By Darcy Heller Sternberg
Unlike most, who under trying circumstances
grab a bite here and there, I devoured Marty’s untouched
hospital chicken along with the sushi, burgers and pizza we
ordered in. My adrenalin was pumping so much I had the
energy back home to return calls, pay bills, work at the
computer and even straighten out Marty’s closet at 1 a.m. I
felt like Wonder Woman, or so I thought.
One evening, I retired early. At 3 a.m., a sharp pain
electrified my right side, my foot was numb and my chest
felt as if an elephant herd was plotting its next move on
it. I dragged myself to the phone, dialed 911 and screamed,
“I’m having a heart attack!” Was this the way it was going
to end? Alone on a gurney?
As soon as EMS arrived, my symptoms, except for fear and
anxiety, dissipated. Even so, they told me to calm down, get
dressed and collect my necessities. Ten days earlier, Marty
was in an ambulance racing through traffic; now, I was
giving it a go. Since when did our marriage vows include
“monkey see – monkey do”?
The next day at the doctor’s, I found out I had had a
classic panic attack. I was afraid to be alone or go
outside, so this seemingly independent woman accepted help
from my mother and sister, who moved in for a few days. How
could this happen to me? Indeed. A friend who I thought was
unrivalled at multi-tasking confessed that he, too, had
suffered from them. Just hearing similar stories and knowing
that this was not a heart attack calmed me down. My doctor
suggested I keep anti-anxiety medicine handy.
This new health concern, along with the stress of Marty’s
hospital and rehab stay, only added to my fear of his
return. How was I going to handle it? Before this mishap,
thanks to a watch that beeps each time he needs to take a
pill, he was virtually self-sufficient; navigating the
streets and public transportation system of Manhattan was a
challenge, but doable. Would he still be able to manage by
himself? Would he hallucinate again? Would he be more
likely to fall? More importantly, would I be able to curb my
need to control his every movement?
“Don’t run to the phone, don’t carry more than one plate
at a time to the sink, don’t make sharp turns. Don’t. Don’t.
Don’t.” Turning into a drill sergeant is not what I
envisioned as we pronounced our “I do’s” 24 years ago. I
keep telling myself that his safety will be secured, but all
it does is chip away at Marty’s self-confidence.
“If I fall, I fall. I can’t live in fear of what may
happen. Please don’t baby me.”