The art of caregiving |

The art of caregiving

by Ron Walker

Being selfish isn’t always a bad thing. Babies are relentlessly selfish, and we adore them. Being self-centered is a different matter. Being self-centered implies you don’t think about anyone but yourself. But this too isn’t necessarily bad. If I hadn’t chased the spotlight, I doubt I would have been as successful as I was in showbiz. Now I’m headed in a totally new direction. I’m a care giver, or to put it in medical parlance, a Personal Care Assistant.

Orllyene is four weeks into a recovery period which could stretch for several months. Three of her lumbar disks were fused together at Sierra Surgery Hospital recently. In Vegas, this procedure is a high odds bet. Happily she beat the odds, and is now recovering nicely.

Two weeks after her procedure, she was invited back to Tahoe Orthopedic to have the railroad track of staples removed from the incision in her back. “You’ll only feel the slightest sting,” Jennifer, the young technician, softly confided. After three extractions, Orllyene roared, “Ow! That hurts. Don’t you have something to deaden the pain?” Personnel from all along the corridor suddenly appeared. It was a tough few minutes, but as soon as the deed was completed, Orllyene forgave Jennifer and thanked her. “All’s well that ends well.”

My role in this cornucopia of care, is to make the meals, do the dishes, vacuum, and try to keep Orllyene on track with her pain medication. At first, this was a harrowing task. However, I’ve learned a secret. You just let things slide. The carpet has more spots than a leopard, but if Orllyene needs attention, I’m there. Long term, I may have to rethink this strategy.

Pain medication monitoring is a vital matter. We’re tried several combinations. Some are too strong. Others are good, but induce drowsiness. The goal is to relieve pain so the incision area is free to heal. Also, one of my tasks is to remind her to never bend, lift, or twist. They call it the “BLT” rule. Just above her tailbone are a host of nerves that want to be left alone and disturbing them inhibits healing.

When we came home from the hospital, I first saw the incision on her back. I was thunderstruck. It looked raw. “I’m going to punch out that Dr. Jones,” I gasped in mock fury. It is so difficult to see the one you love have to endure a procedure that digs into their back. When I see her cringe as she lowers herself onto the bed, I want to help, but I can’t. I so admire her gumption and courage. The good news is, the pain she’s suffered for years in her legs is gone, and she has feeling on the soles of her feet again.

Being a care giver is simple. All you have to do is put the other person first. Schedules, obligations, and social responsibilities have to fall by the wayside. Sometimes listening quietly is all that’s needed. It’s like you’re saying, “I have time for you.” Although, I’m still learning my new role, and I revert to being a spotlight monger occasionally, I think I’m getting better. After all, I had a good teacher. During this last year, I had two hip replacements and was laid up for quite a spell each time. Guess who my caregiver was?

Ron and Orllyene live in Smith Valley. They can be reached at