Friday, 28 January 2011

The road to becoming a carer - Our Story

In 2004, I had the fantastic opportunity of being part of something bigger than myself. I joined the mainly American based teams rebuilding Iraq using engineering projects. I spent two wonderful years in the country of Iraq, and hope I left the place a little better than when I arrived. In addition, I finally after a courtship of 16 years married my husband, Hubby.

2006, I briefly returned home to the UK and my very patient waiting husband. We then left the UK together so that I could pursue project management work in the UAE. We had about a year living together full time enjoying our marriage when the unthinkable happened. He got sick.

By June 2007 we were actively pursuing a move to Australia, a move to my next assignment and hopefully a new life. Hubby woke up on that fateful morning with a fever and stiff neck saying he felt unwell. Being the caring wife, I thought he had ‘man flu’ threw the bottle of Paracetamol at him, as I left for work. A few days went by and he did not seem to be getting better, so I rang our local doctor with the symptoms. Get him into hospital she said he may have bacterial meningitis. He managed to walk unsteadily the few hundred yards to the Al Noor Hospital. Over the weekend he had become dehydrated, unsteady on his feet and his face around his left eye looked numb in that it did not seem to move normally with the expressions on his face. They admitted him for further tests.

Al Noor Hospital is a modern city centre hospital in Abu Dhabi. Most patients have a clean single on-suite room with all the equipment usually found in a modern general hospital. I had no compulsion about admitting Hubby there as a few months previously they had admitted me and dealt with my acute appendicitis. Carrying out such a good job that I went back to work, sore but otherwise okay, only two days following the key hole surgery. Unfortunately for Hubby, he over the next few days after admission, deteriorated. During the night on about his third night in hospital Hubby tells me that he got up to go to the bathroom, dragging his drip pole with him, on the way back he slid down the pole to the floor virtually unable to move. He laid there for what seemed like hours finally managing to drag his non- functioning broken body back towards his bed and the buzzer to call for help. From that point on he had became paralysed from the neck down. Apparently some how he had contracted a Staph infection in his neck, crumbling his vertebrae and depressing his spinal cord.

Hubby spent his first days in hospital having scans, x-rays and blood tests. These tests came back positive for Staphylococcus Aureus and right kidney cancer. The hospital neurologist also thought Hubby had some age degeneration ( Spinal Stenosis ) of the spine so advocated a spinal operation called a Laminectomy to relieve the pressure on his spinal cord. This was the first of many operations Hubby was to undergo. I had the daunting task of signing a waver, as they did not have a ventilator available should the operation have complications and Hubby suffer breathing difficulties. The first of many decisions that had to be made, that Hubby was not able to fully comprehend the full consequences of, and would later in his down moments blame me for going along with. After Hubby’s operation he was still severely paralysed, could not move his arms as well as his legs. He also over the ensuing weeks developed mild pneumonia and had problems breathing as his diaphragm muscles had become affected, but not so bad that he had to be ventilated at that stage.

The staff, at Al Noor hospital were very kind and although they did not have the equipment they really needed such as hoists and bathing shower trays etc, did their very best for Hubby. We remember one nurse with particular fondness, Sir Percy we called him, a gay Pilipino, who had streaks of gold running through him. He even worked a double shift with Hubby on his last night at the hospital, making sure everything was just so for his new friend. Sometimes though during our stay equipment shortages did cause some anxious moments, on one occasion when transferring him from bed to wheelchair towards the end of his stay, the staff manhandled him so badly that they nearly dropped him on the floor badly wrenching his already weak left shoulder. Physiotherapy was also a strange experience with two very slightly built Indian ladies floating in to his room once a day to very gently stretch his legs and arms. Hubby still looks back on the little he can remember of his initial illness and now sincerely wishes that he had died at that stage.

This phase of any illness is extremely stressful for the person going through the illness and for the surrounding family, friends and carers. The medical profession take care of the patient, but what about you, the carer?

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