Several years ago, my friend Elizabeth Burke and I rowed twice a week through the Seattle winter. We ventured out without fail as dawn was breaking - rowing two single shells or a double. We'd row from the Fremont Bridge to the Chittenden Locks and back, or maybe across Lake Union and on to Lake Washington. Sometimes we'd come back to our home at the Lake Washington Rowing Club and wipe the ice off our boats. But we always came back with an irrefutable sense of moral superiority! We'd done it again!

Rowing - particularly Rowing Through the Winter - provides a richness of metaphors...instructive in my life as a Family Physician and the Home Dialysis CarePartner for my profoundly ill husband, Steve Williams. Now that Steve is gone, rowing reminds me of consistency and focus - so critical during grieving. Rowing requires balance, as does my life.

Row with me this winter. Linda Gromko, MD

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Women's Sweep Team: Eight Women - One Personality

Yesterday, I rowed with the Novice Women's Sweep Team. I certainly qualify as a novice, though I've taken sweep lessons and rowed with the "Old Recs" during the team's brief tenure years ago. The women needed someone to fill an eight (the long crew boats with eight rowers, each with one oar), and that sounded fine with me.

"In an eight, you have no individuals," the coach began. "You have no personalities. You row as one body, each oar catching the water at the same time and each oar leaving the water at the same time. All bodies move up the slide at the same rate. All shoulders are one."

Well, maybe. At least, that would be our goal. In sweep rowing, the focus must be on synchrony of movement; otherwise, the boat lumbers heavily through the water. At worse, it may tip.

The importance of teamwork was critically illustrated to me yesterday when my husband's caregiver didn't show.

Steve requires 24-hour care because of his Critical Illness Myopathy/Polyneuropathy which followed a 13-hour open heart surgery for an aortic valve replacement and 4-vessel coronary artery bypass graft. He was on a ventilator for several weeks, then later developed an acute septicemia related to a gallbladder infection. And all this, of course, on top of his baseline kidney failure which requires dialysis (the kidney machine) 4-5 days a week.

Steve is at home partially for the reason that no skilled nursing facility would accept him. But he truly gets far better care at home, with more continuity and less risk of infection. Plus, we've done Home Hemodialysis for the past three years, and believe it to be a superior model for Renal Replacement Therapy.

But when a scheduled caregiver doesn't arrive, all balance caves! We quickly made other arrangements, daughter Brita did the heavy lifting, and all worked out in the end. But it was a precarious start to a day in the life of a precarious family.

And through all of this, I was rowing away; the coach losing me with his fluent Norwegian (I think) as we reached the Locks. One of the women rowing behind me commented that the coach was channeling his "inner Viking."

It was simply fun: a pleasant row on calm waters with a benevolent coach and a great group of women. Rowing for the fun of it, not breaking any records.

"Simple" fun, I think, is are precious as "common" sense. Humor and exercise are two of the most reliable balance tools I know.
Linda Gromko, MD

No comments:

Post a Comment