True Love, for Better or Worse

May 6, 2010
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*Clarence Wilson, 65, sits at his kitchen window, coffee and cigarette in hand, watching the sun rise. For most people, watching the sun rise at 6:30 in the morning seems crazy but not for Wilson; it is his time to be alone before his day starts.

Wilson has taken care of his half-paralyzed wife for two and a half years, and this morning marks the start of another normal day for him.

Friday night, November 2008: Clarence Wilson stands in the kitchen cooking fish sticks and french fries for his wife *Jenny and himself. His wife of 43 years had just finished her last round of chemo therapy to treat her stage-one breast cancer. She went upstairs after dinner to sleep and an hour later suffered a massive stroke that left her right side completely paralyzed and severely diminished her ability to speak.
“The last thing I remember her telling me is that she was tired,” her husband said. The doctors rushed her to the hospital.

Within four minutes of her being transferred to Lutheran Hospital, the doctors told Wilson she had suffered a massive stoke and the entire left side of her brain was paralyzed. The doctor taking care of Jenny told Wilson that she would need a miracle to make it.

After spending 31 days in the intensive care unit, she was transferred to a physical therapy center. Wilson’s wife remained in the intensive care unit for 31 days before she was transferred to a physical therapy center. She stayed at the physical therapy center for two and a half months to regain her strength, and then Wilson’s insurance said that they would no longer pay for her to stay at the physical therapy center. Wilson had to find somewhere for his wife, and fast; the insurance company gave him four days to find her a new home. The decision Wilson was about to make would change his life as he knew it.

“After checking around, I didn’t think anyone could take care of her like I could, so I decided I’d do it,” he said.

To equip his house for his wife’s return, he purchased a hospital bed from a garage sale, an electric wheel chair from a swap meet and purchased a lift from a friend.

“When my dad said he was going to take care of mom, I thought it was quite the undertaking,” said his daughter *Jamie.

Every day, Wilson follows the same routine: at 9:30 every morning he wakes her up, gives her pills and breakfast. Then he cleans her off and changes her clothes. “She’s never had a bedsore while she’s been in my care!” Wilson said, proudly. Before breakfast, he starts the sheets in the washer so they will be finished before lunch. After breakfast, Wilson goes over a simple list of words with his wife, which include, “love” and “husband”. Because of the stroke, she cannot carry on full conversations.

When the doorbell rings every other Friday, Wilson gets the chance to leave the house for more than 10 minutes. He goes to get the paper and mail every morning, but every other Friday Wilson can leave the house for eight hours. “I’ll go grocery shop or sometimes, I just drive around,” he said.
“He takes care of her,” his daughter explained through tears. “He’s strong.”

While many people at Wilson’s age live a leisurely life in retirement, he works day and night to take care of his wife. During the night, Wilson comes downstairs at least four times to check on his wife to make sure she is sleeping. “Sometimes, I wonder why I do it, but at night when I tuck her into bed and cover her feet with the second blanket…it’s worth it,” Wilson said.”I love my wife very much.”

*names have been changed to protect identity

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