Roger and Janet: The Story of a Patient and His Caregiver
In late December 2006, I visited my primary physician about some chest pain and exhaustion I was experiencing. He immediately gave me a stress-test and determined I needed emergency quadruple bypass surgery. Given that I had a heart attack 20 years earlier and that my symptoms were so intense, I wasn’t even allowed to leave the hospital before being sent to surgery.
Immediately, the entire hospital staff tried to put me at ease by telling jokes and getting to know me as a person. I met my anesthesiologist before the surgery and he explained what would happen to me while I was under anesthesia. He answered my questions and made me feel comfortable. I don’t ever remember being afraid or concerned as I started to “go under.”
That is my biggest piece of advice to other seniors – have faith in your physicians, relax and try not to be afraid. I also think it was easier for me to relax because I knew my wife, Janet, children and grandchildren were waiting for me and would take care of me after the surgery.
The operation was successful even though I spent the Christmas holiday recovering in the hospital. Our family came to visit on Christmas Eve and the hospital staff let us have a party – with Santa hats and gifts – in the waiting area. I was in physical therapy for six months following the surgery.
Now, I am less tired and able to enjoy more adventures with my beautiful wife of over 50 years.
Since Roger had a number of surgeries over the years, I became an experienced caregiver. Through these experiences I learned a couple of good lessons. First, I write out a list of questions to take to his appointments. It’s very easy to forget what you want to ask and what you need to know. I also take notes when we meet with the physicians because it can be difficult to remember everything that needs to be done after surgery.
When my husband needed emergency bypass surgery in 2006, I had a lot of responsibilities before and after the surgery. The entire hospital staff was very helpful. They wrote down instructions for me, arranged to have a nurse come to our home for a couple of hours everyday while he recovered, and trained me on how to help him recover. They even gave me some new, healthier recipes to try. Our family visited us in the hospital and helped us get settled back home after Roger was discharged.
I highly recommend caregivers allow family and friends to help out – even if it is just sitting together in the waiting room. I think I am often more worried than Roger and it helps me stay at ease to have someone to lean on.
After the surgery, I made sure Roger stuck to all of the physicians’ instructions. This meant that I also had to make some changes – like eating healthier and exercising with him. Doing these things together made it much easier to stay on track.
Now that he is fully recovered, I notice that he has his old spark back. He does not get tired so easily and we can get out and do more. I think the most important thing is that now I’ve got him for another wonderful 50 years.