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

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Elizabeth's Therapy for an Untrained Widow

I've never been widowed before, so I don't know the ropes. But my beloved husband Steve Williams died yesterday morning - so I'm square in the midst of some sort of hurricane here.

We didn't really expect it. Steve had been so sick for so long. He had a leg amputated a week ago. And suddenly, yesterday morning, Steve took a decisive turn for the worse. His heart arrested in the Medic One van.

What was the most surprising thing to me was that Steve actually died. He'd had so many opportunities that he didn't "take." There were so many close calls over his course of End Stage Renal Failure, home dialysis, multiple heart attacks, and a major heart surgery. He had been wheelchair bound for a year with "Critical Illness Myopathy."

Steve had an iron will to live. His resilience proved itself again and again...until yesterday, when Steve's body simply gave out.

I've learned that everybody wants say the "right thing," and the well-meaning phrase "If there's anything I can do..." surfaces frequently. I've already gotten to the point where I'm tempted to respond, "Well, there's my Visa bill..." but that's hardly within the spirit of the comment.

So, when Elizabeth emailed me, she offered her prescription: essentially, "I'll bow the 2X; let's row; repeat as needed."

We tried the therapy this morning, rowing the open water Haro through some chop to the Locks and back. She knew the whole story, so there was no background to catch up on. She let me talk and talk. And we rowed.

The physical exercise was exactly what this doctor needed. We'll be repeating this therapy on a "prn" (as needed) basis. Thanks, Elizabeth.

Linda Gromko, MD

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