I got the call on Sunday, November 25th. My favorite aunt who is in her early 70s was rushed to the hospital with pneumonia and was on a ventilator in the ICU. Her vitals weren’t stable and a blood culture showed that the infection had overwhelmed her bloodstream and she was now septic. The illness had started as a cold which quickly became bronchitis and then pneumonia. I got in the car and rushed from Chicago to Pittsburgh in the hope that I could see her alive. My aunt has been obese for at least 30 years but her weight ballooned while she cared for my uncle who died from cancer this past July. After a long evening at the hospital, my cousin (her son) and I drove to her home to spend the night. This home had been the source of many happy family gatherings and it was tremendously sad to think that we might only have memories.
Nine days have passed and my aunt is still on the ventilator and nonresponsive. Her vitals are stable and the pneumonia and sepsis seem to be resolving. But complicating the recovery is the fact that her liver and gallbladder aren’t healthy. Many years of obesity have put an enormous strain on these organs. Her gallbladder is infected and we found out that she has non-alcoholic fatty liver.
My aunt is one of six children and most of the brothers, sisters and offspring have put their lives on hold and in some cases packed up little ones and pets to get to Pittsburgh. The toll of stress, worry, travel and time away from work has been huge. If you haven’t been taking care of your health and think it doesn’t impact your entire family, think again. While we are cautiously optimistic, the prognosis for my aunt is still uncertain. But if you are obese or have a chronic health condition and are reading this, know that it's OK to put your own health needs first when it comes to your health and well-being. Taking care of yourself first is actually the best way to take care of your family. If you see yourself in this picture, maybe you need a new mantra. It might go something like this: "taking care of my own health first is the best way for me to take care of my loved ones."
Takeaway: Check out the CDC’s website for information on obesity and BMI. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html