November is National Family Caregivers Month. Do you know someone who is going above and beyond to care for a loved one? Or maybe that someone is you. Either way, we want to hear your story. Email us at [email protected] and you could be featured during the month of November.
This blog post was written by Jeanne Apelseth, partner and caregiver for HelpHOPELive transplant hopeful Michael Brunick.
In 2003 I fell in love with a charming and energetic man who had come back into my life by a strange twist of fate. Friends during our teen years, 30 years had passed since I had last seen Michael. Our newfound romance seemed like a fairy-tale and our future together seemed bright.
Three months later, Michael was diagnosed with end stage lung disease. Without hesitation, I vowed to be his caregiver and to see him through it. I had no idea what I was getting into. I only knew he would do the same for me.
Watching him decline over the years has been heartbreaking. The fear and anxiety that I feel not knowing if he will even make it to the transplant (his only hope for survival) has made me learn to appreciate life, even when I am exhausted or afraid. I try to find something good and positive in each day. And there is always the joy of knowing that I am making life easier for the man I love.
It‘s funny really… being Michael’s caregiver I have discovered that I can now tackle many of the BIGGEST issues like a pro– Lung transplant? No problem! Raise $60,000 for uncovered transplant expenses? Piece of cake!–but when my car breaks down, or I find that the milk in the refrigerator has gone bad when I am late for work and trying to grab a quick breakfast, I can be reduced to tears in a heartbeat. It is almost as if all the little hurdles in life seem grossly unfair when dealing with issues of life and death!
I have had to work hard on learning patience. I want Michael to be healthy and get his second chance. I want to be able to dance, travel and laugh with the man that I love.
One of the biggest obstacles for me has been finding the strength to carry on each day, to remain positive and keep my head above water. Working a full-time job, running a small business on the side, taking care of a partner who is ill, and fundraising for his uncovered transplant expenses is overwhelming and exhausting. While I try to rely on friends and family for support, it is often a lonely undertaking. I have found the hardest challenge has been to take care of myself while taking care of Michael.
The good news is that some problems that previously seemed insurmountable have become easier. We started fundraising through HelpHOPELive in February 2014, which has given us the opportunity to raise the funds that we will need to get through this lifesaving surgery. Through HelpHOPELive we have raised nearly $40,000 of the $60,000 that has been estimated we will need, and we are hopeful that we will reach our goal before Michael’s surgery. We are so thankful to all who have contributed their time and money to help.
Michael was finally accepted into the Cleveland Clinic lung transplant program in July. It took more than five years, two heart surgeries and being turned down by five of the top transplant centers in the U.S. to finally get where we are today!
Caregiving is definitely the hardest thing I have ever had to do. And while it is often a thankless job and not the glamorous life I had dreamed of, it is a worthy fight doing everything in my power to save Michael’s life. While I am often weary from the battles and roadblocks I have faced during this journey, there is one thing that keeps me going: a second chance at life for Michael. I have lost and gained much over the years, but I still hold on tightly to my hope for our new life, and of that I will not let go.