Linda Faulkner

Profile: Linda Faulkner, 54, author, insurance agent, educator.

Dealing with the Unexpected

My mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis took me by surprise twelve years ago—she was only 64 years old. You’d think my 79 year-old father’s sudden heart ailment would have been easier to deal with last summer. Wrong!

Although I’m no stranger to the aging process myself, it simply never crossed my mind that my father was old and that, someday, like Mom, he’d develop health issues and, well…die. Once it did, setting my priorities was easy: the staff at my two businesses were happy to cover for me when I flew out of town to care for Dad, my contract clients didn’t mind a 10-day delay in their deadlines, and my husband stepped in to handle everything else.

When Dad’s diagnosis was confirmed–he needed immediate triple bypass surgery to avoid an imminent heart attack (his major artery was 100% blocked)–I took immediate action. Difficult, but not impossible, when you live 2,700 miles away from dear, old Dad. Thanks to the Internet, I had thoroughly checked out both the hospital and surgeon he was referred to before the ambulance arrived at the local hospital to chauffeur Dad to Boston Medical Center.

The depth and scope of information available online is amazing: 1) statistics about the hospital’s ranking nationwide with respect to heart surgery and other medical procedures, 2) details about the surgeon, i.e. where he graduated from college and medical school, that he’s among the top 5 rated surgeons for performing robotic bypass surgery (and how he conceived and developed the breakthrough procedure!), and confirmation of his professional license and [lack of] any outstanding legal actions against him, and 3) way more information than I really needed about bypass surgery and a patient’s recovery—including photos and videos. (Yuck!)

I’m sure some people cope better without hearing the scary details when catastrophes strike. Not me. The more information I have, the more secure I feel. Being armed with information lessened my feelings of helplessness—not only because I was so far away, but also because I knew nothing about the medical sciences. (Like Dad, I’d never been sick.)

I hopped a plane several days after Dad’s surgery—the plan being: I’d stay at home with him during his first seven days out of the hospital, and my sister would take over afterward since she’d been with him 24/7 up until that point.

Talk about being unprepared!

The doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and everyone involved in Dad’s care (as well as the people here in MY life) were forthcoming with information and details that helped my sister and I provide a higher quality of care for Dad than we could have done without their assistance. They helped us cope.

The lesson I learned is that when you ask for information and help, far more people than you’d expect will go out of their way to provide it. Asking for, and receiving help, made a huge difference for me…and Dad.

Linda Faulkner
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