June 29th, 2011:

DEALING WITH PHYSICAL INCAPACITIES

After three days in Harbor Hospital, I was more than ready to go home, despite the challenges I knew I’d face. Ever the optimist, I figured I could manage fairly well at home with Heidi’s occasional help, even though my apartment was on the second floor.

With a cast on my right arm and hand and a cast on my right leg from mid-thigh to ankle, the simple things of life would no longer be easy.   Using the toilet and keeping myself clean, for instance. At least my left side was cast-free and I did have a crutch. There would be no quick movements or a dash to the bathroom if I had to pee urgently.

I quickly learned the toilet seat would need a handicap insert or I’d never be able to get up and down, despite the close proximity of the bathroom doorknob, when the door was open. A few days of using my right elbow, which was cast-free, to balance me on the doorknob while I lowered myself, produced a colorful bruise up and down my arm. Baby wipes were ideal for cleaning: there was no way I could manage a bath or shower. My bathtub/shower had a sliding glass door.

Sleeping was no easy matter because my lower back hurt, although between bouts of turning from one side to another, I slept quite well. I learned how to place extra pillows  so I could lie on my favorite left side, but negotiating the leg under the covers and to the left was a sweaty business and then I had to make sure the pillow between my legs was in the right position. The leg cast was heavy, probably 10 pounds, and it slipped down onto my ankle where it worked on causing a blister on the heel. At night, on my left side, the ankle frequently bothered me. Heidi helped me with bandages on my heel, but they inevitably peeled off.

Because my right arm was in a splint, my fingers were hardly useful. I had to learn to feed myself with my left hand, and to use it for makeup in case I had a visitor. I even tried a tiny bit of Email—hunting and pecking with left fingers.

I was blessed with visitors who helped. Sally came over the day after I got home—presenting me with a week’s worth of ready-made salads and a gift certificate for the grocery store. What I enjoyed the most was her wonderful company. We had lunch and talked most of the afternoon.  Another friend, who visited a week later, decided to challenge me to an excursion to a local ice cream parlor. I was able to negotiate the stairs and get into her BMW without much problem once the seat was back far enough to accommodate my leg cast. I managed, ungracefully, to sit down at a table at the store, not an easy proposition with all the extra weight on my right side. Anxious to be part of society again, I overdid the ice cream cone, which melted quickly and dripped all over my left hand.

My friend Sherri made me a delicious brisket of beef dinner, large enough for leftovers, and dessert. I managed to find and put on my Hawaiian mu-mu for the occasion. It was as colorful as my still very bruised face.

My son Hans, who had moved to Dallas, was very attentive during my little crisis. During the first week or so after my accident, I heard from him many times—at the hospital and at home. He wished he were there helping me out and talked of coming home and taking a few days off. At one point he even cried! He was having very mixed emotions.

I was touched by his concern and told him that in crisis situations, we really discover what is most important in our lives—the people, especially family. It wasn’t necessary, I said, for him to come home because I’d manage, especially since Heidi would be helping out. The outpouring of love is certainly a definitive positive in a time of struggle.

 

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