Saturday, September 22, 2018

Daily Life, Legless

I spent ten years, from 7 to 17 in English boarding schools which I like to describe as akin to Hogwarts without the magic.  Thus when presented with a plate of institutional food I tend to get warm fuzzies of being looked after.  Beef stew strawberry shortbread and milk. Hot tea to follow.  I’m good, very good. Too bad they serve it at 4:45pm.  A tad bit early...

I sit up a little in bed, not too much as my stomach has been sliced to get access to my pelvis for surgery and I pull the plate up over a napkin and with BBC radio 4 on the miracle of the internet I spoon food and ponder Brexit in my solitary rehab room (Thank you Cigna). Later I’ll have a candy or a Kind bar or something with Netflix on my phone.  Then Percocet. Then oblivion. And no I’m not getting Oxycodone addicted. I am addicted to riding but I want no comments on either please. It’s a lost cause. I’m 60 and I know who I am. 

The break in the day is rolling out for therapy for a few hours.  I come back battered.  I don’t complain but I am as covered in sweat as if it were broga. I desperately want to be able to put weight on my legs.  Even just my good left leg....it will come they promise. 

My therapist Eddy marches people up and down the stairs so they call the contraption Eddy’s Mountain. And then I met Missy the therapy dog who comes by Friday through Sunday...

And there I am stretching legs and arms and building back my core strength; leaning forwards, building confidence preparing to transfer from bed to wheel chair. Heady stuff. 

It’s a learning curve. I met Eleanor yesterday (I can’t photograph patients) a teacher who suffered a stroke. She is 90 years old all wispy white hair and gentle smile who was widowed 8 years ago and is learning to climb stairs with confidence. She is of Hungarian descent and has a wicked sense of humor with no fear of talking of death. We have a date in heaven when the time comes. 

Television news remains nonsense I have discovered now I have access to cable. However Sunday night at nine Anthony Bourdain’s last series begins so I shall be glued to CNN probably with tears in my eyes. Don’t bother calling. His death really affected me. I felt kinship for his outspoken eccentricity I think. 

Get this: two of my scooter forum buddies sent me care packages. Pretty bloody special! And this is the weekend. My own therapy dog. 





Have a weekend everybody!  I am !!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Torture Chamber

There is a perverse thread in human nature where we delight in freaking each other out. Physical Therapy is a case in point. Once your trauma is stabilized and your broken bones realigned you leave the hospital and move to rehab.  All this predicated by the harridans at your insurance company.  We fought and managed to present a united front such that Cigna retreated and moved me to a fine facility in Cutler Bay called Health South. I like it here a lot. (The inevitable and useless television). 

“Rehab will kick your ass” is the phrase repeated over and over and in assorted form by friendly people who think it’s a helpful warning. I don’t know how making me apprehensive makes things better but people are weird. And by the way it actually won’t kick your ass.  Read on 

Rehab may kick YOUR ass but that’s because you didn’t work out before you got in whatever pickle you are in. Occupational Therapy deals with the upper body and Physical Therapy with the lower body and they each have a series of exercises carefully balanced against your injuries. I have a history of exercise and though fat I had muscle. Now a five pound weight makes me sweat. That is not uplifting but I know it is the path to recovering the use of my legs. 

Rehab is carefully controlled exercise.  My right thigh is broken in two places and my right knee cap split. Yet I can put some weight on it because of the way my pelvis broke.  My left leg is fine, but can bear no weight because of the pelvic fractures above it.  Oh and my left clavicle in my shoulder cracked too.  I am a mess. 

Yet because Health South is a pro outfit with educated and thoughtful staff they dream up ways with all my limitations to increase strength appropriately while making me sweat.  It’s not like sleeping but it’s not like torture either.  It’s a program and my goal is to be able to shit on a commode properly by myself. I’ve moved up to bed pans which is better than shitting the sheets but these guys can make it better than that. 

Plus they have an espresso machine that dispenses chocolate espresso.  OMG. I’m addicted. Bugger the Percocet. 

Besides which I get out of my room and out of the goddamn bed, I see clouds and palms and sunlight. I joke around with strangers and I start the slow but determined process of rebuilding my muscles.  
What an interesting experience this has all been.  And no, it’s not torture, it’s life.  Speaking as one who nearly died.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Flying By Hoyer Lift

If you are lucky enough to have never dealt with a Hoyer Lift consider yourself blessed.  It’s a crane used to get immobile people into and out of beds and chairs. Here’s  the company literature on the subject of this very useful tool:

They roll you from side to side in bed and put what amounts to a huge IKEA bag under you with six loops all round it.  Then they bring the lift into your room and attach loops to hooks on the machine. 

Sosa a nurse’s aide got me out of bed and into my wheelchair all by himself. He’s prettty smart and very compassionate like everyone at Health South. And efficient: 

So there you hang like a sack of potatoes and I love it! It’s like flying. The bag holds you distributing your weight evenly and you are up in the air smiling like a big fat newborn.  Getting photobombed (I told you these people are amazing). Hilarious. 

After Physical Therapy they rolled me back to my room in the wheelchair and left me to have lunch sitting up with a promise of a return later to Hoyer me back to bed.  Which was great for a change but after half an hour I felt myself slipping forward in the chair. Hmm.  That’s not right. As you can see below my feet are in no position to support me yet. 

Well, with my left foot not on the support and my right leg broken in two places there was no way to stop the slide. My emergency button was out of reach - duh! - and the door was closed but I started yelling. “Help! Room 508! Help! Someone? Help! Anyone!” After scrambling a bit and trying to gain time by wiggling I reached the button and caught it as it fell toward the floor.  Help arrived. Lots of help. They righted the tilting ship that was Conchscooter in his wheelchair and a party ensued. 







You lovely people.  Lots of laughs. Back to bed. Bring on the Hoyer Lift I say! 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Awaiting Torture

This whole business of nearly dying and being resuscitated is a bit new to me. Mostly it has, as you would expect with me, brought on a lot of heavy thinking about life and the meaning of fear and love and obligation and use of time. More prosaically it means rehab. 

First it meant a mundane ambulance transfer out of Jackson South to the rehab at Health South.  A rough ride on my still torn pelvis it was too. No luxury there. 

It was done late at night so I saw nothing of the world outside.  The EMT monitoring me used to live in the Lower Keys which created an instant bond. We Are Everywhere. Moving out of the hospital meant no more trauma alerts and while it is medically supervised you are presumed to have basic health status: ie breath and not be anywhere near ready to pop off.  Gone are the IVs and monitors reduced to four checks daily of blood pressure on a rolling device.  Very nice.

A long way from ICU where I lay bleeding out one end as they poured blood in the other. I arrived around ten pm Friday and as such have not yet seen the gym known to some inmates as the torture chamber. I am a little apprehensive as they say Physical Therapy is torture.  Not exercise, but making your body do what it feels it cannot do. For my part I want to walk and shit in the toilet. I hope I am ready for what is to come. 
Thanks for demanding I keep up this page.  I shall do my best to be coherent and spell checked as I type on my phone on my back through the haze of all these experiences. 



Friday, September 14, 2018

Off To Rehab

Today is the day I supposedly am sent forth by Cigna Insurance to a rehab facility of their choice for several months struggle with Physical Therapy. 

Every step on this arduous journey involves a voyage into the unknown for me who has never been in the hospital before. Sean my six foot eight inch Physical Therapist has explained the process and it is a fearsome mountain to climb to regain use of my lower body. Without him I’d not have taken the first steps. 

In hospital one lives a different life cut off from concerns about hurricanes and political scandals and economic indicators and pop stars fighting. Did he have a bowel movement? That’s a big one. Taking a shit indicates all is well with the world, never mind 160 mph winds in the Philippines. 

While the administrators decide where to send me I prepare to leave Jackson South for places unknown. And regimens unknown and all I can think is how soon will I be shitting on a toilet not in the sheets? It’s a much bigger deal than you realize.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Slow Recovery

Slowly I move forward toward the sunlit uplands people walk and play and eat and drink with a second thought. For the time being I am a mass of chemicals and proportions and numbers my blood oxydation is fine without tubes now. Physical Therapy has me sitting up two hours a day. A team of dedicated nurses wipe my bottom and inspect my wet stools (“No blood! “Fabiola shouted triumphantly as though I’d laid an egg). I am no longer shy of exposing my testicles for cleaning to a pair of unerotic cheerful cleaning hands.  “Swelling has gone down Mr Michael!” announces Maria like the cheerleader she should be. 

She likes to shave but we have to send to the OR got the blades as there are none in intensive care. My wife is not simply permitted to go out and buy blades. They have to be approved. Maria worried I would like cut of the shave. I was happy to have clean sheets and clean cheeks. Mauricio the blood tech was enchanted ‘Oh to have a girlfriend who would do that ‘ he murmured over and over again. Maria ignored him. My wife held him back  

But in the end we are obstacles to time off. Mirta was eager to go get her hair done for her weekend off. Fabiola had a concert ...”If I don’t see you...” the implicit sub-text being better not to see you else you will still be a useless lump of metamorphosing beetle helpless on your back when time off is over. Anything is better than that. Father John from St Richards came by radiating disapproval and lack of love all Irish pink flesh and stern upper lip. I confessed my paltry sins but got him to accidentally slip me some ice water melt which tasted heavenly after I got Last Rites and all was forgiven: he looked at me like something a starving polar bear would discard. 

The boys send photos of Rusty I pore over like a distant lover seeking portents of future harmony. Webb Chiles writes me unsentimental letters from his sailing base in South Carolina riding out Hurricane Florence. He drinks my share of the guns and tonics we would share were I there with him. Humor I enjoy as he drinks and now I can’t 

My world is circumscribed by my blood pressure and my needles to which I am no longer the least bit phobic. “Need blood? Go for it,” I offer jocularly. Need to stick a basket in a vein to catch errant clots? My groin is your groin. No pain too much no humiliation too great.” 

I no longer much care about politics or the world or insurance companies.  I long for my breathing tube to be removed from my nose allowing a to return to eating and drinking normally. Nothing extravagant but I crave cereal with milk and fresh fruits and Gatorade with electrolytes and long cold cups of water. And sweet yoghurt.  That is the extent of my world these days. Maybe Monday the goddamn tube goes. Maybe Monday I order breakfast for lunch. A Red Letter Day that would be. Indeed.