Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for London

Ducky on the London Eye.
L is for London

A doctor on the plane gave me the best advice about London. "Take a double decker tour," he said. "My wife did that on her first trip and never got lost."

I followed his advice, but still got lost once or twice.

London was my first solo trip. I decided after months and months of near death situations following my late husband Jimmy's stroke, I would take a vacation. London was cheaper and more direct than some vacations in the United States.

With him settled into a new routine at a nursing home close to where I lived and with the purchase of travel insurance, I thought it safe to go. One of my many "think again" moments. He developed pneumonia and on his second hospitalization had to return to a ventilator to help him breathe. Ventilators are life-saving, but most nursing homes won't accept patients using them.

Jimmy had to be shipped off to another hospital to wean him from the ventilator. Once he accomplished this, the nursing home refused to readmit him as a patient. Jimmy lingered in a hospital for months. I juggled traveling to see him — about an hour and a half each way a couple times a week — and work. I wrecked my car and damaged a rental car a week or so later. London held a new appeal — I would not have to drive a car there, so I rebooked the trip.

While concerned about my wrecks, Jimmy didn't approve of London.

"For me to stay, I have to go," I told him.

While we always had lots to talk about when I visited, I noticed by Sunday afternoon I had less to say. I had been as one nurse noted in his chart during my visits: Wife at bedside.

After many spelling matches through his communication system about the trip, he decided to change his medical status to Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) in the days before I left. If he had a heart attack or was found not breathing, no action would be taken to revive him.

Daily visitors distracted Jimmy during my London adventure. I checked in daily too as I avoided smashed peas.

When I returned, Jimmy removed the DNR from his medical chart and from his mind as he was happy to see me. I never convinced him why I needed to take the trip to refresh, to not drive a car and to return to him with something new to share.

The attendants on my flight explained it better than I ever could. Most passengers don't pay attention to their safety speeches, but caregivers must. When the oxygen masks fall from the overhead panel, you need to put your own mask on first before helping those in your care. You have to get your oxygen first or you can't help the ones you love.


  1. I'm glad London gave you space and oxygen and something fresh to share with your late husband.

    (Visiting from A-Z blogging challenge)

  2. You are wise beyond your years. Blessings to you.

  3. Wow, Stacy ... I am learning so much from you, my wise friend.

  4. I love London, and I'm so glad you had the courage and wisdom to know you had to go, and to do so.

    I missed the opportunity of a lifetime -- to hear Julie Andrews in concert in London -- because I was too concerned that something would happen to one of my parents while I was gone, and I wouldn't be there for them. As it turns out, they both lived for some months after that, and I've regretted not going ever since.

    Bless you for doing what you needed to do, and for letting it be such a restorative time for you.

  5. I'm glad you did this, Stacy. What a wonderful blessing for you. Is all this in the memoir? I hope so. I can't wait to read that. :-)

  6. What a powerful post, Stacy. So true, how "I" must come first, and yet in our culture it's considered selfish and deplorable. Self-effacing sacrifice is much more acceptable, but no one talks about the ripple effect. Indeed, if you don't have your own "oxygen mask", you'll faint before you can help others--and those "others" can't help you.

  7. Lovely post Stacy.

  8. I love that you took a personal journey after such challenging times, Stacy. And double-deck bus tours are the way to go in new cities—those and bike tours. (Yep, I, too, get lost. :))

    Thanks for reminding us to help ourselves first.

  9. This is a very powerful post. All caregivers need to remember your advice. Thank you. Stopping by from the A - Z Challenge. Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

  10. Stacy,
    Your stories are always so touching and profound while taking us all on parallel journeys: physical and emotional. I am in awe of your writing. Truly.

    I am a caregiver to my youngest son, so I know of the need to have a getaway. Fortunately, he doesn't seem to mind.

    I need to go back and read your last few post as I was out of internet range for the past four days.

  11. So true, Stacy. It's the hardest thing in the world to take care of yourself, when you know it's necessary for the one you're caring for. you made the right decision!


  12. Thank you for sharing this lovely memoir and photo of a very special time. It took real courage to step away for that vacation in London to refresh yourself and then return to your husband. The DNR decision he made was especially poignant. My DH had a stroke just two years ago; he's doing well, but I realize now truly that every day is a gift.

  13. What a hard decision to make, but I think you reach a point where you have to take care of yourself so you can be around to take care of others.

  14. Stacy, I stumbled across your blog through A to Z--and I'm so glad I did!! Your honesty, wisdom and thoughtfulness are something I want to read.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences, they are important.
    It's nice to "meet" you!

  15. OMG Stacy. This both warms my heart and breaks it at the same time.

    People who haven't been involved with a partner who is terminally ill and/or mentally ill may not "get it," but I do. It doesn't help anyone if we die for lack of oxygen.

    Plus, I love the rubber ducky "swimming" on the Thames. Thank you for sharing.

  16. That you need to take care of yourself first is absolutely true. That you were able to do that in the midst of all that was going on is a sign of true courage.

  17. What a meaningful share and fantastically wise advice.


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