Blog #8 – John and Vivian
John was a highly decorated former marine who served in Vietnam. He was shot multiple times and disabled while drawing enemy fire away from his platoon during an ambush. If that wasn’t enough, later in life he was diagnosed with cancer resulting from exposure to Agent Orange. As the cancer attacked his body, he became weaker and need the assistance of a walker to get around.
The one thing that relieved his aches and pains was the whirlpool tub, but John was no longer able to step over the edge and lower himself into a standard tub. His wife, Vivian, decided that he needed a tub with an entrance door, plus a few other small modifications to the master bathroom, and she called Whiteley & Whiteley. When I met with John and Vivian, we walked through the bathroom and made a plan to widen doorways and install grab bars. Then there was the tub. Vivian wanted a tub with a door that John could walk through but I suggested that we install a tub with a wheelchair accessible door. John was using a walker now, but it was possible he could end up in a wheelchair. The tubs with doors are essentially the same, except that the accessible tub has a wider door that extends past the seat in the tub. This allows a person to transfer (slide) from a wheelchair to the tub seat. The door is then closed and the tub filled. Vivian agreed to the upgrade even though accessibility added a few thousand dollars to the cost; nothing was too good for John.
The bathroom was modified and the tub was installed. On the big day, we all stood there as John stepped into the tub and sat down. The immediate goal was to place grab bars on the walls in locations convenient to John. However, we learned very quickly that John couldn’t pull himself up. He was too weak and couldn’t stand to get out of the tub! Thousands of dollars were spent on something that John apparently couldn’t use. We all stood there disappointed. Then, John, still seated in the tub, opened the door, swung his legs out and stood up. The tub was perfect! The fact that we had purchased the tub with the wider, accessible door made it possible for John to use the seat for entrance and exit.
This was another example of the law of unintended consequences. We had purchased the accessible tub for a possible future condition, but found that it was necessary for our immediate situation. With experience comes wisdom and I tucked this experience away in my memory bank.
John passed away last Christmas and, to the best of my knowledge, Vivian still will not use “John’s tub”. She misses him, but she can rest at night knowing that she did everything she could to make his last months as comfortable as possible, including a daily soak in the whirlpool tub.