Posted by: chlost | March 31, 2012

The art of spousal medical care

There are several jobs at which I would excel. Every job that I have ever had, I have done very well.

There is one job that I have been called upon to perform as a volunteer, but which I do not perform well.

I am not, nor will I ever be, a good nurse.

My mother worked as a nurse. My paternal grandmother was a nurse.

This weekend, I have once again been unwillingly drafted into the position of Nurse. And again, I do not handle it well.

Husband had claimed that his right leg was swollen. He would stand before me, raising the legs of his pants, showing me his legs. “Can you tell any difference?” he’d ask. I tried to figure out what was to be the right answer.

“No” I said, “What is the difference?’

Clearly, I was supposed to be able to see that one leg was swollen. I could not.

Finally, I told him to make an appointment with the clinic- after he had asked me several times what could possibly be wrong with his leg. As I didn’t really see much wrong with it at all, I couldn’t hazard a guess.

He did get an appointment, but not until the next day. In the meantime, he continued to ask me what it possibly could be. I finally told him to check the internet.  An internet innocent, he had not heard of WebMD.

After perusing the site for several minutes, he had decided with authority in his voice that he had “thrombophlebitis”. A blood clot. He was crazy with worry all night that it might loosen and travel to his brain or lungs. I listened and made a crack to the effect that with our WebMD medical degree, we could make a lot of money.

Yesterday he went to the doctor. The doctor had an ultrasound done on Husband’s leg.

Diagnosis: blood clot-thrombophlebitis.


So, today I have tried to make up for my doubting him by being helpful. He is to elevate the leg and keep hot or cold compresses on it.

To be fair to me, he is not a good patient. He hates having to sit with his leg up. He wants to do all of the spring chores that are piling up. He gets bored reading. He likes to watch movies, but can only do that for so long.

As the nurse here, I am the one telling him to sit down. I am the person to be sure that his leg is up. I am the one who must tell him that the chores don’t have to be done.

In other words, I am the bad guy. And I get cranky about that. I get mad when it feels as though he is not taking this seriously. I get anxious when he is not following the doctor’s instructions.

Florence Nightingale, I am not.

Nurse Ratched-yes.

It’s going to be a long weekend.



  1. I feel your pain. When I was married, I had to be Nancy Nurse for my ex a few times. It was not fun. Men are difficult patients.

    And right a friend is here and I’m supposed to be the patient and guess who cooked dinner tonight. She spent half the day talking on her cell phone with her boyfriend or relatives who ask stupid questions about why I need help.

    Go figure. Needless to say I am not amused but I’m required to have someone here or go back in the hospital or go to a nursing home and I’d rather drink poison than do either so I’ll muddle through. I really don’t think she ‘gets’ how serious this is.

    Be glad that it isn’t more serious and I’ll pray that your hubby gets through this asap!!!

    I’m keeping good thoughts. Consider yourself hugged!

    • Thank you Kay! and HUG back to you. I hope you are out of the woods soon, so that you don’t have the threat of hospitalization hanging over your head. Or to put up with difficult situations in your home as the alternative. I am sure that it is not easy, but maybe if you have some headphones, just sit back and listen to some music and travel off to a different time and place.
      Take care.

  2. Maybe it would be better to not be a nurse. My husband expects me to give him medical advice, which I do, but he then makes an appointment to see the doctor who tells him exactly what I told him in the first place. He is a bad patient, interprets his doctor’s advice and orders in ways that suit him.

    Hope that your husband is soon back on his feet and outdoors (where all husbands belong in the spring).

  3. Men tend to be bigger babies about being sick than women. But I actually don’t mind the nursing role all that much. I could not do it for a living, though.

  4. I am so sorry, and I fully understand. I told my husband if he was grumpy when sick one more time, I’d divorce him.

  5. I’m not a very good nurse either. Thankfully my husband doesn’t get sick very often and when he does I have a daughter who is a nurse and likes to take charge of things. I’ve decided that if he ever gets really, really sick, I’ll pay my daughter to move back in.

  6. wooohooo, from the comments it looks like you’ve hit a nerve!
    Been through the patient/nurse stuff no so long ago
    It is much easier to ‘nurse’ complete strangers than family (and the plus side is you can hand them on to the paramedics 🙂

  7. Been laughing here at everything WebMD related in this post, right down to his correct self-diagnosis. That sounds like a potentially scary issue…amazing to me that sitting and elevating will–what?–break up the clot? Okay.

    I can be a good nurse, if I feel like it, but mostly I want to hang out and handle it and ring the little bell if I can bring something.

  8. I feel your pain dear …. after hubby had his surgery last month he was a royal pain in the butt! Thrombophlebitis is a scary thing. They used to stick a person in the hospital for it, I remember my mother having to stay for a week when I was a teen. I hope your hubby heals quickly (for both of your sakes) and am sending big hugs!

  9. Actually it was fortunate he did go to the doctor. That said, men really aren’t good patients. Only thing worse is a sick male doctor.
    I am a born nurturer and love pampering someone who is feeling sick. Rather than that being a noble thing, I think it is just me enjoying being in control. He is at your mercy, enjoy.

  10. My sympathies go out to both of you. An ailing spouse is not fun, at all. Being an ailing spouse is not fun either. What doesn’t kill anyone will make you strong. :-).

    Tell him I had one of those and it really is important to keep the leg up, even though its miserable hard. I ended up watching daytime tv talk shows…arrgh! At they put you to sleep and the day goes by quicker.

    Give hubby my best.

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