Back home in Ohio, I returned to my job on the Alzheimers unit at the Shawhan.
I tried to engage the residents to brighten the moment, the hour, the day. In Lorain on a weekend, John and I sang happy birthday to his sister, Jean, one of the last songs she’d sing when her Alzheimers progressed. Another day, Maria called me on the way to the emergency room at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Beth, suddenly sick with strong nausea, headache, and fever, had asked her sister to take her to the hospital.
I worried about sepsis. The leading causes of death for people with quadriplegia were pneumonia, septicemia (blood poisoning caused by sepsis), and suicide.
The emergency room staff identified an infection and waited for other test results. After a few miserable hours, Maria lost her patience with the staff. An ambulance carried Beth to a Boston hospital, while Maria followed in her car. An attentive doctor understood quadriplegia. He ran more tests. By morning, Beth’s fever dropped, and he ruled out peritonitis and sepsis. The doctor released her with strong antibiotics and instructions to return to the hospital if anything worsened. I was already on Rt. 90 in Pennsylvania en route to Cambridge.
Beth’s severe symptoms lessened by the time I arrived.
I brought her chicken soup from Au Bon Pain and helped as much as I could for a few days. I encouraged her to slow down, though she quickly returned to her full schedule.
Big changes approached.
At home in Tiffin, I divided a lifetime of photographs into four piles, one for each of our kids and one for John and me. I threw away old albums and put the photographs in labeled boxes of memories.
Our ordinary lives had detoured to less traveled roads—with more on the horizon.
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