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Posted 2019-06-23T18:50:53Z

When a Caregiver Crashes

By Friday, Mihály had been receiving hospice care for a week. The nurses and social worker out here in Hill Country have been amazing: kind, compassionate, responsive and reassuring. With their help, Mihály’s struggle with normal daily functions (eating, digesting, eliminating) has lessened as we’ve fine-tuned his medication regimen, so much so that one night last week he requested and ate tacos from Taco Bell!

So that evening, he was in the mood for Subway. We both got foot-long turkey subs and brought them home to eat. I ate half of mine right away, and Mihály had just a few bites of his (as is his norm). By 7 a.m., he woke up and vomited for the first time since he was hospitalized on June 9. I’d already been puking out of both ends for two hours. We looked at each other over our respective buckets and he sputtered the first word of the day: “Subway.”

Fortunately, since he had eaten so little, that emesis was a one-and-done for Mihály. I, on the other hand, continued retching for hours with a violently cramping stomach; once I actually fainted for a second and fell over mid-hurl.

Thank goodness for angels on earth like our friends and hosts, Susan and Brent!

Concerned, having seen me stumbling around outside clutching my stomach at dawn, Susan showed up not long after and helped tend to us both, administering Mihály’s complex and carefully-timed morning regimen of testing, pills, slurry and breakfast. The hospice nurse arrived around 10:30 a.m. and we all agreed I should go to the hospital. Susan drove me there, valiantly overcoming her sensitive gag reflex without complaint. Meanwhile, Brent made a trip to town to refill our drinking water, and continued to check on Mihály after the hospice nurse left. Someone made sure Mihály had his noon meds.

At the hospital, I received the standard intravenous saline, along with two types of anti-emetics (since the first one didn’t work). My stomach was still cramping and I was experiencing the strangest tingling numbness on my face, chest, stomach, hands, and above my knees. Blood and urine test results came back as normal as expected for food poisoning, so they discharged me with a couple prescriptions and a referral to a local physician (in case my slightly elevated glucose was a concern) – neither of which I will follow-up with due to lack of finances.

Upon our return, Susan continued to tend to us, emptying buckets and administering meds and liquids. After 8.5 hours of severe retching, I was able to mostly sleep for 8.5 hours. I felt almost as good as new by 10 p.m., and an exhausted Susan went to bed as I took over tracking and administering Mihály’s midnight and 4 a.m. (and 8 a.m. and so on) doses.

To handle the pain and distress from the tumors pushing against his organs, Mihály takes medications every four hours, with a variety of as-needed meds that essentially require constant symptom monitoring. His pain is typically around a 4 or a 5(!), and a missed or late dose allows severe pain to escalate to even higher levels that take a lot more effort to recover from. Pain, appetite, anxiety, digestion… even blood sugar – it’s all related in this modern interpretive “Dance of the Twenty Prescriptions.”

It is eye-opening that such a simple scare can turn into a potential crisis when it happens to a caregiver. This morning, Mihály and I discussed how grateful we are for such precious support: Despite having other Saturday plans, Susan jumped in immediately and did everything that was needed for as long as it took (17 hours!) to make sure we both were cared for.

For my part, I could barely walk nor think coherently, and Mihály was visibly physically affected in his empathy for my distress. Had we had to deal with the situation alone together, we would have gotten through: maybe it would have taken a few days to fully recover, or maybe it would have had more permanent bearing on the trajectory of his day-to-day health. But with everyone rallying together, Mihály was able to continue to receive the dosing schedule to keep him most comfortable, and I was able to simultaneously receive the care I needed to get back on my feet as soon as possible.

Thank you.

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