Home Lots More Columns Get Column E-mailed 222 Best Senior Links Week's Best Jokes Pans and Praise
Today's Column Senior Travel Other Good Stuff Epic Senior Trivia Bee's Knees Nostalgia Forum

THE PITFALLS OF PASSIONATE CAREGIVING
By Frank Kaiser
CLEARWATER, APRIL 4, 2008 — I’m a stubborn old coot.

So when I had a heart attack last Saturday, I wasn’t about to go to the hospital.

With my wife, Carolyn, home for the weekend after months of chemo and an entire week tethered to a machine harvesting her blood stem cells, I’d tough it till Monday.

That’s when I had to drive Carolyn “home” to Tampa’s Moffitt Cancer Center for two days of high-dose melphalan injections — a powerful chemical that kills her cancerous myeloma cells (as well as her normal blood cells) — leaving her without an immune system to fight infection for months until her harvested stem cells, transplanted back into her system, take hold and begin producing new, non-diseased blood.

So much for the biology lesson.

I’d had similar events before — sweats, chest and left-arm pain, shortness of breath — but stubbornly practiced medicine without a license, taking aspirin and beta-blockers until the symptoms disappeared.

I take my role as Carolyn’s caregiver passionately. She’s the love of my life. My miracle. Besides, we can’t both be sick. It’s unacceptable. So I lied to her when she asked what was wrong.

Honest to God, it’s the first time I’ve ever lied to Carolyn. Ever! (And that’s a wonder by itself.)

I told myself that I’d straighten it out Monday after I got her to the hospital and me to my doctor.

Then, Sunday morning, I found myself bouncing along in an ambulance for the first time ever as a paying customer. (Boy, those trucks have hard rides!) Running red lights, siren screaming, I looked up from the gurney and saw Carolyn in our ’94 Oldsmobile right behind us all the way. Grimfaced in her new role as caregiver, she now wanted to kill me for lying to her.

“BP 220 over 160!” the paramedic yelled over the radio. He was having a devil of time getting an IV into my wrist with the ambulance ricocheting from pothole to pothole. Nitroglycerin had dulled my pain to the point where I was actually enjoying the entire drama.

At the hospital they had already called the cardiologist on duty. The catheter lab was ready. Three genial young men attached electrodes, installed yet another IV and, as one of them gave me a bikini shave in preparation for a catheter through my groin to detect heart blockages, he looked up and asked, “You had a heart attack yesterday and you didn’t call 911?”

Oh God, I hate being foolish. (And it happens all the time.) I tried to explain that I had to take care of Carolyn, that I didn’t want to worry her… The kid rolled his eyes acutely aware that I was just another delusional old fart trying to be heroic in his dotage.

Balloons and Stents

The cardiologist cleared a large blockage in my right coronary artery, tiny balloons and stents shoving the plaque aside (all those year of egg yokes and aged cheese and fatty steaks) to allow blood to once again flow to feed my heart.

Monday the doctors returned, this time to clear my left coronary artery of three more occlusions. (I use fancy words like “occlusion” because, you see, through the mid ‘90s I was in Miami writing and producing all of Cordis Corporation’s angioplasty and stent print advertising. Turns out Cordis made the drug-eluding stents that most likely saved my life.)

That night, my sorry butt hanging out of the gown and black and blue from crotch halfway to both knees, I called my still-angry wife who informed me that if the heart attack didn’t get me, she would.

I considered. Life without salt, eggs, bacon, and McDonald's Double-Bacon Cheese Burgers might not be worth living anyway.

Lessons. Lessons. Lessons.

Today Carolyn got her healthy stem cells back. They call it “Day Zero.” From now on, every day has a plus sign attached to it.

By Day Plus 15 or so, a bald Carolyn will move from Moffitt next door to Hope Lodge, a safe and antiseptic place where I’ll be taking care of her 24/7 until she’s well enough to come home.

By July, God willing, we’ll have our life back again, at least for awhile. We know this is considered an incurable cancer.

We also believe in miracles.

There is a lesson here. (When do they ever end?) Life is a great and precious gift. Enjoy it; luxuriate in it every single day.

Thank you, everyone, for your kind thoughts and prayers. They mean so much to us.

© 2008 — Frank Kaiser


Comment on this week's Suddenly Senior.
Write to Frank at frank@suddenlysenior.com

READ READER RESPONSES TO RECENT COLUMNS HERE


GET SUDDENLY SENIOR EVERY FRIDAY. SIMPLY
SEND A BLANK E-MAIL TO GET-SS@SUDDENLYSENIOR.COM

TO CANCEL YOUR FREE SUDDENLY SENIOR E-MAIL,
SEND A BLANK E-MAIL TO REMOVE-SSLIST@SUDDENLYSENIOR.COM

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE HELPFUL LINKS BELOW


GET UP-TO-THE-MINUTE NEWS EVERY DAY ABOUT MEDICARE, SOCIAL SECURITY AND OTHER IMPORTANT SENIOR NEWS. FREE! SIMPLY SEND A BLANK E-MAIL TO GET-RXNEWS@SUDDENLYSENIOR.COM.


Suddenly Senior is now read by 3.1 million seniors at Websites and 83 newspapers from the St. Petersburg Times to the Mumbai India News. CLICK FOR MORE INFO


UP FOR MORE SENIOR
HEALTH PROBLEMS?

Exploring Where No Man Has Gone Before

My colonoscopy and endoscopy procedures were broken down into three stages: Bathroom; Biopsy; and Babbling. Read detailed do's and don'ts about these lifesaving tests that push your humility, dignity, and humor to their limits. Bottoms up!

Here's everything you ever wanted to know about senior moments and their cause, and surefire advice on what to do about them.

Read this inside story on how it feels to be poked in the eye with a knife and enjoying it, not to mention seeing far better and brighter when it’s all over.

How to Add 5 Years to Your Life (Sure you deserve to?)

Straight from the wise pages of Esquire. What you can do for your heart, your skin, your knees, your mouth, your eyes, and your brain to add five years to your life. It's so e-a-s-y.

Have you started shrinking yet? You will. Here's a strong case for requiring a course called "Aging Process 101" to be taken some time before we must learn by doing.

Blame it on the flu vaccine shortage. Senior men are getting loopier every day. AARP says the cause is male menopause. Frank thinks it's the gazillion political ads we've been forced to endure.


PLANNING YOUR 2008 VACATION?

ACCORDING TO GOOGLE, SUDDENLY SENIOR’S TRAVEL PAGE
IS AMONG THE MOST POPULAR IN THE WORLD. SEE WHY HERE!


FIND IT HERE...

SENIOR SEX Gramps Doing It!

JOYS OF GETTING OLDER It’s not all downhill. Here’s proof!

SENIOR ISSUES Medicare, Social Security, stuff you need to know

UNDER THE KNIFE Personal stories on everything from face lifts to cataract surgery

ONLY IN FLORIDA From hurricanes to horny teachers, the rules are different down here

SENIOR NOSTALGIA Remember? Dating in the ‘50s and other lies

SENIOR TRIVIA Are you “older than dirt?” Take these quizzes


THIS WEEK'S BEST SENIOR CARTOON


THIS WEEK'S BEST 222 SENIOR SITES
http://www.suddenlysenior.com/links.shtml
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE BEST OF SENIOR SEX
http://www.suddenlysenior.com/sexpage.html
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
SEE THE BEST SENIOR NOSTALGIA ANYWHERE, http://www.suddenlysenior.com/nostalgiapage.html
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
SEE THE BEST SENIOR TRIVIA ANYWHERE, http://www.suddenlysenior.com/triviapage.html


HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND, EVERYONE!

Frank Kaiser frank@suddenlysenior.com

http://www.suddenlysenior.com/

Suddenly Senior — the nationally syndicated column read by 3.1-million over age 50 in 176 countries who've become senior way before their time.