Searching within yourself is a healthy step in maturing, this I believe. But what happens when digging deep, finding the things you have to work on personally, are all only part of the puzzle in healing? What if you feel wronged and you want to set it right? I question if I’m what I’ve heard referred to as a “right fighter”… am I afraid to be wrong? Am I not looking deep enough inside of me to see all the faults within myself that led me to feeling this way?
Our family has been through a lot in the last 9 years. I am well aware that it is all relevant to what one would consider “a lot”. But no other person can judge what “a lot” is to another.
It began with hip surgery. My husband was in constant pain with severe arthritis in his hips and knees. As a young family I can recall the five of us being on a trail in the woods when he would just stop mid-trail and cling to a tree. The pain was unbearable by the time surgery rolled around, but he would trudge through work and life with a smile on his face, pleasing his employers, his children and me, his wife, on a daily basis. Surgery, for me, was a hope for better days. This was my first experience with any type of surgery of a loved one and it was terrifying. The young mother of 3 children and a husband going under the knife. My husband can often be a rationalist, he thinks of real things that ‘could’ happen in every situation and applies them and worries about them. I work very hard to keep him positive and seeing the bright side of things, keeping hope and faith at the forefront, but this takes exceptional energy in often high stress times.
We made it through his hip surgery fine. His rehab was difficult, but we made it through, learning things about ourselves and life with every moment. The time my husband had to take off of work was trying, he is not given medical time so he had saved up his vacation time to have the surgery done, allowing no time off before or after the surgery for his own relaxation. We embraced this and tried to find joy in having him home even if it did consist of countless trips to physical therapy, cleaning the incision and multiple daily ice treatments. As a family we worked together to make it all okay. He returned to light work after about 6 weeks recovery. We had scheduled the surgery for August as I work for our local school district and have the summers off. I did have to take the first few days of school off in order to continue his care at home, this was 9 years ago and a brand new position for me at the time.
Fast forward two years and my husband has been cleared for all athletics on his new hip. He heads to open gym during the kids February school vacation week for some pick up basketball. I am home making dinner. My oldest son calls, the fear in his voice instantly frightens me. He says I need to come right away, “it’s dad.” I arrive to find my husband on the floor and the ambulance on the way. What had just happened would not become fully clear to us until in the ER room when the word “surgery” came out of the doctors mouth. We had felt we were finally in a place of normalcy since his first surgery, he was established again at work and was becoming strong after all his physical therapy to build up the muscles in his leg. What had happened that day was a ruptured patella tendon. The patella tendon is the elastic tendon that connects the knee cap to the top of your tibia (shin bone)… this tendon had ruptured, completely ripped off, let go… his knee cap was floating in his upper thigh. The pain was excruciating but the look on my husband’s face when the doctor told him this was a disabling injury and would require surgery to regain full knee function, that was hard to watch. We were looking at another surgery with being completely immobilized after surgery for 2-4 weeks and then he could begin “toe touches” bearing only 50% of his weight for an undetermined amount of time. Individual cases vary after surgery, we were told for a full recovery we would be looking at approx 6 months. Neither one of us knew what to do with this news, it was devastating. Yet, staying positive and finding the bright side we knew he had a fixable problem, we had a light at the end of the tunnel to focus on, the tunnel was just feeling r e a l l y long. We would be okay.
I did not return to work that year. Between all the travel, taking care of the kids, being my husband’s home health aid, and all the other responsibilities that come along with just raising a family through a tragic situation I could not return to work. We also had a dispute going with my husbands employer about the insurance and his time off to recover. They were not going to support us through this financially and we had a good case showing that even though this did not happen on the job, that it was caused by “jumper’s knee” also known as “trucker’s knee”… caused by wear and tear to the tissues of the knee of years of jumping in and out of trucks. I presented them with all of this not intending to make a threat, but to help support our family through a difficult time when in fact my husband had dedicated 20 years of service to their company without as much as a sick day. After weeks of negotiations and hard work to plead our case, they heard us and they ended up giving him full pay and kept him on the health insurance. I was continually supported amazingly by my school community and both my husband and I were supported fully by our family and our entire community!! It was a difficult recovery, but we made it through.
We were on our feet again, literally… back to work, normalcy was on the front door step. The difficulty plagued us with the fact that my husbands hard earned 5 weeks vacation had to be used up yet again for health reasons, so he was constantly working it seemed… either working at home or at therapy to get better and strong enough to go back to work, or working at work to prove himself loyal again. Either way it was work. Summer came and he was due for a routine physical. His primary doctor referred him to have a stress test on his heart in the coming weeks, we were pretty naive to what this meant at the time. Just a referral to see another doctor… well, we went off for this test and by that night he was admitted into the hospital for surgery on his heart. He had blockages in his heart that needed repair. It all happened so fast. Fear and anxiety set in again. I could not return to school at the start of the year as this happened the week prior to my return. I missed the first few days of school. But we got through it.
Fast forward one more year… recovery from his ailments were all on schedule. He was doing well and we were all moving forward. It’s summer again, August, me and the kids are on summer vacation from school. My husband has no vacation time due to having used it and still trying to earn it back. I decide to take the kids camping with some friends, they deserve to get away. My husband was scheduled to join us for the last weekend we were away. We had camped in New Hampshire with friends and then were moving camp down to Massachusetts to another favorite campground of ours for the remainder of the week. On our drive south we were loaded with camping gear. The job of traveling with my 3 children alone was taking a tole, I remember feeling discouraged and disappointed that after all we had gone through that we weren’t all deserving enough of my husband being with us on this vacation. We were heading south bound in the fast lane, I had pulled back from the rest of our group because I remember consciously thinking that I didn’t like what it felt like to caravan with others, trying to keep up and trying to keep sight of them felt like too much work. The kids were all watching a movie. We were traveling at approx 70-75 miles per hour with heavy traffic moving at this speed. All I remember is her sudden movement… the woman in the car next to me suddenly and abruptly grabbed her steering wheel and shanked her wheel to the left, forcefully driving the front end of her small white car into the front end of our minivan. We spun sideways, hitting the guardrail to our left and veering off into the center of oncoming traffic. We were left sideways on the 3 lanes highway with cars lined up with nowhere to go, it was an absolute miracle none of those cars hit is broadside as we came across the lanes. My children were amazing… my oldest son kept control and made sure everyone was okay. For the most part we were all physically okay, they towed our van away and we proceeded with getting a rental van and on to the campsite. My husband still didn’t feel he could leave work, due to still trying to build up trust and understanding with his company after his needed time off. With lots of emotional recovery in the months to come, we made it through that one too!! This also happened in August, but I made it to work for the first day of school.
Fast forward two year, it’s August. Our oldest is away at college now, we have a new foster daughter who had moved in in June. We were on the brink of a new school year. My husband gets a respritory infection due to trying to clean mold in our upstairs bathroom. He got very sick and had a terrible cough. The excessive coughing led him to an inguinal hernia and needed surgery that summer. He had a successful surgery and a pretty speedy recovery. Just as he was getting better I began to have some stomach pains. It actually began one night as chest pains that landed me in the ER. My heart was checked out and I was sent home with inconclusive results. I continued to have the pain for the next couple of days, I sat through school meetings for our foster daughter who would begin school at our high school in the fall with this unexplained pain. I dealt with it until I couldn’t anymore… I returned to the ER one night when I just couldn’t bear it and I ended up in emergency surgery that next morning to remove my gall bladder. I was only days from the start of school and had to miss the first two due to my recovery time. We made it through that one too!
That actually leads us to today. So in fact that story spans over a period of 9 years. We have honestly felt like we haven’t caught our breath in 9 years. Right when we seem to… the next wave hits. I would say we are pretty resilient. Through all of this adversity we have cared for three other children in our home besides our own. We honestly have smiled through it all. We have put our oldest through 3 years of college and are ready to send our next off this coming fall. We are proud of ourselves.
When I question everything … I mean that I have worked hard to look deep within me to understand where others are coming from in all aspects of my life. I try to find empathy and sympathy for the people I come in contact with. Are they honoring me with the same?
Last year I was questioned at work by my supervisor (not my direct boss) for things that I felt were unfair. Although, I’m sure she feels like her picking up the slack while I wasn’t around for all of those times was unfair… but isn’t the truth just that life is unfair? Can’t we all just agree on that? I was accused of “taking advantage of her kindness”. Taking advantage of her kindness?? Seriously? I do not take advantage of anything! After 9 years of working together, I guess I felt like she would know me well enough to know that. I give 100% to whatever it is that is in front of me in that very moment. Most of the time that is my family. I try to be helpful to those in need, I dedicate myself to projects that are driven by my passions…not everyone in my life feels like I give them the attention they need, I have lost friendships due to this. I have very strong priorities. My family is and always will be my first priority. I have loyalty to my job and my employer, I work hard every moment I am there, but when I cannot be there I wish to be respected for the reasons why. I happen to be home sick this week with viral bronchitis, I have missed 3 days of work from school, I do not remember the last time I was knocked down this hard. All I feel is guilt. I have allotted medical days that I am entitled to use if I need them, I have two scheduled for next week to take my husband away for yet another heart doctor appointment, this makes the timing of this illness for me even harder. The other days used this year were for caring for my family members in ways of appointments or caring for them at home. I have been agonizing over having to take this time off hearing my supervisors voice over and over in my head about taking excessive time. I have never gone over my allotted days (with the exception of the year I stayed home for the remainder of the year to care for my husband) despite all that we’ve gone through. I feel I deserve respect.
My husband and I work exceptionally hard at our jobs and in our family life. We are both faced with feelings of being “on probation” at work for things in our life that were out of our control. I feel like this should be noticed, but does that make me a “right fighter”? It bothers me daily that I am accused of things that I have not intentionally done ‘to’ anyone, they were just unfortunate circumstances that led us to today. Shouldn’t others try to see things from another’s point of view? I have learned this in my own life and I really wish others would also.