The Land of Well

“How was it going back to church today,” my daughter, Katie, asked last Sunday just after I finished my article, There’s No Place Like Home.

Being in the mindset of the Wizard of Oz I said, “It seemed a bit strange to be in the Land of Well around a large group of people without apparent physical challenges.”

She seemed surprised by my response so I explained, “I was so involved with health problems I forgot there are many more people who are physically fit. Seeing people with all their limbs intact and joints which appear to be working without any thought can seem strange after being around many who struggle.”

Most people don’t realize how fortunate they are for their good health. After being around others with limitations and struggles, I promise myself I will appreciate my body more. However, it doesn’t take long after being in the “Land of Well” for me to fall back into that category of people taking for granted a body that works with ease.

I’ve recommitted to take better care of my own body. I vacillate back and forth from weight loss to weight gain, from being energetic to feeling sluggish. It’s a quirk of mine I want to change. I admire those who stay steadily motivated to eat right and exercise. I enjoy being physically active, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me. I weigh more than ever, missing a summer of walks, biking, hiking and gardening. It’s difficult to find the time with all the other responsibilities. For me it’s an issue of finding balance and making priorities. When my diet is good and my weight down I feel dynamic, full of life. During which time I can’t imagine falling back into my old habits. However, the patterns and routines creep back into my life at such a slow pace I don’t realize it’s happening until I find myself back or even further behind the place I vowed to never go to again.

What can be more important than taking care of my body? I know the answer, but find it difficult to put it first, before the other stresses and responsibilities of life. It takes time and planning to prepare nutritious meals and exercise—time that my relentless habits tell me I don’t have. I may have fallen off the band wagon again, but I can pick myself up, dust those bad habits off and start again.

Land of WellIn January of 2014 I wrote For Health’s Sake—Make a Date. I’m going to do it again, for I know my body needs to be appreciated by taking the best care of it I can. I’ve learned so much from people with physical limitations and realize their spirits make up for what their bodies can’t do. They remind me of the importance of appreciating what I have and taking care of it to the best of my ability. I enjoy the Land of Well and want to be there for as long as I can. I’m taking the leap, how about you?

Accepting Care as a Caregiver

IMG_0720I’ve been spoiled for the past two weeks. Friends and family have made the anxious recovery time enjoyable by bringing in meals, cookies, flowers and a visit. My brother and employer, Steve, not only spent the first night by my side, but has come every day to make sure I’m well and has covered much of my employment responsibilities. I’ve also had Katie’s constant watchful eye. All these blessings have helped me heal quicker and better than I expected. I was dreading the recovery time, worried that I’d be hovering over Mark, his personal aide and Katie. How could anyone else take good enough care of him? I’ve learned Mark can be in good hands other than my own.

When Katie realized I needed surgery, she immediately offered to come and help. I didn’t want to burden her, so I thanked her and declined the offer. She is a self-employed, busy, graphic designer plus she volunteers in four different organizations right now. Eldin, her husband, is a great supporter of Katie, but he is a busy bishop in addition to his full-time job. Since our son lives in Washington State, I didn’t feel it would be fair for her to carry this load on her own.

After interviewing three aides who weren’t able to fulfill our needs for one reason or another, Katie offered her help again. Being a protective mom and wanting to preserve the father/daughter relationship, I’ve never given Katie the opportunity to have the hands on routine of transferring her dad from the bed to the wheelchair, showering and other personal care tasks. I knew she’d be capable, but I didn’t want to add caregiver to her many other responsibilities. I realize now I was denying her the blessings that come from caregiving.


IMG_0700IMG_0709In these two weeks we’ve learned a lot. It’s a joy to watch Katie and Mark interact with one another. It’s evident to me when you serve someone, your love somehow grows. I never imagine she could be more thoughtful and kind, but somehow she is. I never believe she would love us more, but somehow she does.I don’t understand why this is or how it works. It reminds me of when I was pregnant and I wondered how I could have room in my heart to love and care for another baby. When she arrived, my heart magically grew and right from the start, I loved her every bit as much as my first baby.This growing magic continues throughout life as different nurturing experiences arise. It’s a beautiful part of life.

Before the surgery, I paid two neighborhood boys to help move some furniture and make a separate bedroom for me in the front part of the house which was originally my office. In this room I can’t see or hear Mark and can completely rest without any worries. Since Katie is here most of the day and night I can relax, confident that Mark is cared for.

I hired a shower aide to come every other day for Mark. She also helps him with his exercises. This not only lightens Katie’s load, but keeps her from having to do the personal care which would be awkward for their father/daughter relationship. Having others who know Mark’s needs and understand his routine is a bigger relief to me than I had imagined.

I’ve worried for months about how I’d manage the care for Mark during my recovery time and so far it’s worked out much better than I anticipated. The planning effort was well worth it. What I’ve learned from this experience:

  • Mark can be in good hands other than my own.
  • Accept help from family and friends and enjoy the love that grows from it.
  • Nurturing is a beautiful part of life. Share the blessing.
  • Make it easy and comfortable for those who are assisting.
  • Look for the good and realize tasks can be done differently.
  • Appreciate the efforts of another, even when they don’t do things the way you do.
  • Having others who know the caregiver’s routine is a great benefit in case of emergency or for caregiver respite.

I’m enjoying and appreciating all the help we’re receiving. Many hands do make light work and it has allowed me to get the needed rest for a speedy recovery. To all my family and friends—Thank You!

“Love Ya Back”

ocean-sunriseI knew family involvement was essential for Mark’s traumatic brain injury recovery. I’d been taught in the classes I attended at McKay Dee Hospital the importance of family and how they can provide an awakening cord. Both of our families had been supportive in every way. Mark’s mother and sisters, Karen and Jerrie, who lived several hundred miles away, sent cards and cassette tapes regularly. I played the tapes for him daily so he could hear their familiar voices. They also sent sounds of the ocean and the music he loved. My family visited Mark often, as well as helped me with the children and my work.  I felt the consistent love and warmth nurtured and helped to heal his body, so why wasn’t it turning the light switch on in Mark’s brain? After ten weeks, why was he still in a coma?

Every morning the nurse’s aide and a therapist would dress Mark, talk to him about the day, unplug the feeding tube, put him in a wheelchair and buckle him in for safety. They treated him as if he was awake, just like our family did. With the new-found freedom from the ventilator, Mark was able to go to the gym for therapy. The occupational and speech therapists worked on stimulating his brain with taste and sounds. I was there every morning and anxious to be involved in his care, not only because I loved him, but because the direction of my own life was affected by his recovery. I hoped the sound of my voice would let him know he was not left in the care of strangers. Most of all I wanted him to feel my love and support, which I hoped would help and encourage him to wake up.

The therapist would ask Mark a question and ask him to blink once for “yes” and twice for “no”. Sometimes his response was correct and other times it wasn’t. There were times when there was no response at all. My heart skipped a beat every time he answered correctly.

During his two hour rest time, I’d run home to get some work done and then run back to Western Rehab for the afternoon therapies. Before dinner, I’d pick up the kids, gather a quick meal and together we’d eat and spend the evening with Mark.The kids enjoyed asking their dad questions and anticipated his response with a blink. They read to him nearly every night before we left for the evening. We learned to be a family in a different setting and in a new, supportive way. Christopher and Katie got comfortable at the hospital with the staff and other patients. They especially liked being with the younger patients in the playroom. They brought sunshine to many people there and it warmed my heart to see them making friends with children overcoming injuries and disabilities.

Now that Mark was closer to home, I was able to get more work done. Eighteen months before the car accident, I signed up as an Avon Representative. I worked hard to reach the “President’s Club” sales level in my first year and earned the top new representative for the district. I enjoyed sales and working one-on-one with people, so I planned to continue as an Avon Representative after we moved. I realized it would be easier for me to reach the president’s level of sales in the district I was already established in, so I ramped up my sales efforts. My goal was to reach President’s Club before the impending move, which I accomplished in four months. I had a large order delivered the day of the accident. The items were not individually bagged for the customers, so the order was not ready for customer delivery. I was planning to do that on Monday and deliver on Tuesday. Even in the crisis of the accident, I didn’t forget about my customers who had become friends. My brother, Don, and his wife offered to take my order slips and call each one to inform them about the accident and uncertainty of the outcome. The delivery date was unknown and they wouldn’t be charged if they wanted to cancel their order. Every customer was concerned and understanding of our situation. One customer, who had been an Avon Representative in the past, offered to bag the orders, deliver the items along with new sale books and collect the money for me. Carla and my mom helped me keep my Avon business going while Mark was in the hospital.

Steve, my youngest brother, was in a partnership of a landscaping and property management company. For years I had done the billing for him. I had completed the billing for April before the accident, but my brother, Mick, helped me with May and June. Having Mark so close to home enabled me to work on these jobs between therapy sessions and in the evening after the kids were in bed.

Getting back into a family and work routine was not easy, but a necessity to keep life moving forward. The uncertainty of Mark’s recovery was worrisome and work was a diversion. Talking to healthy people who were living normal lives brought me hope for a life that seemed so foreign now.

Bath bed

The beloved bath bed

Part of my new routine included helping the nurse’s aide bathe Mark. I wasn’t expected to do this, but I wanted to. It was important to me that he knew I was always close by and involved in every aspect of his care. It took two people to slide him from the hospital bed onto the bath bed, which was on wheels. Mark’s naked body was covered in warm blankets. He was secured to the bed with two safety belts, one around his 021chest and another around his legs, for the ride to the “bath” room. The bed was hoisted into a large bathtub with jets. After nine weeks of sponge baths on his hospital bed, he seemed to enjoy being immersed into the water.

One night in July, after his bath, I cut his hair and shaved his cheeks. We were alone in the bath room. All clean and well-groomed with no place to go except into bed, I stepped back to take one more admiring look at him and said, “I sure do love you!”

Ever so softly, I heard, “Love ya back.” His first words in ten weeks and I wasn’t sure I heard them right.

Tears filled my eyes as I moved closer and cupped his cheeks in my hands, “Did you just say love ya back?”

He looked at me and said, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” Each time was slightly louder. I knew he wanted me to be sure of what he was saying and he said it with all his strength.

Exhausted, he closed his eyes. Did I imagine this? No, it was real. I felt his jaw move with my hands and he said it three times, looking straight at me. Without another person in the room, there was no witness. Overjoyed, I wanted to shout to the world that Mark had spoken and recognized me, but I feared they’d doubt me. I didn’t want anyone to squash the joy I was feeling, so I chose not to share this grand news—at least not yet. After helping the aide get Mark back into bed and getting the kids from the playroom, I left the hospital elated, keeping this blessed moment to myself for fear no one would believe me.