Wednesday, September 21, 2011

We Get By with A Lot of Help from Our Friends

When my left hand fell apart in July I was in big trouble. I couldn't cook or bathe myself. Dennis, God bless him, stood by me and kept me going. When it was time for his annual trout fishing trip, he took me to Colorado Springs, where our daughter Nancy and granddaughter Cleo gave me loving care.

Back home I still had more than two weeks before surgery and it was time for Dennis to return to work at the university. No family members were available to help, but friends showed up with food, with encouragement and with loving concern. I cried often, grieving for my lost capability, but also in thankfulness for the kindness of others to me.

Dennis was home with me for my surgery and three days after. Then Kathy arrived. When Kathy and I are out together people often assume she is my younger sister, and truly she has been a sister to me for more than forty years. This time she showed up with bags and boxes and a cooler full of food and a suitcase. She cooked, helped me bathe, consoled, took me to the doctor and kept the house running. She even watered the gardens. Here she had just placed a sprinkler in the arid strawberry bed.

She stayed five days and then came back the next week for three more. A more generous person never lived and I am forever in her debt.

Others who stepped up to help include Kathy T. and Bill, Cheryl, Pia and Uli, Laurie and Greg, Linda, Joanie, and Tracy, who refers to herself as my "personal assistant." Sincere thanks to all of you who have helped me through passage back to health and functionality. You have helped both at home and by ferrying me to and from physical therapy, the grocery store and other errands. (I can't drive with just one hand.) What's more, Leslie, Barbara and repeat helpers are waiting in the wings to be called on; for the safety net you provide I'm also grateful.

In addition, friends have sent cards, flowers, e-mails and Facebook comments, all of them supportive and encouraging. This, too, provides a source of strength in my recovery.

Through it all, Dennis has been my mainstay.

With all this help I've gone from being a woman who didn't care whether she woke up after surgery to being a woman who is free of pain and who expects to lead a productive life.

The Golden Rule comes to mind: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." If we know someone who is in a tough situation, let's give them a helping hand. Care-giving is an affirmation of interconnectedness and love. Someday, sooner or later, every one of us will be in need of care. True friends will do whatever they can to ease the burden, make us feel that we are not alone and give us hope. Trite but true, a friend in need is a friend indeed. I never fully understood that saying before.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

From "The Mummy' to "Dr. Strangelove"

I had three-hour hand and wrist surgery on August 25 and spent the next two days in a narcotics-induced haze, floating in a briny sea, breathing through gills again. Then, having called it quits with oxycodone, I swam to the shore of reality and gazed in awe at my mighty left paw.

The half cast and dressings seemed to weigh five pounds. It rested on two pillows beside me, keeping my hand above my heart.

Six days later a nurse removed the bandages and cast, revealing a bruised and swollen hand adorned with Frankenstein black stitches. Then came a splint molded to hold my fingers straight. Under the splint I wear a Dr. Strangelove glove to help reduce swelling.

With the splint came instructions for faithful exercising of fingers four times a day. Last week the stitches were removed and new, more difficult exercises became my routine. My fingers become a bit more dexterous every day. I'll have to wear the splint, which essentially makes me a one-handed person, for three and a half more weeks.

Looking back at older posts I marvel that just a year ago I was making jelly and working in the garden, sewing and preparing meals. Maybe someday I'll be able to do such things again but for now I'm learning to depend on others to help me through each day.

Next time I'll write about the wonderful people who have helped me get this far, people to whom I am deeply indebted.