Friday, October 12, 2018

Isolation

Jennifer the nurse came in around lunchtime and announced the results of the swab had come back on my suppurating wound on my lower hip. When she told me I had MRSA in the dying tissue of the wound I felt a chasm open under me which hasn’t yet closed as I write this. I haven’t Googled the bacterium known in the US as “mersa” because the results are I am advised not great reading.  However as far as I can tell the facility is interested in keeping itself MRSA free. Hence the instructions on the door to suit up as demonstrated elegantly by last night’s nurse’s aide: 

Yeah.  Here I am in Ebola ward. Does not feel great. It seems antibiotics will treat the infection and as the doctor said my life was in far more danger during my original operation than now which is I suppose some comfort. However dying of a tissue rotting inside out disease like MRSA seems, on the scale of things, a tad bit less clean and heroic than expiring of a driver’s distraction on the highway. Your thoughts and prayers as always much appreciated. My freshly installed door warning waiting to be filled with moonsuits: 



Now before people tap elegantly on my door I hear the scratching sounds of ten thousand ravenous rats at the door as the container sways and taps as arrivals pull down protective gear and suit up. Then the tentative tap at the door as though they are reluctant to enter the  leprosarium and as though I the leper, had no idea they were there.  Lord love us!  Two weeks of this...the mysterious plastic wrapped shadow. Sigh. 

The very good news is I have no fever (yet) and the wound is not suppurating a river of pus. What I am told is that some clear fluid is oozing slightly and as long as it is contained by the dressing I am free to attend therapy sessions. That was a piece of excellent news in a dramatic and fearsome afternoon. Fear filled might be more accurate. I focused on the good and after a delayed start for the medical conference I went  to try walking with Eddy and Elias and Natalie.

I sat in my wheelchair with Eddy to my right, Elias to my left and Natalie keeping the chair under my bum. I practiced standing and keeping weight off my left leg. Not easy. Then Eddy said it was time to walk. I took that as meaning I was doing better and I was. I was calm and determined and I focused on his precise instructions. I stood up left foot forward right foot back ready to push me up. Up I went with a little help from my friends. I stood straight. It felt good. A few of those and then we walked. With greater or lesser success I kept weight off my left foot and progressed across the empty gym. In several hours I covered by Eddy’s estimate a total of 14 feet. He was delighted. Witness his smile (and sweet hearted Natalie):

Elias my Occupational (upper body) therapist was also delighted:

Indeed it was a great ending to a crappy day. These people care about me and I am honored by their support. It felt good! 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Stepping Up

I ran before I walked and now I have to go back and check my form.  My physical therapist Eddy saw me walking with the walker...

...and said I was putting too much weight on my uninjured left leg. That’s the leg that attaches to the most broken portion of the pelvis. So Eddy said we start again.  The past two days have been intense remedial. First learning to position my feet, left far forward unable to support weight, right tucked under me taking the full load. Then using my powerful arms and my right leg as a piston up I come weight biased to the right.  There I stand (when successful) looking around like bird freshly hatched enjoying the view from five feet up. 

Then I plonk back into the wheelchair my hairline rimmed with sweat, my breath rasping. Don’t be afraid Eddy says, as though the only thing I’m afraid of is falling. I’m afraid of twisting my knee and causing excruciating pain. I’m afraid of not being able to do it. I’m afraid I may be able to do it. I’m afraid my arms aren’t strong enough. I’m afraid of letting Eddy down. I am a mass of pretentious nonsense contained in my skin wobbling precariously between the past and the future. “UP!” comes the command. I rise on my right leg trying to ignore my left foot which rests on Elias’ foot so he can measure if I am doing it right or NOT. 

Eddy suiting up to take me in hand 
I rise up on the leg and he says good good good. And that means Elias can’t feel me putting weight on the left foot. The first time goes well, each subsequent attempt to stand gets a little more messy. No says Elias, too much weight, referring to my left foot on his foot. I rest. 

Elias and I
Then the big one, not just standing at the walker but using it to...walk. Properly this time with no weight on my left foot. I get coached.  “Walker. Left Foot. Right Foot.” That’s the mantra. I rise up and start calling the moves. Walker forward. Take left foot and move slightly forward, heavy weight on arms and right leg. Right leg forward. Eddy holds me by the belt, Elias supports my left arm and foot and Natalie keeps the wheelchair close to my butt. I got four steps in, the last being kind of crap with too much weight on my left. 

All that exercise is paying off. My knee hurts a little but nothing like the day before. Tomorrow I trust it will hurt less. I shall rise more gracefully. I shall learn to trust my right leg.  I shall walk with the walker. Soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

House The Workers

The Key West Citizen reports a couple of major changes in business ownership in the city this week. Benihana has been bought by the people who own neighboring Trattoria Oceanside which announcement was accompanied by a promise to revitalize the businesses next to the airport. Let me be honest: I don’t care for dinner as theater so for the fans of the Japanese chain I’m glad to say no staff changes are expected.

The other bit of business news comes in the form of the sale of the whole Alonzo’s/Commodore/White Tarpon complex with the parking lot at Key West Bight now known as the Historic Waterfront etc..Alonzo’s I like.  A lot. And happily no changes are announced though some sort of mysterious enhancement of experience is apparently in the works. 

The Alonzo’s sale is interesting to me as a partner in the project is the same group of backers who got Stock Island Marina Village built which says something positive.  The new marina offers first rate facilities combined with a laid back neighborhood feel that has a food truck and dog park on premises, the sort of down home touches that give you hope they have an idea of how to treat people in this particular community. This could be a real good thing for Alonzo’s. 

North Roosevelt has been the scene of more wrecks. A couple of days ago an elderly man on a bicycle ride as run down and killed. Which when you remember the other cycling death in front of the Green Parrot last week is a reminder why Key West does not have a good bicycling reputation. Plus a car wreck led to injuries on the Boulevard along with lane closures recently. This is not tourist season either which makes it all the more disturbing. We are killing each other. The woman who cut me off is a resident too.  Apparently her husband has been going around saying I “broke a few bones” which is one way to get me mad after six weeks unable to walk or take a shit by myself.

All this exchange of business is a reminder that this is still Key West, the city with no housing. This is the place that accommodates the poorest and their meager belongings or the richest and their vast baggage train of expectations. The inbetweeners like you and me have a head scratching problem. There are developers trying to figure out some answers yet when workforce housing is proposed, on Summerland, Sugarloaf and Big Coppitt Keys the neighbors rise up in chorus and start lamenting the familiar refrain: Not In My Backyard. In which case we have to ask if not yours, whose? 

You would imagine a city with an ever worsening housing situation would be stepping up the search for solutions. The trouble is, in the Southernmost City there is money to be made from inertia so for now nothing is happening. No renovation of appallingly inefficient uncomfortable 70 year old public housing, no bold vision, no discussion of planning. Leave it up to a newspaper reporter to do for the city what the city dare not dream of...

Check out this aerial shot (from the web) of Ibis Bay Resort for sale.  Reporter Mandy Miles suggested the city buy it for workforce housing. Brilliant, no? Not at all it turns out. Give workers waterfront homes to rent? Hell no!  That’s the level of thinking we are at in Key West.  It’s a shame because this sort of thinking is what could put Key West in the bold innovative category of small city. 
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On another subject allow me to take some space here and thank a couple of readers for their thoughtfulness. I am in rehab in Miami and lack access to the paraphernalia of the postal service but I received a note from Glen in Colorado who wrote me a very legible hand written letter full of pithy wisdom and humor. Thank you Glen.  Your initiative sending your letter to the police department in Key West was quite brilliant. 



Fran wrote and sent a supply of tea equipment which I have received with gratitude. I am glad I answered the phone and got the job done when you called 911 but you should have called back to introduce yourself. I am happy to have you buy me a drink! Chance encounters are way too haphazard. When I am back at home in my routine my email is conchscooter @ gmail.com 
My address if you want to give me a piece of your mind while I am helpless in bed for the foreseeable future with time to ponder your words, is:
Michael Beattie 
Room 508 
Encompass Health
20601 Old Cutler Road
Miami FL 33189 

Health South bought Encompass Health October 1st and adopted their name to sound less regional. The facility remains the same excellent rehab. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rolling Through Life

I said it last night to my wife who was pottering around getting her clothes ready for her work week.  “I wish I could get up and walk.”  It’s a thought I haven’t uttered out loud since I lost the use of my legs on August 31st. My wife had her own doctor’s appointment in Miami then she went off home for the week to work and look after Rusty while I stay here and exercise my heart out. I took a few tentative steps while also putting my left foot more firmly on the ground than I should have done: 

As I become more physically active the restraints put on me by my wheelchair become ever more apparent. My chair is too wide for me and this creates numerous difficulties.  The back and the seat aren’t taut and the sagging produces a ghastly slump which becomes tailbone painful after a few hours. The wheels are so wide I have difficulty reaching the rings that I am supposed to use to propel myself. Often I resort to grasping the tire which is unsanitary and gets me yelled at. Even then the chair at 26 inches wide is a tank and an utterly unresponsive lump to move.

I send helpers out to seek out a 22 inch chair left perhaps by a departing patient to replace my monster. No luck so far. No response to my request from my case worker. I soldier on.  At least I am past the Hoyer Lift and now risk my neck by sliding from bed to chair and back: 

As long as you keep the plank under your thigh and don’t allow yourself to slide forward it’s quite simple. Strong arms help and an ability to wiggle. Meanwhile daily life continues. 

At home I use a safety razor and I stand nonchalantly before the mirror. Here it’s a bit different but I got the job done. Bit like the struggle to brush your teeth without dribbling toothpaste on yourself. It’s a whole different way to live.

A Perfect Saturday In Rehab

Friday night saw me grumpy in bed. My wife was coming down Highway One bringing the love dog with her when a failed passing attempt I believe at Mile Marker 72, near Duck Key, foiled her. 

It gets to be annoying for many reasons living along a single access road but this sort of nonsense, in low season no less, is doubly frustrating. No one died but the helicopter landed on the bridge to get a car occupant to Miami in a hurry. I didn’t envy her the flight...

As always with Facebook the details of what and why are absent. The pertinent news is that traffic was badly stalled for hours and I did not get to see dog or wife. I did get to speak by electric telephone with the wife. The dog was incommunicado.  Grr. I felt sorry for myself. 

I received word Saturday the highway was open and a second expedition was en route for my relief. I had a nice long chat with a friend. We sorted the world out and each other, a call that restored my equanimity and prepared me to meet my small brown bundle of love. It was actually pretty cool being able to get from bed to chair using a plank only. No more Hoyer Lift. I got this picture from my wife who witnessed my first attempts: 

She rolled me out to the courtyard where the breeze was blowing and Rusty ran around chewing grass and sticking his head in bushes. We sat in companionable silence and read, dropping comments on the news of the day into the peace of a bright warm Fall afternoon in South Florida.  It was pretty darned pleasant let me say. 



A neighbor of mine, Sonny who I’ve met and encouraged in rehab came out pushed by his devoted mother.  It was great. We traded war stories about coping with hospitals as only survivors can. It’s a small select group of us that knows the misery of ICU and the pain of recovery. My wife and his mother chatted about the vicissitudes of supporting patients in these strange circumstances.  It was good. 

I don’t know how you spent your Saturday but as odd as it sounds I don’t envy you.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Lazarus

I stood yesterday, unaided, for the first time since August 31st. 

Let’s face it, not terribly elegant and I felt like a sack of potatoes but I got out of the chair by myself.  Lazaruscrosevup and stumbled out into a new life. Elias was pretty happy.  I got an extra chocolate espresso. The weights went up as the daily effort to increase upper body strength continues. 

A little at a time.  After the surgeon approved weight bearing as tolerated on my right leg and “toe taps” (10%) on my uninjured left leg I no longer need the Hoyer Lift and I use a board to transfer from bed to chair. 

Loren thought I did a pretty good job with minimal assistance. She is in green denoting she is a transporter but she only has to push me now, no more holding my leg. Whichever therapy school she gets into will be lucky to have her. 

It’s absurd how hard I struggle with exercises that in my former life would have seemed no problem at all. It’s my new stage in recovery. I push as hard as I can adding pounds and feeling my muscles ache when I am back in bed. Yesterday Sonny and his Mom were in Physical Therapy and she said he was having a crappy day.  I saw a challenge as the young adult with dreads and flashing black eyes glared at me. His father is black and his mother is white and I imagine before his stroke he stood like a Colossus astride two cultures in our terribly divided society, tall and lanky and strong and proud. 

Hey Sonny I said. He glared. I heard you are having a crappy day. He acknowledged me so I told him about my agony going to the doctor to get good news. We compared notes how hard everything is. Then I dropped my bombshell. “Eddy loves me more than you,” I said confidently. Hell no he said. Eddy came back and suddenly Sonny was all smiles and cooperation as I sat there and pressed and bent my legs. 

Another successful day in rehab. Back to my room to contemplate the idea I might go to the bathroom by myself pretty soon. 

Weirdly enough I’ve heard nothing from the insurance but I’m thinking I get to stay here a while longer as now I can stand and move along in my therapy. Here’s hoping...Thanks as always for all good wishes.