On the day of my neck surgery, JB, Greg and I met with the surgeon. He drew a picture of what he would be doing once he entered my neck. It was a lot more complicated than we each thought and we were told that the surgery would most likely last 3-4 hours. In fact it lasted over 5 hours. JB had purchased and consumed what was to be his ‘hospital lunch’, Cheetos and a bottle of diet Pepsi. By the time the surgeon came to inform him of the successful surgery, JB was beyond anxious (2 hours later than anticipated) . Once he heard the good news he smiled and shook the good doctor’s hand. Told that it would be about an hour before I would be taken to my room on the 5th floor, JB used the men’s room. It was at that point with a glance in the mirror, that he realized that he had the neon-orange-Cheeto smile and probably left Cheeto dust on the capable hand of the surgeon. They wash their hands between surgeries, right?
So are we done with Cheetos? Oh nooooo. The PT I saw only once at Avalon Care Center told me about a sports bra with a zipper in the front. I had been ‘free-ranging’ since the accident, I was anxious to get the girls back in the corral and the front closure seemed just the ticket. Kellie kindly went shopping at JC Penney and found exactly what I was hoping for. It was two days after surgery when I convinced the OT that it was time to try this new item of clothing. With the neck brace on, nothing is easy. After a few struggles (unsuccessful) of pulling everything together and getting the zipper sides together AND pulling up the zipper pull, JB finally asks if someone could help. She said “you can, after all you are taking her home in the next day or so”. Between the two of us, witnessed by the less than helpful OT, we were successful. It wasn’t til the next morning (yes I wore it all night!) that when I was standing in front of the mirror brushing my teeth that I saw the mark of the Cheeto. Good news! Cheeto dust washes off in a Maytag with a splash of Tide.
Once it became evident that I still had to work on my fine motor skills, the nurse was able to order a different kind of call button. This one is a flat square that can be depressed with most any body part. Wow, that was helpful! Any readers that have been hospitalized recently know that they come to take your blood pressure no fewer than twice a shift and they are usually in a hurry. One day as the cuff is wrapped around my right arm, I hear “can I help you?” through the speaker behind my head. The nurse answers “no, I’m in here”. Ten seconds later “can I help you?” “no, I am still in here”. This goes on a few more times. The nurse mumbles “what is wrong with her, why does she keep asking that? She must be new.” Once she got the reading and released the cuff, the flat call button fell out. With each pump we were asking for help. Nothing wrong with the girl at the front desk, just doing her job.
A few days after I moved to the neuro ward at Valley, it was a quiet evening and I decided to amuse myself with a bit of Wheel of Fortune. The remote control felt like a weighted down athletic shoe in my weakened hand. I found the button that said ‘tv’. I managed to depress the button with a thumb on thumb action. Not sure how I found ABC but I did. Five minutes into the show, 2/3 of the puzzle was covered with “Gwendolyn, are you interested in some information about colonoscopy? We can send that to you!! Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’”. I so wasn’t interested but had no idea how to dismiss the ‘ad’ and couldn’t find ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the remote. I called for the nurse. When she came she said “oh just hit select two times then it goes away’, then she left. Huh, why couldn’t I have figured that out? While she was fooling with the remote, she turned the volume off. Now I am left with the puzzle but no lively banter between Pat, Vanna and the contestants. Sigh….
At that point in my recovery I was not coordinated enough yet to twirl the volume wheel on the side. Worth another trip from the nurse? Nah, we’ll pretend I never ventured into TV land.
When I went to critical care several weeks ago I found that they had the most modern equipment ever in that newest wing of Valley Medical Center. When I went to critical care I also had a big goose egg on my forehead as well as a scrape and a split lip. One of the pieces of equipment they had was a newfangled thermometer that had to be rolled over your forehead and then tapped at the bottom of your ear to read your temperature. I wondered why no one ever noticed that when that operation happened I yelled “ow” every time. By the time I got down to the third floor, the equipment was back to normal hospital equipment and the forehead had healed and they took my temperature by putting the wand under my tongue.
I have to admit, for years now I read my daily horoscope but after the day is underway. I use them to tell me how day should have gone not what I should do with my day. On Easter Sunday, late in the day I finally got to that portion of the Sunday paper. For the sign of Aries, it tells me that “today would be a good day to climb a tree. You will be amazed at the view and the perspective it will give you”. Well, if you have been paying attention to my current situation, I am sure you would agree that I am not tree climbing material. I have no doubt that my therapists would agree. Give me a week or two.
Speaking of therapists, yesterday I was introduced to two new exercises, both on the parallel bars. The first was side leg lifts with ankle weights holding on to the outside bar. We then moved in to the middle where I did modified squats. Oh how I long for a parallel bar set up in the house – NOT.
I tried not to set myself up but alas I did. I was so sure that today when my surgeon saw the great progress I had been making he would let me lose the neck brace. He wants it on for 3 more weeks. He reminded JB and I that this was not a typical discectomy, but rather a serious compromise of the spinal cord and we just can’t be too careful. The allowance made is that I can take it off to sleep. I have to constantly remind myself – patience and perseverance. By the time I go back see him May 9, I will be stronger and my cup of patience will be overflowing. In the meantime I will find a way to get my hair cut and finally get my glasses professionally adjusted – neck brace or no neck brace. Here’s to a good night’s rest!
The first trip up the stairs confirmed that I learned enough to be able to manage up seven stairs. Took me a couple of tries to figure out what was the best chair (easy to get out of, no swivel). Gary arrived mid-afternoon Saturday with two walkers he picked up in Coeur D’ Alene. Now I had a walker on each level. The new walkers have no wheels. As it turns out that was a blessing. We only need one with wheels for the hardwood floors mid-level. The challenge is to keep the black skid plates on the back legs. At this writing there is one, should be two. We had a nice visit with Garry. I got my early birthday present which I am using to dictate this document. JB found some grab bars for the shower that meant Garry and JB did not have to drill into the tile. As it turns out I can take one of the stable walkers into our long shower, hang onto the grips, and get myself an almost normal shower. We found our old shower seat, JB scrubbed it up, and it has a nice place at the end of the shower when my legs get tired. Of course every shower takes twice as long as the shower used to but it’s doable. Washing my hair feels extra good. I have not attempted to blow dry it so I put gel in and let it air dry. This is the only time I get to take the neck brace off so my neck celebrates the fact that I don’t have this muffler on my neck at all times. I re-bandage the incision and as of this writing this steri strips don’t look anywhere near falling off. Once I finish the drying out process I put the brace back on. My skin is so dry that I can’t wait to put lotion on which seems to get absorbed in mere moments. I have now graduated to using lotion that smells like me and not the lotion I got at Avalon. Once out of the shower and dressed although somewhat worn-out I feel briefly like me. We have a galley style kitchen so I’ve become brave and can walk without the walker between the counters. I took that to a new level and it made the loop between the kitchen and living room and surprised the heck out of JB to see me walking unassisted. I revealed that to the PT and he was not surprised. Of course he cautioned me to be careful. Thursday night (3/29) I took a slight spill. JB had gone upstairs and I on my wobbly legs decided to turn the lights off. My still numb fingers couldn’t quite find the switch. In the time it took to find a switch, the legs gave out. Let’s call this a controlled fall in that I felt myself going down but there was nothing I could do about it. All things non-anchored down on TV trays went aflying.
I think it sounded worse than it was. JB calls from upstairs to ask about the noise. I had to tell him I was on the floor. It was quite a challenge to get me up off the floor and back onto a chair. JB stabilized the chair, we put pillows under my knees and I was able to get myself into a position to get my feet underneath me. I like to believe that I didn’t hurt myself. My right side feels a little extra numb. There is no bruising so will call this a very hard lesson learned. Don’t get overconfident!
I got to practice using a cane at PT last Thursday. It is still a challenge with the neck brace on. I have a tendency to constantly look down to see what my feet are doing. I was advised to look up occasionally to keep from running into things. Baby steps!