On August 8th, 1992, The United States Olympic Basketball Team won the gold medal, when they beat the Croatian team in Barcelona. According to Wikipedia, they were described by journalists from around the world as the Dream Team, the greatest sports team ever assembled.
For a long time, I didn’t think it would happen. Despite Herculean effort and talking to just about everyone I knew, I was coming up empty and I was losing hope. The problem was not new to me. I have been hiring and managing caregivers for more than three decades, and finding new ones has always been a struggle. For the last eighteen months or so, the pandemic has only compounded the issue. Not many people wanted to risk bringing Covid-19 into the home of someone as vulnerable as I am. The result was that I was chronically short-handed and of those I did hire, the people who cared about my well-being and doing a good job seemed like they were one in a million. I wanted a dream team, but I was having a hard time finding even one or two caregivers to cover the basics of what I needed.
Therefore, when I reposted the job on Indeed last April and advertised the position in some student groups on KU’s campus, I was not entirely enthusiastic. I had looked forward to hiring good people in the past, and all too often I had been disappointed. When I started the process again last Spring, everything in me said to keep my expectations both low and realistic. I sent a flyer with details about the position to the president of the pre-med club and I waited to see what would unfold.
A couple of days later I heard from Robin. She had completed her Associate’s degree while she was still in high school and had hopes of becoming an Anesthesiologist. When I interviewed Robin over Zoom, I was impressed with her kindness and her bubbly personality. She also has had several amazing ideas about how to make things more accessible to me in my house. We were waiting on her paperwork to come back when I heard from Ben. In his interview, he told me that both of his parents were physical therapists and he was considering becoming a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. During the first few weeks of his employment, I told him that between what his parents did for a living and his future career, his family was my childhood. He thought that was pretty funny. From his first shift as one of my caregivers, Ben has always looked for ways to make my life better.
Jake had worked for me during the summer of 2020. When the job that he had planned for this past summer fell through, he texted me and asked if he could come back and work for me again. He is a really good cook, and he loves coming up with recipes that are both delicious and healthy. In addition, he is a really good guy with a good heart. Ryan, who is also a pre-med major, rounded out the crew a few weeks later. He intrigued me when I interviewed him because he told me that his favorite job had been when he was a nanny for three kids in his neighborhood. Additionally, whenever Ryan works a shift, he wants to know lots of details about my day.
I can’t remember the last time I had a team of four caregivers working for me. It means every shift is covered and that no single caregiver is working more hours than they want to. That makes me happy in all kinds of ways.
But these students are exceptional. At every scheduling meeting on Sunday evenings, they ask me what I need for the week, and I have often been amazed at how the four of them coordinate ways to get me to appointments with doctors and things that I need to do in the community. They also make sure that they infuse lots of good times into my days in the process. A couple of weeks ago, when I had surgery, they collectively made sure that they were checking on me often. A couple of months ago, when a person who was huge in my support system retired and moved across the country, they all made sure that they worked extra shifts so that my loss and my thoughts would not overwhelm me. They have individually all assured me that they will stay working for me as long as they can and that they will do everything possible to make sure that the caregivers coming behind them will always treat me with respect and dignity.
They say that the Dream Team represented the United States in basketball in the 1992 summer Olympics in Barcelona, but I beg to differ. I think the Dream Team is my group of current caregivers, who go above and beyond for me every day. Because of their efforts, my quality of life has exploded. And to me, that is worth more than gold.