search engine by freefind
Caregiver of the Month Spotlight
JUNE 2000

When our children are growing up, I think almost all of us think of the time that they will finish school and move out on their own. THEN, there will be some time for what you might want to do, such as take it easy, no more tuition to pay, no more trips to music, dancing, cheerleading, ball games, track meets. WRONG!!

After being discharged from the service in 1954, Martin started working in the oil field. We met and married in 1955. Our first daughter was born in 1957 and 21 months later, our second daughter was born. We felt so blessed, because both were so wanted and so precious, as they still are.

We had to move some in the oil field, and Martin had to take our car to work every day. Being such a family man and not one to frequent bars, Martin came home. This necessitated my having to go to the grocery store and go wash clothes at night when he was in, and that worked out fine as he loved caring for the girls. That's probably one of the reasons both became "daddy's girls", as he was with them so much. There were many times he worked offshore on the drilling rigs and his time at home was very short.

In 1967, having seen so many with whom we worked get transferred and leave a child here or there if they were grown and married, he decided it was time to move home, before our girls got any older. We found a 50-acre farm to buy, which had 4 chicken houses. Guess what I did for 17 years? Gathered eggs, fed cows, fixed fences, fed hogs and horses, while he was off working, The bonus of all of this was that I was at home with the girls. We had a rough time trying to tend to all of this, while letting our girls do the things they needed and wanted to do, but we made it, and when the youngest finished college, I retired from the chicken business!! The company called me several times trying to get me to reconsider and put chickens back, but there was no way in the world I would do that. I am very much a homebody, love my family, but 17 years was enough. It helped get our girls educated and that was our goal.

Martin had worked up in the oil field from roustabout to rig superintendent. In 1983, a refinery was built about 10 miles from here and he decided it was time to retire from the drilling end and do something else. Needless to say, his being at home was great. He worked 7 days on, 12 hrs. a day, and 7 days off. His main job was to go to the wells and make sure all were working, check the gauges, no manual labor any more. I used to go out and ride with him when he was on the night shift, take supper most of the time or just take all of the boys out there something to eat, (a cake, whatever) and have coffee. Martin was one of the "old" ones there and they all called him "Pop", and still do.

Martin had problems with an ear infection, which the ear doctor said was from his sinus draining into the ear. After so many problems, he decided it was time that problem was fixed. As a child, his tonsils had been "burned-out" and it seems they had grown back, also. The dr. was going to take them out at the same time, as well as his uvula, as he had problems with snoring, and the dr. said he had sleep apnea. When we went in the hospital the morning of August 17, 1992 for the surgery, he had his chest x-ray and then went for an EKG. The nurses put the EKG reading down on a desk almost at my elbow and not having seen one before I took a look. At the top it said "abnormal". I told Martin about it and he said, well the dr. would tell us about it. (We sure were trusting at the time). When the dr. came to the room before surgery, he talked about everything in the world, his hunting, you name it. When he started out the door, I told him I had seen the EKG reading and it was abnormal. He told me not to pay any attention to that, that they didn't, you couldn't always pay attention to those read-outs...WELL...Stupid us, the surgery was done, he came home 2 days later, was off work for a couple of weeks, went back on a Saturday and about an hour after leaving, he came home and told me he felt really bad, which was very unusual, he never missed work from illness. He goes to bed and about 3 o'clock the next morning he woke me and told me he counldn't breathe. We decided that perhaps he should get in the whirlpool, in hot water and see if that helped and I would make a pot of coffee. He drank the coffee, sat in the rocker and dozed off. Checking on him, I didn't think his breathing was right, so I called the local doctor at 5 in the morning at his house and he met us at the emergency room. They got 21 pounds of fluid off of him, and he had Pneumonia, Staph, and Pseudomonas. After spending over a week in the hospital, he came home and after about another week was back in with heart failure. The doctor made an appointment with a cardiologist and he put him in the hospital immediately to do a catherization. The morning after this was done, the doctor came in and informed us he was fortunate to have come out of the surgery that he had cardiomyopathy of an undetermined cause, and would never work again.

This man had never missed work in 39 years from an illness, was as healthy looking as you can get, and now was being told he couldn't do a lick of work ever again.

After several months of treating him with no improvement, the cardiologist asked if we would go to the heart failure clinic at the local University Hospital. Of course, we said yes, what ever we needed to do. There, they just adjusted his dosage and were seeing him about every 2 weeks. He, of course, had his garden and worked around the farm.

Friends of ours had never been to Louisiana, and since our garden was going to be coming in the next week, we decided to take the weekend and go back to our old stomping grounds letting them experience some real seafood in Houma. Martin drove until we got to Slidell, La., then we decided to stop for breakfast and stretch. I started driving then and he and his friend were in the back seat, while his friend's wife was up front with me. Martin and A.J. were talking and just as we got over the Causeway, I heard a gurgle. I looked in the mirror and he was slumped and all I could think to do was find a hospital. 15 minutes later, horn blaring, lights blinking, I finally found St. Jude Medical Center in Metairie, La. When we arrived, he was declared DOA and was turning blue. They were able to revive him, and with outstanding treatment on life support for 2 weeks they told us he would need a defibrillator installed to keep his heart going.

We wanted to come home but were told he could not ride an ambulance that far so we got the Medical Helicopter and flew him to Jackson to the University, where they installed a defibrillator the next morning.

Needless to say, the defibrillator worked many times until he finally received a heart transplant on January 21, 1996. I had to take him to the hospital on Jan 18, as his defib was going off so much and the night before the transplant, it went off continually. He did not have long to live.

Our only problem with the transplant was that it took a life to save his, but through the wonderful unselfishness of the donor family, his life was saved, for which we were and are most grateful.

He did wonderfully well after the transplant, had his garden, started woodworking, making things for me and for the girls, leading an ordinary life. We went to the mountains in late September of 1998 for a week, as we usually did. Several weeks after coming home, he started throwing up and running a temperature. We were treating it as a bug, and finally I took him in to the hospital. Lab work showed an infection and they decided to keep him
for a couple of days to give him drips so he wouldn't get dehydrated.

That night, the doctor started looking for the infection. A spinal tap came back about 10:30 showing he had Cryptococcal Meningitis, which only people with no immune system get. It was downhill from there. He was coded the next day and spent 30 days off and on in CCU on life support.

When he finally came home in January 1999, during physical therapy, it was found he had a blood clot, so he went back to the hospital for a week with that.

In 1997 he finally told the doctor his back had been hurting for a long time. Sent to orthopedist, he did an MRI, and after seeing a neurologist and he learned that two vertebrae in his neck were gone. He underwent a four hour operation for that and now has donor bone and a piece of metal in his neck.

We had been noticing odd things in his nature, which is and always has been wonderful, and finally in August, I insisted something was wrong with him, and fortunately or unfortunately, he was in the hospital at that time. To them, he seemed his same old self they had known for years. We knew he was a little different from the strokes he suffered when he went into cardiac arrest, and were told by neurologist I would have to notice the changes as I lived with him, they didn't. Our girls and I noticed, but no one paid any attention to us. Series of tests showed he had Fronto Temporal Dementia, which is known as Pick's Disease and is rare. Seemingly, this is from having the meningitis.

He went back in the hospital Dec. 27, 1999 for pneumonia and it has been downhill since then. The deterioration has been unbelievably fast and so hard to accept. He was back in last month because of Grand Mall Seizures, which we will have to contend with because of his condition.

At this time, we have home health and I have been told it will roll over into hospice. There is no way he can go into a nursing home. His not having an immune system, it would be like putting him to death.

The struggle of watching such a sweet (still is), gentle, kind person deteriorate is beyond belief. He knows almost everyone, but his mind is confused a lot and he is sleeping almost all of the time. I have to wake him for his meals almost every day.

As positive as I have tried to stay, I find myself growing weary. I don't feel sorry for myself for having to stay here and take care of him. I just regret that his life is ending this way. I have learned that it is alright for me to question "why us", for I am human after all. If any of us could know the answer to all that happens, then we would be in God's Realm, not the human realm, and that isn't for us to know.

I thank each person on this chat for letting me come in and be a part of you, whether I'm sitting, watching, listening or adding a bit to it. It helps to reassure me that indeed, I am not alone in dealing with a problem of this nature.

To our two daughters and sons-in-law we will forever be grateful. They have stood by us continually to this day in every way, from helping when he is in the hospital to staying with him at home so I can do what I need to do. We were greatly blessed with 6 grandchildren and now 2 great-grandchildren. Four are now grown and of the youngest, Brad 19, is finishing his second year of College,. and Amy will be a senior this next year in high school. Auggie will be in the 1st grade, and Gracie, our precious little one, will be 3 years old in June. I could never omit the love and devotion our dogs have given to us.

Our youngest daughter gave her dad a Schnauzer for Father's Day in 1996 and she is the most devoted, loving baby around. Munchie, a little mixed breed, was thrown away at our garbage can and we adopted her, had her shots, had her spayed and if there was ever a loving dog, she is it. She shows gratitude and love in each look she gives us and they give us so much of that, plus pleasure.

Martin's situation was taken out of my hands in April when Martin again became so ill with a kidney infection, and we were told he had deteriorated to the extent I was told he could never come home, even with my having help, and hospice.

At this time, he is in a very secure nursing home, and we are 100% satisfied
with the care he is receiving.

Harold, Martin's brother and his mother were there yesterday and one of the CNA's was telling them how much they are enjoying having Martin, that he is such a "good" person and so easy to care for. I thank God every day that part of him has not been affected, at this time, and hope and pray it will always be
the same.

The only thing that helped me is his having been in the hospital for over 4 weeks before going into the nursing home, having gone straight there and not having gone from our home.

This was a risk we had to take for his own benefit, not mine. He slipped out of the bed, over the rails, as useless as his lower body is and fell Thursday. Nothing was broken, thank goodness, but he is a large person and has become dead weight.

To Gail, Patti, Nina, especially Karen, who has become like the sister I never had, and to each of you, thank you, not only for me but each other's support, love, tears, smiles. I'm sure I'll "get back on track" and be able to join in again as I would like.

Your continued prayers are so needed and accepted gratefully.


EMPOWERING CAREGIVERS features the "CAREGIVER OF THE MONTH SPOTLIGHT". If you know of a unique caregiver who you would like to honor or perhaps submit yourself, please send a jpg photograph (if one is available) along with your story. All submissions must be received by the third week of each month to be considered. In the subject line, please type CAREGIVER SPOTLIGHT SUBMISSION. Submit your entries 

© Copyright 1998 - 2009 by Gail R. Mitchell..

It is illegal to reprint articles, in any format (including emails, websites, etc.), without explicit written permission from the author of this article and / or Empowering Caregivers™


Barbara Phyllis

Denise S.



Pat Rose
Pat R-M

Sue B



EMPOWERING CAREGIVERS™ is trademarked. All Information on this website is owned by Gail R. Mitchell. This includes but is not limited to the journal exercises, Newsletters and original articles, etc. Permission must be obtained from Gail R. Mitchell for any external use of this material.

© Copyright Gail.R. Mitchell. All rights reserved