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.