Friday, September 28, 2012

Wanted - Clean Pee

It feels like we live our life on a knife’s edge, balancing between our new normal of nominal and normal health issues with the accompanying low levels of anxiety and the jacked up concern and hyper vigilance   associated with very real, persistent infections.  

Oh yeah, it’s hyperbole to use the knife’s edge imagery but I’m living this and I can be hyperbolic if I want to….”It’s my party and I’ll exaggerate if I want to…”

Today, balancing on that knife’s edge, Marty has one more in a series of urinary tract infections.  We had evaded this particular malady for several months only to have fought it four or five times over the most recent months.  

Urinary tract infections scare me, for a lot of reasons.  For someone in Marty’s condition they can be really debilitating.  It makes her tired, weak and at times a bit confused, in other words they make her sick.  All of the infections that are somewhat omnipresent to the chronically are disconcerting but UTI’s are sneaky, hard to discover and can be deadly if not treated properly.  That’s not hyperbole. 

It’s a catalyst that moves us back to a time where I obsessed daily over Marty’s health and the potential for catastrophic illness.  That seems like a life time ago.  Then a sequence of events brings dark days, fears and the reality of chronic illness back to the forefront of our lives. 

We have been to get the advice of Great and Wise a couple of times and I am reminded, every time we darken his door, every time he kisses Marty’s cheek, every time he offers wisdom and comfort, how fortunate we are to have access to outstanding, compassionate  medical care.  Marty would not be here without it.

In our most recent trip I asked Great and Wise about the potential cause of the UTIs, if he could tell from the type of bacteria identified if it was a hygiene issue, maybe we are doing something wrong.  Something has changed and we need to cover all of our bases.

His response, “Almost all UTIs are hygiene issues, they just are.” 

I’m sure he is right, I’m pretty sure he right in Marty’s case, I’m pretty sure he’s right when you think about how the female body is constructed, so wonderfully tantalizing, so inefficient, so susceptible to bacteria.  The whole hygiene issue is much worse with someone who has suffered the strokes Marty has.  It’s a problem.

The hygiene thing is a pretty delicate subject and to preserve some of Marty’s dignity I have intentionally avoided pulling the curtain back on that part of our life.  But, to quote my delicate bride, “the dignity train left the station a long time ago.”

Since the 2nd stroke Marty has been incontinent.  It’s something I know she hates but she just plain and simply deals with the indignity of having people care for her in that way and accepts the process for what it is, a necessary evil.

Everyone who cares for Marty, all of her caregivers, me, we work at doing our jobs with respect for her and her privacy.  For Marty and me, well, we try to find some humor in the whole process.  I have learned a lot more about things, down there; than I ever thought I would need to know.  It’s one of those deals where if I knew then what I know now I would know a little bit better where the right buttons are on that mysterious female body.  Anyway…we joke, we laugh, she laughs and promises she would do the same for me if it ever came to it.

Part of the UTI problem is the same issue with any medical problem Marty may have, she can’t self-diagnose and she can’t really help me with the diagnosis.  She doesn’t really know she is sick; UTIs can be sneaky like that, especially for someone who is compromised in anyway.  It’s only when we notice other symptoms, lethargy, confusion, smell, that we know something is amiss.  Then we have to figure out a way to get a clean urine sample.

We have found a couple of ways to achieve our goal of clean pee, but any clean urine sample, regardless of how much or how little, is hard won.  I have found a couple of things on the medical equipment market that allow us, with a little work, some scissors, glue and a sense of humor to do the trick.   We have all of that plus a medical support system that allows us to drop off a sample in the ubiquitous grocery bag at any time.

Right now Marty Jean is on antibiotics, again.  We know which antibiotic because Great and Wise told us the right one based on the cultures.  That’s the good part.  I worry about Marty always taking antibiotics, I worry that sometime it won’t work or that we will miss something and will wait too late or we will have to go the hospital because the antibiotic is no longer effective.  Those are just a few of the bad parts.

We will continue to search for reasons Marty is now getting these recurrent infections.  The caregivers are all aware of the need for care in hygiene, I’m aware of the importance of caring for Marty properly.  We will figure it out, just like we always have.  

I worry, that’s my end of it.  I worry about the knife’s edge and which side our life will fall on any particular day.  Marty’s end is a lot harder; she has to suffer through real indignities that most of us would never accept.  

Being sick is hard, it’s not for the faint of heart or easily embarrassed.  It’s what we have to endure; it’s what the people who love us do for us when we can no longer do for ourselves.  It’s the very real dirty part of life.

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