A few days ago it occurred to me that for those of us whose spouse suffered a long and often painful end–perhaps months or as in my case (and perhaps yours), years– there is one small compensation in living on: I realized that I no longer worry all the time or walk through my days waiting for the other shoe to drop or sleep with one ear open for a possible change in breathing or a fall or other catastrophe. Not that I wouldn’t cut off a vital body part to have him back for an hour or a day, but there is that release of responsibility.
Then just a couple of days later I developed some “a-typical” (the doctor’s terminology) symptoms that lasted through one night and into the morning. Alone as I am (without children or other family nearby) and ingrained with a need not to “bother” anyone (although I am blessed with wonderful friends and neighbors), I could not decide what to do. Finally I told myself the choice was: either sit and worry and hope symptoms that had last several hours would simply go away or get myself to a walk-in clinic and find out what was going on. I chose Door #2. Foolishly I drove myself to a walk-in clinic where I found that my description of what was going on was taken VERY seriously. Long story short I went directly from there to the ER at the nearby hospital and this time the clinic doctor gave me HER choice: either go in an ambulance or call someone to come and take me. She was clearly upset that I had elected to drive myself to her clinic! I called my sister-in-law.
Long story short–I was in hospital for 2 nights and 3 days; they ran tests, drew blood (every 4 hrs), scheduled a stress test and eventually sent me home without really identifying the root of the problem,. The symptoms improved by the end of that first day and did not return. I came away with a solid baseline of test results that told me whatever my problem was it was not a cardiac issue–that was certainly good news given a strong family history of heart disease. I also came away with a connection to a cardiologist–a specialist I should have added to my team of doctors well before now. And–should those same symptoms reappear, at least I can be fairly certain the problem is not with my heart.
But the real pony in this one is that as news spread friends came…and kept coming and calling and checking in. I was not alone. Mentally I knew that I could have called any one of them, but emotionally I had not yet accepted that their need to be there for me was more than being there because L had asked them to be. I had not yet accepted that they wanted to be there because it was ME. And when I came home (again with my sister-in-law seeing me safely back) I got out of the car and there on the grass at my feet was a beautiful bird feather–as has been the case on a numbers of occasions when I have learned one more lesson in this journey.