Monday, June 3, 2019

Monday

I noticed the other day I am walking much better than I had been a coupe of weeks ago.  In Saturday's exercise class I was squatting much better than previously. I am not yet ready to walk thoughtlessly, and each step is noted as I progress on my much less wobbly pins. But I feel like I have reached a new level of recovery. I use no walkers or canes these days and I haven't for a month or more. I feel stronger and even though stairs remain awkward as do slopes and inclines I am now able to walk as far as I want  for as long as I want, as long its less than about two hours consecutively on my feet.
My swollen feet have shrunk and I can now wear Crocs and the shoes I was wearing before the Catastrophe. When I get in the car I can slide my right leg under the wheel instead of having to sit facing out while swinging my  legs under the wheel one by one. At the supermarket I don't  have to use the electric cart any more. Well except occasionally when  I have already been on my feet long enough to make me stumble when I walk. I can ride my scooter and push it around without falling over though I have to take care getting on and off as I am a novice at balancing!
They tell me I am recovering rapidly but the process feels slow to me. I had expected to be back to normal by now but I'm not quite, not yet. I can feel normal is within my grasp now. I hope when I see the surgeon in late August he will clear me to work at 100% so I can start accruing leave once more. At the moment I work 32 hours a week in four shifts and add my sick and vacation leave to pay myself a full paycheck but that means no vacations this summer.
I have been very lucky throughout this ordeal inasmuch as my employers have been amazingly supportive and my insurance has paid for the best quality care and my share of the bills has been only around $3500, which is bearable. Of course I have lost four months of my accumulated sick leave and so forth but life goes on much as before and many people wrecked as badly as I was by a distracted driver don't have such good fortune. It would have been nice had I been run down by a car with proper insurance and a driver who wasn't a deadbeat but you can't have everything and I have every prospect of 100% recovery. Lucky me in the face of so much misfortune. I don't  need charity or fundraisers and my misfortune is not going to force me to leave the Keys for less expensive housing.
One strangely topical part of this journey through the health care system that I have taken is in regards to the opioid epidemic as it is being described. Oddly enough I read a book while in the hospital that discussed the peculiar and sometimes fatal prescription of and addiction to powerful modern painkillers, Oxycodone and its derivative Percocet which I am prescribed. Dopesick follows several actors in the unfolding public health crisis and pulls no punches. We see how the makers of these pills pushed them to doctors and thus to patients creating a chain of addiction that has proved fatal to tens of thousands of Americans, many poor and isolated in medically under served communities in Appalachia, communities teetering on the brink of extinction. It is an appalling story and worth reading.
So I can't say I was surprised to find myself being warned all the time from well meaning people against the dangers of addiction to pain pills as the subject has spread like a poorly explained oil stain across the news. Yes there is a problem and there are public health solutions that are proving unpalatable to politicians who don't want to be seen as "soft on crime" that old bugbear. That is a subject among several dealt with cogently in the book. For my part I started taking Percocet twice a day usually in the hospital, one at night to sleep and the other in the morning before being wheeled to the gym for physical therapy.  I have continued my use of the drug in order to keep up my exercise regimen which has been effective enough that I am walking without a cane, never mind a walker while working 32 hours a week and walking my dog twice a day. I am well on the way to recovery and  I have been helped in that effort by my  circumspect use of Percocet.  I rarely take the pills now as I find I can bear  the residual pain with occasional over the counter pain relievers. Oddly  enough I did not find any hallucinogenic  or  addictive properties to the pills I took. The pain went away and I guess that was enough, mind you my doses were I am told quite modest, never more than ten milligrams.
I find it difficult to reconcile my experience with opioids with those reported in the press or in more detail in the book above, Dopesick, which is a compelling and fascinating read, especially if like me you know nothing about this medical epidemic. The suffering of opioid addicts is appalling and yet for me Percocet has been a brilliant tool in my recovery. And as I have continued to recover I have needed it less and less and I don't miss it. So why am I not addicted? Beats me. I guess the part that worries me is the fearsome reputation this drug has and I wonder if others in pain who might benefit will be too afraid to take it. I was in agony in the hospital, not surprising really considering the extent of my injuries and any consideration of future addiction was far from my mind. I wanted the pain to end. I recall one day I didn't take a Percocet before physical therapy and I could barely function when I tried to exercise. That was a lesson. The whole thing is a conundrum and I am not qualified to unravel it, but it has me puzzled, why some can't live without these pills and someone like me is indifferent to them once the pain recedes...Perhaps it's  something genetic, the answer for any insoluble problem regarding human behavior. 
Yes, life is good and I look forward to the day I can put one foot in front of the other without thinking about it. I want to be completely pain free. I want to be able to go all day and not need a nap to recharge my batteries half way through the day. I want no more pills in my life of any kind. But for now I'm pretty happy with the way things are as they could be a lot worse. Unimaginably.