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by Carole Carson, AARP, October 27, 2008
When life tosses a "lemon," I usually make lemonade. But even a practiced lemonade maker can have the rug pulled out from under her.
On Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2002, the phone rang as my husband and I were finishing dinner. One of my granddaughters reported that my daughter, Jamie, then 38, had fainted and was hospitalized. As I absorbed this news, my son-in-law provided more details.
While checking out of a motel on a business trip in Oklahoma, Jamie suffered cardiac arrest. The staff gave CPR until the paramedics arrived and restarted her heart. She was taken by ambulance to a local hospital, stabilized, and then moved to a level one trauma center in Tulsa.
Jamie, in a deep coma, was given little chance for survival.
We saw steady progress as we kept vigil. She communicated first with her eyes. Then she whispered. As consciousness increased, she became agitated and had to be restrained.
Watching her arms and legs flail and her head roll from side-to-side was distressing. After fearing she would die, I now feared she'd live but be gone mentally.
By Saturday, Jamie had made dramatic progress and was moved to another floor. Helpless as a newborn kitten, she couldn’t be left alone. Her husband and I took turns feeding and taking care of her basic needs. The overworked nursing staff appreciated our help. I also tried to take care of myself. Although I slept only a couple of hours a night, I ate carefully—if irregularly—and walked in the hospital corridors for exercise.
Eight days after the incident, Jamie was moved to a rehabilitation hospital near her home in Columbia, Mo.
I was strong for eight days, but I came home in bad shape. A sinus infection returned and a hip hurt badly. Emotionally, I was a basket case. I felt disoriented and disconnected. Extra rest and exercise, especially stretching; regular eating; prayers of family and friends; visits to the chiropractor; and TLC from a supportive husband restored me.
After that I headed back to Missouri to help Jamie learn to feed, clothe herself, walk with assistance, and communicate, as she made the transition home. Neurological processes, especially short-term memory, will be retrained in so far as her remaining brain function will permit.
What I learned was that without being in shape, I don't think I would have survived the trauma, nor would I have the resiliency to return to help Jamie.
Until then, I thought I got fit to avoid medical problems, play tennis, and enjoy abundant energy. Silly me! I was preparing for a much larger task. If I'm going to have to keep making lemonade, I’ll need to be strong, healthy, and balanced.
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