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Pam Judge

CAREGIVER STORY

Pam Judge, Mom on an NMO Mission

Hi, I’m Pam Judge and excited to jumpstart our #caregiver stories! I’m just a mom of two wonderful grown children Chelsey and Connor whom I love and admire. Matt is my amazing partner and Lincoln is my dog who is ‘supposed’ to bring us joy! My motto is smile, laugh, bother people. 😉 I live a good life and have some pretty incredible friends and family!

How Pam Became a Caregiver

I’ll tell you how I became a caregiver. I’ve been a mom since September of 1990 – couldn’t wait to be one to my fabulous daughter and then my amazing son in 1992. Those two experiences are among the happiest of my life! My children have brightened my life and made me see things in new ways. I became a caregiver August of 2014 about 10:30 am.

I received a phone call from my son saying he couldn’t see and his legs weren’t working. Not realizing what he meant, I said "OK – I’ll meet you at the ER." Unbeknownst to me he crawled to the car as his girlfriend drove him to the ER. At the ER, I hugged him and said everything will be ok as they strapped him paralyzed from the belly button down into a wheelchair. I held him as they stuck the longest needle I had ever seen into him for a spinal tap. I had to let go for a moment to be nauseous. I held his hand as we waited for him to move again once he received high dosages of steroids. I laughed with him in the middle of the night when the medication made him dream of an attacking french fry. I silently watched as he suffered indignities because his body would not do what he wanted it to and had to be cared for by professional, caring, young, beautiful nurses. I was excited with him the week after he went down and he was able to move his big toe! I brought him Jack Frost donuts just because. I cringed as they put a port into him to do plasmapheresis for 10 days – but was thrilled on the second day when he could move his leg a little.

And only when I was alone in the car driving home to freshen up did I dare to feel - I cried and cried and asked why couldn't I – the middle aged mom who had lived - have gotten NMO?? Why does my precious 22 year old son have to get a rare, neurological, autoimmune disease and suffer blindness and nerve damage from the belly button down?? Suck it in, take a xanax, pull yourself together, go to work, everything will be ok – that became my mantra.

I did just that as he proceeded to 6 more weeks of extensive physical therapy to learn to walk again. I championed him with the hospital when he had no voice – when all who were in the hospital were not heard – I silently wrote to explain what was being experienced. I made a little win for all of them! I learned how to get him in and out of a wheelchair. I pushed him down halls – sometimes hitting the sides of doorways. I encouraged him and helped him do extra therapy in his room because – as he puts it – I thought when I walked everything would work again. After 8 weeks in the hospital, I laughed and cried at his homecoming with his dog LEO. And they lived happily everafter...

Pam's Highlights of her Caregiver Role

  1. Navigating the healthcare system
  2. Helping with medication management
  3. Advocacy
  4. Managing disability
  5. Being viewed as "the enemy" at times
  6. Importance of boundaries

Self-Care Strategies

Caregivers are superheroes to the world of the person they support. And yet all superheroes have at least one weakness. One weakness I have is feeling bad saying no to anyone. In order to be the best person you can be which makes you a better caregiver, you need to take good care of yourself. I found this out after suffering several autoimmune stress-related issues after Connor went down. Some things that helped me: yoga, meditation, a life coach, working out, music and walking with friends, bubble baths and wine.

Yoga definitely helps with the mind, spirit, body connection. Once you find a yoga teacher you like, the practice becomes a lifestyle. Shoutout to @adrienelouise! The affirmations remind you of what is important and what you need and the breathing techniques you learn get you through any stressful moments.

Meditation has always been challenging for me. I’m so bad at quieting my mind and thinking of nothing. Nothing makes me think of something and then something makes me think of other things; however; I know it is important to take a few minutes each day to be quiet with yourself.

A Life Coach brings you success and fulfillment. She is not a therapist. She simply holds you accountable for what you want to achieve. My Life Coach was wonderful at making me spend time on me and a project that will be a legacy for my children.

Working out, music and walking with friends are all basically moving. Move when every fiber in your being is screaming of tiredness. Your mind and body will thank you later. Find 20 minutes every day to move, move, move!

Bubble baths and wine – need I say more?