Warm Greetings! My name is Marti. I’m retired and enjoying life in beautiful Colorado. I worked as a Registered Nurse in various hospitals for almost 10 years, mostly caring for surgical patients, but I also worked in OB/GYN, Internal Medicine, and a nursing home.
My husband Dennis and I were high school sweethearts. After college, we eloped and moved from Illinois to Colorado to begin our life together. We worked hard and soon welcomed a daughter, Mary, and a son, Bill. Things were going well for us.
Then, on January 31, 1977, Dennis was severely injured in an auto accident. You know that gut wrenching feeling when the phone rings later than normal? It was the emergency room telling me about his accident and the possibility of a ruptured aorta. After that blunt announcement, I was put on hold. I stood there holding the phone in a death grip trying to convince myself that he would survive.
As it turned out, he did not have a ruptured aorta. There were no broken bones or internal injuries that they could find. He was sent home with a neck brace that very night. I was so relieved!
However, over the next couple days he became confused and disoriented, his speech became slurred, and his gait was unsteady. He couldn’t even remember our children’s names. I took him to the doctor for more tests and a brain scan. It was determined that his brain was bruised and was continuing to swell in response to the bouncing and jostling he took when his car flipped over and slid for some distance down the highway. This was all thanks to a drunk driver, but that’s another story…
The acute brain damage impaired his speech, vision, mobility, memory, and comprehension. His symptoms were similar to that of a stroke victim. He underwent many months of outpatient and in-home rehabilitation. A full year after his accident, he had made some improvements. He could walk unassisted, his speech had improved, and I was able to leave him alone while I worked part time at a nearby church. He continued to struggle with back pain, headaches, depth perception, comprehension, spelling, writing, and math. He would never drive again or be able to hold a job. The doctors declared him to be permanently disabled.
As the years went on, I found it necessary to find a full-time job to make ends meet. I never returned to nursing, primarily because it was just too intense with all that I had going on at home with Dennis and the children. I needed a job that was not only nearby, but one that would allow me to leave on a moment’s notice should he need me. That would never work in a medical setting. Fortunately, I obtained an administrative position with a neighboring municipality about 5 miles from home. The staff I worked with was very understanding of my circumstances.
This event was life changing for all of us as it impacted our marriage and our children. There were many complications to his condition over the years causing added stress, worry, and medication changes. In addition, the last few years of his life were especially trying due to a terminal lung disease and Alzheimer’s.
As his condition worsened, I left my job to care for him full time, and my daughter also quit her job to help me during the day. Our family room looked more like a hospital room with oxygen equipment, hospital bed, walker, wheelchair, commode, and medical supplies.
With the progression of his Alzheimer’s, I found it necessary to sleep on the couch in the family room so I could keep constant vigil. One night I went upstairs to retrieve something. I knew I should have turned on the light but I didn’t want to disturb him. As a result, I tripped on one of the steps and fell. I heard an unmistakable pop as a bone broke in my right leg.
Due to my injury and his deteriorating condition, Dennis spent his last week and a half in a hospice care center. He passed away on September 30, 2012, over 35 years after his accident.
During those years of ups and downs, I learned a lot about myself — good and bad. Looking back, there are things I would have done differently. This is why I began a “Care for the Caregiver” class at my church. Those who participated in my classes found them to be very helpful. Their tears were replaced with smiles, doubts were replaced with confidence, and stress levels came down to manageable levels.
Now I am beginning this blog in hopes of helping others. I’m also writing a book for family caregivers in hopes of reaching even more people.
I’m thankful for your companionship via GentleCaregiver.com as we tackle the challenges of caregiving together.
Please visit my Home Page to access a number of helpful articles listed under the various categories at the top of the page.