The experience of falling and breaking a vertebra has turned out to be a much bigger deal than I could have imagined. A few days of denial and agony at home, then a few days in the hospital – St. Anne’s, formerly Highline – and then three weeks in a rehabilitation facility. I am not entirely rehabilitated, but they figured I was ready to go home.
Two or three months to go, according to the spinal specialist.
Gradually re-learning walking. Temporarily, I hope, I am in a wheelchair.
When I have a walker, I will be ready to go. There are two advantages to the wheelchair: one, I am less likely to fall; and two, when I get to my desk, my hands are free. The walker will help me to practice walking, though, and that is much to be desired at present. So I will be making walker excursions around the house as my back heals.
Rehab was not a pleasant place. They try, and it is nice enough in furnishings and so forth.
The employees are good-natured and positive, while doing their jobs well. Truly, CNAs and nurses are my heroes. Wow. They face their work with an equanimity that amazes me.
Lying in bed most of the day was tedious. I was so happy when one of the therapists (physical or occupational) came to take me to the gym, a bright sunny room with polished wooden floors, about the size of a kindergarten room.
I spent a lot of time on my screens while in bed. They were my lifeline to the outer world. But a reality lived through screens becomes monotonous, and you cannot MAKE people send you emails or texts. They have lives.
The hard thing, the sad thing, is how much some of the patients suffer. Many were “confused,” they called it – like the guy from across the hall who insisted I was in his room. The people who yelled, “Help me! Somebody help me!” repeatedly, every day. The woman who screamed and sobbed.
Each room there had two beds, Bed 1 and Bed 2. My last three days there I was in Bed 2 of a room – had a window and everything. Two days before I left a new, extremely ill roommate was moved into Bed 1. The next morning she died. I sang “Into paradise” for her. The nurse appreciated that.
I was given oxycodone for my pain. It made me feel much better. About two weeks in I realized that I was not biting my nails. Now that I am home and not on opioids, I am biting them again. I do not believe that opioids as a cure for nail biting are a good idea. They are great for when you are in pain, but other than that they mess you up, in body and mind. My short term memory ran away laughing.
After three weeks of physical therapy and bed rest and cable channels I do not have at home, they cut me loose. My son brought me home and wheeled me into the house, where my jaw dropped.
While I was gone, a crew of Episcopalians and other friends went through my house and cleaned it and cleared it out so that I could navigate with wheelchair and walker without obstacles to cause tripping or falling (falling now would be bad).
The open vistas in the rooms of my house were astonishing. I am a packrat, and I like to say a “recovering hoarder,” and I have not seen that much floor in years. All done so I could navigate safely in my not-quite-whole state.
Cleaning was not all they did. The front porch has a new safe surface. Before, the two-by-fours were rotting and caving in – dangerous. Now the porch is solid, with non-slip surfaces. The kitchen faucet that leaked for years is gone, replaced by a faucet that does not leak, and the cabinet below was cleaned out and repaired (experiencing dripping water for years is bad for wood).
My respect for people in wheelchairs has gone WAY up. I have trouble getting from my bedroom to my office/music room, so when I think of people in wheelchairs who live full lives, have jobs and families and hobbies or passions they pursue, I am stunned. Really? This is how hard you must work to live a semblance of a normal life? Holy carp.
This is so humbling.
I will in time be able to walk again. I bless and respect all you who are not so fortunate.
But you never know. This is the second time I have broken a vertebra. Who knows what the future will bring?
As I once heard in a song, we are all temporarily able-bodied.