Have you given up on your New Year resolution yet? Did you even make one? Most resolutions (such as losing weight and eating better) hit the dust within the first few weeks. Often the only ones that stick (for us that is) are those that are accompanied by a major event.
Decades ago, we decided we wanted to travel, yet year after year we did nothing to make our dream a reality. It was only in 2011, after watching a friend loose a long battle with ALS–leaving a lost spouse and a world of regrets and missed opportunities–that we actually did something about it. We formulated solid plans, acted upon them and launched ourselves on our new lifestyle in April 2012.
Each year since, we set a theme and some general goals, our 2015 theme is ‘the year of abundance’ and our goal or resolution was ‘have a little more fun and to acknowledge and appreciate our amazing lifestyle more’.
Wham! Before the dust of the resolution had time to settle, we found ourselves in an ambulance on-route to emergency!
The following hours passed in a blur of questions, tests, more tests, a life threatening diagnosis and an ambulance transfer to a larger hospital better equipped to deal with any further complications. Thankfully, only one of us was the patient, the other had the equally stressful role of observer, information provider, bedside companion, advocate and the link with family and friends.
Only when you have been there, do you realize how hard all these roles can be. Having to inform parents and siblings that their loved one is in the trauma unit while they are stuck in a snowstorm, miles away is not an easy task. Neither is spending hours waiting outside the trauma unit, allowed only an occasional visit. Or to return after a bathroom break to find a stranger occupying the spot…….. Despite the heart palpitations that caused, the news was good; the ‘patient’ had been moved to a High Acuity Care Unit on an upper floor.
Here is where the role of bedside companion kicks in, your loved one is wired to a machine, hooked up to a IV and while the machines register, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and who knows what else they drift in and out of sleep. The escape into sleep is not possible for you though, you have to be there to answer the questions of the hordes of Doctors that drop by, to be there with a smile when they wake, to be there when they are whisked away for further tests, yet you also have to stay healthy yourself. Sleeping in hospital chairs and living on coffee or cafeteria food is not recommended and we were very fortunate to have close friends who ensured that that didn’t happen.
After the initial crisis was over we settled into a routine………. the ‘patient’ good naturedly greeting the vampires who came to extract blood every few hours (day or night), trying to recall exactly what the Doctor had said while still groggy from being awakened, dealing with fellow roommates emergencies and sadly even the passing of one of them. All while dressed in an open back hospital gown and hooked to an IV pole on wheels, trying to sleep as much as possible, come to terms with what happened and still maintain a positive outlook.
The ‘companion or caregiver’ (relying on the goodwill of friends and public transit to get to and from the hospital), tries to get there to catch the Doctors visit’s on their morning rounds, provides snacks, clean underwear and a stabilizing hand during short bathroom trips. They also bring news of the outside world, co-ordinate visitors, fills in the missing pieces during the last few days and perhaps, hardest of all present a brave, smiling face to the world.
As the days passed and the patient improved, we were moved from ward to ward, each move in dicating the health improvements, but each with its new challenges. A family member who has been through a similar trauma likened the experience to “going from flying first class to coach”. The final ‘overflow’ ward where we waited several days for a few tests before being discharged, was more akin to flying in the cargo hold than coach!
After 14 days, we were finally released and extremely thankful for all of the following:
- The emergency room Doctor who identified what the problem was
- The outstanding medical care received from all Doctors, nurses and staff (yes even while in cargo)
- The retired Registered Nurse who got us to the hospital a.s.a.p, shared her home and provided her expertise for the much needed role of advocate
- Friends and family for their ongoing support and assistance
- British’s Columbia’s wonderful medical system
- That we were still in our home province and not in The Bay Islands of Honduras (where we had planned to be 5 days later)
We have survived a traumatic few weeks and the prognosis for a full recovery is excellent. Our travels have been on a temporary hold until all follow up appointments are completed–thankfully all in time to enable us to keep our housesitting commitments.
What does this mean to our lifestyle and our resolution? Will they fall by the wayside as we contemplate the “What ifs”? If this had happened somewhere without such a high degree of medical care, would the outcome have been different. In other words are we going to live in fear of the ‘what ifs’? The answer to that, is that there are no guarantees in life, including the risks we all take whenever we leave home, even if only crossing the street.
Will this affect our future choices, our recent resolution and our plans? Yes to some degree but only to the degree we allow it to. The last few weeks have involved a lot of soul searching and asking the important questions such as:
- Do we want to continue with our current lifestyle?
- Will this event have long lasting effects?
- Can we deal with the necessary changes or make adjustments as needed?
The answer to all of the above is YES! We do want to continue and we can make necessary changes and adapt as needed.
Over the next few weeks/months you will be hearing more about travel insurance, what your credit card coverage does or does not include and ways to stay safe on the road.
Till then stay healthy.