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I promise“I promise for better or for worse, in sickness and in health”, these words kept running through my head as I stood by my husband’s ICU bed in St. Catharines General Hospital. He came out of unconsciousness yelling, “Get the ladder, get the ladder……..someone get the ladder”. “You’re safe Ted, you’re safe”, I said and he whispered, “I’m safe?”. He then fell into a deep sleep, that horrible experience to be filed in his subconscious forever. On February 13, 1991, Ted fell 26 feet while installing a fire alarm system at Brock University and suffered many injuries but by far the worst was a closed head injury. My promise I made on our wedding day 36 years ago was to be tested now in a very big way. Ted sustained a very serious head injury and he has been left with some cognitive deficits particularly with regard to memory, word finding and new learning capabilities. He also suffered a crushed elbow and many deep bruises. When the neurosurgeon released Ted from the hospital advising me, “use common sense and don’t let him climb a ladder”, I thought Ted was ending his journey of confusion. I did not realize that it was just the beginning of months filled with worry, anxiety and little sleep.To succeed in my commitment I would have to remain strong. The following ways helped me and may help others who find themselves a care giver for a loved one.


Because Ted’s injuries were so severe his nurse told me to keep a journal so that everything would be recorded. While that was certainly true, I found keeping a journal was a very positive way of recording Ted’s progress. I marked the calendar at every slight improvement. When at times there seemed to be no improvement, looking to where he had been and where he was now, showed much progress and gave me the promise that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Some of the highlights in my journal are:

  • Feb19 -operation on crushed elbow, he came through fine.
  • Feb 26 -released from the hospital, right eye pupil is almost normal.
  • Mar 15 -Ted recognized the furnace in the basement, the recreation room he built and finally knew he was home.
  • Apr 25 -the first time he remembered some of the day before.
  • May 13 -I was able to return to work full time and Ted could be left alone.


Ted had an unbelievable sweet tooth after the accident and one day an introductory bar of “Lever 2000” soap came in the mail, wrapped in foil. I laid it on the table with the rest of the mail and left the room to start supper. A few minutes later I heard Ted choking and muttering, “this is the most awful candy I have ever tasted” and he opened his hand to show me the rest of the “Lever 2000”, we still have that bar with teeth marks and all.

Ted could not find the right words or phrases at times but we learned to interpret them:

  • he asked for a “cat fry”…… but meant a “fish fry”.
  • a paintbrush and paint pail……a call for a knife and fork.
  • my lights, my lights…… a call for his glasses.
  • let’s go shuffling……a walk in the mall.
  • do you want your wiggle waggles?…..did the grandchildren want their bikes out?
  • this sauce is really wired…’s a hot sauce!


Up until this time in our life we had smooth sailing, ordinary problems, little sickness, some unemployment, we raised three healthy, wonderful children and keeping the faith was easy. It was never really challenged. When Ted first came home from the hospital he only slept for one hour or so at any given time and many nights I would find myself running after him and calling out, “Lord, what do I do now” as Ted would want to go for a walk at 3 in the morning. A calmness came over me as I said, “Ted, it is the middle of the night, let’s go back to bed”, and he would. Our friend Judy wrote, when she couldn’t think of the right words to pray, she always prayed the “The Lord’s Prayer”. “Give me this day our daily bread” really means that we only need to ask God for his love and strength to help us through one day at a time. One day at a time, that is the way it was for Ted and me. So one day at a time with God’s love and strength to heal Ted, and one day at a time for God’s love and strength to help me, I kept my promise.

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