For six months, my husband has been hospitalized, recovering from a dissected aorta and a deep surgical wound. His scar is closing and he will need ongoing physical therapy for his paralyzed legs. Many patients would be discouraged by these health challenges, and my husband admitted that he burst into tears one day.
Still, he has a positive outlook on life. “I haven’t given up on hope,” he told his physical therapist. His hope has renewed my hope. Equally important, his hope made me aware of the power of hope. As the days passed I realized hope made us a team. Though we’ve been a husband-wife team for 56 years, hope made us a healthcare team.
Physical therapy has enabled my husband to regain much of his upper body strength. A retired physician, my husband is a marvelous patient and a man of quiet courage. He keeps on trying. As one doctor told me, shaking his head in wonder, “He’s giving it [physical therapy] his all.”
I was giving my all too, acting as my husband’s advocate and getting training to be his caregiver. The road is hard and the challenges are daunting. When I tried to find an assisted living apartment for us, I encountered so many barriers I gave up, and built a wheelchair accessible town home for us. Our house is for sale and I’m slowly moving us into our town home.
This is tiring work and some days I’m so tired I can hardly think. Hope tugs me back to “normal” and my loving husband. You may be feeling helpless and hopeless now, but I can tell you, from life experience, that the tiny flicker of hope is waiting to burst into flame. You need to be patient, be kind to yourself and, at the same time, be proactive.
Emily Dickinson described hope well when she wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches on the soul, and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all.” In other words, hope can keep you going.
Since he was hospitalized I’ve visited my husband three times a day. Yesterday I arrived just as the occupational therapist was finishing her session. She called in all the nurses on the rehab unit to witness my husband’s progress. Using grabbers, he managed to put on his slacks. Using the hospital bed trapeeze, shifted his legs to the side, slid onto the transfer board, and slid into his wheelchair.
The nurses burst into applause and I clapped with them. I wanted to cry, but didn’t because it would have spoiled the moment. Perhaps hope is keeping us all going, starting with me, his wife and caregiver, occupational therapists, physical therapists, nurses, nurses aides, and homemaker staff. If you don’t give up on hope it won’t give up on you.
Hope will comfort you, provide energy for the days ahead, and make you glad for each one.
Copyright 2014 by Harriet Hodgson