My husband and I were getting ready for bed when we heard a strange noise coming from our daughters' room. We ran downstairs and found one of the three-year-olds standing outside her room, mouth hanging open and making a horrible gagging, coughing sound. At first we thought she was throwing up, but then she kept trying to suck in air, and it almost sounded like she was choking. "Can you breathe?" She shook her head and tears rolled down her cheeks.
My husband donned his superhero cape while I grabbed her coat and hat. He whisked her into the car. I scraped the ice off the windshield while he buckled her into the car seat. And they were off.
I stood there and watched them drive away, feeling totally helpless.
How do caregivers do this?!?
Her sister had woken up, so that snapped me back to my senses.
Get her sister back to sleep.
Run through nightmare scenarios in my head.
Check on the kids.
Feel like throwing up.
Check on the kids again.
Stare at the clock.
Calculate how long it takes to get to the ER, check in, see a doctor.
Check my phone to see if I missed a message.
Check on the kids 1,000 times.
Scroll through adorable pictures of the kiddos.
Turn my phone buzzer to max.
Stare off into space.
Jump out of my skin when I get a text.
It's just croup, she's going to be okay. They will be home in a few hours.
Clean out humidifier.
Reflect on how caregivers live in this space of terror, being responsible and powerless at the same time.
Feel humbled and amazed.
I've been living with stage 4 lung cancer for a year and a half now. My husband has watched me struggle to breathe, seen me puke my guts out, taken me to countless doctor's appointments, taken over cooking a meal mid-stir when I was too exhausted to go on, run from floor to floor of the hospital parking ramp looking for a wheelchair for me, all the while keeping our household running and parenting our three small children. I have no idea how he does it. In sickness and in heath, indeed.
To all the caregivers out there, all you unsung superheroes, my admiration for you is greater than ever. Watching someone you love struggle to breathe, battle side effects, and deal with endless pain is its own kind of torture. We patients go through this because we have no choice. You do it out of love.