Thursday, February 24, 2011

In Sickness and in Health

A hernia.

That's it. That's pretty much the extent of my medical woes. And it happened more than 30 years ago. I come from a stock of Long Livers, good Scotch and Irish types who fortified themselves on Red River cereal and hard work. We're an anxious, high-strung, creative lot, but we survive it and we're good.

It's always been pretty boring for me to go to the doctor for a physical or to a life insurance agent. My answer to all their questions about family history and personal history is no.

Most people have way more complicated family and personal medical drama than I do. My kids are pretty healthy. We've had years where we've suffered from cold after cold after cold. We've had influenza and bronchitis, ear infections and peas-stuffed-up-the-nose. But I consider those par for the course.

Last week, though, my husband was felled by his second bout of severe vertigo. Then the rest of my family began vomiting. It's been quite a week. And, whether it's sleep deprivation or not, I've been thinking about a lot of questions related to sickness this week.

Like, how do you care for an adult without treating them like a child?

After the third family member is felled by the stomach flu, it becomes a bit like one of those scenes in a horror movie where you want to scream at the heroine DON"T GO DOWNSTAIRS - except what is "downstairs" in this scenario?

What kinds of illness require vigilance and which ones need benign neglect?

An excellent weight-loss technique is to have family members sick with the flu. The strategy is this: ask yourself, would I want to see that again? Answer: Five pounds lighter in just nine days!

Is there a note in the Caregiver's Handbook that says that the caregiver must keep his/her concerns and fatigue to him/herself, or is it ok to talk to the sick person about it?

When will the laundry end?

Imagination in a caregiver is useful in terms of anticipating needs, but unhelpful in terms of anticipating the worst. The gurgle of a humidifier at 4 a.m., for instance, sounds not dissimilar to someone else getting sick.

I've disinfected, washed, sprayed, scrubbed, mopped, laundered, and washed some more and I think we're through it.

Honestly, there are a number of people in my life - a surprisingly high number - who are actually facing complex and serious medical situations right now. And truthfully, they are facing their conditions with way more grace than I think I would be capable of. I've been thinking of them during these days. They've put my little troubles into magnificent perspective, made me grateful for our general good health and reminded me to pray for those for whom good health is elusive.

Sláinte, the Irish say. It's a toast to health. I wish you that. I wish us that.

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