By Dave Balch
True story: Joanne and her husband, Gary, were clearing some trees on their property when one of them fell on Gary. He was out cold and obviously seriously injured, so Joanne immediately called 911 on her cell phone. Help arrived and, due to their remote location, Gary was taken by helicopter to the nearest trauma center, which was about 90 minutes’ drive from their home.
What do you think Joanne did next? She took a shower and packed a bag for a 3-day stay.
How could she be so callous, you ask? Wasn’t she so upset that she was going crazy? Didn’t she care that her husband might die?
Of course she was going crazy and of course she cared. Her gut reaction was to jump in the car and drive like a crazy person to the hospital, even though she had been working hard in the forest for several hours and was filthy, sweaty, and felt disgusting. But she was able to calm down enough to think rather than simply react and here was her train of thought: “I’m probably going to spend the next three days with him in the hospital, and I don’t know if I will be able to shower. I need to be and feel as fresh as possible in order to be my best for him, and I need to pack the things that he and I will both need while we’re there. He is getting the best care possible and getting to the hospital a little earlier will make no difference.”
In other words, she was taking care of her own needs so she could be there to take care of his. The total time she spent doing this was less than an hour; think about what a great investment of time that was! She was able to calm down and drive safely, and when she arrived she felt much better physically and emotionally and could more easily focus her attention on him.
As it turned out, her 17-year-old son was mad at her for a very long time because she didn’t leave immediately. He wouldn’t even talk about it with her, but when she was finally able to explain why she did what she did he was shocked and amazed at her ability to think at such a chaotic time.
I couldn’t agree with her more. You simply MUST take care of yourself if you expect to be there for others. Remember what they say on the airlines: “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs.” Why is that important? Because if you pass out, you won’t be any help to anyone.
Gary survived. He ended up with permanent damage to his shoulder, numbness in his arm, and a slight limp; all things considered, he was lucky. Not only because he survived, but because he had a caregiver that thought enough of him to take care of herself first.