Mar 31, 2023

An Unlikely Friendship Blossoms Into a Caregiving Relationship

From offering to share the good word to helping with home care, two young women embody kindness.

Sometimes friends can surprise us with their willingness to help.

About four years ago, before the start of the pandemic, I was sitting on my closed-in front porch watching the cars go by on our country road. While I recognized most of them, there was one car that passed by that was unfamiliar.

I was never one to be able to look into a passing car and tell you who the driver or the passengers were, unlike my partner, David, whose visual acuity is better than mine. For me, optic neuritis caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) must have something to do with my not seeing acutely.

I was in a contemplative mood as I just sat there, enjoying my solitude. All of a sudden, the unfamiliar car came back. It backed up about a hundred meters on our road and pulled into the driveway. I have lived in the country long enough to know that since the car was unfamiliar, it could contain a salesperson or Jehovah's Witnesses. Indeed, two very young women in their early twenties approached and asked if they could come in and read me some scripture.

Little did I know that this encounter would evolve into a special friendship.

My visitors, Megan and Hannah, knew I had a disability, because the whole porch had an array of hand crutches, canes, rollators, walkers, etc. In that sense, my life was laid bare as they came to greet me. They were the new generation of Jehovah's Witnesses, without their usual pamphlets and paper illustrations but instead: iPads! I was so taken with their iPads that I purchased one of my own!

One of the first things I let them know was that I was not interested in conversion. I had my own struggles and managed them my own way. So from the start everyone knew I did things my way.

These women are devout in their faith and are equally devout in the care they have shown me. I believe the two friends know there is too much on my plate to try and deal with anything extra. I have become comfortable enough with the women to allow them to be in my FreedomCare plan — a caregiving program funded by Medicaid and available in some states.

David is going away for a month, and as I line up people, the two young ladies have offered their services.

The two women have had time to learn about my MS symptoms and what they are up against. Over time and at different points, they have seen how overheating affects me, although at the time, they didn't know what was wrong with me.

In one instance, the weakness came on so suddenly and forcefully that even I was initially unaware that overheating was the issue. The weakness was so great that not only had my dysarthria (vocal weakness and difficulty forming words) kicked in, but I also didn't have the strength to lift a finger. The women were sweet and very puzzled but took everything that ensued in stride.

One important fact everyone learned early on was how to protect their own backs when they pick me up from a fall. This is very important to me, because I don't want other people hurting themselves while helping me.

Another time, the two women saw a full "symptom play out" when they took me to see their house of worship. My new electric wheelchair had arrived a few days earlier, and it seemed like the perfect time to do a test run, including folding up the chair and putting it in the trunk of the car. I had never seen an electric chair get folded, nor did I believe it could be folded up. But it could, and it performed well on the visit. Me, on the other hand, not so much.

The women gave me a tour of the facilities and with real pride showed off their Kingdom Hall. All the problems began when it was time to go back home. Both women tried their best to get me into the car, a higher SUV that looked to me as tall as the Empire State Building at that point.

Both my left leg, which is weaker and has foot drop, and my right leg became stiff, uncooperative, and as straight as a board. (There's even a name for this symptom: the two-by-four.) To get me onto the car seat, one person even had me put my arms around them.

I was embarrassed and unable to do anything. Why now? Knowing my MS, I was tired and overwhelmed. I was not only overwhelmed by what they showed me but also by how kind they were to me. My return kindness was a barrage of symptoms they knew nothing about. But they both not only learned about my symptoms but also never forgot them.

Now these angels want to unselfishly help me while David is away on his trip. Even though other people have stepped up to help, I just marvel at my special friends. As I keep trying to transfer properly from my bed into my chair to begin my day, I know there will always be people around to help.

How fortunate am I!

Important: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not Everyday Health.

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My Disability Was Obvious From Our First Meeting No Judgment for Symptoms, Just Kindness and Willingness to Help I Marvel at the Selflessness of My Friends Important: