The Blessings of Housemates: When Community Becomes More

Just over a month ago, on July 11th, the article in the New York Times was published. I spent the weekend basking in the glow of the new attention being paid to the Women for Living in Community movement.

But that all changed on Monday.

I woke up to neck and arm pain so excruciating, I immediately thought it may be a stroke or heart attack. My pain was similar to the warning signs of women in my age group. The more I writhed around on the floor in intense pain the more I realized that I needed help. Because of my shared household, help was only 5 feet away in our common kitchen where my housemate was standing.

She only had to take one look to see that something was wrong. I described my symptoms and she asked me what I wanted to do. In that moment I really had no idea. This was an entirely new kind of panic.

Quickly we determined that the best course of action was a trip to the local emergency rom. I had never been there before and the old stories from time spent with my parents at the end of their lives where whirling around my brain. The ER is a scary place. It felt like the longest drive of my life but it was only 6 miles away. I was grateful I had someone to drive me. My roommate Christine was at the wheel.

The pain didn’t subside when I arrived at the hospital. After a battery of tests and a liberal application of a variety of drugs it was determined that I had a herniated disk in my neck. I left the ER after 7 hours with prescriptions to help the pain and reduce the inflammation. I would be contacted soon to discuss the next steps for treatment.

This in-between period is both extremely important and terribly dull. You take your medications and do absolutely nothing. Doing anything could affect the spinal column and that kind of threat certainly got my attention.

Now, I am awaiting a consultation for surgery to repair the damage and hopefully return to a slightly more normal life. And while my injury was devastating it also taught me a much bigger lesson:

Who would take you to the ER?

Without my built in community I don’t know how long it would have taken for another friend or even an ambulance to get to my house. Instead, Christine was there to help and I could get attention right away.

I think about how this could happen to me. I hadn’t experienced a traumatic fall or wasn’t participating in extreme sports. I had no warning. One day I was fine and the next I couldn’t move or drive or do anything more than rest in a recliner. Who knows, it may have been a result of 30 years behind a desk. The truth is this could happen to anyone.

Christine responded to the situation with her usual humor even after sitting for 7 hours at the hospital, “Next time you want to spend time together, I am planning what we are doing!”

My story isn’t over yet. I still have to wait on the treatment plan, recovery, and everything that comes after it. I have more to share about how technology helped me get the care I needed, but that is another blog post all together. Who would have thought that I would have been grateful for my handicapped accessible shower that was already here when I moved in? When I would give tours of the mother-in-law suite of our shared house I would say to my guests, “I hope I never need this!”


Maybe this was a sick joke from my alter ego the Grand Nudge to make sure that I didn’t just talk about building community but that I lived it to the very core. I know now that I am glad I didn’t delay the ideas I had about creating a shared household where we could all be part of each others support network. Learn from my experience and don’t delay!

You may read more about my new journey going forward. This is just the start.

In the meantime, we would love to hear from you. What has your experience been with injury or illness and how has community helped you receive treatment or recover? Comment here or join the conversation over on Facebook!


  1. This is exactly what I hope to have one day! I recently had a mild stroke. Everything worked out good. Both sons were there at the hospital but I tell you – I would have rather had a few of my age more empathetic friends with me – they could absolutely not relate to what I was feeling. I know housemates would be a blessing!
    Raleigh, NC

    • Marianne Kilkenny says

      Yes, it was great to have my wonderful housemate there. Always knew it was a way to live. Never know when things are going to happen. Not to live in fear.
      Hope you are making your plans and preparing for making a living situation as you want a reality. Start now. Good to hear from you!


  1. […] month I shared the story of my injury and was looking forward to recovery. I do want to let you all know that I have been doing very well since I had surgery to repair the […]

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