By Verlie Edwards
I was happily married with a great job I loved. Life was good.
Then at 2 a.m. one night my entire world turned upside down. My husband of 28 years suffered an epileptic seizure that led to a traumatic brain injury and loss of short term memory. Four months later his left leg was amputated because of blood circulation issues.
John lived a year and one day away from home in hospitals and rehab facilities. During that time I renovated our home to make it handicap accessible. While coming home was exciting, it was also scary. John required 24/7 care.
During the year he was away and receiving care, I had to continue working (our insurance was through my employment). It was hard. At one time John was in rehab in a facility 80 miles from our home. I would stay at home during the week and Friday after work I would drive the 80 miles, participate in his rehab, sleep on a blow-up bed and spend the weekend with him. Sunday afternoon I would return home and get ready for the next week and weekend. Throughout this time, there were numerous hospitalizations. We became familiar with almost every hospital system in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
The situation was so huge it was impossible to grasp its enormity, but I had to move forward. Not only was I John’s wife, I was his advocate and caregiver. It was my responsibility to make sure he received the best possible care – both medically and emotionally. I also had to make sure I stayed focused.
We were financially stable, but not able to pay for his extensive care. Decisions had to be made – apply for Medicaid, hiring home health workers, managing our home and keeping my job. Each area could be all consuming.
How did I do it? One pie at a time…one piece at a time and one bite at a time. Then you move to the next pie.As with all situations that life presents us, I had to take the most critical situation and break it into pieces so I could move forward.
More importantly than handling the “business” side of our situation, I had to handle the “emotional” side for both John and me. After the initial shock of what had happened wore off, I realized the whole situation was more than I could handle by myself. I had to turn it over to a higher being.
I remember it as if it was yesterday – the day I told God “everything” was more than I could handle by myself. I asked him to guide me and I hoped I made the right decisions for both John and me. I’ve always been a believer, even if I didn’t always attend church. That night when I asked Him to guide me, I felt the weight of the world lift off my shoulder. I continued to pray for help and guidance and firmly believe that my faith helped me make the best decisions then, as well as now.
Looking back at the 32 years we were married with the final three-and-a-half years in this unexpected situation, I treasure the time we had together. It’s been almost six years since God called him home, but he is as alive in my memory today as he was until he drew his last breath.
If I learned anything from John’s illness, it is that each of us has an enormous amount of strength that can be tapped into. I also learned that we should not turn away from our support systems. My friends and family were always there offering to help. They helped me realize that asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s actually a sign of strength. No one can go through a life altering situation without help.
Verlie McAlister Edwards was raised in Abilene, Texas and it’s there that she realized her love for writing. She enjoyed a special high school English teacher who happened to be the school’s newspaper sponsor. In order to take another class under her, Verlie signed up for journalism and the journey began. Unlike many students, she never changed her college major – she was always focused on journalism as a career. She graduated from the University of North Texas (UNT) with a degree in journalism and political science. After graduation she returned to her hometown and worked as a reporter at the Abilene Reporter-News covering the local education scene from the students’ perspective. Following a year of graduate work at UNT she moved to Fort Worth where a career in public relations and political affairs flourished. She always wanted to work in academic PR and achieved that goal early in her career at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine.
After many years providing public relations consultation to the osteopathic profession and serving as the communications director/special events fundraiser for Lena Pope Home (a residential treatment facility for abused and neglected youth) she joined the staff of the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors (GFWAR) as the communications and governmental affairs director. It’s here that she found her calling and further developed her skills in the political arena.
After 11 years Verlie in that position she took her writing, political and organizational skills to serve as chief of staff for Texas State Representative Rob Orr, a past president of the GFWAR. She remained on Rep. Orr’s staff throughout his 10 years as an elected official and then served as District Director for his successor, Representative DeWayne Burns, during his first legislative session. At that time she retired from the Texas Legislature and began working part-time as curator for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams’ personal museum. Verlie is excited to use her writing skills to help Iron Butterflies Project as both a contributor and edit