I really did not plan to become a caregiver—it’s just what life handed me when it was least convenient. I was working as a senior health care executive for a major computer corporation when my only sister, and only remaining family member, was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Suddenly, a decision had to be made—to leave her alone to suffer through the horrors of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, and radiation, or to set aside my hard-earned career position and give her what comfort and dignity I could. Clearly, there was no choice. I took a year’s leave of absence from work and took over all the tasks of managing her IV’s, her illness, her doctor appointments at the Mayo Clinic three hours from home, her bathing, her hydration, her household, her life. Mine went on hold.
But, as a person always driven to do my best, I determined that my 6 years of pharmacy education and my 30 years of career accomplishments could help me move into this most important job of my life. And, from it came a critical realization that not all of the challenges of daily living have acceptable resolutions. While we were always able to get excellent medical care, even in her home, the most basic daily need of a decent shower was not possible. From that year of watching both her health and dignity decline, I determined that I could not simply accept this ugly fate for someone I love. And I didn’t. I, along with my husband and two friends, designed and patented a shower for use by anyone who could sit in a wheelchair, be they temporarily or permanently disabled.
In the 7 years that have now passed, I have learned a tremendous amount from the individuals we seek to help now, and know that I can give perspective on alternatives for hygiene care that come from not only a solution provider and company owner, but also, and most importantly, from a sister who did her research and really did help to keep her sister alive and as healthy as possible against incredible odds. My greatest joy now comes from reading letters from other individuals with disabilities who are also feeling healthier, happier, and cleaner, because of a simple portable shower. What a gift that is to me!
Judy Seidmeyer, R.Ph., F.A.C.A.