http://www.one.org Dixie Peach: Go Forward

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Go Forward

It's pretty well known by all that when a person doesn't use his muscles, they atrophy. What's not normally considered is that the muscles in the fingers and toes of a quadriplegic can atrophy as well making the nails not sit quite the same. Even though B doesn't walk, his poor toenails take a beating. The skin around them is a bit slack and very soft and it's quite easy for him to end up with an ingrown toenail. I try to be very careful with his toes and try to keep the nails healthy but it's a struggle.

This afternoon as I was bathing B I held his left leg up to dry it. While whisking the towel around I felt it hang firm and then loosen up and knew I'd caught the towel on one of his toenails. Upon further examination I saw that I'd torn B's toenail away from his toe and peering closer I saw that it was attached to his toe only at the very bottom.

Cue freaking out.

I didn't know what to do at that point. Do I just clean it and bandage it leaving the nail in its present state and let the dermatologist see it next week when he comes by or do I think of it like a loose baby tooth and just pull it off? I thought pulling it all the way off would be the way the doctor would handle it were he there but he wasn't there. I was there and I didn't relish the idea of yanking off a toenail, even one barely attached.

At this point I was feeling nauseated and my gag reflex was working overtime. B, of course, can't feel the pain exactly but he can feel that there is something going on and he knows it must be pain because he began to sweat and his foot was jumping and jerking like a flounder thrown up on a dock.

I didn't feel brave tackling this. I felt woozy and a bit put out that I'm always the one stuck doing the gross shit. I grabbed a sterile gauze pad, set my jaw and began to gently pull the toenail free. I could hear the TV on in the background and as I pulled the sound seemed to get tinnier and fainter. My focus narrowed to just the toe in question and I pulled a bit more and a bit more. By the time I had freed the toenail the room was growing dark with bits of light like fireflies flitting before my eyes and I had to suddenly sit on the floor because I was on the verge of fainting. I just don't handle things like this too well. I get grossed out pulling the skin off of chicken because it seems unnatural to do it, nevermind how unnatural it feels to pull a toenail away from a toe.

A few minutes later I had my wits back and my blood pressure back up and I set to disinfecting the raw area (much less blood than I thought there'd be!) and putting a sterile bandage on it. I'll change it daily and if it gets funky I'll call the doctor.

It was just a few minutes after getting through this drama that I heard that Dana Reeve had passed away and I thought "You know, if there's anyone who can relate to what I've just had to do, it would be her.".

Dana Reeve's death is tragic and sad. The idea of her teenage son having lost both his father and mother in less than two years is heartbreaking. And of course the foundation she and Christopher Reeve worked so tirelessly for will feel the loss of her efforts and her voice. But it's on a more personal level that I mourn her death. She was one of us. She was the spouse of a person with a spinal cord injury.

All caregivers of someone with an SCI have to keep the balance of having their own life and doing their caregiving but spouses have an extra fine line that sometimes becomes blurred and easy to cross. We have to care for our spouse but we also have to keep the marriage relationship intact. It's very easy for us to let ourselves slip into a sort of "mommy" identity with our spouse and it can be damaging to a relationship. It's important for us to keep the caregiver and the husband/wife relationships separate. Dana Reeve understood that and she set a wonderful example for other caregivers.

I liked the way she tried to keep her own identity. I like how she gave full credit for the help she received from others and showed that there is no shame in asking for and receiving help with caretaking. I like how she kept her sense of humor and really understood that when stuff was difficult or irritating or even downright disgusting, sometimes the best solution was to just see the humor in it. I like how she didn't play the martyr and she didn't see her husband as a burden. I admired her commitment. I admired her dignity. I admired how she honored the dignity of her husband.

I'm sorry there's one less of us in the world. One less caregiver of a SCI spouse who understands how we're just a little bit different than the rest. And I'm sorry that today and tomorrow and the next day new caretakers will be created because their spouse will be involved in some accident that leaves them with a spinal cord injury but the life of Dana Reeve and the work she's done and the example she set will make it easier for them to walk that blurry, thin line.

12Comments:

Blogger Mr. Fabulous said...

I remember the last time I lost a toenail from walking. I must not have a gag reflex, I kept wanting to peel it off before it was ready, which kept freaking Mrs. Fab out.

Fixing to lose a few more soon...

12:32 AM  
Blogger Expat Traveler said...

I had a gag reflex for sure just reading it, but maybe more like an ouch I feel it my toes too and throughout my body pain...

Dana Reeve's loss is such a shock and I just can't imagine what her son is feeling. On the other hand, I did hear a nice story about another woman who knew that pain of loosing someone to lung cancer - her mother at age 21.

3:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't cover the nailbed unless there is bleeding. Just use an antitbiotic cream and let it grow back out. If there is no damage to the root and matrix it will do so in 6 to 8 months. Covering it just holds in moisture that can cause further problems.

3:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For some reason I can only post as anonymous.

If you have anymore questions e-mail me. I did nails for 20 years.

Miz
http://inclined-toward.blogspot.com/

4:02 AM  
Blogger Ginnie said...

What a wonderful way of juxtaposing yours and Dana's stories, Dixie. You both have stars in your crowns that most of us will never have. I can't begin to imagine the daily ups and downs you must go through. So glad you seem to have a handle on what it means to take care of YOURSELF while you take care of your husband. Don't ever forget it.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous candace said...

i could never do your job.

4:58 PM  
Blogger sari said...

I hope things are going well today, toe-wise.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Jemima said...

Well that turned my stomach. Thank you. I was just about to eat. Hope he's doing better. Hope you're doing better. Have a good Thursday.

10:07 PM  
Blogger BarefootCajun said...

Oh my, that toenail story just about sent me through the roof. You were very, very brave, my dear friend.

Dana Reeve will be sorely missed. She was a good woman and a good wife and a good example for us all.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Sally said...

Love is....ripping your spouses toenail off but cleaning up after....

You're amazing. Truly. And so was Dana and I'm so sad that she's gone - but somewhere she's with her lovely husband again and neither one of them is in pain and they can both hug eachother again.

Love you Miz Peach - you're inspirational.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Dixie said...

Oogy nail is uncovered per Miz's advice. I love it that I know a nail expert and am damned grateful for it! It's looking okay and I'm trying to shut the whole incident out of my mind.

Y'all are awfully good to me, know that?

1:16 AM  
Blogger BranV said...

Oh god, I think my headed almost exploded. I truly had to tell myself that if Dixie could get through the actual thing, I could get through reading it. My heart goes out to you both, but through my screaming meemies, I'm just touched by what is a true example of love between two people.

This was, truly, some of your finest writing yet Ms. Dixie. I really felt like I was there, and I wanted to BE there to fan your face while you got through it. (((Dix)))

6:26 PM  

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