Dec 15 2014
The Kidd family passed a milestone recently, although I passed it without even thinking about it and had to be reminded by Fluffy. He, being on the sentient end of it, wasn’t exactly in a position where he could forget about it.
Two years ago, I was in a coma. Some of you may think of this as a relaxing twelve-day nap, but it was a life-altering event for me. I was not the same person when I awoke as I was when I went to sleep.
There is a whole lot involved in the coma biz — so much that these days, when we see people on TV shows who are in comas just wake up and go about their pre-coma activities, Fluffy and I tend to laugh and laugh.
In fact, I was lying in my hospital bed when Fluffy and I watched Leroy Jethro Gibbs of “N.C.I.S.” wake up out of a coma, strap on his gun, and run off chasing the bad guys. I would have rolled out of my bed laughing, if I could have rolled over, that is. Having awakened almost completely paralyzed, rolling over at all was somewhat out of the question.
After I woke up, Fluffy had to teach me how to open and close my fingers into a fist. To encourage this, he would bring dice games to my hospital room and would spend hours chasing the dice around the room as I attempted to pick up the dice cup and throw out the dice like a normal person.
For months I had daily occupational therapy (the occupational therapists work on your arms and hands) and daily physical therapy (the physical therapists work on your legs and feet). The heroes on TV never have to learn how to make a fist again, much less how to brush their teeth.
But I assure you, these little acts take weeks or months or even years for those of us who are not highly-paid television actors.
Fluffy tells the story of how, in the second of my three hospitals, I used to try to convince him to help me escape. I wanted him to get the wheelchair from home and sneak it into my hospital room and take me home.
“Great,” said Fluffy. “Show me how you’re going to get out of bed.”
He said I’d try and try and try, until my face was red and maybe I’d move one leg a half-inch toward the edge of the bed. “Okay,” I’d finally say. “Maybe the nurses can get me over to the edge of the bed.” (The nurses in this hospital were strong men from Africa. It would have taken strong men to move me across the bed. Fluffy never could have done it by himself.)
“Great,” said Fluffy. “Show me how you’re going to get into the house once we get there.”
I’d think for a minute. “Men from the ward can get me into the house.”
“Great,” said Fluffy. “How are they going to get you up the stairs?”
“I guess they can carry me,” I said. It was obvious I wasn’t thinking this through. I probably still tipped the scales at close to four hundred pounds, and even after they got me into the house it was fifteen more stairs to get me into the bedroom.
“Great,” said Fluffy. “And how are you going to go to the bathroom?”
“Oh, never mind,” I’d say in frustration.
Then, five minutes later, I’d say, “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Next time you come, why don’t you bring the wheelchair from home and take me home with you.” And thus the conversation would start all over again. My hands and feet were not the only parts of me that needed retraining!
This was in December. I didn’t go home from the hospital (yet another hospital) until March 5. Even then, I felt like a baby chick leaving the egg prematurely. It took me nearly a half hour to get into bed. Our bed did not have those nifty rails that were on the side of my hospital bed. Fluffy finally rigged a rope in bed so I could grab it and pull myself far enough onto the bed that I wouldn’t fall out. It was an answer to prayer.
Even then, I was so weak I kept falling off the wheelchair as I transitioned from the bed to the wheelchair in the morning. Once I was on the ground, the only way to get me up again was to call Fire and Rescue. That’s how weak I was. This did not promote marital harmony. Finally Fluffy found a different way for me to get off the bed in the morning. It was another answer to prayer.
I was not strong enough to stay in my wheelchair without a seat belt to hold me in. Otherwise, I’d slide right out like a greased pig. I was not strong enough to sit in any seat other than that wheelchair until September of that first year, securely belted in. The first day I was able to get over on the loveseat and sit next to Fluffy where I belonged was a red-letter day.
I was not strong enough to go into the bathroom until June, two months after I returned home. I am sure this was an answer to Fluffy’s prayer, because until then I was using a bedside porta-potty that had been supplied by the hospital. Somebody had to clean that porta-potty after every use, and here’s a hint: the hospital was not sending out orderlies to do the job.
Even now, two years later, Fluffy has to put on my shoes and socks for me in the morning and take them off at night. I am not a total doofus. If I did not wear compression stockings I could put on my own shoes, albeit with considerable difficulty; it is the compression stockings that make Fluffy’s participation in the process necessary. It takes a good ten minutes to get shoes and socks on my feet every morning.
I’ve found throughout this process that challenges seem insurmountable. After a while, with perseverance, they become possible. That’s how I conquered the stairs. I practiced on a plastic stair-stepper until I could do one step. That alone took months. Then I went up the first five real steps every day until it seemed easy. Only then did I try the last ten.
My next goal is to be able to stand up from a chair without pushing myself up by the arms, just using my legs and the walker. Right now it’s impossible. It’s the hardest thing about church with the exception of using a walker in the parking lot, which is a real pain in the neck.
But getting up once I’ve sat down on those nasty church chairs is impossible unless Fluffy just about gives himself apoplexy in an effort to pull me up again. Something just has to change. So it will.
That’s what happens in the process of growth. Something is just too hard to tackle. So you agonize over it, for a nanosecond, or an hour, or a week, or even longer. Finally you decide to do something about it, and you mentally work it out. Then your body follows. Eventually, through a process of trial an error, you do what has to be done.
It’s a process. In this case, I am going to practice knee bends to strengthen my knees and my thighs. They won’t like it, of course. They will think it is w-o-r-k, and they do not like w-o-r-k, which is why I have to spell it. But eventually they will be stronger, even against their will, so that when I try to stand up just using the walker, I will be able to do it.
And then, one day, I will be able to stand up even without the walker, just the way you do. Effortlessly. Or even with effort. Hey. I’m old. Everything I do takes effort. It’s one of the rules.
When I can stand up again the angels will sing, but perhaps not as fervently as Fluffy. Then I’ll go on to another goal. That’s part of the human endeavor. Whether you’re a baby learning to walk or a person like me recovering from a coma, it’s the way of life.