Sarah Stultz: When the ones who cared for you need care

Published 7:56 pm Monday, November 18, 2019

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz


Growing up, I always used to think my parents were invincible.

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Though they’ve had their health challenges over the years, it wasn’t until 2015 that the thought crossed my mind that one day they wouldn’t be here anymore.

At the time, my dad had suffered a stroke, and he initially wasn’t able to talk or walk. Luckily, over time, however, those abilities returned, and he has since made a full recovery.

After that, I pushed the thought back out of my mind again that my parents — and my in-laws, too — are getting older. They’re in their 60s, and in my eyes they still have many more years ahead of them.

Yes, they’ve had their challenges. For example, my mother suffers with arthritis, and my father-in-law still suffers the effects of a brain injury he had many years ago. But up to this point they’ve persevered.

I guess that’s why it hit me so hard last Thursday when my mother-in-law, who was in St. Marys for atrial fibrillation, started suffering from complications from a surgery to remove a hernia that was affecting her breathing.

We went from having the atrial fibrillation somewhat under control one minute to the next minute finding out the hernia was removed but she was having internal bleeding and would have to have emergency surgery to try to find out the cause.

We rushed over to Rochester and got there as she was heading back into surgery. Several hours later, the doctors emerged, and while the source of the bleeding was still not confirmed, the bleeding seemed to have stopped.

We drove home to get a few hours of sleep before receiving a phone call a few hours later that we needed to get back there — she was bleeding again and some of her organs were going into failure. The prognosis did not look hopeful.

I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.

Would she make it? Would we be tasked with planning her funeral? What would happen to my father-in-law? Would we need to sell their house? She’s not 65 yet — what type of insurance do they have? Would my father-in-law be able to pay the bills from this hospital stay?

These are all what-ifs I hadn’t put much thought into — again, I thought these types of decisions were several years away.

Our parents, who have always done what they could to take care of us, are now starting to need our help to take care of them. It’s a new chapter in life — and it’s one that’s a little scary.

I try to remember that everything happens for a reason, and no matter what happens, there’s something that can be learned.

As I type this, my mother-in-law will be preparing to go into another surgery. As of now, the internal bleeding is under control, but there are still many other issues that remain unresolved.

We are taking one day at a time — and at this time, that’s OK.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.