On my husband’s 73rd birthday he was ‘caring’ for me. As he pushed and supported my back on the ascent up our back stairs, I laughed and cried. Look at us, I thought. My wincing and taking to tears that I have let him down, let our retirement down, hurt even more than my present disability.
Just two and a half weeks earlier, on the first day of Spring Break, I was sprung right off a friend’s “gentle horse”. “The horse has never done that before” my friend said as she attempted to lift me off the hard gravel, with a bloody gash on my left arm and the inability to do more than tilt slightly onto my left side. Earlier, she had directed me to “Just climb up onto the saddle. The farm helper will walk the horse along with you, easy peasy” . That was until her adorable mischievous French bulldog starting nipping at the horse’s back hoof. The 1200-1500 pound horse reared with me on his back. I became airborne. Feeling like I was in a Hollywood action movie, my right boot jutted into the horse’s left rib section propelling me away from his massive body and pouncing hooves. I hit the gravel hard and quickly crawled away.
In the emergency room, propped in a wheelchair waiting for my turn for x-rays, I received a text response from my older daughter. “Mom, Are you okay? You could have ended up like the actor who played Superman”. Christopher Reeves was paralyzed in 1995 after being thrown from a horse. Ughhh!
My airborne experience that day had gotten me a deep gash above my left elbow requiring eight stitches, bed ridden and loving my drugs. My poor husband had now become my nurse, my caretaker. Be kind, and patient to the person who ‘cares’ for you! They have now become your everything.
I figured in our mature years, we would take care of each other with love and patience. But this was a new snag in our retirement. He was not happy. I was not happy. He is impatient and I take all comments personally. Caring for someone who is injured and unable to move about the home, is very difficult. I am sure it is hard for him to see me in pain and sometimes when I cry for the stupid choice I made that day, he holds me, feeling helpless too.
Washing my naked body while clutching a walker in the shower, pulling me in and out of the bed, assisting with bathroom use, housework, laundry and meal prep, all fall onto the caretaker. I say thank you and how much I appreciate all he is doing for me, for us, but the length of recovery gets old very quickly. I see his frustration, fatigue and his own depression in this.
There were times where we had to laugh. As the wheel chair and my feet were jammed up against the back of the elevator at our doctor visit, I am sure he was just making room for the other wheelchair, I whispered “This will be noted on your job review’”.
We both chuckled and he rebuffed with “I’ll hide your walker!”
A week later, when dressing me he bumped my stitched elbow. With a wince from me I said “This will also be noted in your review”.
He responded “Next time I prop up your pillows in bed, a pillow may fall onto your face. “ He winked.
Here are a few tips. As the injured person, make as few requests as possible.
Only request the most important such as:
- Can I have a roll of toilet paper
- A glass of water to take this pill
Do not request:
- Nail clippers or hair brush
- The use of softener in the clothes washer for your clothes
- Ignore the crumbs that have gathered on the kitchen floor and the dust bunnies that have congregated in the corner of the living room
- Any and all meals he cooks are his choice (no input required from you) – I have been notified by the ‘House Boss’ that “The kitchen is off limits”. He is in charge now. It’s his domain!
- Your grooming standards will drop drastically = assisted showering only every 2nd or 3rd day, no face cream, no make-up, no nail polish, and no hair dye.
- Everyday say thank you and mean it, every time. These requests seem simple and small, but they add up.
My Recovery Timeline:
Week 1: A week ago today, was the equestrian debacle! I am slightly more mobile, but not by much! I need drugs and ice packs. He is seeing parts of me he hasn’t seen in years such as in the shower, when he scrubs my back and dries my body while I am propped against the walker.
Week 2: At this point, I am walker reliant, need help in and out of bed, need to wake him in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, elbow stitches are tender and I can’t turn, twist or lean. I am a mess!!
Week 3: Today hubby seems more like himself, not as depressed or as upset!
He has set up all the equipment I now require, raised toilet seat, walker, a bed rail and he ordered a foot stretch band and a grabber for dropped items. This is not where I had thought our travel dollars would go. We started at 1000 pieces puzzle titled Late Afternoon in Italy. This is as close to traveling as we can get right now!
Week 4: Suture Removal Day! Will I pass out? My first question to the nurse is “Will it hurt? Second question, “Can you numb it? “
“No and No we don’t do that!,” she informed me.! My husband chuckled at the nurse’s response knowing what a wimp I am. He sat in a chair behind her and watched the removal procedure. I hardly felt anything, but feared fainting. My hubby was entertained.
Week 5: We needed to get out of the house, at least for a couple of dinners. Therefore we began the paperwork for a California Temporary Disabled Person Parking Placard.
My walker grumbled over ruts, bumps, pebbles and wet payment into DMV. With the completed medical form in my pocket, hubby and I were checked in at the entrance. A kind lady opened the door for me. We slowly rolled to the last window. After our paperwork was reviewed, my California Drivers License presented and hubby paid the $6 fee, we were handed the coveted bright red handicap placard, good until 11/2023. Dang! I better be up and running by then!
Week 6 : What is my ‘physical’ future? I can only get my head around being able to walk normally again. I am diligent about my assigned exercises.
As hubby leaves for his morning walk he points his two fingers to his eyes and then to mine. This is notification that I am forbidden to venture down the back stairs while he is gone. I smile and agree.
At this point car rides are less uncomfortable, and I can get myself in and out of bed and dress myself. I shuffle down our hallway in the walker. He calls after me “There goes the Road Runner”.
I respond. “Beep! beep!”
Week 7: Each day I have become more mobile and notice I can do more with minimal discomfort or pain. It is a slow recovery, but steady.
I gave my husband an Outstanding in every category on his ‘review’.
I will not be getting ‘back on a horse’ ever again!
Karen Ho is a Travel Writer.