Just out of the hospital with my 43,000th stay (ok, I do tend to exaggerate from time to time), it gave me pause to notice something I hadn’t given much thought to in previous stays.
I have had pneumonia the past four years running. I do get my flu shot but of course as we all know this doesn’t cover all the ‘bugs’ flying around. Thelma & Louise try their best – my nickname for my lungs as they are still giving ‘er – but alas, January or February rolls around and because they are compromised, cannot hold up from the dreaded pneumonia.
Luckily, my bossy husband ignores the fact that I hate the hospital, never wanting to go no matter how bad my breathing gets. Because really, I know he’s right and something is up with the girls, more than likely I need some kind of intervention.
So with all the stars aligned, this time my pneumonia was caught early enough that I only had to stay three days. Last year it was a month. All in all, recovery at home is still hard but way so much better than the hospital.
I guess not focusing so much on a hospital stay allowed me to sit back and think about how people change when they realize you are ‘sick enough’ to require hospitalization.
My husband suddenly dawns a Superman suit under his regular clothing. Somehow he manages to spend time with me at the hospital, bringing me everything but the kitchen sink to keep me as comfortable as possible. Brings meals, stays to get updates from the doctor, dries my tears, jokes to lift my spirits. All the while putting in a few hours at work, taking care of our kids, managing the house, updating all who are checking to see how I am and reminds me every time how much he loves me, wants me at home but doesn’t want to risk my health further … I really don’t know how it does it, but he does. Maybe he really IS Superman ? I love this man the first time I laid my eyes on him, not realizing the true strength of all of his power. How could I ? He is Clark Kent during the day.
My daughter, Supergirl, who hasn’t quite managed to figure out how to make her bed yet, although in first year university, becomes the mom of the house. Making my husband and son pesto alfredo for dinner, checking in on me (ya, there’s a major flip cause I worry over her and her never ending social life), being home for her brother when Superman is busy saving his Lois, and clearly worrying if her mom is okay. She is lovely and bright and tells me how beautiful I am even though I haven’t showered for a week. She has a lot of invitations, but will stay with me, in bed and show me the funniest videos. I am blessed.
My son, who is the youngest in our little family, but is now taller than me, becomes Spiderman. “Spiderman makes important choices where he understands where his responsibility lies … It is this acknowledgement that makes him a superhero.” When he visits me in the hospital, he updates my hospital board. He always leaves a kind message for the nursing staff (who to me, should be earning the doctors salaries). This time he wrote “thank you for taking care of my mom”. Yes, tears flowed over that one. He organized my table that held my kleenex, lip balm, phone & cord, etc. Got rid of all the empty little pill containers. His steady glaze as he delicately does each task trying to hide the concern behind his eyes, but he can’t fool his mom. He is sensitive and beautiful and is already a hero at his young age. Again, so blessed.
Then there are my siblings who I love incredibly as we have lost our parents and now are quasi- parents to each other.
My youngest brother, Tony Stark, who is most involved in my life and is as charming and as silly as anyone I have known, comes into to see me as soon as humanly possible. He cracks me up to the point where they have to raise my oxygen. When you are sick, the power of a good laugh doesn’t come near any pain med they can offer. And, he is Ironman !
My sister, Rogue, who is a few years older, texts me like crazy for updates until I am out of the hospital. Within a day or two we are in an arguement because she finds it very hard to see me becoming sicker. She tries to push me away and avoid the pain of having someone you love so, go through another hospital stay. We argue over something small but always seem to find a way back to each other. She will still fill my freezer with delicious home cooked meals, come from far away to visit for 1/2 hour & distracts me from my daily life. At the end of the day, I know she loves me and would do anything if she could take away my illness.
My oldest brother, Professor “X” is our wise sage. He keeps me from flying off the handle at silly things by very simple statements that keep the raging beast from surfacing. He does this in my daily life but it particularly adept during times of stress. He also reminds me of how much I am like our mother who suffered from chronic illness as well. Cue tears.
My extended family prays for me, sends loving messages and gives our family space while we get through this bout of additional sickness. My in-laws, Charlie’s Angels, support my husband and I in any they can, especially my mother in law. Last year during my long hospital stay, my mother in law flew back from Florida, leaving behind her husband and the warm weather to an ugly winter, to give aid to my husband, my family and myself. I am very lucky to have the caring in laws I have – and I am ever thankful for raising my Superman.
My closest friends, which I have three, are similar in that they know me and really get the challenge of living with a chronic illness. Always available with one text or call.
Wonder Woman is a police officer who has been my BFF since we were kids, so saying we have a few inside jokes is putting it mildly. During my long stay last year would visit in uniform to the ICU to make sure they knew I had some serious back up. She is a single mom who does it all, but still has time to bring me coffee, tidy my kitchen, make me laugh until I pee and then off she goes to save the day.
Next of my BFF’s, Invisible Woman. We raised our kids together through some pretty crazy times. She came to my home yesterday to bring me up a Coke because I was too weak to do the stairs. She silently sits & listens while I ramble on, jumping from one topic to the next. She has a calm and relaxing nature about her that I don’t really notice until I find myself calm as well.
My third BFF, Jean Grey, suffers from a chronic illness of her own, so she takes her cues for what I need, not by request but by her own intuition that is always bang on. She is very generous of both her time and thoughtfulness and makes herself available even when her own illness crops up. She and I share our guilty pleasure, Y & R together over a glass of wine and are completely at ease with each others issues.
These women love me in a way only a girlfriend can and I know I can fully unload on any one of them and they will listen without judgement or advice. No price tag for that my friends.
Life is interesting to say the least when on top of a chronic illness, you suddenly become even sicker. It really doesn’t seem possible yet it happens.
This is where my superhero team comes into play even more than usual. I know I have many people who wish I wasn’t sick in general. And I appreciate their kind words of support. But to have the people I do in my life who are with my through the good, bad & ugly is something very different & wonderful.
I try not to feel guilty about all the little & big acts they do to help me (which what superheros do) and instead be grateful and appreciative because to be perfectly honest, I really don’t know what my life would be like without them.
And I am …. grateful for my team of superheros. Thank you !