Trigger warning: mental health – panic attacks
My life changed on Wednesday 23 December 2020 at 4pm.
David, my husband, fell over onto a concrete garage floor straight on his back. I was not there but heard him calling for help. I called an ambulance but could not go with him to hospital because of COVID-19 restrictions at that time. Finally, at 11pm he arrived back home in a taxi with what was suspected to be a pulled muscle, however, further X-rays revealed that David had in fact, broken his back.
I did not know what was happening as David was transferred between hospitals in the area and this made me incredibly anxious. Eventually, David was transferred to Southampton Spinal Hospital. Throughout this time, David continued to be in excruciating pain most of the day, pain only helped with vast amounts of morphine. David is now unable to walk unless he has a rollator. So now I am his full-time carer.
Before this, I was looking after David since he was first diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis in 2001. This is a rare muscle disease and can be fatal if not controlled by drugs. Throughout this time, I was caring for my husband on a part time basis whilst he was getting support first from John Radcliff Hospital in Oxford then transferred to Southampton Hospital’s Neurology department. Throughout the last few years, David has been in and out of hospital as the medication can cause many problems and he has no immune system.
Now though, after David’s fall, I have to do everything for him, such as: helping him dress, combing his hair, showering, getting night clothes ready, washing urinal bottles, making all meals, checking at night to see his CPAP machine is working on his face. It means I don’t even get a break at night because I can’t sleep properly as I need to check things all the time. The main help I’m getting is someone to help with the garden and housework every week, but this still leaves me caring round the clock.
David often sits at the computer with cushions and watches TV, but he and I both know that if I wasn’t there he couldn’t live on his own.
I struggle being a carer because I have lost all my freedom. My mind is constantly on David’s wellbeing and now all me and David talk about is hospitals and managing his pain.
Recently, David had his operation at Southampton Hospital, he has had rods and pins and screws and cement put in his back to support his spine, it’s early days but he is getting about the house more.
The strain of caring means I am also struggling with my own health, and I am very weary some days. Being on my feet all day has caused Osteoarthritis to flare up in my foot and I can now hardly walk. This puts my ability to care in jeopardy and is very frightening. I take painkillers now too just to keep going. I just try and keep going but sometimes it’s hard because you just be bothered.
It’s not just my physical health that is taking a toll from caring, but my mental health too. I have panic attacks daily and nightmares at night. I’m on antidepressants but I feel frustrated that there is not enough support for carers.
My salvation is reading. I constantly have a book open and when I feel like I can’t carry on, I read a few pages and it gets me through. It also helps knowing people who will listen like the Dorset Carers Group I have started attending.
If like Liz, you could do with information, advice or guidance about your caring role, please contact us on 0800 368 8349 or email email@example.com.