Ducky on the London Eye.
L is for London

A doctor on the plane gave me the best advice about London. “Take a double decker tour,” he said. “My wife did that on her first trip and never got lost.”

I followed his advice, but still got lost once or twice.

London was my first solo trip. I decided after months and months of near death situations following my late husband Jimmy’s stroke, I would take a vacation. London was cheaper and more direct than some vacations in the United States.

With him settled into a new routine at a nursing home close to where I lived and with the purchase of travel insurance, I thought it safe to go. One of my many “think again” moments. He developed pneumonia and on his second hospitalization had to return to a ventilator to help him breathe. Ventilators are life-saving, but most nursing homes won’t accept patients using them.

Jimmy had to be shipped off to another hospital to wean him from the ventilator. Once he accomplished this, the nursing home refused to readmit him as a patient. Jimmy lingered in a hospital for months. I juggled traveling to see him — about an hour and a half each way a couple times a week — and work. I wrecked my car and damaged a rental car a week or so later. London held a new appeal — I would not have to drive a car there, so I rebooked the trip.

While concerned about my wrecks, Jimmy didn’t approve of London.

“For me to stay, I have to go,” I told him.

While we always had lots to talk about when I visited, I noticed by Sunday afternoon I had less to say. I had been as one nurse noted in his chart during my visits: Wife at bedside.

After many spelling matches through his communication system about the trip, he decided to change his medical status to Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) in the days before I left. If he had a heart attack or was found not breathing, no action would be taken to revive him.

Daily visitors distracted Jimmy during my London adventure. I checked in daily too as I avoided smashed peas.

When I returned, Jimmy removed the DNR from his medical chart and from his mind as he was happy to see me. I never convinced him why I needed to take the trip to refresh, to not drive a car and to return to him with something new to share.

The attendants on my flight explained it better than I ever could. Most passengers don’t pay attention to their safety speeches, but caregivers must. When the oxygen masks fall from the overhead panel, you need to put your own mask on first before helping those in your care. You have to get your oxygen first or you can’t help the ones you love.