“Savor this moment. Appreciate it. Life won’t always be so good.”
The voice in my head echoed a reminder I knew I needed to savor. From past experiences I understood that life would not always be on track, and I understood on some level that I would need to remember the good life again, sometime down the road. I just didn’t know when.
Over the years my husband has suffered a number of serious illnesses including 14 separate hospitalizations—some fairly routine, some quite dramatic and, a few, a matter of life and death.
For the moment, though, in the early months of 2012, it seemed all the stars were aligned. We were enjoying a break in Florida, away from the cold back North. Our son was doing well in graduate school; our daughter was engaged to be married to a sweet and lovely man.
Life was good, and I was determined to appreciate it for as long as possible.
We returned home in the spring, settling back in to our routines and helping our daughter plan her fall wedding. It was happy and exciting time.
Then that summer, my husband began to experience problems walking. A visit to the vascular surgeon confirmed something was wrong. A serious, but not life-threatening, operation was needed. The surgeon felt confident that the operation would go well and my husband would be back to normal in a short time.
He was right. The operation was a success, and our lives were getting back on track. My husband was soon well enough to go out for dinner. But while we were sitting in the restaurant, he saw blood oozing from the site of his incision. We rushed home and then back to the hospital where his surgeon met us and the next day repaired the source of the bleeding. It was not as serious as it had appeared, and my husband began to recover again.
By now the wedding was getting close. I was caught up in details and preparations. My husband seemed to be doing okay, or so I thought. But when the big day arrived and we sat in the front row, my heart bursting with love and excitement, I looked over at him. Something was wrong. He looked a bit pale and tired—not what I expected in the midst of our daughter’s wedding. He insisted he was okay, and I wanted to believe him.
The wedding was wonderful, and my husband seemed to rally during the reception, talking with guests and even dancing with our daughter and me. I chalked up his slump during the ceremony to a momentary dip. “Nothing to worry about,” I told myself.
Then, soon after the wedding, came another event. My husband developed an infection near the site of the surgery. It was serious, but not as grave as the following year when the infection returned and, this time, settled in his spine.
The summer of 2013 would be spent, first in one hospital, then a nursing home and finally in another hospital where he had major surgery to remove two vertebrae destroyed by the infection. It was a wonder he survived it all. He has a strong will to live, and I have learned how to be a strong advocate for his healthcare needs. We make a good team.
Before the year was over, he was back in the hospital one more time for additional surgery. The operation was tricky but, again, successful. My husband recovered beautifully but with some limitation in his mobility. He needs a walker now for anything more than a few blocks distance. It’s a nuisance but a small price to pay for his life.
So now, here we are, more than two years since his last surgery. My husband is healthier than he has been in a long time. We go to the gym regularly and are able to travel. Friends and family regularly remark on how good he looks. We both beam.
Our lives are moving forward. This spring my new book on hospital advocacy was published. Hospital Warrior: How to Get the Best Care for Your Loved One is a compilation of my hard-won knowledge. It is my way of sharing with others all that I have learned over 24 years of advocating for my husband. It is also a story love, family and thriving.
Life is good again. I hope it stays that way.