Who needs healthcare and why do they ever need it?
People at all stages of their lives need to have extra care. Being born, giving birth, sickness, operations, end-of-life. Any time a person has an illness or circumstance where they’re unable to care for themselves, they need someone to care for them.
My parents loved and cared for their only child through her health struggles. My MS (Multiple Sclerosis) diagnosis at seventeen happened way too early for my family or me to fathom, understand, or know.
That’s not unusual. That’s what parents do. Parents care for their children.They have worldwide for centuries. Halfway through my seventeen year, my dear parents got shocking news.
“It’s difficult for me to say this. Your spinal tap fluid we took two weeks ago came back from Pittsburgh Diagnostic Lab.”
He hesitated for a few seconds. Then in his gentle doctor voice said,
“You have Multiple Sclerosis.“
Dr. Thomas Dugan, Nueropsychologist, told us that sweltering mid-July day in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He looked at me with compassion as he spoke.
The keystone state of Pennsylvania has two seasons, some say in jest; Winter and the Fourth of July. Summer heat sometimes lingers for a few days or weeks. Some summer temps never get very warm at all. That day turned out hotter for us than temperature.
What we heard wasn’t a joke, either. Doctor Dugan looked serious. His face registered concern. None of us had ever heard of Multiple Sclerosis. When Mother started crying while dad looked stoic, my thoughts wandered.
Not too much though. Recent high school graduate emotions lingered making me a happy camper. Thoughts of college in a month raced through my mind.
- Clothes to choose and pack.
- Who would be there?
- Making new friends.
- Different people fascinated me.
- Would classes be difficult?
- On my own.
- Away from home.
Now, a strange doctor told me an incurable disease revaged my body. He also said that having children wasn’t a good idea. It could be harmful to me.
Who cared or even thought about having children? Or even getting married? In the late fifties, marriage BEFORE children most people thought proper.
“They must know something about whatever Dr. Dugan said.
What was it? Multiple something that started with an S.”
In a few months, I would discover the awful truth of Multiple Sclerosis or MS. Stress of final exams made MS rear its ugly head. I relapsed into numbness, paralysis, or both.
A sharp stabbing pain behind usually my left ear feels like something inside my head attacks with a sharp knife. My primary care doctor prescribed an 800 mg tablet every twelve hours. Pain stops.
But it returns for a few days. Then leaves as quickly as it began.
Multiple Sclerosis symptoms go from almost nothing to full paralysis with total numbness. Mine usually limited themselves to numbness and/or paralysis in one or several body parts.
Always a surprise. Never a pleasure. Dr. Dugan prescribed a five milligram tablet of nicotinic acid (B Vitamin) with eight ounces of water after every meal. That flushes blood vessels. Disease Modifying Drugs weren’t on the market in 1958.
With total rest for two weeks taking nicotinic acid three times each day, numbness and/or paralysis all gone. I returned to college. Just one week of work to make up because of the week between semesters.
Giving Healthcare to
Precious mother, who taught me to read at four by reading to me each night at bedtime, always had health issues. Each month, she spent a day or two in bed on the heating pad with period pain. Later on, there were several surgeries, and one ailment after another.
She seemed to be sick a lot. But, when she developed a chronic cough that seemed like it never would end, her lung cancer diagnosis left us all devastated.
My beautiful amazing sixty-four-year-old mother developed lung cancer. She never smoked a cigarette in her life. I moved home to help dad with her care.
She saw how emotionally difficult a task I found it. After a few weeks, she insisted I stay with my favorite cousin in a neighboring town. Only sixty miles from my parents’ home allowed me to easily drive and be with her on weekends or when I needed a ‘Mommy-fix.’
My being there to care for Mom enabled Dad to have a day or few hours break from care taking. He freely admitted to me that this relief helped quite a lot.
I loved being with Mom. However, seeing her debilitating condition sometimes made me cry. Mom soothed me. Again. Over forty, yet still her baby.
Fortunately, I’d enrolled in a counseling class at a nearby college. Graduate students practiced grief counseling. The woman taught me breathing techniques to help control those crying urges.
As a trained singer, slow controlled diaphragmatic breathing came easily to me.These breathing strategies helped me in public. However, when Mother and I were alone together, my crying jags often got hold of me.
My MS research and talking with others acquainted with MS told me how it often controls emotions. My soft-heart nature causes me to cry at the drop-of-a-hat. Even slow breathing fails to comfort me.
My breath catches when seeing something utterly beautiful, grand beyond belief, a distressed animal or person. Throat tightens. Tears flow freely.
Dad remarried within the year after Mother died. It seemed much too soon to me. He assured me that he spent more than a year knowing that Mother would die. She wanted him to find someone. He was five years older than Mom, just sixty-nine or seventy. Now that I’m almost eighty, I realize how ‘young’ that is.
And he did. More about that in a bit.
‘My Daddy,’ always the sun, moon, and stars to me. His schooling pursuits and moonlighting for our family welfare, often took him away from Mother and me That made the little time I spent with him much more important.When he discovered a former college classmate, they got reacquainted, dated, and married. I played my part in their wedding, but I looked much better than my heart felt. Selfishly, I couldn’t let go of him so soon after Mother died.
Five years later, Jeanie got sick and died. Daddy, in his late eighties, hired a live-in housekeeper. Irene also managed his medicine, cooked, cleaned, washed clothes. She had time off each week and vacations.
My fondest memory when she went on a two week vacation. We flew from Arizona to Florida to help him. I loved helping Daddy, reading to him, talking to him, bringing his meals. The best part, being “Daddy’s girl” once more.
Too soon, he signed himself into a nursing home. Daddy’s caretaker/housekeeper couldn’t manage his falling anymore. We flew across the country many times to be with him. He remained sharp, jovial, and loving.
His gentle, loving, giving nature with buoyant charm endeared him to many. One of the fabulous good fortunes of my life that I called him Daddy. Caring for him is a pleasure I’ll remember for my lifetime.
Other times, I gave healthcare to folks I didn’t know. Interim jobs during school vacations saw me working for a healthcare agency. This humbling experience taught me there’s no exemption from needing healthcare.
We WILL all need healthcare sometime during our lives. It’s best to be prepared to accept it graciously and gracefully.