It’s been a long day and perhaps more accurately, a long year. August 11, 2017 my life changed. I had been having a great summer of travel for professional learning first attending ALA Annual in Chicago followed by the NYLA-SSL Leadership Institute at Cornell (NY), then on to Long Beach (CA) for IASL and visit with our son. I was in California when I received the life altering phone call. “Is this Mrs. Seymour?” Dread upon hearing the words ‘brain bleed’ and ‘lifesaving measures’ while giving consent for intubation for mechanical ventilation in order for my husband to be transported to a higher-level care facility by helicopter. The flight back to NY is long under good circumstances; this trip was the longest of my life. I felt like I aged ten years upon disembarking and the night wasn’t over. In reality, my – no our – new life was just beginning.
A life of ICUs, hospitals, rehabs, angiograms, EVDs, craniotomies (one to remove his occipital bone, the other to remove his AVM), tracheotomy, PEGs, EKGs, EEGs, CSF leak, VP Shunt, a blood transfusion, aspiration pneumonia, acute pancreatitis and the list goes on. Did you know patients are no longer called ‘John Doe’ but a series of other monikers, as in my husband’s case – ‘Critical Rhode Island’. We drove through that state once in the ‘90s.
Today was an emotional day for me and at times I found it hard to pull myself together. There has been much stress and anguish over the past year. And while my life changed, it changed in many good ways. You may find this hard to believe but let me explain.
We went from a two-income household to just my salary. That’s not a positive! Especially with all the medical bills. But I learned to look at every expenditure in a new light and realized there were many unnecessary household services and expenses. I’ve learned to no longer embrace wastefulness and have become more fiscally disciplined. I’ve even learned all about the federal income tax schedules and various deductions. I have become an advocate and mentor amongst my friends and colleagues to get legal paperwork in order – Usernames, passwords, wills and the often-overlooked Power of Attorney. As a spouse I can assure you, you can’t talk to anyone or get anything done without a POA. I also learned to budget my limited time and to say ‘no’. I should have taken Diana Rendina’s advice earlier and embraced the power of slowing down sooner. I am now more selective and productive with my time and energy.
I’ve become physical therapist, occupational therapist as well as speech therapist. I can manage a feeding tube, Yankauer, catheter, and know a whole lot about pulmonary toileting (love that term.) None of these skills I learned in library school. But I have learned I can empathize more with my students and families who arrive with assorted medical issues. I have used my extensive training and background in medical libraries to understand exams, diagnoses and other interventions. I am grateful for this knowledge and that I had to opportunity to meet and fall in love with my husband over thirty years ago at Cabrini Medical Center Medical Library – he a medical student, me a library assistant.
The power of friendship is a healing salve. I’m very grateful for anyone who feeds me as it is evident I can not live on tea, wine and chocolate. Well, maybe tea. I am very grateful to the Lit Wits (a drinking club with a reading problem). This group of librarians allowed me to feel ‘normal’ again, if only for a few hours at a time. I am surrounding myself with family and friends – it doesn’t get any better. I have embraced Gratitude as my OneWord2108 and reflect on this word daily.
Last week I flew to Houston to work with Fort Bend ISD librarians. I rented a car and handled Texas highways (with a few U-turns and ‘re-routing routes’). This was out of my comfort zone but I did it. Some days I don’t recognize the new me. While my confidence is enhanced, I still go through bouts of sadness and loneliness. It’s okay to be sad. As teachers we arrive at school with emotional baggage, too – divorce, new house, illness and other stressors. But we need to help ourselves so we can see to the social emotional health and wellbeing of our students. We need put on our oxygen mask on first. I know I need to continue working on this, but I have embraced a new mindset for healing – positive affirmations, relaxation and healing music and a routine mani/pedi. We all have moments when healing breaths where we breathe in gently through the nose and out through the mouth (aka smell the flowers, blow out the candles) are beneficial, if not essential.
During this past year I’ve amped up our stress related library programs and plan to implement new ones for students and staff. For instance, Habro’s companion pets that I wrote about previously. I spotted a companion cat at Clements High School Library (FBISD) and got great feedback.
I have a new point of view when it comes to disabilities. It is frustrating trying to get my husband’s wheelchair into tiny elevators and narrow hallways in medical buildings. It might be handicap accessible on paper, but walk a mile in my shoes! I look at my school, library and really all facilities and programs with a new lens. I hope I can make a difference in someone’s life. As for assistive devices:
- I love any writing or drawing implement in triangular shape. It’s just easier to hold. I’ll be adding this to my makerspace.
- I’m thinking there maybe a place for Alexa in the library as it has proved helpful in a nursing facility setting.
- Don’t ban plastic straws. Just don’t take them if you don’t need them. Many people, my husband included, have swallowing issues. Once an item is labelled an assistive device, the price goes up. Having a disability is expensive enough.
It has been a year now and my husband is still not home yet. It’s going to take a while longer, but I know
I am strong
I am brave
I’ve got this
2 thoughts on “Critical Rhode Island”
It is not often that when one has suffered as you have that they are able to use that experience to help others. Thank you for sharing this past year’s journey. I am inspired by you and your gratitude.
Another great read, Gina! Thanks for always being inspiring.