Zach, our 17 year old son with Autism hurt his neck yesterday morning. He has been miserable for two days. Ice and heat, ibuprofen and lots of love and reassurance has been what is getting Zach through this weekend. He seems to be counting down the minutes until Monday when he knows that Josh will take him to the Chiropractor.
"Mom has to go to work. Dad will take me to see Dr. Reisgraf. He will make me feel better. He will fix it." Zach has repeated this phrase over and over as if to calm himself and remind him that it is going to be okay.
Zach rarely speaks about what pain he is experiencing. A few years back, Zach had surgery on both feet to correct a deformity that was present since birth. He was very vocal about his pain and it was so atypical for him, we knew how much it hurt. Painful big toes filled with blood and puss, he was miserable and would limp frequently. We put off the surgery for so long because we didn't know how we were going to keep him laying down for three days with his feet elevated and in walking boots after that for another week. Both feet were reshaped and the surgery was absolute perfection. Zach did an amazing job with recovery and we felt bad that we waited so long.
Zach will have a nose bleed in the night and wake up and take care of it himself. He once split his back open on an open dresser drawer and tried to mend the wound himself with Elmer's glue and bandages. With PICA, he often scratches small wounds until they become big wounds and then additional wound care with tons of ointments and bandages are needed to help prevent infection from setting in. He ripped his knee open in a fall up a curb and decided to remove the scab while en route to Devil's Tower in Wyoming. He used to lower half of his tee shirt and never said a word to me that he was struggling in the back seat of our vehicle.
So when Zach can barely turn his head, holds his neck in hand when rising from sitting and groans with anything that requires learning over, we know his pain is excessive. He also requests lots of hand holds, cuddles closely on the couch and reminds me that tomorrow is Monday.
I am so pleased that he knows Dr. Reisgraf, trusts him and knows that his hands bring relief even to the worst pain. He has witnessed every member in our family receive care from this doctor and he knows that relief isn't necessarily immediate, but it will eventually happen.
I think of all the times that I have been in pain, of all the times that I could barely move and relied on the kindness of my husband and children to help me with the simplest of tasks. Recovering from surgeries quite a few times in the last 3 1/2 years, sometimes, I even needed help to get out of bed. I have needed help with dressing and showering, putting my hair in a ponytail, preparing food, help with housework and packing backpacks. And each and every time I have needed help, no one in my family has every shied away from a request. They are eager to help and kind when they understand someone else's pain.
And when we are serving Zach during this time that he is experiencing pain, I think of what a privilege it is that he knows he can ask for help. That he can trust that we will help him. Fetching ice packs from the freezer, warming heat packs in the microwave, applying muscle rub to numb the pain if only for a short while. I am thankful that he knows that Josh and I serve him freely expecting nothing in return. We love him and so we consider it an honor, not an obligation, to help him in his time of need.
These days are long and challenging. Just keep loving your families. Love them and serve them. Serve them so well that your example of kindness is then passed on to someone else. Be an example for your children of what it looks like to help others without being asked. That modeled behavior is passed down to them unknowingly and often replicated when they get a chance.