Hands, Holding Hands

Maryann Nunnally, Contributing Writer

Maryann Nunnally

Look up the word caretaker and find all kinds of articles on the duties, difficulties, rewards, and life changes of the caretaker.  In 2022, I went from a wife and companion to a constant caretaker for my sweet husband.  Early in 2022, we discovered that “Smiling David” had congestive heart failure, stage-four kidney failure, and the beginnings of mild dementia, and I immediately became the person in charge of doctor appointments, fifteen different medicines, and three hospitalizations.

I knew when I married David twenty-seven years ago that he would need some encouragement when it came to his career, and some “standing my ground,” when it came to how we would spend our finances.  But at no time did I consider that the time would come when I would be the administrator of medicines, appointments and the check-book.  The man I married was a runner, a fanatical work-out freak (in my mind) and a financial wizard who could determine how much money we needed to save every month, so that we would never have an emergency that we weren’t prepared to cover.  In short, he was everything a wife and companion could wish for.

Then came 2022.  I first noticed that David was coughing more than I had ever heard him do before.  Then I began to see that he was short of breath when he finished his workout routine.  When we found a great cardiologist team, we discovered that David’s extremely low heartbeat and his a-fib had damaged his kidneys.  Suddenly, our lives began to revolve around medical appointments and the life-saving medicines to follow.  For weeks he seemed to plateau, and while he didn’t get much better, he didn’t get worse.  He continued to work-out three times a week and to swim thirty laps on the other three days.  I began to feel that life was pretty much returning to normal.

On Labor Day, 2022, we were hit by the biggest scare.  Hurrying back from a long walk around our retirement campus, David sat down and had a silent but fatal heart attack.  Fortunately, he had an implanted defibrillator which shocked him back to life.  He did not realize that anything had happened, and when the doctor’s office called to tell us that he had suffered a fatal attack, we could not believe it. The first bad news was that David could not drive for six months putting me into the driver’s seat, something I do not relish but can do.  That was followed up by numerous appointments and tests, and finally a hospitalization where surgery found eight blockages.  Four stents later, and David seems to have more energy and is more mentally alert as he gets better blood flow to his brain.

At one of the doctor’s suggestions, we took a short but delightful cruise down the Ohio River.  When we returned home, we decided to plan another trip on the Great Lakes when summer comes around.  Do I delight in my job as a caretaker?  No, at least not so much, but I want my “Smiling Dave” to continue to stay alive.  When I told one of the doctors that that was my goal, he smiled at me and said that keeping David alive and able to be a part of our lives was his goal, also.  If being David’s caretaker means that he will continue to be my companion, I will relish my new role and take care of myself, so that I can continue to care for him in 2023 and as many new years as we are granted.