Friday, June 21, 2013

Small Wins and Baby Steps

In the physical therapy room at Saratoga Hospital, they have various set-ups to show patients how to navigate the real world. There’s a four-step stairway with a landing for practicing going up and down correctly, which I spent a lot of time on. There’s also parallel bars, a play kitchen, a wide variety of scenarios. My favorite was the mock car, which consists of the front seats of a vehicle to practice getting in and out of. It raises and lowers on a hydraulic jack to best simulate your own vehicle. I kept telling the therapist to raise it; ultimately, it didn’t go as high as the seat in my truck.

For the past few days I’ve been conspiring how I could (safely) get in and out of the truck so I can get myself around. While my dear friend Anne Gregson has been more than gracious in bringing me in to and picking me up from work every day, she does have a life of her own. I felt it was time for me to get my act together.

The biggest hassle in getting out and about is getting up and down our porch stairs. Fortunately, there is a handrail on both sides; I have to use a crutch under my left arm to support myself going up and down. Down is much easier than up (isn’t is always). But the trick is, I leave the walker at the top of the stairs when I go down, then have to get it down to me at the bottom. And then reverse. I had to figure out how to do that. Yesterday it was time.

I put my walker on a leash. At the top of the stairs, I folded it up and slid it to the bottom, holding the cord so it didn’t take an unfortunate bounce out of reach. I then gimped down the stairs with my crutch, and had the walker right there to reopen. Going up was a little trickier. I discovered that I couldn’t just pull it up by the cord – the wheels caught on the steps. But if I folded it up and laid it on its front, then it would slide up the stairs without catching on anything. First phase solved.

Then came getting into the truck. It still sat exactly where Larry had left it the day he brought me out of the back where I’d fallen. Dried mud caked the tires. It was positioned on a slight slope that made the ground a little lower from the driver’s door than it would be when parked normally. That just gave me more incentive to get in the damn thing. I opened the door and it was like Big Blue was saying, "Well, hello! Where have you been?"

Fortunately, my right arm is my good arm, and the heave-ho handle was perfectly positioned. The seat was quite high because of the slope and I couldn’t quite pull myself that far up. I positioned the walker against the open door and braced my good foot lightly on one of the support bars. That gave just enough stability to get myself all the way up into the seat.

Once in the vehicle, I was thrilled to discover that not only did I have lots of room so the fixator pins wouldn’t whack anything, but it was easy to pull the walker up, fold it, and slide it past myself to set in the passenger side.

I turned the key. She roared to life. We pulled out of the driveway and went for a ride through town on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. I let the tears fall, unabashed, as I drove towards my new normal.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up - No, Seriously!!

In the epilogue of Stephen King’s On Writing, he tells about when he was hit by a van while walking along a Maine road in 1999. He describes how when he came to in the ditch, the first thing he noticed was the unnatural angle of his leg, and how he thought that just didn’t seem right.

When I bailed off my bucking horse two weeks ago, hoping for a landing in the bushes, I heard a distinct crack upon impact with the earth. I rocked up on my butt, legs in the air, and the first thing I noticed was the very unnatural angle of my left foot.

My first thought was, "I’m not going to be able to go to &^$#@# Colorado!!" as I was scheduled to leave in two days to visit my daughters. My second thought was, "I don’t think I’ve ever felt this much pain before in my life!"

They say your life can change in an instant, and I’ve certainly experienced that numerous times along the way; haven’t we all. But this accident was a serious game changer. I’m still processing the various lifestyle modifications that are on my horizon.

First off, let me say that I’m glad it wasn’t worse. Yes, a broken leg is a serious bummer, but I didn’t have a head injury (I was wearing my helmet) and Larry more or less knew where I was (he knew I had ridden out back and came looking for me with Nifty returned to the barn without me). Unfortunately, I had a horrible experience with Glens Falls Hospital which resulted in my not having surgery until a full three days after I broke the leg. Those were three days of hell which I have no desire to relive here.

The accident was on Monday; I had surgery Thursday and came home Saturday. One plate has already been inserted in my leg, and a fixator was put on at that time. This was necessary due to the lapse of time between accident and surgery. I will go in for a second 
Fixator post-surgery
surgery (hopefully next week) that will see the removal of the fixator and the insertion of a second plate.

I’m currently hobbling around with a walker. I also tore up my shoulder a bit so crutches are unstable. I get around pretty well, but it’s exhausting, and this fixator is a major pain in the butt. A cast will be welcome.

In a split second, I went from being able to take care of 80% of what needed to be done around the homestead to next to nothing. This is a very bitter pill to swallow, especially for someone as independent as I consider myself to be. Even the mundane tasks such as laundry, housecleaning (such as it is) and going to the dump are now next to impossible. But the bigger issue is taking care of animals twice a day. It’s put a huge burden on Larry, who already has his hands full with a day job that is more demanding than it has a right to be. Larry made the excellent point that he may make the money, but I put the majority of the time in around here.

We’ve had several heart-to-hearts about the horses and the options right now. I’m working at the law office a few hours each morning, which gets me out and keeps a handle on things. I’ve been blessed with friends and neighbors who continually help out with transportation, food and the lifting of spirits. I can’t even begin to express my gratitude for everything people have done to help.

Larry and I each have our good days and our bad days as we navigate these temporarily tricky waters. He’s shouldering a lot and it can get heavy. I’m frustrated and trying hard not to be depressed. I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t have a good cry now and then. I think it’s healthy to get it out, otherwise it could back up and manifest in ways like throwing things across the room or eating my weight in ice cream.

Meanwhile, I continue the only way I know how – by forging ahead, revamping plans, laughing when I can and getting up yet again. At least my foot is now at the correct angle.