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Archive for January, 2013

Travel opportunities….


While this winter was hard on me, it was not problem free for Clara either.  Clara always had a hard time making it through the winter without a lingering head cold.  We both were happy when the warm spring weather appeared.  Clara was approaching five years on dialysis and many would comment on how remarkable it was that Clara was still alive.  I would give my running joke that I was told Clara would only live for two years on dialysis, and here it was almost five, I should have gotten that in writing.  Yes, I know it is sick humor, but whatever it took to keep going! 

By this time Mike was married and out of state, Zack involved with college, so Andy and I had more opportunities for travel.  We had our annual April trip to New York for a long weekend to celebrate our wedding anniversary.  Andy won another five day trip from his job, this time to Arizona the beginning of May.  Mike and Tanya wanted us all to go to the Bahamas for a long weekend the end of May.  Then in August we had our annual beach trip with my family.  I could not believe all the traveling we had lined up.  Then friends of ours were organizing a group to go on a Caribbean cruise in December.  I felt greedy having so many trips planned but thought it was cool that we were at a point in our lives where we could travel; well except for Clara and Carly.  For the New York and Arizona trips Zack could arrange his college schedule to still care for the dog.  Clara wanted to stay in her apartment, so it was a matter of having her cared for during the day and Zack would put her to bed in the evening.  Her daughters helped a bit more with that.  Of course, even away we would have to call Zack each night close to Clara’s bed time on his cell phone to remind him to put his grandmother to bed.  We kept the December cruise quiet until after our August beach trip.  We thought of the problems we had the past two years with vacation time and knew the increased amount of travel would not be greeted happily.  With the cruise being the second week of December, I felt confident with us traveling during a busy holiday month; it would be met with even more resistance. 

I was Clara’s full time caregiver for 8 years.  I mentioned earlier in this blog that I am posting exerpts from my book, Life with Clara – One Caregiver’s Journey.  My goal has always been that my experience and honesty could help others in this life changing role.  My entire account is available at www.createspace.com/3469034

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Woo hoo, some help


I could not wait to tell Andy what his mother did.  It’s funny how that was always important for me to do.  Since I felt Clara did not want to inconvenience her daughters by asking them to help with her care while I was recovering, I told Clara with her compromised immune system with being on dialysis, it was not in her best interest to have close contact with me.  Once I expressed to Clara that she could become gravely ill by having close contact with me and that she would have to ask her daughters to help over the next week, she said she would have them look after her.  Although I was truthful in what I was saying, I thought it was sad that it was only when Clara felt her health was in danger that she would ask them for the extra help.  By now the small bumps on my arm had grown into a disgusting scabby mess about an inch wide and eight inches long.  It was cracked and oozing and I could not imagine my arm ever recovering without a significant scar.  I was on so many prescriptions; an anti-viral medicine, an anti-biotic, a decongestant, an expectorant, an inhaler and ibuprofen.  It seemed like the shingles kept breaking out in new places each day.  I returned to the doctor to find out I had an allergic reaction to one of the medications, but which one?  Trying to figure that out delayed my recovery, I was sick for a month.  I only had that extra help for one week, and at least after that, while I wasn’t recovered, I had improved.  I had a talk with Clara about the selfishness of her eating creamed soups knowing the affect it had on her.  Months later, to my great surprise, the scar from the shingles actually faded away completely. 

http://www.createspace.com/3469034

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A reprive, well sort of…


The next day my mother took Clara out for their usual lunch date, and that meant several hours in bed for me.  When I woke up I went downstairs to find myself something to eat and make myself some hot tea.  Carly started barking and when I looked out the front window I saw my mother coming down the driveway.  She was driving like a maniac, flying down the driveway.  When she got out of the car she had a grim look on her face, and I watched as she opened the door for Clara to help her inside.  Clara looked like she was shook up.  My first thought was, ‘Clara pooped herself.’  Then I thought, ‘Michele, why do you always think that?’  I went back to my boiling tea water but was wondering what was going on, something wasn’t right.  I wanted to investigate, but I knew once I stepped foot into Clara’s apartment, she might start asking for something and I didn’t want that.  So I decided that I would keep an eye out for when my mother left.  Normally when she would take Clara out to lunch, she would get her inside then leave, so I thought if she didn’t leave in five minutes, then I would go over to investigate.  Sure enough she didn’t leave, and when I went over, Clara’s front door and storm door were wide open despite the twenty degree temperature.  There was no sign of Clara or my mother and I knew what that meant, they were in the bathroom.  Instant anger welled up inside of me and I pulled out a pair of latex gloves and started walking towards the bathroom.  At that my mother emerged and with authority said, “Michele, get back to bed.”  I said, “Clara pooped herself didn’t she?”  My mother again ordered me back to my house in bed.  I said it wasn’t her responsibility to clean Clara up and went to close her front door.  My mother said she could not handle the smell, and re-opened the front door.  She also knew she could not clean up Clara; she was starting with the dry heaves from the smell in the car.  Clara had the accident on the car ride home and my Mom had to put the windows down despite the cold temperature because of the odor.  My mother called my sister-in-law Maria (my brother’s wife) and Maria met them at Clara’s apartment and she was cleaning Clara up.  My mother was getting out fresh clothes for Clara to put on.  I said it wasn’t their responsibility and insisted that I would finish it up.  Maria must have heard me talking, came out and assured me she had everything under control and would not permit me to take one step closer and for me to get back to bed.  I listened but felt sad and furious at the same time.  It was bad enough this was my life, but Clara was my mother-in-law, now my sister-in-law and mother are involved with this vile mess.  Where are Clara’s daughters?  Why was no one stepping up?  Why is it my family stepping up?  The heat coming from my body was not just from my fever at this point.  I was absolutely beside myself that Clara messed her pants in my mother’s brand new car.  Where that may sound uncompassionate on my part, it was because Clara ate creamed soup, which always causes her stomach upset and diarrhea.  Knowing the affect that creamed soups had on her, I felt it was the height of selfishness for her to continue to consume it, since she was not the one that had to clean up the mess.  After my mother and Maria took care of Clara, Maria cleaned up the mess it made in my mother’s car. 

http://www.createspace.com/3469034

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Bronchitis, the flu, shingles…oh my!


Time marches on and so does life.  Winter was approaching, and Clara would always deteriorate some over the winter.  She would typically get a cold that would last a good portion of the winter, and as a result become even weaker.  The guys annual ski trip was fast approaching, and this would be the first trip all the guys were together since Mike was married.  I started feeling a bit run down myself and before long I knew I had bronchitis.  Unfortunately, it was December 31st when my temperature went up and all the doctor’s offices had closed early.  By the next day I was sicker than I ever remembered being with bronchitis before, and I had a strange looking rash on my arm.  At first I thought the dog’s claws had scratched my arm, but now I was noticing this scratch looked like tiny bumps.  I felt so sick I stayed in our guest room, hoping Andy wouldn’t catch what I had. My faithful companion Carly, would curl up and lay next to me, looking concerned when I had coughing spells that were hard to stop.  She would only get up to go outside to the bathroom and then return right to bed with me.  That’s a loyal dog!  Since it was January 1st, Andy was off work and took care of the house and his mother.  The next day he had to go to work, and even though this was day three of running a 102+ degree temperature, Clara still required her care.  Fortunately, it was not a dialysis day and I drove myself to the doctors.  I was diagnosed with bronchitis and the flu.  Then I slid up my shirt sleeve and said, “Oh yeah, I thought my dog scratched my arm, but now I’m noticing small bumps, what kind of rash is this?”  Upon closer inspection the doctor said they were shingles.  I left with a handful of prescriptions to get filled and could not wait to get back home to bed.  I came home and got Clara her lunch, then crawled into bed, I felt rotten.  I’ve been knocked down with sickness before, but Andy said this was the worst he had ever seen me.  He wondered about leaving for their ski trip.  I could not believe here was another ski trip and I was sick!  Andy would pay for a nice condo for all the guys to stay in for this trip; it was his annual gift to them.  So I would never even consider Andy staying home because others would be affected by that.  The next day Clara would express concern about how terrible I sounded, but still expected the same amount of work from me for her care.  When I was riding her to dialysis she commented on how terrible my cough sounded.  Then she would ask me to run to her favorite soup place, another fifteen minutes away, to get her soup for after dialysis.  I told her I would run to the local grocery store and get her soup and she turned her nose up to jarred soup.  How did she get to this point in life where she couldn’t see beyond herself, knowing how sick I was?  Normally I would have ended up going and getting the soup Clara wanted, but grumbling to myself the entire way.  This time, I physically just didn’t have it; I needed to get back to bed.  I told her it was the grocery store soup or nothing, and she agreed.  My fever was back up, it was a damp, cold, rainy day and as I walked into the grocery store with chills from my fever, I thought of the weekend ahead with Clara.  I got home, set the alarm for the time to leave to pick Clara up, and crawled into bed.  The alarm rang much too quickly, I still had chills, but had to drag myself back out to pick up Clara.  When I arrived Clara asked how I was feeling.  I didn’t even answer her at first because I thought if she really cared, she would not have been a snot about her soup.  She asked again and I said, “Terrible.”  She said she figured that and was sorry I felt so bad.  In the same breath she added she could not wait to get home to have her hot tea and soup.  I asked Clara if her daughters knew that I had bronchitis, the flu and shingles and she said they did.  That would baffle me that they would not volunteer to kick up their time with their mother. 

http://www.createspace.com/3469034

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