I have a very close relationship with my brother Kev who has Down’s syndrome as there’s only a three-year age gap between us. He’s always been very protective of me and worries even if I just have a sniffle or a slight cough.
In the past three years, I’ve actually had two surgeries for separate injuries. My first was in November 2019 and that was hip surgery. Though my brother was aware that I was in a lot of pain with my injury, and he knew I had to go to hospital sometimes to see my consultant, he was okay with all of that because I didn’t appear any different to him.
But when I was informed I would need to have surgery on my hip, I was really worried about how Kev would take it. I knew he would possibly panic about seeing me on crutches and wearing dressings, so I set out to prepare him as much as possible. I showed him images of crutches and of people walking with them – though he always referred to them as sticks! I sometimes had dressings on after having steroid injections, so he was quite comfortable with seeing those on me already.
Post-surgery, he was an absolutely brilliant help. He wasn’t afraid at all. He would assist me with sitting down, he would pass my crutches to me when I needed to get back up and he always kept an eye on his big sister. He would also open doors for me to make sure I could move around safely – he just wanted to help as much as he could.
But to shield him a little, I did spend the first immediate week after the surgery at my partner’s house so he didn’t see the blood-stained dressings in the early days as that would have distressed him. When I went to recuperate in the family home a week later, my dressings were no longer leaking so he was very relaxed about both the crutches and the dressings. Making sure he saw me a few days later rather than immediately after surgery definitely made a difference.
Fast forward to four months ago (March 2022) and I had a second surgery, this time for a shoulder and bicep injury. I again showed him photos of people wearing slings so he could get a little more used to them. I also ordered a cheap one from eBay to occasionally put on but bizarrely, he didn’t like this at all. He would actually ask me to take it off when I wore it briefly purely for his benefit! But he was very at ease with the navy hospital sling I had to wear constantly for five weeks, and he even commented that he liked that one.
Second time around, I spent the first week elsewhere again, so my dressings were clean by the time I saw him. It also enabled me to get used to the sling before we spent time together.
Finding a way to help my brother cope with what was ahead for me surgery-wise was hugely beneficial for both of us.