Posts Tagged rehabilitation
This is my November column for Hill Country Happenings magazine.
This Thanksgiving will have a different backdrop from last years’ when the holiday was spent in a medical rehabilitation facility. Yes, the accident walking my dog Rex changed my life forever. I relive the accident and so does Rex every time I talk about it in front of him. I’m sure he has become a champion of the song, “Let It Go.” Dr. Lue had said it would take up to a year to get functional and he wasn’t kidding. So many things I took for granted like scratching my nose, getting dressed, combing my hair, bathing, eating and using the bathroom — I couldn’t do for weeks. I lost all my independence. It was an experience I never want to repeat.
There was a domino effect for everything. Since I couldn’t use my left hand, elbow or right shoulder, I couldn’t drive and therefore I had to stay under home health for rehabilitation for five months. Several times a week my occupational therapist Tiffany would work with me. Both dogs had a keen sense of her arrival even before the toot of her horn as she locked her car door. By the time she got to the front door, both dogs would be there wagging their hind ends — since Boxers wag with everything that’s connected to the tail. Tiffany also owned a Boxer so she was tolerant of Roxie’s assistance during my therapy sessions. Roxie would lay her head in Tiffany’s lap while the therapist worked on my elbow. One time I was crying out in pain and Roxie gently pushed her paw on Tiffany’s arm and looked at me as if to say, “Is this really necessary?” “It’s OK, Roxie,” I would respond and the canine would retreat to her post under the table. With home health also came nurses to monitor blood pressure, temperature and medication. My nurses were Sommer and Shannon, who alternated visits. Both had an interest in sports so we always had something to talk about. Sommer’s brother-in-law was one of the leading high school basketball recruits. Shannon was a huge Saints and LSU fan so she scheduled her visits when she knew I would have on football. With nursing visits came Rex’s fascination of the blood pressure cuff. He was mesmerized by the pumping sound, but when he heard hissing, he quickly exited.
Finally in May, I was showing enough mobility that Dr. Lue released me to drive. Less than a mile from our house was an outpatient therapy group. When I got evaluated I noticed that both therapists were very pregnant. That didn’t keep Jen and Christina from administering intense pressure on my stubborn muscles in both arms. I saw the gals several days a week all summer. Come September, they went to have their babies and I was assigned a guy named Dave. I’ll never forget the day I met Dave. He spotted the bright green “Boston Monstah” tee I was wearing. He grinned. “You know what that is?” he inquired. I laughed and told him about my trip to Fenway Park in June and about being a native New Englander. It turned out that Dave was also from up there, and like me loves the Red Sox. After we commiserated about the awful season, we moved on to football. It turned out that they he too is into Fantasy Football. Not only that, he and I had both had pretty close to identical lineups! I was so into discussing football that my mind was taken off the aggressive therapy session. The next time I met with Dave, I had made progress with rotating my left wrist further. I was elated and told him I was so lucky that I hadn’t had the accident back when I was a flight attendant. I explained that it would have been pretty tricky carrying out the meal trays. Dave looked back with a blank stare. I extended my arms and pretended to carry meal trays, with my left hand tilted so the imaginary food would have spilled. “Carrying out meal trays?” he questioned. I stared at his young face and then realized the generation gaps. “Go ask your grandmother,” I suggested. We laughed. The next session, Dave targeted my right shoulder extension. “Now raise your arms and give me a touchdown!” he ordered. I proudly raised both arms almost in a perfect parallel, and then positioned my fingertips to meet. “Safety!” I proclaimed. Dave shook his head. “That’s not good for our quarterback.” I don’t care — a safety is good for rehabilitation and the defense too!
It has always amazed me how football players who make lunging catches and scrape across the solid turf, get up like nothing happened. Unfortunately, some don’t. Instead they end up carted off the field in excruciating pain, loaded in an ambulance and within hours, are in surgery. Weeks or months later they return to the playing field, but what happens in between? I have lived it first-hand.
It was easy post-surgery with a catheter hooked up and food as well as pain medication coming in intravenously. I figured with my right arm in a sling and left arm in a full cast I would be in the hospital for a few days. Not so! They had me up and walking in the hall, flashing in my hospital gown with an aide, toting all the equipment I was hooked up to, behind me. I was released within an hour of that feat and sent to my first rehabilitation center. I found out quickly that those places are a combination rehab, long-term care facility and nursing home. Seeing the reality of “health care” was downright scary! The main contacts for my needs were the aides and they would determine if a nurse was warranted. The sad part was the aide-to-patient ratio was ludicrous so getting an aide to answer the call bell was the challenge. Now having been a flight attendant, I understood how some overuse the summoning device. However, in my case, I had no use of either arm or one hand so when I rang the bell, help was definitely needed. I hated counting on others and it really sapped the dignity out of me. Thanksgiving night proved to be a turning point when no one was answering my call light. It was either wet the bed or improvise. An hour later, a text of my accomplishment was heard ‘round the world! The recipients at midnight I’m sure thought I had been in someone else’s meds. I was free at last — to accomplish all the tasks involved in going to the bathroom by myself! Perhaps I could get my “walking papers!” Not so fast! The doctor and my hubby’s concerns were the dogs jumping on me and reinjuring something. As it was pointed out to me, one of those dogs was the cause of me to being in there. I was not pleased with the news of two more weeks of a rehab facility.
Fast forward to the second week of December and my next doctor’s visit. Dr. Lue was pleased with the healing of my left elbow and shoulder. Not only was I getting to go home, but I acquired a contraption for my elbow instead of the sling. Remembering my interest in football, Dr. Lue proudly communicated that it was the device football players wore when they returned to the playing field after elbow surgery. The next thing I knew I nestled in an almost two-foot mechanism which felt like about ten pounds on my arm. It was locked in ninety degrees forcing my elbow to stay in place. Do think there was a problem with the dogs jumping on me after I got home? Hardly! Rex wouldn’t even get within two rooms of me!
In December one usually spends it on shopping and tree-trimming. Not me… I was busy tackling day to day activities like putting on deodorant by zooming my underarm over the container and experiencing several near misses. Half the time the vessel would end up on the floor spinning like a roulette wheel. There was also the “Guess How Many Additional Items Will Fall” game each time I was in the pantry retrieving with my grabber or putting on make-up. Rick had a better appreciation of the art of cosmetology as he tackled securing a ponytail. One of my personal favorites was the day I turned on the toothbrush just short of my mouth. I had toothpaste everywhere including my armpit which the deodorant had missed! There were also milestones like the day I held the hairdryer with my left arm and partially dried my hair. The hair was disheveled but I was happy just feeling normalcy.
December was also for College Bowl watching, but even this sports fanatic got bored with the thirty-five games! Because bowls are named after their sponsorships now instead of the traditional Orange, Rose and Cotton, I got to know a lot of companies I had never heard of as well as some participating colleges. All the viewing was worth my dedication as one game I saw a player running off the field wearing my elbow apparatus! Not only did I see the miracle of someone out there playing football again after my same injury, but renewed hope that someday I would again function in the simple things in life.