Supportive Friends Can Make a Big Difference When Facing Health Issues

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by Charlton Harris |

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Recently, my former brother-in-law Johnny invited me to his house for the weekend to spend some much-needed time with friends. He lives about 40 miles outside of Philadelphia, and I love visiting him because his home sits on a hill on a quiet cul-de-sac. I expected it to be a beautiful weekend given the fall weather and changing leaves.

Every time I visit, Johnny takes great care of me. He doesn’t mind picking me up along with my oxygen concentrator — not an easy grab-and-go item. I was looking forward to a relaxing stay.

My son decided he would join me on this trip. Johnny also told me that our mutual friends Eric and Gabe were flying in from Cleveland, Ohio, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, respectively. Johnny has known them since college, and I met them about 10 years ago. One of Johnny’s fraternity brothers would be stopping by as well.

Once my son and I arrived at the house and got situated, I hooked up my oxygen concentrator, put on my slippers, grabbed a beer, and turned on the TV. I needed some guy time and thought to myself, “Let the games begin!”

Later that day, the guys finally arrived. We hugged one another for at least 30 seconds each. I think the reunion was more moving for me than for the fellas who traveled farther. The last time we had seen one another was three years ago when they visited me at the hospital after my first lung collapse. That was a lonely and scary time for me. That’s not to say I no longer struggle with fear, but during that time, I didn’t even know if I would recuperate.

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A Hospitalization Reminded Me There Are Good Lessons in the Toughest Challenges

When you’re hospitalized and adjusting to a new way of life, it’s important to keep your head on straight. These guys helped me to do just that. They took it upon themselves to make the journey and visit me at my lowest point. Having friends like that can make all the difference between starting on the road to recovery and simply counting the days. They reminded me that sarcoidosis doesn’t define me.

I felt very comfortable over the next few days. Spending the weekend with these clowns was just what I needed. We even Zoomed with another old friend in Washington, D.C., who wasn’t able to travel. He and I went to Penn State together, so he shared stories and jokes about our time there.

The best part of the weekend was that no one judged me for my past medical crises or the current state of my health. We talked about my hospitalization from three years ago, and I answered my friends’ questions about rehabilitation, my exercise regimen, and how I’m trying to put all the pieces of my life back together. They offered words of encouragement to me and my son, and told us we should continue to share our God-given gifts with the world.

Sometimes we find the greatest support in the unlikeliest of places. The people who help us move forward may not be the ones we expected.

I was feeling a little self-conscious about having my oxygen concentrator with me, but the guys never gave it a second thought, considering that the last time they saw me, I was hooked up to oxygen and had chest tubes inserted. I was concerned my oxygen hose would get in everyone’s way, but it didn’t. As one of my friends mentioned, “If you need it, you need it. What’s the problem?”

And just like that, we made up for three years of not seeing each other in one weekend, and it felt like we had never missed a beat. I was reminded that accepting myself makes it easier for others to accept me. I can no longer race my kids or walk a mile, but I’m still here for a reason — if only to tell my kids that they can overcome any obstacle life throws their way. Even if I can’t do some of the things I did 20 years ago, I will damn sure still try — with my oxygen, of course!

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Note: Sarcoidosis 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 Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.

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