When It’s Not Like Any Other Day
By Crystal Hayduk
Early on the Friday before the start of school, my teenage daughters and I lingered in our pajamas over a breakfast of ham and cheese omelets as we talked about doing something fun for the Labor Day weekend. “I still have to finish one more work project that’s due on Tuesday, so I better shower and get to it,” I said.
I stepped into the tub, thinking about my work commitments and the start of a new school year. Summer had come and gone too quickly, and I hoped to salvage the long holiday weekend for something other than work.
Like any other morning, I reached down to wash my legs. But unlike any other morning, something popped in my back. My left leg and foot immediately went numb, and I felt searing, excruciating pain in my back. The slightest attempt to move intensified the agony.
Bent over in the tub while the hot water continued running, I was imprisoned by pain. My attempts to scream for help failed because every breath deepened the affliction.
As I realized my predicament, alarm set in. Since I wasn’t home alone, I knew rescue would come sooner rather than later, but the pain was frightening.
Half an hour later, I heard a beautiful sound on the other side of the closed bathroom door. “Mom? Mom?” Thankfully, she had a request that sent her in search of me. And, she found me-immobile, naked, wet, and crying.
“What happened?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Get your sister. I need you both.”
Working together, they managed to get me out of the tub. While one helped to dry me off, the other called my doctor, who instructed me to go to the nearest emergency department. Then she called my husband at work to take me to the hospital. Because of his responsibilities and the distance, it would be a two-hour wait. He suggested we call an ambulance, but I adamantly refused.
I still couldn’t move my legs or alter my position without severe pain. Aside from giving the girls direction, I was nearly helpless. My daughters even had to dress me. Slipping a sundress over my head was the simplest clothing choice, but it took real teamwork to get my underwear on!
Eventually, my husband arrived. He parked his car as close to the house as possible, near the door that wouldn’t require stairs. With a helper on each side and one behind, I gingerly shuffled to the car. Getting into the car was a special challenge in itself.
Ultimately, the ER doctor diagnosed a probable herniated disc and sent me home with a regimen that included ibuprofen, lidocaine patches, activity and lifting restrictions, and physical therapy services. As a working mother, I knew the activity restrictions would be difficult to follow, but at least I had three other people in my home to help, right?
My husband and daughters were happy to care for me and pitch in on the holiday weekend, but once they returned to school and work, their help took a steep decline. They had their own responsibilities and obligations. Despite what we may wish to be able to do, there are only 24 hours in a day, and no way to be in two places at once.
A month and a half later, I’ve made enough progress that I don’t require the same level of help as I did in the first couple of weeks. But this experience has shown me firsthand some of the needs that clients of Our Family Friend have, and the relief that family members feel when they can depend on caregivers to be there for their loved ones when they can’t be.