Caregivers: True Heroes / by The Wave Set

If you were to look up the word “Caregiver” in the dictionary you would find the following definition: a person who cares for someone who is sick or disabled. If I were to ask you to give your own personal definition, you might give a response similar to that. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t fault you, unless you went through an experience like I did. To clarify, I say this because if you underwent a surgery as serious as I, and received the level of care that I did while in my stay at New York Presbyterian, then you would know that the definition above doesn’t even scratch the surface of what my caregivers have exemplified.

The past few months have undoubtedly included some of the most intense and scary moments of my entire life. There have been plenty of times when I felt like I just didn’t know if I could handle all that I was faced with. It was in those instances that I counted on my support system to get me through. In the past when I would hear people refer to their “support system”, I’d immediately think of their few close family members, parents, siblings, perhaps some friends and their significant other, but I can now say with pride that my support-system consisted of way more people than that. Each and every care-giver that I was blessed enough to have while at New York Presbyterian holds a very special place in my heart, and in a short time became a part of my family.

Again, one may think that this “care” that I speak of consisted of taking my vitals, and distributing my meds and in all fairness I confess they did help carry out these tasks. However, it was the extra time and energy each of my caregivers spent that made my experience truly special. It was the way they comforted me when I couldn’t segregate my imagination from reality (due to the medication), along the way they sat with me and talked me throughout the night as I cried from pain. It was the 30-minute conversations that some of us would spend talking about life and how I have so much to look forward to now. It was the jokes we would tell until I would beg them to stop because of how much my stomach hurt from laughing. These are the memories that I will never forget and the types of acts that they took part in that took them from “Caregivers” to the truest of friends.

I must also make note of the special care that I received in preparation for surgery, the days leading up to surgery. From the young ladies at the front desk of the 14th Floor Liver Transplant Center to my buddies who take my vitals in the room across the hall… They are all so friendly. Each and every one of them were so genuinely happy when I told them that in just a few days I was going to have my transplant!

For the past few years, my relationship with Dr. Brown (my Hepatologist) is one that could be described as good friends more so than doctor-patient. We get along great and I always enjoy going to see him. Believe it or not, I had only met with Dr. Emond (my Transplant Surgeon) once before the big day and it was all I needed. Now, I don’t say that because we don’t have much in common. It’s quite the opposite in fact. If you were to put us in a room for hours I don’t think there would be a single dull moment. The truth is, my parents and I could not have felt more comfortable after only one consult with the person who would have the fate of my life rest on his shoulders. He was so comforting and warm, and after we left that day and drove back to our house I could see a huge change in my mom’s comfort level. We knew we were in the best of hands.

Moreover, you know that you have an amazing relationship with your transplant therapist when they text you with emojis! Just one day after transplant word must’ve gotten out that I was a bit too “uppity”. I could’ve been found doing laps in the halls or talking a mile a minute so it didn’t take long to get a text from Dr. Halfiger (my therapist) reading, “I’m lowering your steroids, your a little too uppity! I don’t need you crashing. You know what they say, what goes up must come down” <wink face + thumbs up>. In all seriousness though, her support has been essential to my recovery and for that, I’m extremely grateful.

As I mentioned, each and every member of the team at NYPH was incredible, but one particular group of individuals that I would like to give a special shout out to are all of the nurses on 7 Hudson (the floor we stayed in post-surgery). In fact, we didn’t just want to write about it so we attended a “Transplant Nurses Rock- Celebration!” held at 7 Hudson with some of our dearest friends and caregivers. There, Jared and I spoke about our experience in the hospital and how we could have never done it without them. I truly mean that whole-heartedly. Our speech was followed by a little party held in the conference room. We all enjoyed some food and a rest from their daily rounds. Even Dr. Emond, Dr. Parsons and some of the fellows joined us!

It really felt great to be back there feeling so much better than we did just a few months ago. Sure, we aren’t completely back to normal just yet, but the progress we’ve made thus far is really something. Looking back on things, we could have never gotten this far without all of the support we’ve received. In the days after surgery both Jared and I struggled at times. There we were, two young guys who played contact sports growing up, thinking we were macho and going to rough it through! Well I assure you we weren’t quite prepared to ask for help the way we had to. We didn’t realize that we would depend on the people around us so much to get us through what was a real challenging time. We are so grateful to have had such an amazing team of professionals and supporters to get us though!

So if it was up to me and I could describe what my caregivers meant to me, I’d describe them as the newest members of my family. Bless each and every person who contributed to the success of our recovery. Whether you liked a comment that we posted on facebook, or you cared for us in the hospital. Each one of you has helped our family get through one of the toughest times we have ever had to face and you have shown the world what it is to celebrate the power of unity and family. I cannot express through words how amazing it feels to have a support system as large and as incredible as you all are.

From the bottom of our hearts, Thank you.

That about sums it up for this post, but there is one last person that I need to recognize. In the fashion of celebrating our caregivers and specifically nurses for all of their fine work, I would like to take a minute to praise my mom. Amongst all of the nurses who cared for us, she is the one who NEVER left our sides. She is a super-mom, and I will never forget how she embodies the qualities of a true hero.

Lastly, our lives are forever changed for having met each and every one of these special people I have spoken of. And if you are reading this then there is a very good chance you are one of them.

- Cameron