Fac­ing life’s chal­lenges with love and de­ter­mi­na­tion

Rose and Ger­ald An­drews show how per­sis­tence and pos­i­tiv­ity pay off

The Packet (Clarenville) - - Front page - BY CHRIS LEWIS THE COM­PASS MU­NIC­I­PAL BUD­GET [email protected]­n­com­pass.ca

The walls of Rose and Ger­ald An­drews liv­ing room in their Carbonear home are filled with fam­ily pho­tos and me­men­tos of ac­com­plish­ments.

The pho­tos and awards are clear ev­i­dence of the im­por­tance of fam­ily, and the parental pride and en­cour­age­ment as four chil­dren grew up.

Their neat bun­ga­low is filled with fond mem­o­ries.

How­ever, the story is not com­pletely cheery.

Twenty years ago, in Oc­to­ber of 1998, life was turned up­side down for the An­drews fam­ily.

Ger­ald suf­fered a brain hem­or­rhage.

The man who had spent years in the class­room — one year in the com­mu­nity col­lege sys­tem,

18 years as a school teacher, and

10 years as a pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor in the sec­ondary school sys­tem — was now in a hospi­tal bed, fight­ing for his life.

Rose was half a world away at the time, vis­it­ing Swe­den with a friend.

She re­calls get­ting the call, telling her Ger­ald had been put on life sup­port, and she needed to come back home to de­cide on the next step for his med­i­cal care.

“When I left for Swe­den, my hus­band was in Clarke’s Beach build­ing a build­ing. When we got the phone call, we thought it was my friend’s fa­ther who had got­ten sick. When I called and found out that it was ac­tu­ally my hus­band that was in ICU, right away I had all these ques­tions: ‘Where is he? What hap­pened? Is he go­ing to be OK? Where is he on a scale of one to 10?’

“And the doc­tor’s re­ply was this: ‘Your hus­band is not on the scale. He’s on life sup­port.’ I don’t re­mem­ber any­thing else af­ter that,” Rose said of the day her life changed com­pletely.

How­ever, she was not con­vinced this was the end of Ger­ald’s life, de­spite hear­ing sug­ges­tions from doc­tors to re­move life sup­port — a task they were de­lay­ing un­til Ger­ald’s wife was back in the province.

Rose, how­ever, was de­ter­mined that would not be the end of their story.

“When we got to the ICU, I went over and took my hus­band’s hand. I said to him, ‘My dar­ling, I’m bring­ing you out of this, with your help.’”

She spent the next three weeks with Ger­ald in that hospi­tal room.

Deep down, she says, she was cer­tain her hus­band was not dead.

So they be­gan to re­write their life story — with a plot change that would dom­i­nate their lives over the next 20 years.

From the start, Rose says she was de­ter­mined to im­prove her hus­band’s sit­u­a­tion, by any means nec­es­sary.

At first, this be­gan with things like recit­ing the al­pha­bet as a means of rekin­dling Ger­ald’s most ba­sic mem­o­ries — a prac­tice they con­tin­ued for a num­ber of years, slowly build­ing up from the al­pha­bet and mov­ing on to words and phrases.

Rose says it was a slow process, but she con­tin­ues to see progress in her hus­band, both men­tally and phys­i­cally.

“No mat­ter how dif­fi­cult it was at one point, see­ing him here with me, and see­ing him con­tin­u­ing to im­prove, is what drives us,” she said.

Ger­ald’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, Rose said, in­volved lots of rep­e­ti­tion; show­ing and telling him things over and over.

“His in­tel­lect is all still there,” she said, and he con­tin­ues to be an avid reader.

In 2006, with help from Rose and oth­ers, Ger­ald’s third edi­tion of Her­itage of a New­found­land Out­port; The Story of Port De Grave was re-printed, hav­ing orig­i­nally been pub­lished in 1996 — two years prior to Ger­ald’s brain hem­or­rhage.

In the pro­logue at the end of the book, Ray An­drews writes not only of the value of the book, which tells in de­tail and a nar­ra­tive writ­ing style, the his­tory of one of this province’s old­est com­mu­ni­ties, but of Ger­ald and Rose An­drews and their de­ter­mi­na­tion in the face of his ill­ness.

“To all of us, they have been pure ex­am­ples of what de­vo­tion, per­se­ver­ance and de­ter­mi­na­tion can achieve,” Ray wrote.

The man who delved deep into the his­tory of his home com­mu­nity, to write about it so elo­quently, has some chal­lenges to­day re­gard­ing mem­ory.

“His long-term mem­ory is still there, but it’s the short-term mem­ory that he strug­gles with,” says his wife. “To­mor­row, he might not re­mem­ber that we had a visit from The Com­pass to­day, but there are plenty of things that he can re­mem­ber from years ago. That’s why I re­peat things to him so of­ten, so that it sticks around, and that’s what we’ve been do­ing for years.”

Phys­i­cally, the ill­ness also took a toll, con­fin­ing Ger­ald to a wheel­chair.

At the pool in Carbonear, with the wa­ter giv­ing buoy­ancy for phys­io­ther­apy and Rose to help him, he grad­u­ally built up mus­cle strength.

Now he’s able to stand on his own, switch from his wheel­chair to sofa with rel­a­tive ease, and can even walk a lit­tle around the house with the aid of a walker.

For years, Rose was a stay-ath­ome mother to her chil­dren.

When they moved to Fredericton, N.B., where her hus­band was pur­su­ing his Masters of Ed­u­ca­tion (Tech­nol­ogy) de­gree, she se­cured a job in long-term care.

When they re­turned to their home in Carbonear, she landed a job at the Har­bour Lodge, and was em­ployed there when Ger­ald suf­fered the brain hem­or­rhage.

She quit her job to take care of her hus­band.

“It’s funny when I hear peo­ple talk about how long of a shift they have com­ing up, now. Come spend a day in my shoes,” Rose said with a burst of laugh­ter.

Rose ad­mits, re­flect­ing on those mo­ments from 20 years ago, that the fu­ture was scary.

How­ever, she re­al­ized that fear and worry would not help.

“Fear doesn’t last long when you’re faced with a sit­u­a­tion you can’t con­trol. You ei­ther buckle down and do what you have to do, or do noth­ing at all, and I wasn’t about to do noth­ing for my hus­band,” she said, the de­ter­mi­na­tion ob­vi­ous in her voice, go­ing on to note that the job was some­thing like a roller coaster at times, with some days be­ing rather dif­fi­cult, while the next day could be the com­plete op­po­site.

“It’s about pa­tience, at the end of the day,” she said.

As Rose tells their story, Ger­ald sits be­side her, read­ing, mov­ing his fin­ger along the words to keep his place on the page.

When asked what he thought of the ef­forts it took to bring them to where they are to­day, Ger­ald pon­dered the ques­tion for a mo­ment be­fore slowly turn­ing his head to gaze at his wife.

Slowly and with some ef­fort — speech is still some­thing Ger­ald strug­gles with — but with an ob­vi­ous look of af­fec­tion in his eyes, he replied, “She’s re­ally some­thing.”

“You ei­ther buckle down and do what you have to do, or do noth­ing at all, and I wasn’t about to do noth­ing ...” Rose An­drews

Rose An­drews is orig­i­nally from the South West Arm, Trin­ity Bay.

Ed­i­tor’s note:


Rose (left) and Ger­ald An­drews at their Carbonear home.

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