door, but he wasn’t there. At this point I wasn’t too worried and thought he just ventured farther than usual. I went back inside to complete a few more chores. The wind started to howl and it was dark. He wasn’t there on my second check. I earnestly searched all his favorite outdoor spots to curl up, exploring every possible place in our yard and garage. When he wasn’t there I got in our van and searched the streets. No Sammy. Did he run away to die? For the past year I’ve joked he was in hospice care because last November I brought our outdoor cat inside, due to wounds he received in a cat fight.  I really didn’t expect he’d survive then, but wanted to make his last days comfortable and happy even though he often triggered my asthma. He was my irrigation buddy and kept me company every time I worked out in the yard. He was there for us when our children grew up and moved away. A portion of our garage became his apartment, which he could freely go in and out of during the day, but closed in at night. He was there for me every time I came home, which I appreciated, especially during the times Mark was hospitalized. We’ve put a cat down before and I wasn’t ready to do it again despite his old age. I hoped Sammy could pass naturally in our home with us by his side.

It’s hard not knowing what happened to Sammy. I feel cheated I didn’t get to give him a proper goodbye for all those years we’ve enjoyed his companionship. But I’m grateful for the memories made and I especially appreciate this past bonus year we’ve had with him.

Dad & Sammy

Dad with Sammy, Dec. 2016

Six days later, after I’d raked most of the leaves in our yard and moved every storage box in the garage looking for Sammy with no closure made, my dad had a heart attack. Heart disease is unfortunately prevalent in my family. Dad’s first heart procedure was in 1985 – a triple bypass surgery. Then he was only 57 years old. In 1995 he had an heart attack and they put a stent in to correct the blokage. For the past year I’ve been going with Dad to his cardiologist appointments treating his heart murmur, a-fib and congested heart failure. I worried his heart was a ticking time bomb and I fretted about the when and how it would go off. Luckily it was a mild heart attack and not the massive one I feared. Over the next 6 days he had many tests and two procedures to create the best treatment plan for his heart problems. A heart valve replacement and a pacemaker were the remedies given and he made it through the surgeries with only one complication. His heart rhythm was off, so they had to give him a shock treatment which corrected that problem. We were relieved and expected to bring him home in a few days. On discharge day his heart went out of rhythm again and despite medication, they couldn’t get his heart to slow down.

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Taking time to celebrate with my mom and my super siblings. I sure love this crazy bunch! We were missing Dad, so we took the cake and ice-cream to the hospital conference room to have with him. Nov. 2017

After two days another shock procedure became necessary. It did the trick and now we pray he can stay in rhythm. He is a miracle and we’re grateful for so many prayers which aided his recovery. Close calls like this make me realize how fortunate I am to have my parents. It renews my appreciation for their influence in my life and the foundation they set in building a strong family. I have wonderful siblings and collectively we support and unite, especially when one of us is in need. I’m blessed to go through life with them.

As if the above wasn’t enough stress, Mark’s severe bladder infection and elevated PSA level led to more tests, which found a lesion in his bladder and an enlarge prostate.  Surgery to fix both problems is scheduled the first week in December.

An unfortunate side effect of Mark’s traumatic brain injury is seizures and they are more numerous when he has any other health issue. This month the seizures have come abundantly.

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Nov. 2017 Mark and I

Mark is blessed with a great sense of humor and he uses it constantly to cope and to put others at ease with laughter. The other night after a seizure, I asked him how his head felt. He said, “Full of wisdom.”

“I’m not sure how that feels, but I assume it would feel pretty good,” I replied as my worries were lifted.

In the urologist’s office, after the doctor explained the upcoming procedure, he looked at Mark and asked him if he had any questions. Mark rubbed the top of his bald head and said, “How do you keep your hair?”

The doctor laughed and replied, “I have a hair Goddess. She blesses me with hair so I can cut it and donate it for wigs. Then she blesses me again.”

I‘m fortunate to have a man that works through hardships with comedy. He’s a joy to be with and knows just how to lessen my concerns.

I can’t blame Sammy for taking off. There have been days this month I wish I could crawl under a bush somewhere and not be found. I wonder if he sensed a different kind of turmoil than the weather storm that was brewing the night he left. I speculate he thought he’d do me a favor by leaving and give me one less thing to tend to.  If this was he thought, he didn’t realize the hole in my heart he’d leave.

The month of November encourages me to have a gratitude attitude. This month I’m thankful that despite the hardships and worries experienced, I still have a lot to appreciate!

Tender Mercies Amid the Challenges

Written by Peggy Peterson Martin

Peggy Dave 2014My husband, David Paul Martin, age 74, passed away the morning of November 5, 2016 at a Hospice Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It all started with blood clots in early 2016… first one in his right leg, then one in his neck, then two in his left leg. Dave’s Oncologist couldn’t figure out why a 74 year-old man would suddenly start getting blood clots. She scheduled him for a colonoscopy, because he had colon cancer in 2003, and an endoscopy which they were supposed to do the same day. However, the doctor didn’t receive the orders for the endoscopy in time, so he only did the colonoscopy, which was clear.

Then on September 25, 2016, Dave had a stroke and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was expected to make a full recovery and released, but he developed pain in his side and back which kept getting worse. He was also unable to swallow solid food. Less than a month after his stroke, he was frustrated by the pain and liquid diet. Unable to get satisfactory answers from his Primary Care Physician, he asked to be taken to the ER. He was admitted and spent eight days in the hospital where an endoscopy was finally performed, which showed a large tumor at the base of his esophagus. It turned out to be stage 4 esophageal cancer and had metastasized to his liver. We found out it was the cancer that caused the blood clots and stroke! Dave was allowed to go home to consider his treatment options.

Martin's last family picture

2016, “Our last family picture,” Dave is in a white shirt and tie while the rest of us are in our grubbies because he wanted to have an obituary picture taken. We used something else, however. The blanket is covering his pajama bottoms!

Feeling a sense of urgency, all seven kids arrived within three days, including our son, David, who had recently moved to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. This was a beautiful weekend together. Despite his almost constant pain, we shared many tender moments, laughs, tears, and memories. It was also a difficult weekend because Dave decided to forgo chemotherapy which would only have limited effectiveness at best. Hospice was called a couple of days later. Dave was getting weaker, but his wish was to spend his remaining days at home. Unfortunately, hospice couldn’t give him the medication he needed to manage his pain at home, so they transported him to their care facility in Las Vegas. He never regained consciousness once they medicated him. He passed away only ten days after his diagnosis. Though this was a very difficult time, we recognized several tender mercies from the Lord.

Martin's KidsA year earlier, our daughter, Missy, and her family surprised us and drove all the way from their home in Charleston, Illinois, to show up at our son, Steve’s house in Herriman, Utah, for Thanksgiving dinner. All our other children were there, and it was the first time in over twenty years that we’d all been together for Thanksgiving. Dave was particularly touched and told Missy, “I’ll never forget this special surprise.”

Martin GrandkidsIn June of 2016, despite pain from two blood clots in his leg, Dave and I made a trip to Salt Lake City to see our kids and 23 grandchildren, including Missy and her family who were there on vacation. Jeff and his family from Henderson, Nevada, also just happened to be there for his wife’s family reunion. Our son, Rob, invited us to do some temple work with him. When we agreed, he decided to open the invitation to his siblings as well. Maybe it was Rob’s offer to buy everyone lunch, but all seven of our children and all but two of their spouses joined us in the Mount Timpanogos Temple that day. Having our whole family together was such a special experience, and everyone felt the significance and joy of being together there. It just happened to be our 49th Wedding Anniversary! This is a memory I especially cherish since we didn’t make it to our 50th which would have been next month.

Dave & Peggy 1967As soon as Dave came home from the hospital after the devastating diagnosis, our son, Rob, took off work and stayed at our home for over two weeks, not leaving until after the funeral. I couldn’t have done it without him. He was a rock of strength and faith. He helped Dave with many of his physical needs which would have been difficult for me. While Dave was on his deathbed, we had a sewer flood through our house causing significant damage, both to the main floor and the basement. Rob discovered it and was there to help me bail water, trying to keep it from going into the bedroom where Dave was sleeping. Though we didn’t succeed, Dave never fully realized the extent of what had happened. Rob and some of our other children were invaluable in handling the mess and dealing with the plumber, restoration company, and insurance matters.

A tender mercy Dave had in his final days is that he was visited on two occasions by his deceased parents and brother, Leonard, who was killed while serving a mission for our church in Pennsylvania. This brought him great comfort and made him feel he would be with them again when he died.

Dave never became a burden. It was a pleasure to care for him. Several of our kids stayed in our home during Dave’s last few days. They took turns caring for him at night and spending time with him during the day. He was uncomfortable most of the time and in obvious pain, so it was heart wrenching to feel so helpless, but we were willing to do anything to give him even a moment of relief. His rapid decline and death were both devastating and merciful…devastating because it happened so fast and we felt cheated, hardly knowing how to prepare for or deal with our loss…merciful because he wasn’t made to suffer any longer.

We all feel gratitude for the few days we had with our dear husband and father before his passing. His love of family, great example, words of wisdom, and the blessing of serving him will stay with us long after the grief has passed.

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Dave and Peggy were one of the first ones to welcome us to our new neighborhood in Draper, Utah in the year 1996. Our friendship grew as Peggy and I participated regularly in a line dancing class for exercise. We also enjoyed serving together in a women’s organization for our church. In 2002, they moved to a new home in Boulder City, Nevada. Fortunately, the miles between us did not break the friendship bond. I treasure the memory of a few surprise visits when they came to Utah to see their kids. They always left with an open invitation for us to come to Nevada and stay with them. Dave encouraged us by commenting their home was wheelchair accessible. I regret we never made the trip. 

On this Memorial Weekend, I thank Peggy for recognizing and sharing her tender mercies during such a difficult time. I cherish our friendship and appreciate that when we’re together, it doesn’t seem like years have passed. We easily pick up right where we left off! 

 

 

 

Nurturing Relationships

Humans are social beings and no one is totally self-sufficient. As much as we strive to be independent and admire those who appear to be, it’s sobering to realize in order to accomplish some things we need help. When I read, listen or ponder on my own or other’s life experiences, I realized how much we need one another to succeed. As humbling as the fact is, it also encourages me to reach out and give back to others.

Greg & Laura LakeGreg and Laura are wonderful examples of giving back to others. They shared their story with us this past week. Laura talked about some of the mistakes she’d made by saying, “I am fiercely independent and a stubborn woman. In the beginning I turned family and friends away. I said, ‘don’t fly up here, I’m fine’. Then, ‘we don’t need meals, I’ve got this covered.’”

“By turning help down, I alienated the very people Greg and I needed the most. I felt neglected, isolated, abandoned, ignored, lonely, unsupported, disrespected and misunderstood. When I needed family and friends the most, they were all gone.”

How often do we turn away our friends and family because we don’t know how to accept help or because we want to appear stronger than we really are? It’s much more enjoyable to give rather than receive help. When our lives are out of control, it’s scary and we hope we can make it better by managing things on our own. We may not understand ourselves what we need or how others can help so we push the people we want in our lives away.

The words of John Donne (1572-1631) a Jacobean poet and preacher came to mind, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”

When tragedy happens it’s hard to think about how it’s affecting our family and friends. We may be so wrapped up in our own worry and grief we are blind to the distress it has on others. They may feel left out or don’t know what to do or say.  They may not know how to help if we’re not open and honest with them.

I appreciated Laura’s advice to let people into our lives by letting them help and also by reaching out to others. She said, “It will reward you and them at a time when they are lost as well.  It will strengthen your relationships, not erode them.  You need help – take it!  They need to help!  Give them the opportunity! I challenge you to SAY YES! Learn from our mistakes and say YES!  YES I need help.  YES I could use that dinner.  YES I would love to join that group or club!  YES I could use a ride to my Dr.’s office or therapy appointment.  YES I would love to go on a walk, or to have you push me while you go on a walk.  Take a chance on making a new friend or rebuilding a relationship. As you do, opportunities, love and warmth will envelope you and your human relationships will grow!”

Get Well CardsI learn so much from others and appreciate my own life experiences. Today, in church, I witnessed many people nurturing their relationship with my mother, who has been too sick with back and hip pain to attend church for four months. Under better health circumstances, she has given so much love and service and is a great example to me of building friendships by reaching out to others. Our neighbors and friends ask me often how she is doing and I try to relay their concern to her. Since we live in the same home and attend the same church, I was given many cards to give to her expressing their love and concern. The children also made a big get well poster for her and wrote notes and signed it in their primary class. My mother’s spirit Get Well Primaryis raised up by the thoughtfulness of so many. Seeing the love that others have for my mother also lifted my spirit. I’m grateful for all the wonderful examples I see and have felt in my own life of nurturing relationships. Today, I realized it can be as simple as writing a note to someone.

 

In your life what personal acts illustrate nurturing a relationship? What effect did it have on you when you were receiving or giving the nurturing?

What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger, Part 2

I met Greg and Laura Nordfelt at the 2013 Brain Injury Conference, just two years after Greg’s motorcycle crash. I’ve enjoyed our friendship and watching this couple get stronger through their traumatic experience. They spoke last week at a combined Survivor and Caregivers Support Group sharing what they’ve learned.

Written by Laura Nordfelt

Greg & Laura-landing pad.pngThe medical helicopter which came to life-flight Greg was very old and small. In fact, half of his body was in the nose of the aircraft. The ventilator was broken and one of the paramedics was trying to bag Greg (it seemed sporadically) while trying to preform many other tasks. I mentioned to her I was an EMT and asked her if I could do the bagging for her. She agreed and I continued on every 4 seconds like I was trained to do in school. The flight seemed to take forever (I worried we were going to Canada!) and only looked out the window once or twice. When we started to land, all I saw was a “tough shed” structure on top of a roof.  Medical people ran out to get Greg and down an elevator we all went and into the Emergency Department. By the time I felt comfortable enough to leave his side, I asked, “Where are we?” When they told me Coeur d’Alene, ID, I told them I needed to take Greg to Salt Lake City, but the doctor told me he would not survive the flight. I slumped down against the wall and lost it.

I made mistakes. I am fiercely independent and a stubborn woman. In the beginning I turned family and friends away. I said “don’t fly up here, I’m fine”. Then, “we don’t need meals, I’ve got this covered.” Not only did I watch him crash, but I kept him alive for 45 minutes until the paramedics arrived. I was a mess! I had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and I was in a cocoon as much as Greg was in a coma.

An Executive Vice President from Greg’s work came to the hospital to visit and I cut her off down the hall and visited with her. There’s no way I was going to let her see the condition Greg was in. I was so worried that he was going to lose his job. I posted a sign “Family Only” on Greg’s door at the hospital. Visitors had to check with me or the nurse before entering his room. I took the phone off the wall and put it in a drawer and took his cell phone away from him. He wanted to call his office to “check on things” all the time. I was worried he’d say something inappropriate.

Greg & Laura-tableWhen Greg left the hospital, I sent out a message on Facebook telling our friends that Greg needed time to rehab and recover so if they could wait to visit, that would be much appreciated. I really only meant it for acquaintances, thinking our close friends wouldn’t take it to heart. A few months down the road some dear friends of ours called and asked if they could bring dinner and come for a visit. I was thrilled! Frankly I had wondered why they hadn’t called sooner.

While we were setting up dinner, she told me they would have come sooner, but wanted to respect my wishes of giving us our space. I said, “Oh, I didn’t mean you guys!” I realized then that I had alienated the very people Greg and I needed the most. Greg’s co-workers later expressed the same emotions. If only they’d known what to do. They wanted to help in any way, but we pushed them away.

I own a business and I needed someone to sit with Greg or run him to therapy appointments, but I said “NO, I’m fine”. I really wasn’t fine, but I wanted to be and I didn’t know how to let them help. Most of it was my fault, but some of it was not.  Caregivers leave the hospital with their tool bags pretty much empty. I had to earn my hammer, saw and screwdriver the hard way. I felt neglected, isolated, abandoned, ignored, lonely, unsupported, disrespected and misunderstood. When I needed family and friends the most, they were all gone.

Greg & Laura-walkIn order to heal, I had to get outside of myself. I started the first ever Caregiver Group in Utah as a survival mechanism. As much as I wanted to give back to the community, I needed other caregivers. As I spent time listening to their stories, I felt not so overcome by my own problems. I felt empathy and compassion. When “in the moment” of caring for caregivers and survivors, their hurdles felt more important than my own. When we get caught up in these “feel good” experiences, we don’t need anything in return. I also joined the Board of the Brain Injury Alliance of Utah. This is my passion now!

Another way I healed is a couple of years ago a friend asked me to join her book club. I love to read, but I was scared at first because I only knew her and no one else. I went one time and almost did not go back, but forced myself to hang in there. These women are now very near and dear to my heart. I’ve read many wonderful books which I never would have picked up on my own. The social setting has its benefits as well. We trade off hosting dinner so I’m learning new recipes. I work on my listening skills and forget my problems for a few hours. By the very nature of getting together with women, it forces me to get out of my pajamas. Therefore, I get semi-dressed up, put on my makeup and lipstick and wear my fun jewelry. All of this is very good for my soul!

Thank you, Laura, for sharing your experiences and what you’ve learned. Friedrich Nietzsche was right, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”  I see that in Greg and Laura’s life and hope you see that truth in your own life.

My Broken Habit

writingloveI can’t believe it’s been over three months since I’ve written on Uniting Caregivers. I’ve missed it and the therapeutic nature writing is for me, but as with any good habit, they are hard to start and easy to break. Why is the opposite true with bad habits? They’re too easy to start and hard to break. Now that I’ve broken my writing habit, I’m struggling to know where and how to restart.

A lot has happened in the past few months. December is always a crazy month with it being the end of the year and the holidays thrown in the mix with related parties. It’s joyful and stressful all wrapped up at the same time. This year my mom, who is the supreme organizer and chief executive of all our family gatherings, was not feeling well so my siblings and I tried to step up to the task. We enjoyed our time together, but nobody can fill my mother’s shoes.

Arthritis and a bad hip are keeping my mother in constant pain and making it very difficult for her to move. Using a walker has been a hard recommendation for her to follow, but for safety sake’s she reluctantly agreed. My mother has always been the ultimate caregiver to those around her, yet it’s difficult for her to accept help from others. Switching roles is a hard transition for all of us, but there isn’t a better alternative than to accept health problems and make the best out of life challenges. Therapy and cortisone shots are her best hope now and she’s doing both.

Dad works hard to keep up with his new household responsibilities in addition to all his old ones. Assisting Mom with cooking meals and doing laundry along with driving to every doctor and therapy appointment can be strenuous. Living in the same household with them has been a blessing and I help as much as I can along with four wonderful siblings who all live nearby. Unfortunately, Dad recently developed pneumonia. We’ve all stepped up a little more to help out and as our family works together, our love and appreciation grows stronger.

Caregiving comes in all sorts of intensity sizes and experiences. Soon after Thanksgiving, our twenty-year-old, outdoor cat became very sick. I love all animals and have had many in my lifetime. Several years ago I started suffering with asthma and my complete dependence on breathing and the adverse impact that animals have on my airways made it necessary for me to love them at a distance. What I wish could be indoors had to be outdoors and as our beloved pets passed on, we haven’t replaced them.

Sammy

Sammy, February 2017

Sammy is a beautiful Siamese cat with more than nine lives. He has stayed with us longer than either of our two children, who both left home at eighteen years. He isn’t cherished more than our children, but still cherished for being a loyal friend day in and day out for a very long time. When I pulled our van into the garage, which is also Sammy’s apartment and he didn’t come out to greet us, I was worried. I found him in a corner looking distraught and unloved with his matted hair. I grabbed his hairbrush and with the first gentle brush stroke he nearly fell over. I put him in his bed and brought it in the house. He lay motionless for most of the night, which I know because I tried to sleep on the couch by his bed with one eye continually on him. I expected him to die that night.

I don’t know for sure what happened to Sammy, there was no blood or noticeable injury, but I suspected a cat fight. There had been a black cat hanging around, which Mark named Spook Impostor after a similar adored black cat we had thirty-five years ago. This particular night we saw him leaving the yard as we drove in.

The next day Katie helped me give Sammy a bath and we inspected his body for wounds. We did find a couple of puncture wounds by his right shoulder, but they didn’t appear to be bad. Days went by where he only woke up to eat and to use the litter box. I continued daily breathing treatments and shed many tears because I didn’t expect he’d live much longer and it would be the end of the pet era of my life.

Some family and friends suggested I put him down. I had to do that eight years ago with our cat, Figaro and that tied my stomach up in knots along with giving me a bad asthma attack from the vets office and all the animal dander in the air. Since Sammy didn’t seem to be suffering in pain, I wanted him to go naturally.

Nearly four months later, I continue to give Sammy hospice care. He’s had a cyst fill with infection, drain and heal, then come back four times now. He has gained weight and strength, only to lose it again. It’s a roller-coaster ride, but I want to care for him as an expression of my appreciation for his long-time companionship.

Dad & Sammy

Dad with Sammy December 2016

Amazingly, my asthma is doing better. I rarely need breathing treatments now. We did get an air purifier, which I’m sure has helped my allergies, along with hypoallergenic wipes I use on him almost daily. I’m enjoying this time with Sammy and he is the perfect house cat. He’s too old to jump up on furniture or counters. I know his days are numbered and I enjoy every day we have with him.

Aging in any life is hard. As I try to help and support my loved ones through it, my life is enriched. So as much as I enjoy writing, providing for the needs and cares of my family will come first while I try to mend my broken writing habit.

Carry On

July is full of outdoor activities and celebrations that last all month long in Utah. It’s my favorite time of year with family reunions, outdoor plays, concerts, parades and many festivities to look forward to. The sun rises early, which makes it easier for me to do also. The weather is usually sunny and the daylight lasts until 9 pm, making this month the one to accomplish the most outside. I always have great aspirations for this month.

This year we started the month out by driving to Vancouver, Washington with our daughter, Katie. We enjoyed visiting with Mom Wilson, Karen and Mark Ray. Lucky for us our son, Christopher, lives just across the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon making our visit quadrupled the fun. We enjoyed an Independence Day celebration at the park with energetic music, food trailers, beautiful fireworks and the great company of family. It’s always hard to say good-bye to loved ones especially without knowing when we’ll see them again. We made the long trek home in about fourteen hours, which includes our fuel and rest stops.

My asthma flared up during our trip and I struggled more than usual to get it under control. When we returned home I went to the doctor for what I thought would be just a medication change. I left Mark home alone, expecting it to be a short doctor’s visit since I was her second appointment of the day. My oxygen level was low so they gave me a breathing treatment and oxygen, which confined me to the room until my oxygen level reached normal.

Two hours later, I left the room anxious to get back to work and to Mark. Remodeling construction had started near the large entrance/exit sliding glass door of the building. With no cone or sign before it, I didn’t see the piece of metal track that had been attached to the tile floor during my doctor’s appointment. I tripped and fell on it, landing hard on the tile, dislocating my right shoulder.

Dislocated shoulder 1

Dislocated Shoulder 07/08/16

My body wrenched in pain like I’d never felt before. I tried to get up, but couldn’t. A man came to my aide and before I knew it, I was sitting in a wheelchair and whisked to the Urgent Care Clinic in the building.

I heard someone report I was in and out of consciousness and my vitals dropped. “Call an ambulance; she needs to go to the hospital.”

“Please put my shoulder back in place,” I pleaded. “I need to get back home to my husband.”

The look on the doctor’s face helped me realized how silly the statement sounded, so I explained. “My husband has a traumatic brain injury and is confined to a wheelchair. He depends on me to get him in and out of the chair.”

“I don’t believe you’re going to be able to lift him for six to eight weeks,” he said while placing an IV for fluids and another one for morphine.

The first stranger who rushed to my aide looked at me drenched in perspiration from the pain and in sympathy said, “I’m sorry. Don’t worry about the medical cost. We’ll take care of you.” I assume he was the job foreman.

Submissive to all the medical team requests, I moved every which way they asked as they transferred me to the stretcher and rushed me to the hospital. For the next three hours the only thing on my mind was getting my shoulder back in place. My right arm went from feeling like it weighed 100 pounds, to numbness, to sharp, shooting pains running down it. I was sure my arm was dying and at times I thought death would be my only relief. No matter how many times I begged them to fix my shoulder there were tests that needed to be done to make sure I didn’t need surgery or an x-ray that had to be taken to show the best way to maneuver it back in place. Finally I was given a conscious sedation and like Humpty Dumpty who fell off the wall, I was put back together again. Instant relief followed, but then came the body shakes, which I will take anytime over the pain of a totally dislocated joint.

Located Shoulder 2

Healing shoulder, 07/19/16. The bump on my clavicle is from the break 25 years ago. I’m glad it didn’t break again!

I’m an aging caregiver who is dedicated to the love of my life. My worst fear is not being physically capable of caring for him. I’ve always known it’s a possibility, but I don’t know how to prepare for it. I know the options and none of them feel right. Even the option of relying on family and friends for help ties my stomach up in knots.

This year the sunny month of July has been the darkest I have felt in a long time. Depressing thoughts linger because my body can’t do what it wants to do. With my arm splinted in a sling and strapped to my side to allow torn tendons and ligaments to heal, my mind keeps focusing on the negative aspects of my life. Having to depend on others to help with Mark’s care for several weeks makes it hard for my heart to find hope in a brighter future. How do I dig out of this gloomy place and feel the sunshine in my life again?

brigham-young-and-pioneers-entering-the-valleyAnnually on July 24th, our state honors the Mormon pioneers who arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. I imagine after pulling handcarts or driving wagons with oxen or horses across the plains more than a thousand miles, the pioneers were happy to settle the desert landscape now known as Utah. Last week our celebration reminded me their trek exemplifies courage and faith. Their stories inspire me. They endured harsh weather, death of loved ones and starvation as their food and water supplies diminished.  Nothing had prepared the majority of these travelers for the exhaustion, illnesses and injuries they would suffer. They were beginners in a new territory, learning a new way of life.

I see similarities between my caregiving trek and my pioneer ancestors who walked approximately 1,248 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois. Although we thankfully have the comfort of a home with plenty of food and water, nothing had prepared me for the anxiety and exhaustion of caring for another, or the illnesses and injuries which keep arising. As we make it through one challenge only to receive another, I continue to be a beginner in a new territory, learning a new way of life that most people can’t fully understand. I am a modern-day pioneer and so are you as we struggle through our own personal trek. This connection gives me courage and faith to carry on.

The pioneers didn’t know how or when their journey would end. Similarly, I don’t know how or when ours will end. Like my ancestors’ examples, I’m committing to carry on with faith in every footstep for a brighter future. Even if we don’t reach our desired destination in this life, I believe we’ll be blessed beyond the grave, free from the harsh physical ailments which we have endured. With confidence, I picture this celebration far grander than I’ve ever witnessed and possibly can even imagine.

Just as I started the month of July with great aspirations, I end it with the same for the future and will carry on as best I can.