Two years ago my husband’s aorta dissected. He was literally bleeding to death and Mayo Clinic surgeons operated on him three times in a desperate attempt to save his life. During the third operation my husband had a spinal stroke that paralyzed his legs. The surgeons saved his life, but he is now in a wheelchair. Still, my husband is the man I married – kind, considerate, and funny.
He is also one of the most honest people I know. The other day, as he was rolling up the ramp into our wheelchair van, he commented, “I’m not used to being disabled yet.” His comment also applied to me. Although I’ve been his caregiver for two years, and built a wheelchair accessible townhome for us, I’m adjusting to his disability as well.
Tasks that used to take minutes, such as getting into a car, now take three times as long. The wheelchair van gave us more mobility, but I’m always on the lookout for wheelchair parking spaces. Restaurants are supposed to be wheelchair accessible, yet many have such crowded seating we can’t go there. My husband’s birthday is coming up and I’m having a dinner for him at the best restaurant in town. When I made the reservation, I made sure there would be enough room for his wheelchair.
Friends we haven’t seen in a while are shocked to see he is in a wheelchair. “What happened to you?” they ask. This question could prompt a novel. Three emergency operations are just part of my husband’s amazing story. He was hospitalized for eight months and came home to a new place. Home health care people came for several weeks and did exercises with him. After a year and a half, we received notice that he was scheduled for physical and occupational therapy at Mayo.
My husband’s goal is to be able to take a few steps with a walker. When he first awakened from surgery his legs didn’t move at all. Several days later the feeling in his right leg returned. Weeks later, he began to have feeling in his left leg, but it doesn’t work on his own. With the aid of therapists and a walker, he has practiced walking in Mayo Clinic’s rehabilitation department. He can almost take a step with his left foot, but a therapist needs to “nudge” it.
Will he ever be able to walk? We hope so. Even if he can only take 10 steps at home, he will be standing and moving on his own. Caring for a disabled loved one is a rewarding—and exhausting—experience. I love my husband dearly. We have been married so long we think the same way and say the same sentences. Our love for each other continues to grow. I learn from him every day and know my husband will continue to make the most of our days together. I’m so proud of him and prouder than ever to be his wife.