When I vowed to love Rick “in sickness and in health,” I found the words romantic. Like many brides, I had some vague idea that long marriages always end up involving difficult times and illness, but I had only the dimmest understanding of what I was actually promising.
In early 2009, my husband became suddenly and dangerously ill. He was 41, in perfect health, and the father of three kids, aged 6 months to 2.5 years. In what we think turned out to be Swine Flu (also known as H1N1), he found himself fighting for his very life. He ended up spending 54 days in the hospital, most of them in the intensive care unit on a ventilator, a month in in-patient rehab afterwards, and several months in out-patient rehab after that. Needless to say, this period was life changing for me, as well, and I learned quite a lot…on a number of topics. In no particular order, here are a few of the things I gleaned during those harrowing days:
A trashy, gossip magazine can be a balm to the soul. Seriously. Disdain not The Ministry of the Well-timed Entertainment Weekly, friends. Or the pastoral care offered by Sports Illustrated. The day after my husband was admitted to the hospital and we were beginning to understand that this was serious, I called a new friend from his bedside phone. We had only moved to the area 8 months before, but I had a starting-to-bud friendship with a neighbor and fellow grad student wife. Sensing that she was the kind of person who would jump in with comfort and aid, I called her and started crying on the phone. Within an hour, she had come to the hospital, found us in the maze of the radiology wing where Rick was getting his lungs examined, and handed me a care package of trail mix, instant Korean coffee, and several People magazines. This was perfectly done. There is not one improvement I could suggest to my friend’s care for me that day.