Supporting a Hospitalized Loved One

An empty ICU room waiting for another patient

Someone in my family is very sick. She was in the Intensive Care Unit at a local hospital for 6 weeks. She had sepsis, which is a bacterial infection of the blood that caused her organs to fail one by one. She was in septic shock by the time she was admitted.

It started with a small wound on her ankle that got infected. The bacteria spread so fast they had to intubate her. The doctors and nurses saved her life. The infection took a chunk of her calf muscle and layers of skin from the knee down on one of her legs. They thought it was a flesh eating bacteria because, it spread so fast. Thank goodness it wasn’t.

We were told that she has a 50/50 chance at recovering to go to a long-term acute care facility where she will have to do some serious, grueling physical therapy. Everyone in our family prayed for a miracle.

I sat by her bedside holding her hand while she slept, talked to her positively when she was tired but awake and tried to comfort her when she was in so much pain. I made her laugh and smile sometimes, but other times she just cried or stared off into space. She couldn’t talk with a tube in her throat. She spoke limited English, so expressing herself to her nurses or Doctors was a challenge. She couldn’t move either and had to be repositioned every couple hours. I spent on average 10 to 12 hours a day at the hospital. It’s hard to watch a loved one go from bad to worse. It was scary!

I try to imagine myself in her situation and what I would want if I was in ICU for over a month. I would want someone with me as much as possible to keep me company. I would want to have my hand held, so I could feel safe while I slept. I would want to hear familiar voices and see friendly faces. All of which I know my husband and children will do for me should I end up like this. I choose to believe that if people are there for the bedridden patient, there is a better chance at making a recovery. Even a small chance is worth trying for in my mind.

Today, she is in long-term acute care and has been there a couple weeks. She fought hard to get here. She nearly died a couple times in ICU while she was healing. She’ll be on dialysis for the rest of her life, but she is alive. She needs to learn to breathe on her own again since she had a tracheostomy and was placed on a ventilator. She needs to learn to sit upright, eat, drink, use the bathroom, walk, write, talk, etc.

What would you do if you or a loved one ended up in the hospital for a long period of time? Are you prepared? We weren’t. Try to be prepared with a power of attorney, an advance directive or have a will. Share your wishes with your family.

My husband and I use 5 Wishes. I got really sick a few years ago myself and we prepared for the “just in case”. It is a legal document and used for anyone over 18 years old. You can change it in the future too. We have several copies to share with family when the time comes. It’s worth it. It’s always better safe than sorry.

Prep yourself and your family as much as you can. You just never know…

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Jigsaw Puzzles… a second chance at a new beginning.

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500 piece Crimson Road by Springbok

Lately, I’ve had an increased interest in completing jigsaw puzzles. Specifically, I love the Springbok brand because, they have the thickest puzzle pieces and are all different interlocking shapes. They are quality brand puzzle makers for sure. But, I will work on any puzzle and I get most from thrift stores… or my husband. He buys me a lot of puzzles. 🙂

My interest in jigsaw puzzles also had another purpose… to help keep my brain healthy.

23 months ago, I had a stroke. I was one of the fortunate stroke victims who had relatively minor brain damage. It mainly damaged my memory and balance.

As part of my rehabilitation, my neurologist suggested working on puzzles to help:

*enhance my visual perception

*hone my coordination

*improve my memory

*develop critical thinking

*increase dopamine production in my brain

*heighten creativity

*stimulate my entire brain

I am grateful for this second chance at living life and look forward to more time on Earth.

What does one do when they survive a health crisis like that? They do what their neurologist says, of course! I need to do puzzles? No problem, Doc! I’m all over it!

Almost 2 years later, no one can tell I had a stroke. I can walk fine. I can talk fine. I just have a little trouble remembering things short-term and recalling long-term memories. That’s what notes and journals are for. I have lots of notes everywhere in my apartment reminding me of things I need to do!

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1,000 piece Balloon Bonanza in Colorado Springs by Springbok

I have completed over 2 dozen puzzles in various sizes and designs during that time. My favorite is the 1,000 piece puzzles that are just the right size for a challenge. I then share them with friends who also have the jigsaw puzzle fever. We rotate and make sure we don’t get the same puzzles.

I get so engrossed in the puzzle that I forget things around me. I am so focused on finding that right piece to fit the section I’m putting together that I tend to finish my puzzles in only a few days. I work on it constantly until it’s done. I’m obsessed!

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500 piece The Georgetown Loop, Georgetown, Colorado by Springbok

It really makes me happy every time I get another puzzle. I buy them from thrift stores, Amazon, Hallmark, Hobby Lobby, etc. I get out my felt mat and foam board that are my tools to work on and setup.

The excitement of a new design, the smell of the cardboard, the hunt for the edges that make the border, the chance to watch it grow as I complete it… all of which makes my brain work hard, relax and have fun too. 

I take pictures every day of my progress. I want to watch my work for the day grow into the final design. It’s fun to watch and gives me the satisfaction of completion.

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Day 1 of Garden Goodies
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Day 2
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Day 3
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Day 4: Complete! 1,000 piece Garden Goodies by Springbok

It’s currently snowing outside so I ended up finishing it. When was the last time you worked on a jigsaw puzzle? Do you remember trying to figure out where each piece fit?

What about searching through the box for all of the edge pieces to begin the border? What did it smell like? How long did it take you to finish the puzzle?

If it has been a while, I think you should get a small puzzle to try and see if it whets your appetite. You may like it, you may not. Make it a family affair… more than one person can work on it. Then, after you’re done, pass it on to someone else to enjoy. Have fun! 

Thanks for tuning in! Watch for future posts on the current jigsaw puzzles I am working on… and a bunch of other stuff.

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Stillness in the Middle of Emotional Chaos

black cat and buddha

In less than 2 weeks, my husband and I are moving. We’re only moving 12 miles away, yet it feels like we’re moving out of state. As you can imagine, our townhome is a disaster with boxes in every room. Even our cat is stressed out.

Last night I woke up in the early morning hours and came downstairs. I instantly noticed it was cooler than our bedroom. I also noticed it was quiet. Quiet and calm.

So, I picked a spot on our living room floor and sat down to meditate. Yeah, yeah. Ok, let me explain.

“Meditation” for me translates into sitting down on the floor, closing my eyes, purposely controlling my breaths and listening to or feeling the sounds of the room I’m in. My “sitting” consists of my bum on the floor and the bottom of my feet touching the floor. When I say “feeling” it’s because I sat on the floor and want to know the touch of the carpet: soft or rough, the hardwood floor: the coolness and the vibrations, etc. And no, I don’t usually sit Indian-style. Sometimes I even lean back and add the palms of my hands to the floor for another sensory channel.

I sat there and used my other senses, not my eyes. As I took it all in, I couldn’t help but notice that I had become still myself. I became so focused on listening and feeling something completely different from my stress that I actually forgot about it for a couple minutes. There really can be a stillness in your emotions above the messiness of a move. Suddenly, I felt lighter. Is everything that caused my stress still there? Yup, it was, but I feel better about how I responded to that stress.

The stress of making sure everything goes according to your plan wreaks havoc on your mental state. The worry just needs to go away because, the more you keep it inside of you, the more it all adds up and starts messing with your physical state as well.

I learned to let it go last night. Even for that precious couple minutes. Today is a different one and I know if I feel that stress again, I’ll stop and clear my head in a way that works for me. When it works for me.

Do you have a method of de-stressing yourself or calming the noise of life in your head? How do you create that stillness in your mind that let’s you release all worry? Even if it’s for just a few minutes.