What Happens When the Pain Caregiver Needs Care

What Happens When the Pain Caregiver Needs Care

Editor’s Note: Kerry Smith is a former minister, a professional artist, and has suffered with chronic pain for 14 years. He has lectured and written on the topic of chronic pain for several years.

Kerry Smith

Kerry Smith

A funny thing happened to me on the way to have more tests on my cervical and lumbar fusion. No, not “ha-ha” funny, but an odd kind of funny. Karen and I had returned from the Doctors office to her place of work. The doctor had said he wanted to do more tests on my fusion areas due to the intense pain I am going through above and below the actual fusions. Yes, I do know what is causing it and there will be a time when I will need to decide what to do about it. Dang I am so tired of this crap! Anyway, back to my story.

So Karen and I had gone to have supper after the doctor’s appointment and I dropped her off back at work. She said that she needed to finish up a few things before coming home. After she got out of the truck, I headed home and waited on her to discuss in person what my options would now be after the appointment. The doctor has now suggested contrast MRI’s in order to look more closely at the issues related to my fusion. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this one out now. I was internally battling on what I would like to do while driving down the road. The pain road to what is next has no good exits friends! There are lots of potholes on every exit and as I thought about the words from the doctor, I got angrier about it.

It was now dark and I was home and she called as she was leaving her office. On this day, she walked through a dark place in the parking lot to get to her car and our conversation was one for security sakes. Suddenly in mid conversation, she tripped and fell. She had rolled her foot and fallen, but got back up and limped to her car. She had skinned her knee and injured her foot.

By the time she got home, she could hardly walk and I had a sneaking suspicion she may have done more to her foot than she realized. The next day, she had x-rays which confirmed a fracture in her foot and the need for surgery to repair it.

That was 2 weeks ago. Surgery was last Tuesday. She now cannot do anything without my assistance. That is quite a hoot, isn’t it? Me, a physical healthcare assistant? Me, grab anything when I get up, dragging legs and feet, in excruciating pain, bracing up for stability, that me? I am now the cook, clothes washer, bather, cleaner, grocery shopper, driver, dresser, sweeper, soother, healer, and on and on. I, in my own pain, am it!

The cruelty of life is that it goes on even when you suffer with chronic pain. You learn that what you pray for doesn’t happen in the way you want it. God is no Santa Claus. God sometimes is not even God. Life does not stop to let those who would like off this ride a way off. The pain doesn’t stop. There is no brake for this runaway train and life moves on. It is what it is. And right here is the intersection of what we suffer with, isn’t it? It is the intersection of a life of suffering and a life that moves along with or without us.

For a moment, mine and Karen’s roles have been reversed. In caring for her, I must do so even when I don’t feel like it. She can try to help but it is limited. Everything still needs to be done. The responsibilities do not stop simply because one of us is damaged. Perhaps for a moment, this is a gift I have been given, in an odd kind of way, a gift where I can see just how much Karen does do for me and the sacrifice she makes on a daily basis. And perhaps this is a gift for her as well. She is able to see what it means in my most debilitating moments, the soul piercing pain of having to watch someone else do what you once could and now no longer can. It could be a gift for us both in this moment of time.

Our predicament reminds me of George Clooney’s character Ulysses Everett McGill from the movie “O Brother, where art thou?”, and his rich words whenever he felt pressure. (I know, it IS quite dangerous getting life quotes from a movie such as “O brother where art thou”!) Whenever the authorities are pressing down upon him and he feels the heat of the moment, he exclaims, “Damn, we’re in a tight spot!” Well, Karen, my honey of thirty something years, “damn, we’re in a tight spot!”

Kerry Smith’s art website can be found at: http://www.kerrysmith.me

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Authored by: Kerry Smith

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Your article sure reminds us that there is so much more to a chronic illness than the illness itself.

The same thing happened to my husband and I. He has severe RA and we have a delicate balance worked out when it comes to who does what. Recently he had to have surgery on both feet – at once. No big deal, thought I; I can pick up the slack. We even planned in advance, stocking up on food to minimize any grocery shopping trips, etc.

I am still shocked at how unable I was to do it. If it had been a more invasive surgery and he had been more incapacitated, we would have had to call for help. As it was, he was hobbling into the kitchen on the morning of day 2 and making his own breakfast. I felt terrible that he hadn’t asked me; he felt terrible about having to ask me to do anything at all.

Like you, Kerry, I took something very important away from the experience. A renewed and more profound sense of gratitude toward my husband for the things he does, yes. Also a realization of my own limitations I wasn’t fully aware of before. I probably couldn’t live in our house without him. That he does these things even though he’s struggling himself, and without complaint, made it look easier than it is. I’ve vowed to bestow an act of kindness on him every single chance I get, and to push hard to keep up with the things I do for our household. Most importantly, I will never take for granted those “little things” he does for us again!

Mark Ibsen

Great insights. Thank you Kerry.
“It is what it is”
Appears as a line in the beginning of the Bill Murray movie St Vincent.
I recommend it.
The movie distinguishes that line as a temporary phenomenon: It IS what it is right now, but that it can Be something very different later.

Which you just demonstrated in your article.