One day, soon after the November election, my active, adventurous, fearless, 75-years-young partner decided to explore a local cave. I volunteered to go along. He began to climb down a cable ladder to the floor 15 feet below when the rope slipped, and he suddenly toppled head first, his foot caught in the ladder. As he lay at the bottom of the pit, immobile, I knew our lives had changed forever.
A swift rescue, expert surgery, and heroic care in ICU saved his life, and I am so grateful to those extraordinary people to came forth to do so! A month after the injury, he could move his hands and one toe, and we headed out with a flying nurse to spend seven months of remarkable rehab at Craig Hospital in Denver, 3,000 miles from our farm in Hawaii. In those long months he learned to sit, breathe, transfer from bed to wheelchair, and manage his bodily functions, but I was terribly frightened about how I would cope without 24-hour nursing care!
Now, a year after the accident, friends have built him an accessible cabin, and he has regained a measure of independence with wheelchairs designed for mobility in rugged conditions. We are exploring the accessible trails in the national park, and continuing therapies several days a week, with the help of kind friends and neighbors. As a caregiver, I have experienced exhaustion, loss, guilt, resentment, frustration and grief, but I am finding a new equilibrium in the daily routines and have found some time for my own pursuits. I am grateful for help with an occasional meal, help with cleaning, driving to therapies, gifts of massage, and invitations for an evening out. We have been fortunate to be able to hire some help with the farm work, too.
Our roles have changed dramatically, and I find that I must make decisions, plan for contingencies, and muster the grit to be the responsible person always— a caregiver's life doesn't come with a booklet of "I don't feel like it" coupons!