This story began on June 14, 2019. I was in the living room reading when someone came in with more than a little blood on his leg and a T-shirt held in place by industrial tape wrapped around his knee. “You’ve gotta take me to the hospital.”
And the fun began, but I’ll spare you the details. He has about three or four weeks yet to go. When the surgeon at the local hospital wound clinic examined him more than two weeks after the incident, he remarked, “This is a two-season injury.” Summer and fall?
After I observed the doctor taking out many of the 40 some stitches and probing around in the deep wounds on the back of the injured man’s knee and watched as a nurse packed and bandaged the wound, the surgeon asked, “Can you do this?”
My response was, “I can do anything I have to do.” Two minutes later I left the examining room and headed down the hallway to the restroom, hoping I could make it before I fainted.
Earlier in the exam, I had chirped to a nurse, “I know about medical things because as a junior I worked in the school nurse’s office for a year at Woodward High School in Toledo to earn credit in science toward one of the majors I was required to have to graduate.”
What I did not say was that my tasks there were limited to pimples, sprains, and regular visits from female students complaining of menstrual cramps. Treatment for the latter was a glass of warm peppermint water, a hot-water bottle, and an hour or so on one of the cots in an adjacent room. I believed, and still do, that those girls were primarily interested in ditching class and having a nap after a late-night date.
Back to the aftermath of the accident. The injured and I now visit the wound clinic every Friday, and a visiting nurse comes every other day to check up on him. The wound, nine inches across, has gone from looking like someone took an axe to the back of his knee, which even had hospital personnel coming to take a gander at it, to a modest two-hole affair with a BIG scar.
I’ve learned more than I ever wanted to know about sterilization procedures, low-salt diets of 50 grams of protein a day, wet heat compresses, elevated legs, frequent naps (for both of us) and walking on egg shells.
I’ve also heard stories from one of the visiting nurses of persons with wounds that don’t heal properly because the patients fail to follow instructions and even at times have cockroaches traversing over bandaging supplies that are supposed to be kept sterile.
For weeks now on alternate days I pack and wrap the wounds. And then I install compression bandages from the patient’s foot to mid-thigh.
By now you’re probably asking how this qualifies as a column. Those of you out there who’ve tended to a person for months who needs TLC realize that as the caregiver you need a little TLC yourself.
We all have limits. Schedule time for yourself. If you’re in the middle of something and a request comes that doesn’t have a time certain attached, tell the patient you will handle his/her need once you complete what you’re doing. Reintroduce those calming, breathing exercises you knew at one time, try mindfulness exercise or visualization techniques. Continue your exercise program, get your sleep, and eat a healthy diet. Reward yourself after a trying day by ordering something for yourself online or making a quick trip to the mall (I have three new dresses).
My patient has sworn off ladders permanently, and readers need to be aware that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that more than 500,000 persons in the U.S. are treated for ladder–related injuries each year and 300 of those unfortunate souls die. “Work loss, medical, legal, liability, and pain and suffering” are listed at that site as expenses. I’m sure home caregivers are not listed in the estimated annual cost of $24 billion-plus.
If, however, you must use ladders, the American Ladder Institute has free safety training that can be accessed at https://www.laddersafetytraining.orgTraining. I know that some of you think you already know it all and don’t need safety training, but there’s a pre-test so that you can see just how smart you really are. Maybe you won’t need training, but then perhaps…