When caregiver fatigue sets in, remember to fight another day
Providing care to a loved one with HAE can feel like an endless battle
It was billed as “The Rumble in the Jungle.” The heavyweight champion of the world, George Foreman, would face off with Muhammad Ali.
During the press conferences leading up to the historic boxing match, held in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1974, Ali, known for his pre-bout taunting, promised spectators that he had a surprise for Foreman. And while he was no stranger to following through on those declarations in previous fights, it didn’t sway critics in his favor. Ali was expected to lose because Foreman’s punches were so powerful.
When the starting bell rang, it was abundantly clear that Foreman had the upper fist. While Ali was quick and figured out a strategy to deflect some of his opponent’s punches, it became more evident that he was one solid punch away from being knocked out.
Then, in a move that surprised even his own trainer, Ali leaned against the ropes while carefully protecting his head, taking several blows from Foreman instead of going on the offense. Despite his trainer’s pleas between rounds not to get trapped on the rope, Ali would start each round, landing a few quick punches, then settle back on the ropes, cover his head, and take punches from what seemed to be his winning opponent.
By the fifth round, Foreman was tired. He had spent almost all of his energy hoping to take Ali out with one powerful punch. But instead, Ali had bested him by using Foreman’s power and strength against him.
In the eighth round, wholly exhausted and face puffy from earlier punches, Foreman met the mat after Ali delivered fight-ending blows directly to his head. The champion had lost to a tactic Ali called “rope-a-dope.”
In for a fight
When you’re a caregiver for a loved one with a chronic illness, sometimes life feels like that famous boxing match. But more often than not, we feel more like Foreman than we do Ali.
In 2021, when our daughter, whom we nicknamed Ladybug, was diagnosed with hereditary angioedema (HAE), we knew we were in for a fight. The journey to her diagnosis had taken several years, so we were no strangers to the endurance it takes when navigating doctor appointments, hospitalizations, and various medications. Even when the home health nurse came to our house to train us to administer IV medication properly or pick the right spot for subcutaneous injections, we felt ready to take on the challenge. I entered her medical plan with the idea that we would win this match.
However, after two years, there are still months when Ladybug’s flares overwhelm our ability to medicate her at home. There are times when I may not be astute enough to notice she’s experiencing a prodrome, or warning symptom. And there are still times when it takes me more than two sticks to get the right vein. And that’s just the medical side.
Navigating school, doctor’s notes, medical excuses, makeup work, and educational plans so that she doesn’t fall behind gets tiresome. Changing plans, rearranging schedules, and tag-team parenting with my husband so our other kids don’t feel neglected are hard.
That fateful day in the doctor’s office when we finally received a diagnosis felt like the opening bell of the title fight, and we went into it swinging with everything we had. Still, the fatigue is sometimes there, and HAE feels like it’s getting all its punches in.
Years later, when a reporter asked Foreman about that fight, he admitted that he had been bitter about his loss for many years, demanding a rematch he never got. Then, one day, after he and Ali had become friends, he embraced the idea that he had lost that particular fight. He decided to move on.
As a caregiver, there are days when it may feel like we’re giving it everything we have, but we still aren’t winning. However, it’s important to remember that the bell rings for us to fight another day. And yes, during rumbles in our own jungles, we may end some days feeling like George Foreman. But tomorrow, the bell will ring again, and that means that this time, we come out fighting like Muhammad Ali.
Note: Angioedema News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angioedema News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to angioedema.