Who Gives Care to the Caregiver?

David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds.  David sent out his troops, a third under the command of Joab, a third under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite.  The king told the troops, “I myself will surely march out with you.”
But the men said, “You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won’t care about us.  Even if half of us die, they won’t care; but you are worth ten thousand of us.  It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.”
The king answered, “I will do whatever seems best to you.”
So the king stood beside the gate while all his men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands.

  • 2 Samuel 18:1-4

The Scripture here shows David’s men caring for their king, but at the same time, the men are put into harm’s way.  They even speak of how expendable they were.

It reminds me of my days in the army.  Okay, it also reminds me of a World War II movie, They Were Expendable (1945), a John Wayne movie about PT boats that harassed the Japanese in the Philippines while Douglas MacArthur retreated to Australia.  But in my experience, there are always war plans for what to do, like the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, when a superior force overwhelms the your forces, and the remnants of the resistance basically become expendable, delaying until reinforcements can arrive.  In one scenario that never happened, I was to stay on the wrong side of the river and blow up everything the enemy could use to bridge across the river, a suicide mission, basically.

But outside of war, what if the “battle” is closer to home?  In my case, my wife has had a multitude of illnesses, maladies, etc.  It has been nearly three years since her open-heart surgery.  It has been over a year since half of her thyroid and parathyroid were removed.  And in August, it will be a year since she started kidney dialysis.  She has had cognitive issues as well, and she has driven a vehicle rarely for more than a year, never being in the driver’s seat of our new SUV.  Lately, we have had our calendar full, all seven days each week, going one place or another: Sundays to church, Tuesdays, Thursday, Saturdays to dialysis, and Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays to doctor appointments and tests.

The day before writing this, we both had doctor appointments with the ophthalmologist.  He had done the cataract surgery on both of us, both eyes.  He has been treating my wife for ocular hypertension, sort of like glaucoma but not the same thing exactly.  He has been treating me for chronic dry eye.

I thought my dry eye days were behind me, and I knew the tricks if I felt my eyes burn.  So, I had been a bad boy, not following doctor’s advice.

The eye doctor had me on prescription drops for many years that forced the tear system to activate.  But even after I was taken off the medicine five years ago, the doctor wanted me to use a gel in my eyes at night, take 4000mg of fish oil daily, and artificial tears as needed.  If the conditions worsened, I could use a hot compress against my eyes to relieve the discomfort.  I knew the tricks.  In the five years since using the medicine, I had only used the hot compress 4-5 times.  I never used the artificial tears, having no dry eye sensations, and I got out of the habit of taking the fish oil.  Thus, I was a bad boy.

What I did not know was that as we get older, some of us lose sensitivity to certain pain sensors.  I must have that issue with the sensors that let me know that I have dry eye.  And I did not know that the multitude of drops that they put in your eye for the tests that they perform  can make dry eye worse, causing cracks in the cornea if you are already in a severe condition.

I have often had doctors and family say off hand, “And you take care of yourself, too” as my wife explains how I care for her.  Everyone focuses on her life-threatening issues, and it becomes an afterthought that if I fall apart, she cannot get to her next appointment.

With my wife waiting her turn, I sat in the examining chair first after my eyes were dilated, and the doctor asks, “How much pain are you in?”  I said that I had no pain.  He said, “There is a fissure in your right eye.  No one has a crack in the cornea that big without being in excruciating pain.”  Then he stopped himself and talked to me about how his wife had lost those same pain sensors.  He examined my wife, letting me wait for the pain to kick in, and by the time he was done with her good report – not perfect, but no changes in medication, he returned to me.  By then, the pain was noticeable, still not excruciating.  The doctor prescribed a medicated contact lens, a band-aid for the eye, and a nurse inserted it.  He administered enough numbing drops for me to get home, but the antibiotics were difficult to get at the pharmacy, and the numbing wore off long before we got home.  There was a driving rainstorm.  My eyes were still dilated, and the vehicle lights were blinding me, even with the eye shades that they give you.  And I was in a lot of pain.  Yet, I felt that was safer for me to drive than my wife driving for the first time in the new SUV in those conditions.

At that moment, I thought of what would happen if I became incapacitated.  I prayed and prayed that God would just get us home.

When you are in one of those busy times of your life and you go down your checklist from one item to the next, and the list keeps getting longer instead of shorter, do you ever think of what would happen if that to-do list got derailed?  It is not an option whether my wife goes to dialysis or not.  Getting qualified for a kidney transplant is a high priority, with her life expectancy increasing if she can get a kidney.  We might be able to reschedule an appointment or two, but those appointments are still high priority.

But what happens if it all stops?

The thing is that God knows whether it will stop or not.  God knows the path forward at that point.  And as for this little “wake-up call,” it has led to more doctor visits and the “fissure” is almost completely healed with my contact lens – eye patch finally coming out a couple of days later.  And I am using the drops, whether I feel the pain or not, and taking the fish oil – back to being a good boy.

Jesus taught for us to not worry.  The key is that even when we are relying on another human being, God is in control of the situation, and He knows what needs to be done next.  Maybe for a few days, I will have to look like Popeye the Sailor Man, with one “squinkie” eye, but we have not missed an appointment.

God is good, all the time.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

13 Comments

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  1. Oh boy. You have a lot going on. I thought my husband and I have a lot, with his five times a week radiation cancer treatments for 9 weeks, and now my weird miserable shooting pains in my neck, shoulder, back, and my numb right hand and occasionally painful and numb right foot. My doctor has ordered an MRI to hopefully determine what’s going on with me. Plus the routine mammogram I had earlier this month came back with an “inconclusive finding,’ so this coming Monday I am having another mammogram and an ultrasound to get to the bottom of that. But I can’t be sick, I am the caretaker for my husband and our three rescue dogs!

    But I think you’ve got me beat right now. Hmmm. I haven’t been to an eye dr in about 3 years. I once was told I had dry eyes. I still take the fish oil daily but I stopped using the special drops because, yeah, no pain. I think I will start eye dropping again. Eeek that sounds bad lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is not a competition and not a competition that I would ever wish to enter, so let’s say a pray for each other that we can be there for our spouse when needed. Until this happened, it was just, I have to do this, do soldier on, as the saying goes. Then when the roles are reversed, it gets really scary, really quick. But God is right there, and God can be relied upon. That’s why prayer works.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I did not mean to imply that this is a competition. I am very sleep deprived right now, so if I said something wrong, it wasn’t intentional. Thank you for the prayer. I’m saying a prayer for you and your wife too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, I meant no harm by the comment. You were saying that I am worse off right now, but maybe I am not. The eye is almost healed, but my problem is not feeling the pain. Thus I have drops scattered around the house and I am trying to put them in when I see them, every couple of hours – not doing well with that, but better each day. You should not make light of your own issues. It can be tough and we each have our own path to take on this journey – from that aspect, this is not a competition, but a sharing of each other’s load through our prayers. And get some sleep if you can. Sleep is my most elusive but important thing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. God bless you both and care for you both. That said, do you have friends/neighbors/church members who could help with some of this non-stop transportation to and from doctors and related destinations. Have you asked around for help? I have no way of knowing, but there just might be a lonely person in your life who has a car, lots of time, nothing to do, and a reason to get out of the house once in a way and hear a different voice. Just asking…. J.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A couple of our Sunday school people have said that they would help. The pastor, who is a kidney transplant recipient is wanting to go as far as possible to get volunteers for the living donor, but the church’s care team is a little thin right now. The biggest problem is that my wife always helped others and she always puts herself last, so it is hard for either of us to ask, especially having to pick her up as 6:30am.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Just prayed for you as you care for your wife

    Liked by 1 person

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