Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Learning To Live

Rehabilitation is rebirth. It’s a matter of being restored to your fellows as a functional human being. For me it has become a process of learning to live again. I like to think the lessons will stick with me and were I 25  one would be dubious. As I am already in the final decades of my life I have high hopes these experiences carefully recorded here will influence my remaining years for the better. I can say I have found a measure of peace I would never have expected and even a loss of fear of death. Every day brings new challenges and joys and new human connections and I love every one of them. I am shaking off my introverted carapace. I told a good friend of mine - yes I am a good writer, an admission I’d never have made before. My life must be worth living if I have survived and flourished through this chaos. 

This Dali egg symbolizing rebirth ( he loved eggs) has been in my mind lately as I enter into the toughest phase of protracted rehabilitation. I am discovering the reason why Physical Therapy is often described as torture. The body which had been at rest and has been atrophying is now called to action so in addition to muscle exhaustion which follows naturally from exertion I have the pain of overcoming atrophy and the pain of exerting the skin around my many incisions!  It’s an interesting process. 

Havana 1933 in a Key West exhibit
Atrophy sets in three days after you stop using a muscle or ligament I am told by my therapists. My right knee was held rigid for five weeks and now suddenly needs to bend and support weight and so forth. It doesn’t exactly hurt but it feels almost as though the joint is encased in dried glue. Forcing it to bend feels unnatural. I do lots of exercises in bed to induce it to loosen up and in the gym too, pushing and pulling. 

I was comparing notes with a man who has lost the use of one side of his body. We ended up giggling at each other as I struggle to stand on one leg grabbing desperately at the parallel bars. When it’s his turn he forgets to move his affected arm completely while I noisily remind him. These movements all used to be so easy  we lament to each other.  Not taking anything for granted again in the future he says echoing a common theme among survivors of disaster. Cloaked in that sentiment we are wheeled off to our separate rooms and lives. 

Art of  Makiki of Key West at the Custom House