Archive for the 'Pee jug' Category

Crass leg cast stories

September 22, 2010

Tiffany, my wife, thinks my blog might have become too crass. She points to two consecutive posts that use the word “dump.” I counter that, of late, I’m writing about desperate times and desperate measures. I’m confined to my bed 90+% of my waking hours. A dump* is a break from this routine and, thusly, a positive answer to my ongoing question to myself, “What was interesting enough about my day to write about?”

When I’m all healed, I will go back to writing about taking poetically beautiful walks in the warm orange sunshine while staring longingly into the panoramic blue sky and Illinois corn fields. Till then, I’ll write about the accidental dribbles that escape the not-quite-wide-enough mouth of the pee jug**.

All that was a build up to the following story, which will surpass Merely Crass and fall into the domain of Supremely Gross. Skip three paragraphs down if you have a low threshold for the disgusting or are currently eating a large, extra-saucy bowl of spaghetti bolognese.

Here goes: My mom told me she used to work reception for an orthopaedist in the plaster cast days. A patient came in, complaining of discomfort and a mysterious, overwhelming odor. The nurses took him into an exam room and cut a window in his cast to check things out. The smell got exponentially worse as the nurses discovered a treasure trove of maggots. Crawling in and around his open wound. Feasting on the mangled flesh.

The moral? It could always be worse. Don’t bitch about having to spend a month in bed, having food brought to you while you watch ’80s SNL clips on YouTube.

…and we’re back.

Yesterday, I visited the ortho doc who performed my surgery. My splint was removed, and it was my first chance to see the swollen, bruised mess of stitched-up incisions on both sides of my left ankle. I should have taken a picture to share, but, you know, I don’t like to get gross in my blog. The doctor proclaimed everything was looking “pretty damn good,” which is complex medical lingo I don’t completely understand but sounds promising.

I spent most of the visit bonding with the nurse, who removed my stitches, taped me up and put on an actual leg cast. It’s amazing how much easier it is to converse with strangers when you have a wife and kids as catalyst for ice-breaking. These types of talks used to go, THEM: You married?  ME: No, I sleep until four everyday.  THEM: Got any kids?  ME: No, kids suck. I go out drinking all night, every night.  THEM: <evil eye>

This fiberglass cast is the exact same type of cast I had when I was nine and fractured a metatarsel in my right foot. Kids, when your mom and dad tell you not to ride your bike without your shoes on — listen! It wasn’t so bad, though. My healing metatarsel and I stayed inside and played computer games during gym class while the rest of the kids were outside running cross-country.

That might have been the exact moment when I reached the “Fit or Fat?” fork in the road and permanently went down the wrong path. Looking back, I think the fork in question was stabbed into a giant breaded pork chop smothered in brown gravy.

Having a cast on again reminds me of a bad dream I had 23 years ago, while I was on the mend. In the dream, school was in session. We had just started taking a very important standardized test on one of those “fill in the bubbles” sheets scored electronically. My leg was itching like crazy, consuming all my attention. I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed my sharpened #2 pencil and jammed the eraser end down into the cast, scratching up, down and all around like crazy. It felt amazing.

Then I reached down a little too far and lost my pencil in the depths of the cast. I freaked out. It was the only pencil I had. How was I going to get the pencil out? How could I finish the test? I couldn’t get anyone’s attention. The other kids were consumed with their tests, and my teacher was at her desk, reading a book while her Sony Walkman headphones blared. Strains of Cutting Crew’s “I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight” wafted through the classroom as I waved my arms wildly and screamed at the top of my lungs.

Wow, what a relief as I woke up, realized it was only a dream and ran off to the living room to enjoy a large bowl of Fruity Pebbles and an episode of “Heathcliff” I’d already seen a dozen times.

I made most of that up, incidentally, but I do remember scratching my leg with an upside-down pencil and being worried that it would fall into the cast. So that flight of fancy was at least loosely inspired by a true story.

Oh, my wife also said this blog is not staying true to its premise — namely, that it’s here to chronicle days spent taking care of my kids. With this entry, she’s absolutely right. I don’t even mention Sarah and Silas until the very last sentence.

 —

* = Three consecutive posts

** = Five consecutive posts, I believe

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Nurse Ratched’s sledgehammer

September 20, 2010

My mom is hardcore about making sure I recover from this ankle break. Baby Silas and I have been staying with her for less than 24 hours, and Mom has already turned my tongue-in-cheek suggestion of a service bell on the end table into a reality. I have a miniature copper Liberty Bell, mini-crack and all, at my side. One shake of the bell means I’m hungry. Two shakes means I’m bored and need a new DVD to watch. Three means the pee jug is in danger of overflowing. You know, as of right now, I think the “pee jug” has made more appearances in my blog than my wife has.

My mom is one of the greatest resources I have. She’s devoted this entire week to serving me tirelessly, and I’m very appreciative of it, but she’s taken this tough-love, Nurse Ratched stance against letting me do anything for myself. Everyone else just lets me crutch around as I please and wear myself out. With Mom at the helm, my daily poop break is the only time I’m free of the bed. A couple more days of this and I might start faking bowel movements. I can’t wait to explain that memory to my therapist of the future.

I’m suddenly aware that a lot of people in our society do not have the luxury of taking a comfortable daily dump. I previously thought this to be an inalienable right, but I haven’t found a properly accommodating toilet since my injury. It might be up to me to design a line of roomy, welcoming toilets for the obese and infirm. Doublewide seats, leg rests, Sirius satellite surround-sound, built-in bidets, the whole nine. I’m not sure what the disposable cash situation is for the obese and infirm, but I bet with the proper political palm greasing, I could get Medicare to shoulder most of the burden.

Meanwhile, I’ve started to play around with the idea that my mom is so devoted to my recovery that she’s going to turn into Kathy Bates from Misery. I’ll be typing away on the laptop one sunny afternoon, and the door will open. She’ll say ominously, “You’ve been out of your room.” I’ll say no, I don’t know what you’re talking about. She’ll say, “Andrew, my little ceramic penguin in the study always faces due south.” Then, out will come the sledgehammer. It will be for my own good.

I need to make a follow-up office appointment with the doctor who performed my surgery. I also need blood work to make sure the anti-coagulant I’ve been ingesting every day hasn’t thinned my blood to the Ally McBeal range*. Even more alarmingly, my pain pills are running dangerously low. When I stay in bed, the pain hovers at a dull, slightly annoying level. It’s like having a giant literal and metaphorical house arrest bracelet on. Except, instead of setting off an alarm at a parole office somewhere, the alarm goes off instantly all through my injured foot if I get out of bed.

I think my medication tolerance has built itself up this past week. The Ankle Bone Incident** is my first experience with popping multiple prescriptions at multiple times of the day. I’m not worried about potential for abuse personally, but now I see how when you’re bored and in pain and confined to your bed, you might want to reach for a little more of Mother’s Little Helper than the doctor has actually authorized.

Here’s a list of celebrities I promise I will not model my prescription drug habits after:

  • Elvis Presley – way too fond of Fried Peanut Butter & Banana & Barbituates hoagies
  • Rush Limbaugh – called Oxycontin pills his “baby blues”; also, hates everyone
  • Michael “Jesus Juice” Jackson – no example necessary
  • Marilyn Monroe – sleeping pills caused her to sound like she was half-awake when reading film dialogue
  • Heath Ledger – you name it, dude was high on it
  • Ol’ Dirty Bastard – painkiller/coke buzz made him invent the lyric “I don’t have no problem with you f***ing me / But I got a little problem with you not f***ing me”
  • Pimp C – died from an overdose of sizzurp; I am not making this up
  • Anna Nicole Smith – see “Heath Ledger”

* = I dunno, the rest of her is so thin, I figure her blood is too. And how lazy is this 1998 reference, anyway? Like there hasn’t been a go-to anorexic actress to plug into this sort of talk show monologue punchline since then? One of the Olsen twins or something, right? I need to bone up on my plug-in cultural references. And Ally McBeal and the Olsen girls need to bone up on some baby back ribs.

** = Possible name of bad late-’90s alternative jam band already in existence? I need to bone up on my plug-in cultural references.

That pee jug’s not gonna empty itself

September 19, 2010

My nuclear family is spread among three households right now. My wife Tiffany’s back at home, gearing up to start her work week. She signed up for overtime this Monday through Friday, since there’s not any bread-winning going on with this guy right now. No, I lost the bread a week ago. Lay On Your Butt And Pee In A Jug All Day hasn’t been a viable career option since Clinton dismantled the welfare system in the mid-’90s.

Little Sarah is spending the week two hours away with her maternal grandparents, who love seeing their sweet baby girl so much that they won’t mind the extra work and the natural drain caused by chasing and entertaining a toddler all day. That’s the impression they gave me, anyway, and I’ll take it. Tiffany’s parents have been helpful, eager participants in any task asked of them since I came on the scene in 2007. They are the perfect in-laws, and they know about this blog too, as of tonight, so you can bet I’ll continue to say nice things about them.

Two-month-old Silas and I have checked into my mom’s spare bedroom. She too has stepped to the plate in her role as Grandma Hicks, and besides which, she’s taken care of me one way or another my entire life. I don’t feel the least bit awkward having her bring me fluids all day and empty the old pee jug after. All I’m missing is that little silver table bell you ding to demand service at hotel front desks in old movies. I would ding it with a full-on sense of comic irony, but let’s get serious – that pee jug’s not gonna empty itself. And this woman who gave birth to me is willing to do it, because she serves with a cheerful heart. Thanks, New Testament!

Meantime, me and the ankle bone are going to heal, heal, heal. Once I got access to the crutches on Friday, I got this deceptive feeling that I could be more mobile than I could with the walker. Maybe that’s why the physical therapy folks at the hospital thought crutches were so evil. Yeah, I figured, screw the jug. I will urinate in the toilet like a man. And wash my hands after. Then crutch on into the kitchen and make myself some food.

Well, allow me to tell you, just because you can get around on the crutches does not mean you should get around on the crutches. About ten seconds after I become mobile, blood starts rushing to the site of the injury. That hurts. Inevitably, the bum foot bears some kind of weight or gets banged around because, guess what? I don’t really know how to use crutches. I’m self-taught, and my self-teaching usually only improves when I figure out what not to do. Or when my wife sees me practicing “what not to do” and calls me out on it. She’s a real caller-outer.

Tiffany was absolutely, understandably exhausted late Friday night. I wanted a salad, and I wanted it with lettuce, tomato, onion, black beans, turkey, shredded cheese, salsa, ranch and twelve crackers. Tiffany didn’t want to go fill my order. She wanted me to wait until morning to eat some cereal. I didn’t need her. I had my brand new friend the crutches. And a plan. I would pull everything I needed from the fridge and put it on the table behind me, which I could do standing stationary. Then I would sit in a chair and do all the cutting and prep work at the table. Then I would eat. Simple plan in theory. In reality, ten times harder than I’d imagined. My surgery foot was belting out crazy old obscenities I hadn’t heard since Full Metal Jacket. I think I set my recovery back an entire day with that salad. Which was, to be fair, a freakin’ delicious salad.

I’ve spent a lot of time with Silas since my injury. We both have immobility in common. He can’t walk, and he doesn’t have any demon crutches telling him he can. So we hang out in the bedroom, and I do all the basic dadly duties from my perch. Sarah likes to make full use of the upstairs in the house, but at least three times a day, I can get her to come up on the bed with me, sip some juice, and let me read her a book. She wants me to read her the same book three times in a row, which isn’t really my scene, but I indulge her. I get my kid time in, but too much burden has been placed on Tiffany in this situation. Never mind that she’s been pregnant for almost half our marriage.

The one-week dispersement of my family is a necessary evil that, on my end, I hope to translate to lots of productive writing. On that score, it’s good to be back. Right now, I have an enjoyable life rich with material and a brand new perspective. I’ve got the desire, the drive and the confidence. Most importantly, I’ve got the makings of an audience. It’s a humble audience right now, but I have old readers and new readers culled from endeavors past and present. It makes me excited for the future.

Walker vs. Crutches? No contest

September 18, 2010

The physical therapy people at the hospital seemed deadly serious about their proclamation that they would not allow me to be discharged unless I had an approved assisted walking device. Nothing so conventional and unobtrusive as crutches, either. Crutches were not on the approved list. What I needed was a walker. And they were going to hook me up. I said sure, okay, whatever, and I fell back into a light, drug-addled sleep.

A knock came on the door a couple hours later. It was the hospital’s official walker dealer with my shiny metallic wheels. He had an info folder, and he’d taken the liberty of contacting my insurance company to find out how much of the burden they’d shoulder. Results were inconclusive, as was the sticker price itself, but he got me to sign here and here, and initial there, and he was off. I rolled over and went back to dreaming about running half-marathons or whatever.

Now, I would have imagined “Walker Salesman” to be a real Job From Hell. None of your peers take you seriously, you have to make cold housecalls in retirement communities to people who can’t hear you and are living on a fixed income, et al. Not true, it seems. This guy’s got the sweetest gig ever – a captive audience of injured, over-medicated marks who are led to believe their only option is his walker at some price to be announced at a later date.

Fast forward three days, and I can tell you, there’s no practical use to having a walker in your home. The thing is just plain cumbersome and not maneuverable. The getting up and down sucks, the getting through doorways sucks. Take that thing out the front door into the real world, and strangers and friends alike are guaranteed to laugh their heads off while reaching for their camera phones. No wonder old people with walkers seem pissed off all the time.

If you’re ever in my position, dealing with the surgical aftermath of ankle bone popped through skin, find a way to go the crutches route. Several major pharmacies and grocery chains will loan you crutches for a refundable $25 deposit, and they’re portable. If someone laughs at you for being on crutches, they’re automatically the lesser person. Plus you can use a crutch as a retaliatory weapon. You’d need a whole lot more coordination and cunning to beat someone senseless with a walker.

I think what turned the tide for me was lying in bed, nonfunctional leg elevated, and watching a viral clip on “Tosh.0” of a beautiful woman doing an elaborate salsa dance routine with a one-leg amputee who had nothing but one crutch as support. I knew I had to upgrade. I was struggling to use my walker to get from the bed to the heaping plate of delivery pizza in the kitchen, while this one-legged mega-pimp was making his Salma Hayek mambo dreams come true with a single crutch.

My father-in-law drove up yesterday to help with the kids while my wife was at work. I felt uncomfortable asking him to empty my pee jug, but I was only too eager to share with him my dream of crutching my way down the stairs and out to the street to pick up the mail like a normal human being. He was so enthusiastic he put on his cabbie hat and rushed out to Walgreens before I think he realized he was leaving his two small grandkids with an invalid who hadn’t shaved in five days. I held down the fort in his absence, walkering my way to the loveseat so I could feed and placate infant Silas and sing along to those godawful Barney songs with toddler Sarah.

The crutches are worlds better. That’s not to say being in this situation doesn’t still suck. My armpits are a sore mess, and each of my wrists sports a circular skin break the size of a hole punch where crutch steel has worn me away. But I did actually set foot outside in the daytime today. I crutched into the neighborhood barbershop and got myself a trim, and I picked up a footlong Cold Cut Combo from Subway. My wife was with me the whole time, and both legs were screaming at me when we were done.

I’ve been in bed ever since, injured foot propped up. And you know what? When you’re laid up, you have lots of time to read. I got a look at the small print in the walker paperwork. I have 30 days to return that piece of crap with receipt for a refund, for any reason. As far as reasons, you can’t get more all-encompassing than, “Your product sucks, it was forced on me, and I don’t even know how much it cost. Eat it, Walker Salesman!” Hopefully, he can take use my returned walker to convert some other motion-challenged hospital dischargee into a spiteful-assed bitch.

P.S. The one and only fun thing about the walker – Sarah loved to get in front of me as I was slowly walker-ambling up the hallway and throw all her 23-month-old strength into pulling that thing in her direction. She really exerted herself and had fun with it. Leave it to a little girl to make so cumbersome and obnoxious a chore into something downright cute for twenty seconds at a time.

Ambien and physical therapy

September 16, 2010

One thing about having little babies bouncing about – any kind of travel activity becomes a bigger burden. Trips to see family and friends in St. Louis are a big production, and now they usually only occur on major holidays. For everything Tiffany and I pack for our kids, there’s something basic that gets underrepresented or completely forgotten.

Well, this time around, we had planned to leave Saturday and return Sunday. Thanks to the compound ankle fracture, surgery and hospitalization, we didn’t make it back to Springfield until tonight. That’s an extra three-day stay on one day’s supplies. My in-laws’ washer, dryer and dishwasher got a workout. For my part, I wore the same clothes for 95% of what was a 75%-immobile visit.* I did finally strap a black trash bag and ample masking tape around my leg cast and take a shower today. Despite awkward accessibility issues, it was the most satisfying shower of my life.

My contribution to the Getting Out Of Town effort today consisted of feeding, burping and holding Silas while sitting up in bed. Oh, and moral support. Lots of moral support. I’d like to think, in this dark hour, the quality and quantity of my moral support makes me positively undivorceable. So what if Tiffany’s doing 9/10ths of the work and making 100% of the money these next two months? I’m heaping on that moral support! With a thickness!

I’m here to say, my wife is an all-star. She has earned a great big Thank You gift. I just need to have her help me into the car, drive me to the Hallmark store or wherever, get out my walker for me, carry around whatever I decide to buy, figure out how we’re going to pay for it, help me back into the car and probably wrap the gift for me, too. I’m a horrible gift wrapper.

I stayed adequately doped up throughout my hospital stay. They’ll just keep offering drugs to you left and right, as long as you’re able to tell them your name and birth date. That knowledge is what separates the casual bedridden hospital doper from the hopeless junkie inpatient.

All I wanted to do was sleep. I attributed that to the fact that my brain and bloodstream were drowning in morphine, Vicodin, Cephalexin, Warfarin, stool softener**, Citalopram, Lisinopril and whatever crazy chemicals are in Diet Sierra Mist.

And, knowing I wasn’t moving from that Craftmatic adjustable bed for a couple days, I took whatever pharmaceutical suggestions the nurse offered. NURSE: Want some Ambien?  ME: Um, yeah. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

The Ambien decision turned to regret as my inner audio feed played back the list of announcer-read side effects from the TV commercial. Particularly the one about, “Episodes of walking, eating and driving have been reported with no recollection of the event.”

The eating and driving weren’t of much relevance, but suppose I ended up in some hyper-unconscious stupor, dreaming I was the lead in Chariots of Fire 2010, and decided to act it out in a darkened hospital room on my freshly operated-upon ankle? Tiffany instantly dismissed this as comically paranoid but asked the nurse to keep an eye on me.

The nurse popped into my doorway seconds later. “Seriously?” she asked.

I said, “What, the TV announcer’s a liar?”

“Okay, here’s what I’ll do.” The nurse pulled the chair up to my bed. I looked at her, rapt with attention. “I’ll sit right here until you fall asleep, and I’ll hold your hand the entire time.”

Sarcasm might not win the war, but it won this battle hands down. Well played, smartass overnight nurse. Turned out the Ambien put me into about three hours of restful slumber and left me wide awake at two or so in the morning. I asked for more the next night. It had a nice side effect where you have semi-vivid dreams while you’re still awake. That, to me, is better than watching TV.

The nurses and doctors all seemed astonished at how I was handling the pain. I only rated myself over a 2 out of 10 a couple times. They warned me, though – you’ve got physical therapy coming. That’s when it’ll hurt. Well, Day One of physical therapy*** consisted of me moving from the bed out to the hallway and back to the bathroom via walker.

I discovered that, sure, having a couple people supervise you while you maneuver yourself onto the toilet to pee sitting down is a minor convenience. But being able to pee into a plastic jug directly from your bed? That’s a freaking godsend. I plan to pee into the plastic jug indefinitely. At least until the cast comes off, if not until the day I die.

Day Two of physical therapy involved teaching me to climb a few very short stairs that were nothing like the stairs I will encounter in day to day activity. I did great on those low-impact mock stairs. In real life, I was doing this ridiculous upward butt-scoot move that resembled really, really bad rap girl audition dancing.

Now we’re home, and the real fun is set to begin. These meds are still making me sleep too much, and my recovery efforts are making me feel I have way too little to contribute. But this ordeal has reinforced my belief that family is my greatest asset in life, that the grace of God is real, and that I couldn’t make it a day without my sometimes bizarre and childish sense of humor.

* = The bloody sock that was at Ground Zero of the ankle break did not make the trip back. I’m sure the Smithsonian of the future will be downright devastated I didn’t save that historical gem.

** = I still haven’t pooped. Glad you asked?

*** = Simple irony: My physical therapist needed a speech therapist.