Lifelong Learning Programme

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Personal Experience

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A license to fly

Language: English
Country: Italy
Typology: patients and relatives
It is five o’clock, it is still dark, I am here in the kitchen because I cannot sleep, too many things overlap in my mind and my brain is almost smoking at the thought that something else might happen in my life, already proven by a thousand diseases. The struggle with the disease began in 1943, when my mother was hit by a bad pleurisy and by a liver cancer. Five years of long and painful treatments and work followed, because, since we were a peasant family, if you did not work, you had nothing to eat. My father was a prisoner in Egypt, so my mother had to fight with her sisters and brothersin- law, who were all tough, insensitive and authoritarian. When dad returned, he found her in disastrous conditions, so we left Parma, where we would surely have something to eat, but where there was neither serenity, nor work. Dad found a job in a transport firm in Turin and mum was the guardian. At twelve years old, while mum cleaned the offices in the evening, I tried to learn to write. One evening the boss saw me and asked me to work for him. The first year I worked for free then for five thousand liras per month. I had to do all I could because, in the meantime, I started school, and the three years spent at school were tiring, but I was happy, I saw my dreams coming true; unfortunately, everything quickly collapsed: dad had an accident at work and he spent five years passing from one hospital to another (San Vito, Molinette) for interventions, phlebitis, thrombosis, transplants of skin. During those years my little sister was born. A wonderful creature who gave strength to mom and the desire to live to dad. At that time I was sixteen years old. Since the day I began to work, I always hoped that accidentally the typewriter would stop functioning, so that I could go to the workshop in front of us to repair it (I was madly in love with a boy who worked there). We spent six years writing to each other every evening, and in the morning, thanks to our baker as well, I used to leave her my letter and he used to do the same. In the end, I managed to persuade him to be the godfather of baptism of my sister (at that time they were christened in clinics). At eighteen years old, when I got married, I discovered that Gianni was eleven years older than me. A wonderful man, an exemplary father, who gave me everything. He has been my father, my husband, my lover and, even if we sometimes did not know what to give our five children for lunch or dinner, we have never lacked anything. In 1989, on April 16, the youngest of our daughters got married, and still today I can see him walking down the stairs all beaming and proud. After lunch we leave the restaurant, he hugs me and tells me: "Mamy, from now on we are alone at home and you will be my queen". And so it was, because I worked as caretaker at school and, once at home, I usually found he had already done everything, he even used to do the washing and wax the floors. But our happiness lasted only until the end of May, because a peevish cough started to torment him and, the day of our thirtieth anniversary (June 14), the lung specialist said to me: "I'm sorry madam, but for your husband there is nothing more to do.". A SCLC took him away on August 11. My life was broken at forty-six years old and overnight I found myself alone, there was me and our little dog. My children did not want me to feel alone and they decided to sleep a week with me, in turn. But, after a few days, I decided to stay alone, because it was not fair that they were giving up their families for me. For three years, all days I went to the cemetery. Gianni passed away on August 11, 1989 and on September 4 I enrolled in a driving school, because one Sunday the head physician told him "Mr. X, do you want to go and eat pasta with your children?". Then he told me: “Do you see? If you had the license, now we could do so, because the car is in the courtyard.". And, with my heart breaking into pieces, I swore that, as soon as he came back home, I would get it. He looked into my eyes and told me: "Swear it on me.". I had to comply with my oath. I did exercises night and day without a break and the first examination went well. Then I started the driving part and on February 14, St. Valentine's Day, I also passed the driving test. Now, when I drive, I feel as if he is at my side. But my sad story had not come to an end, because in 1993 I met Antonio, a weak man, with diabetes, with a thousand other problems, only, because his wife had left him. I spoke with my children, who understood that I would never forget their father, but that we could be good company to one another, but, after a few days, while we were at a restaurant with friends, he entered diabetic coma. This was the beginning of many concerns, because I could not even make him take water and sugar as a first remedy. I had to use the syringe and, even if I had to force him, I could make him eat. He already took insulin four times a day. Kidneys, pressure, circulation were always under control. His legs were always icy, so he underwent a Doppler examination. Doctors decided to make immediate interventions starting from the neck, then the groin, in the meantime the big toe of his left foot became black, so they decided to intervene. In spite of care and treatments, he was not improving, and they decided to cut the second toe. But another Doppler diagnosed that the veins did not open any more, so they made a bypass and then operated on the remaining toes, doing also 3 transfusions, because he was rather weak. After so much hospitalization, he was discharged, he was very debilitated, and I felt without forces, depressed, and I did not know what to do and whether I would be able to overcome it. Through the hospital, I resorted to the ASL (Local Health Authority) at Settimo. I was scared and I did not know where to begin. I wanted to die, but a ray of sunshine came out. The ADI staff helped me, teaching me what I should do to medicate him and to raise his moral, because he had no desire to live as well, he was always taciturn, lifeless and lacks appetite, but, thanks to their help, we managed to re-emerge. Their character, the altruism and professionalism of these wonderful people is great and, now that Antonio is feeling pretty well and their task is over, we miss them very much. I will never be able to express what I feel toward them, I would like them to feel that our thankfulness is endless. They were our silent angels, who taught us to stand up again when our wings had forgotten how to fly.

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