It was Labor Day weekend last year when I began feeling nauseous and had bad headaches. That was the beginning of my 52 day hospital stay dealing with West Nile Virus. It has been a long year of recovery and rehabilitation for me. I had to learn to sit, stand, walk and strengthen my voice during this past year. I have been part of a group that sings in nursing homes for over 20 years and will have to develop my voice to be able to sing again.
All in all I am very lucky to have survived this illness without permanent damage. There were discussions by the doctors about brain damage if I recovered and I am happy to say that my brain has recovered fully. My only remaining disability is damage to my optic nerve in my left eye, however, my right eye is strong and I can see pretty well. Once again I am blessed.
I realize that a person can not go through something like this without it changing their life and so I reflect upon where I am today and the lessons I have learned from my experience.
- First be grateful for my family who stood firmly in the belief that I would recover. They questioned the doctors and all the treatments provided to me to be sure that I was receiving the best care. They were hyper-vigilant in caring for me and provided love and support throughout this time.
- Next I learned how important it is to have caregivers who were willing to do all the things for me that I could not do for myself. I became acutely aware that having someone wipe my butt or turn me in bed when I could not do that for myself was an act of love and no matter how they did it, it was perfect.
- I dropped all judgment of how life was supposed to be and became grateful for what each day brought.
- I realized the value of friends and family who were praying, loving and caring for me and my family. I had cards from all over the country and friends brought food to my home for months. I had never felt so much love from so many people.
- I learned that even though I had incredible support around me motivating me to succeed that in the end it was up to me to follow the therapy and rebuild my body. Every day I do exercises to strengthen and restore my activity levels and am in awe of the capacity of my body to recover.
- Little things like standing up from a chair, taking a shower on my own, driving, grocery shopping had all been monumental tasks but as my body became stronger they all got easier.
- There is a new norm. I may not ever be exactly like I was before but I have embraced all the abilities that I have with gratitude.
- Another lesson is the recognition that we are not truly in control of our lives even when we think we are. There is a flow to life and we can move within the flow or try to swim against it but going with the flow is much easier.
- Weakness is a strength. Being able to be rather than do is a high calling. Most of my life was based on the success of what I accomplished and I now know than even though it may look like weakness to be in the moment not having to push forward, it is actually the perfect place to be.
- The last lesson is to be aware that everything is in perfect order along with your desire to improve upon it. There is such a freedom in realizing that what will be will be and we can learn to appreciate things just as they are.