Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Husband's Story-The Supporter

I wrote about the very beginning, finding out Heather was BRCA1+ and supporting her desire for surgery.  I'm fast-forwarding to the end, because that's a major key in planning the surgery.  You, as the supporter, will need to know what to expect in your role, and I want to give it to you while fresh in my mind.  Essentially I was Heather’s 24/7 on-call nurse. Here’s what I did to help out:

While in the hospital:

  • Help her feel comfortable by doing small things like adjusting pillows under her arms and remind her to press the meds button.
  • Feed her ice chips, or water, or anything she wanted to eat.
  • Communicate with anybody who needed to speak to her.
  • Take her for walks. (Hopefully that didn’t sound like Heather is my canine friend.) We took little 5 minutes strolls to get her up and moving, 2-3 times a day. 
  • Remind her to use the IS (incentive spirometer) device. This is a tool to encourage healthy breathing and keep fluid out of her lungs, which is a risk after surgery. 
  • More than anything, just BE there. The nurses could have done the things I mentioned above, although not with the same frequency and/or attention, but the main reason I didn’t leave during the 54 hours she was in the hospital is because I never wanted her to feel alone. I did take a few “breaks” by going to the cafeteria and sat there to eat. 

After the hospital:

  • Again, comfort was my main goal. (Helping her adjust in bed, prop her up with pillows, etc.)
  • Without the hospital nurses, I was also now the one delivering medications, which also meant setting alarms for crazy hours to make sure she never got to the point where we were “too late” and playing catch up on pain relief. 
  • Drains. I was on drain duty for 9 days after we left the hospital. The drains didn’t gross me out, but it might make some queasy. The fluid wasn’t bad, but I do admit that the few solids that came through the drain tubes weirded me out a bit. But of course I never let HER know that.
  • Showering. Instructions were to shower daily. I’m lucky that Heather and I are comfortable with one another. I can see how this whole process could be humiliating to the person receiving the help. I don’t know if she felt that way, and she certainly shouldn’t, but it’s that whole idea of not being able to take care of yourself and being dependent upon others to do very personal things. 

Support for the supporter:

There’s definitely a lot of pressure when you’re the designated support person. It’s possible that others can work “shifts.” Since we came in from out of the country this wasn’t possible, and even if you’re traveling from another part of the country it’s not cheap to have additional people travel to support you. However, if you have kids and you plan to have them with you, I highly recommend another person coming with you. 

So before going further I have to give mad props to my mom. I’m not sure how we would have done this without her flying in from Utah to support us and occupy the kids for five days. For about four of those days, I was fully dependent on her to help with the kids as I attended to Heather. I really didn’t think that I would stay at the hospital for three full days like I did. Yes, I could have left at night to be with them, but I wanted to be sure that I was there every second I could be to support Heather. My mother’s presence allowed me to do that. For that I’m very grateful, as is Heather. Thanks, Mom!

I also have to thank Denise, my wife's nurse.  I was able to keep in contact with her throughout the recovery, via email and phone.  It was nice having that personal access to someone who could answer our questions.


Also, I can’t stress enough how amazing it was to rent a house for 10 days instead of being in a hotel. Our Airbnb listing in San Antonio was perfect. It was close to the Medical Center and PRMA, close to amenities (food, parks, groceries, drug stores, etc.), and our hosts were so kind and concerned with Heather’s progress. We were able to have the kids playing games and watching TV in one room while she rested and healed in another. We were also able to stock up on groceries and live life as we would have if were in our home town. This feeling of belonging was priceless. I can’t think of another lodging situation where we could have felt this way.

- Jared

Comforts of home were truly appreciated.

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