Thursday, July 26, 2012

Just the Way I Like It

My older sister Annette recently had surgery on her left arm to repair a damaged nerve. Her arm has been wrapped in a splint for the past two weeks so it can heal. This splint, coupled with the pain and tenderness from surgery rendered Annette much less independent than her usual capable/self-sufficient self. She even had to have her husband help put her hair in a ponytail the other day since she couldn't do it one-handed. She found it kind of frustrating since it took so much longer, especially since she knew she could do a better/faster job herself, if only she had the use of both of her arms.

A few weeks ago my mom had a medical procedure that incapacitated her for a few hours. She was weak after the procedure and even had to have her friend hold the cup/straw when she wanted a drink. Both Mom and Annette told me that these experiences have given them a small glimpse into what my life is like on a daily basis. Face it, it's hard to be helpless, especially when that means asking for and accepting help from others.

After my accident, allowing others to do things for me was a humbling experience that took some getting used to. I still WANTED to do things for myself, but I knew that that was no longer an option. Coming to terms with this was often frustrating, but I knew that I had no other choice than to rely on others, so I tried to be the best sport I could be. I think I handled myself remarkably well, but that doesn't mean it was a walk in the park.

Last week when my sister Sharon was visiting she was helping Mom with my afternoon routine and the three of us were reminiscing about what life was like in the early days/years after my accident. When I was first in the ICU I never wanted my mom around when it came time to do my bath. It was hard enough having the nurses/techs (nurses aides) see me naked, but at least they were strangers who were used to bathing patients. I definitely wasn't ready for Mom to see me "au naturel" just yet, and she wasn't ready for it either!

Seven weeks after my accident my mom and I went to Shepherd Center; a specialized rehab hospital for patients with spinal cord injuries. This facility was in Atlanta, Georgia – hundreds of miles away from everything I knew and everything that was normal. How grateful I was to have Mom come with me! She was the only normal, constant thing in this new phase of my life. I quickly let go of any shyness and embarrassment that I'd initially felt about having my mom around for my intimate care like bathing and she instantly became the ONLY person I wanted to do things for me!

Whenever it was time for my bath, or time to get dressed or to be fed I wanted my mom to be right there by my side doing these things for me (with the assistance of the nurses when something was a two-person job). The time for awkwardness was over and I had to let others start doing things for me, whether I liked it or not. Mom was my advocate; the person who I knew had my back and all of my best interests at heart. To everyone else I was just a patient, but to Mom I was her precious daughter. Another reason I always wanted Mom by my side was because I still didn't have the ability to speak at the time. I could only mouth words, and Mom was best at reading my lips. (Reading lips is not easy, mind you, but it becomes easier the more you're around someone, so I always looked at her as my "translator.")

I've basically gotten used to asking people to do things for me, but it's still difficult at times. One reason is because it takes a long time before I feel like someone is adequately "trained" to know just the right way to do things for me. Things like the way I like to be fed, the way I like to be positioned/adjusted, the way I like my itches scratched or the way I like Chapstick applied. It can be really frustrating when people who aren't familiar with my likes/dislikes try to do things for me if they do it in a different way than I'm accustomed. If I need assistance with something, I'd rather suffer with whatever's bothering me (like an itch, for example) instead of accepting help from someone who doesn't know the correct "Heather protocol."  It can be really frustrating trying to find the words to explain how I want something done! 

My mom and youngest sister Chandra are the best at caring for me since they've been by my side every step of the way in this journey and they know me and my needs the best. They are my angels and best buds. I'd surely be sunk without them!


Kendra said...

Hi Heather, this is a really beautiful explanation of yor feelings. I could really get a feeling for you frustrations reading it, but also your joy in having your mother and sister who are so sensitive to your needs. As always, thank you so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

awesome post!

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