In Sickness & in Health: If I thought packing was hard in the old days...

Staying with Nick for a night requires an almighty amount of preparation

Rebecca Armstrong@RebeccaJ
Sunday 03 April 2016 16:03
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In 2014, Rebecca’s husband Nick was hit by a car and seriously injured. Here, in one of a series of columns, she writes about the aftermath of his accident

Nick never travelled light. I remember one foreign holiday when he took a pepper grinder and a set of chefs’ knives to supplement the self-catering kitchen, as well as an Xbox and a remote-controlled model jetski to keep himself entertained. And I’ll never forget the excess-luggage charge he was lumbered with on the way home.

In the past few months, we’ve been lucky enough to have stayed the night in the bungalow I’ve rented. The preparation required, however, makes his old way of packing look positively modest. First there’s the equipment list. Plastic aprons, two boxes of plastic gloves (medium and large), a Dyno-Rod red roll of clinical-waste bags, a bottle of alcohol gel, laundry bags, patient wipes (disposable flannels), detergent wipes (not to be confused with the former), pads for Nick’s nether regions, pads to go on the bed while he’s changed, catheter bags, catheter bag straps, slide sheets (these slippery suckers are pieces of fabric that get rolled underneath Nick so that this carers can reposition him in the bed without giving him friction burns or themselves back pain).

This cornucopia is put together by Nick’s occupational therapist in a very big bag. Then it’s the nurses’ turn. They prepare his medication in a plastic folder with little compartments for morning, lunch, afternoon and night. Painkillers, antidepressants, anti-spasm drugs, pills for nerve pain, tablets to keep him regular. All lined up in serried ranks ready for me to pop into Nick’s waiting mouth like a mother bird.

I’m next. I’m in charge of toiletries - talc, toothbrush, shower gel - and towels. I borrow sheets from the care home to take to the bungalow, then I make up the hospital bed that I bought for Nick. I unpack the new sling that works with the hoist we have at home. I pack a change of clothes for him, blankets and a jacket. I will already have booked the two carers who come in at 7pm to get him out of his wheelchair, wash him and put him to bed, and who return in the morning to reverse the procedure. I check the medication chart and Nick’s care-management plan, which tells me and his carers what to do in case of various disasters.

Then there are the last-minute things that I suddenly remember or that Nick reminds me about. Don’t forget the leftovers of last night’s pizza! Where’s the Easter egg that Nick wants to have with a cup of tea? Does the cook at the care home know that Nick won’t be in for lunch or dinner? It’s sunny - can I convince him to sit outside? I need to remember the sun cream. And the new clock I bought him that projects the time on to the ceiling so that he see it at night - and the adapter that makes it work. I must plug in the hoist when we arrive so that the battery is charged so the carers can use it. Pick up milk, fill the van with petrol. Is there any bread left at the bungalow?

I used to get stressed out when Nick and I went on holiday, approaching the check-in desk with his ridiculous luggage. I’d love to be stressed about pepper grinders and games consoles now. Which reminds me, I must pack his iPad.

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