Tuesday, 9 April 2013

My AVM Story - Role Reversal Makes Me The Caregiver for a While

It's amazing where I've found myself in this recovery journey from my AVM and stroke. After all, it wasn't until I was volunteering daily with Community Living at age 22, trying to keep myself busy while I waited to hear about whether or not I'd need brain surgery to treat my AVM, that it occurred to me for the first time that I'd maybe enjoy doing support work with intellectually disabled people as a career (after volunteering with Community Living for seven years *and* doing a cooperative education placement with them in high school.) I never figured that I'd find myself here, thirteen years after my stroke, writing about disability issues and feeling very passionate about them in general. And I never figured that, with a weak leg and a left hand that still barely works, that after all the time my father spent being the caregiver for me after my stroke, that I'd end up (gladly) being a caregiver for him.

A Sudden Role Reversal

My father was crossing the street in Toronto about five weeks ago and was hit by a car.

He was fortunate, all things considered. My sister was already on her way to Toronto meet him and was able to get there quickly when a pedestrian used his cellular phone to call her. He was rushed to the nearest hospital and had surgery fairly quickly to set his right femur, broken in three places. He doesn't remember any of the first week that he spent in the hospital...I don't remember much of the first few days after my surgery either, which is fine by me.

He's full of stories about the physical rehabilitation hospital to which he was released, however. And now that he's home, and I'm staying with him until we can get some support in to make life a bit easier for him as he recovers, we compare notes about our experiences. We did not stay at the same hospitals. I'm surprised by what he wasn't taught. But I'm also impressed that he's getting around as well as he is, considering everything that he's been through.

And it sure is interesting, being on the other side of this. My sister lives too far away to be in the caregiver role (and she's taken on all the paperwork involved with this, so she's got enough on her plate).  Since I live so close to my father, it makes sense that I would help out.

I know that I can do it. But sometimes doubt creeps in.

Pancakes, Headaches and Doubts about Myself as a Caregiver

It's not lost on me, how funny it all is, as Dad stands beside me at the electric griddle, using his walker, trying to coach me on how to flip pancakes. Why did we think that pancakes for dinner was a good idea? I've never made pancakes in my life.

Since Dad needs a hand on the walker at all times, we have a full set of usable limbs between us, and it's just too much coordination for us. And me being the neophyte cook that I am, the pancakes are lumpy, even after we run the mixer through the batter a second time. I feel like the world's worst caregiver. How do people do this caregiver thing day in, day out? I can't even make pancakes right.

Everything that I do to get myself through the day seems wildly inappropriate when I'm a caregiver for someone else. What kind of caregiver opens a bag of chips with her teeth? One that doesn't have two hands to work with...it's okay for me but *wrong* when I'm doing it for someone else...

And did I do dangerous things that made my caregivers want to scream, "Oh NO, you didn't just do that!", I wonder?

(Yes, I certainly did...*sigh*)

My father says that he has gotten a new appreciation for what I went through...well, I can say the same thing.

I'm glad that I can help, because he was certainly there when I needed him.

It's just too bad that my cooking hasn't improved just a little bit yet...and that his crock pot seems to have disappeared.

Here's to caregivers. You're all awesome. :)


  1. The opportunity to care for another is a gift from the universe which allows us to become better people. There are, unfortunately, too many people who would choose to run and disappear...it's an illness in our modern society which devalues all. I bet that you make hell of a good batch of pancakes....

  2. I love brinner (breakfast for dinner)

  3. They were edible, which is all that I was hoping for, lol...and now I know that I can make them if I ever want them. :) Thanks, Phil...