Observations from a brother

Guest blog from BHD’s twin brother, J

I decided to come visit my brother after all. He told me to take some time for me, to decompress after my six-month assignment with a voluntary organization where I tried to bring some relief to people suffering from political strife and long-term neglect.

I returned to my home in Italy from that assignment about one month ago. I have enjoyed spending time with my wife and catching up on many things — most of which (besides my wife) seem trivial now.

But what is not trivial is where I can help a guy who never asks for help, but helps many others.

My brother’s husband has had a rather bad setback with a relapse of the infection that made 2012 so miserable for him and my brother. He got better for most of 2013, and we all thought (or were hoping) that he was over it completely. But such was not the case.

What is strange about this disease is that my brother-in-law is okay most of the day, but when he has a problem, it occurs suddenly and without warning. Sometimes those problems involve his ability to walk, or other times it involves his ability to think logically and rationally in the present. It is the latter symptom that is both baffling and frightening, as it mimics Alzheimer’s Disease.

My brother knows what treatments work and has been working with my brother-in-law’s primary physician to administer an aggressive treatment plan which began in earnest on the day after Christmas. I arrived on Friday because I knew that my brother needed some help in “covering” for my brother-in-law’s care while he drove his mother-in-law back home to Pittsburgh.

Fortunately, nothing happened while my brother was away. My brother-in-law and I enjoyed time together talking about a lot of things, and giving him time to rest.

When my brother-in-law is fully aware, he knows what his husband has been doing. Helping him to bathe, to eat and keep hydrated, and to make him feel that caring for him is a joy. That silly smile on my brother’s face belies concern, anger, and fear. But he always smiles and gives an air of “no worries, no big deal.”

Fighting with the health insurance company over silly things like approvals for routine generic antibiotics takes time that is not necessary. Drawing blood samples to send off for liver and kidney function tests is not much fun, but being able to do it at home reduces the number of trips to a medical facility to have the same thing done. (I tell you, drawing blood is not something that I could do.)

I am always in awe of my brother. He is the living example of care. He does this without question or reserve. He just knows what needs to be done and does it.

It is MY pleasure to care for my brother while he cares for his husband. No gift for Christmas is worth more than being able to do something for someone I love.

This is what I have learned from my brother, and is why I said above that so many things in life that used to bother me are trivial now. I have learned what matters most. Family.

My wife will join me today and we will spend several weeks back where I grew up. We will visit my family and friends. But most importantly, we will show how we love my brother and his husband.

Now, if I only had my brother’s gift of foresight to know what needs to be done….

As my brother says, “life is short: show those you love how you love them.”