A bond through adversity
by Suneet Bhansali, Student, UNC School of Medicine
Editor’s note: Every month, a medical student from UNC spends a two-day rotation with HPCCR. They come on a Wednesday, attend an interdisciplinary team meeting, then accompany a clinician on a patient visit. On Thursday, they spend the day at one of our inpatient units. Many of them send us their reflections after the rotation is over. We received the following summary last month.
During our home visit, we saw a husband and wife who were affected by stroke. Even though the husband had the stroke, it was clear that the wife was just as, if not more, affected. Walking up the steps to their home, the nurse practitioner I was with stated that even though care is appointed to the person who was physically disabled, “we most often end up helping the family.” As we entered the home, we were greeted by an excited dog and the wife of the patient. She had taken time off from work in order to meet us and was extremely grateful for all that Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region could offer.
Once inside, we sat down and obtained a detailed history from her regarding the husband’s health, hospital course, and condition after the stroke. It did not take long for us to realize how much the stroke had affected the wife. She had suddenly become the sole bread-winner in the family all while taking on the responsibility of caring for the husband and maintaining the household. While trying to hold a full-time job, she was also expected to care for her life partner; more than can be asked of one person as it is no easy task.
The stroke had left her husband full of deficits. He could not walk long distances, let alone to the car without feeling dizzy. Though she was concerned about these issues, what really bothered her was the change in his personality; his loss of merriment and carefree attitude, and his sense of humor. She stated several times that “if you did not know him before the stroke you would not realize there was something off or different about him”. Further questions about their life helped us see the type of relationship this couple shared. It was not just a relationship of husband and wife, but one of two friends, confidants, and more or less pillars of support. Without her husband being able to care for himself, she was left with a responsibility others may easily shy away from. Somehow, I could tell that this burden of caring for her husband was not a burden to her at all.
For me, it was amazing to see someone stick by another person through such hard times. Instead of placing her husband in a skilled nursing facility, she accepted the responsibility and extra financial hardships that were inevitable. In order to continue working to pay the bills and run a household, she also had to pay for a full day’s worth of care for her husband seven days a week. This did not come cheap as his disability insurance only paid for a mere portion of the costs; the rest came from her pocket. We could tell that the service provided by HPCCR would greatly liberate her of at least one major financial burden and for that she was grateful.
When we finally went to see the patient, he was lying in bed. He seemed weak and exhausted but still made an effort to greet us. We spoke to him about the type of care we provide and asked what he wanted from us. It was even greater to hear his answer. In a selfless manner, he stated that he wanted us to do whatever we could to help his wife. He could tell she was tired and exhausted as well, and that she needed help just as much as he did, if not more. We had to explain to him that we were there for him but he kept insisting that his wife deserved the help. To see this bond between two individuals grow tight through adverse circumstances was a wonderful experience and one that I will carry with me for as long as I live.Explore posts in the same categories: advocacy, awareness, education, hospice, palliative comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.