I last took a normal, unaided, pain free step on May 18. My back surgery is technically a success. But it’s now June and I can’t yet walk more than a few steps without my left leg going numb. The same thing happens quickly when I sit in a wheelchair, so that means I spend long, long days IN BED, except for those rare moments when the physical or occupational therapy folks stop by. With no resolution in sight, I’ve had to face the possibility that I might never walk again. It’s the kind of two-by-four between the eyes that demands your attention.
On the morning of June 7 after nearly two weeks of failure, I slowly and carefully rise to sit on the edge of my rehab bed. I stand as usual and things feel different as I grasp the walker. I began to walk . . . and walk . . . and walk. FORTY steps. I then sit in my wheelchair . . . for 18 minutes. And finally, I shuffle to the bathroom for the first time in 18 days and feel normal; no more bedpans. The happy occupational therpist asks that I try to eat my dinner sitting in the wheelchair, which I miraculously can do—but I’m eating quickly. In just the last 12 hours, I’ve seen a “long and winding road” ahead, but it’s one that eventually leads to a return to normal life. I don’t know yet what long term pain I’ll confront, but I now know that I’ll be able to hold my grandkid’s hands, and walk till my heart’s content. As Oscar Hammerstein said, “one foot, other foot.”
The weeks of projected rehab slipped by ever so quickly. First one, then two, and now moving at warp speed toward a full three weeks until I’m finally released.
Much like my stay in the hospital, the fine folks at rehab have been taking good care of me. But I seem incapable of avoiding dramatic incidents. “The wheel of your bed was on your call button” sounds a bit like “the dog ate my homework” when you’ve been without your pain meds or water for 12 hours. But once we swap it out for an electric push button, it’s been smooth sailing—full of unique experiences.
The wound care nurse snaps a horrendous picture of my smiling buttocks to track their healing.
As I first pointed out in the initial installment of this cautionary tale, you don’t want my fate to befall you. None of this is fun. As I urge my newfound walker down the hall, I’m dressed in a smashing ensemble of back-to-back hospital gowns designed to shield my stitches, et. al., from the eyes of the masses.
When a pair of smiling young certified nursing assistants ask if I wear blue or yellow briefs, I’m confused. “I brought some from home,” I say—only to realize that they mean the adult diapers that define their world. I quickly correct them and count my blessings. Each day I build my strength to dress myself and walk. And walk some more. It appears my tail of horror reached many of you. I’ve been to the edge of the abyss filled with ice packs and TENS simulators and want to remind you all of one simple axiom. Get off your ass and walk everyday . . . OR enjoy the burning of hot coals on your inner thigh. The choice is yours and yours alone.
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