Doctors thought his life was over — his wife had other plans

When her husband, Gerald, suffered a brain hemorrhage, Rose Andrews says doctors told her to take him off life support. Instead, she’s spent the last 20 years (and counting) helping him recover.
Rose Andrews has been caring for her husband, Gerald, for 20 years — and counting. (Submitted by Duane Andrews)

Twenty years ago, Rose Andrews of Carbonear, NL., made a fateful decision to take her husband, Gerald, off life support after he'd suffered a brain hemorrhage.

Doctors and hospital staff crowded around, offering their condolences and expecting her to be sad.

But Andrews had other plans.

"I said, 'Oh no, don't be sorry.' 'We're not going nowhere,' I said, 'I'm bringing him out of this,'" Andrews told Tapestry.

Keeping the faith

Andrews said she knew Gerald's condition was bad, but his intellect was still there. He just needed her to bring it out of him.

For a brief second, she questioned her ability to do so.

"When all of this happened, I just felt that for the first time in my adult life, I was probably up against something I couldn't control," she said.

"But I didn't stay in that thought for very long. Immediately, I think, I just took on the role."

"I was prepared for the painfully slow journey that we were about to begin. And I think the fact that I knew I had the patience and the love to do it, I think that kept the gas in my tank."

Rose Andrews guides her husband, Gerald, through some exercises. (Submitted by Duane Andrews)

The ins and outs of caregiving

Andrews had worked in long-term care for many years, so she knew a thing or two about what it takes to be a caregiver.

She also knew rehabilitating Gerald would be a long journey, including everything from reciting the alphabet, to teaching him how to walk again at the local pool.

Andrews said Gerald's therapy can be an emotional "roller coaster."

"Some days you had days when you felt a little bit frustrated because you didn't think you acquired much. And then other days, you felt like you could reach the stars," she said.

Continuing the fight

Andrews said the most challenging part of being Gerald's caretaker has little to do with her own capabilities and everything to do with accessibility.

For example, she's been waiting fifteen years for a wheelchair accessible change room at the pool where she takes Gerald for his therapy.

The prospect of funding from the federal government gives her some tempered optimism.
Rose Andrews knew she had the patience and love to help her husband recover. (Submitted by Duane Andrews)

But the funding isn't guaranteed.

"What will happen if they don't get that application? I'm here to continue the fight," she said.

That fight — and the twenty years Andrews has spent caring for Gerald — has helped her distill what's important in life.

"It has kind of separated life into the beautiful and the ugly. And doing it without the ridiculous weight of all those extras, like having me feel guilty, and self-pity," she said.

Now, Andrews knows she's ready for whatever life throws at her.

"And with both hands," she added.