Archive for the 'Physical therapy' Category

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.

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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.