I work with a woman for whom I have a great deal of admiration, for who she is, for how she handles challenge, for everything she stands for and pushes back against.
She is young, in her early 30s. She is a single mom to her three small children. She is a hard worker, dedicated to our patients in home health and hospice, where she has applied her education and training as a Certified Nurse's Aide (CNA) as a Home Health Aide, helping people to take care of their daily personal needs. She has gained the trust and appreciation of our patients for her warm, sweet nature, her wisdom and insight. She is wonderful to work with, as she is reliable, honest and has a great sense of humor.
And a while back, she was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
And her world crashed down around her.
She couldn't walk. Her vision was affected for a period of time. She was helpless and had to depend on others for everything.
She was advised to put her life affairs in order. So, at an age when most of us are not thinking at all about end-of-life for ourselves, she was signing forms that defined her final wishes, the medical measure she would want or not, should she be unable to voice that at the time. She contacted the father of her children, who has been totally non supportive financially, and only vaguely involved in the lives of the children, to tell him that she has arranged for the children to come to him at the end of her life.
She was devastated beyond description.
She has endured unbelievable medical interventions, but a treatment regimen restored much of her motor skills and enabled her to return to her job. Periodically, the vile MS struck, without warning on most occasions, and she would have to be off work to receive the treatments for a few days, and then she would return to work, to the delight of her coworkers and the patients.
Recently, the "attacks" became more frequent, and it was clear that she was not able to consistently help the patients. She was becoming weaker, so tending to their needs was a struggle for her.
The company we work for has made arrangements for her to become a full time office employee so that her waning strength is not drained, and keeps her from personal physical danger. This allows her to continue to support herself and her children. It is a win-win, as we needed another administrative assistant. Of course, she is having to learn a whole new skill set, as she is only vaguely familiar with a computer, so she is challenged daily with wrapping her head around these new tasks. She is bright, but the whole thing is off the track she has been on for years.
She came to my office today, just taking a break, and sat down to let off steam. I know it is hard for her. Everything in her life is now just upended, not even near the path she thought she was on, say, three years ago. It is frustrating to be in the learning mode now, when she is so very good at her chosen career, and she feels like she is swimming upstream in an unfamiliar stream.
But the thing is......I admire her so greatly. Even before she was slapped in the face with this medical mess, she was determined to make her way and to raise her children with honor and manners and to be ethical citizens. In spite of everything, she remains in that mode, daily instilling her strong values in her three little kiddos, and making the best of every situation.
Can you imagine yourself in this situation? I can't. I'm nearly twice her age, and becoming more aware every day with the limitations I experience. I took a fall recently. Long story and not pertinent here, but at the time I considered what might have happened, how my life might have changed if I had broken something or been seriously injured. I considered how I might have spent the rest of my life with serious handicaps. But the "rest of my life" is nothing compared to how my young friend must see things. The rest of her life can be as long as the distance between our ages. Unfathomable. And yet she journeys on, bravely.
So, all this said, I just want to close with, again, stating my admiration for the person she is. She is a person of quality, of determination and strength, and I'm proud to be part of her circle.