Mar 03 2014
This week is a momentous week on Planet Kathy. Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the day when I got released from the rehabilitation hospital and got sent home to live a so-called normal life.
If I had thought a year ago that I’d still be sitting in a wheelchair at the one-year mark, I would have been more than a little surprised — but I shouldn’t have been. My chief therapist, Wonder Woman, told me when I got discharged that I’d be spending “at least a year to eighteen months” in my wheelchair after discharge. Being the optimists that we are, both Fluffy and I translated that to mean “up to a year.”
I guess we should have cleaned the wax out of our ears.
Now we’re thinking of that eighteen-month mark, but we’re still thinking of it as “up to” eighteen months. Wonder Woman never said that. Her words were “at least.” We’re still thinking, “up to.” We are still wearing those rose-colored glasses.
I keep trying to do new tricks, here at the gymnasium we call home. Today I tried to go up our stairway to the second floor. I have not been on that floor for more than a year, and I am forgetting what it looks like. I have been doing 20-25 steps per day on a little set of practice stairs, and my body finally thought it was ready to try the real deal.
In my quest to conquer this new challenge, I decided I’d do the first five stairs up to the landing and then take a rest there. Fluffy thought I was being a little optimistic, but he cleared off the first five stairs and he also cleared off the wonderful leather stool on the landing so I could sit on it and rest when I reached that resting point.
First I tried my weak right leg. I got it situated on that bottom step and then tried to get my left foot up there. I was a dismal failure. I landed back in the wheelchair with a plop and sat there to survey the situation. This was not going to be as easy as I had thought.
Then I decided to start with my stronger left leg. My last physical therapist, André, said to always start with the stronger leg when going up and the weaker leg when going down. I decided to listen to him for once, but it didn’t get me anywhere. In fact, I did worse that way than I had the time before. My stair-climbing experiment was not a success.
Twice in the past week, friends have asked me what I do all day. I’m sure they are not trying to be rude. The truth is, just being Kathy takes a whole lot longer than it used to take. I don’t know why.
Here is a typical weekday:
- The first thing I do in the morning is to sit up and have Fluffy put on the support stockings that keep my chicken legs from becoming piano legs. We try to do this without my screaming, although we are not always successful. It is amazing how much sensation there can be in paralyzed legs, and none of it is pleasant. In fact, all of it is pretty much excruciating.
- I retire to the bathroom for my morning toiletries and to get as dressed as I’m going to get. It is not easy to get dressed sitting down. If we have nowhere to go that day, I get dressed in one of a large assortment of nightgowns. One of the few real perks of life in a wheelchair is that one gets to stay in a nightgown all day long, if one is so inclined. Fluffy keeps me nicely dressed. He is an excellent valet.
- Then I wash my hair in the bathroom sink. This is a messy process, although it is debatable whether any of the water that I feel splashing on my feet is actually water. It may be that some or even all of it is bogus water that is imagined by my feet. The fact that the floor is dry when I am finished generally bears this out, unless our home is blessed with water that evaporates in five minutes.
- Bathroom duties are followed by my morning exercises, climbing steps while Fluffy cheers me on and then lifting five-pound weights and using stretch bands. My goal is to achieve a six-pack in the abdominal region. This is a work in progress.
- I do my work for the Nauvoo Times. If it is cold, I have an electric blanket wrapped around me or a space heater on the chair next to me. The cold is not my friend. I continue working at the computer until 1:30 or so, interrupted by Fluffy, who brings me a small bowl of cereal and my morning pills. Fluffy is my pharmacist, and he cheerfully doles out the 30+ pills that I take each day.
- Then our friend arrives who also serves as my brain trainer. She is coaxing my brain to return to this world, using an assortment of exercises that, quite frankly, turn my cognitive processes into spaghetti. This is good for me. But by the end of an hour, I’m mentally useless for the rest of the day.
- Once my brain is trained, we eat lunch while watching some television. I sit in front of the television, sleeping and at least figuratively drooling. If we have time, I often take an afternoon nap. We may or may not have a visitor. We may or may not leave the house. We may or may not play games. I check my email to see if any more Nauvoo Times work needs to be done.
- Dinnertime arrives. If we aren’t eating with friends or dining out, we watch television again and visit with each other until 9:30.
- At 9:30 or so, we watch a half-hour segment of the Great Courses. We recently enjoyed “The History of Ancient Egypt,” which was 48 lectures. We are currently watching “Games People Play: Game Theory in Life, Business, and Beyond,” which is only 24 lectures, but which is not so enjoyable. Until I get my brain back, I am not smart enough for that one. Maybe I won’t be even then.
- Then we play on our individual computers until 11 p.m. or so, catching up on our emails, the latest news, and our friends on Facebook.
- We crawl in bed and read until midnight, when I turn out my light and go to sleep. Fluffy follows shortly thereafter.
Yes, we are living at a snail’s pace. But there’s nothing wrong with a good snail.
Most people live life in a blur, compared to the way we live it. They watch the news. They zoom back and forth in automobiles. They listen to music that puts them in frenetic moods. Stimuli bombard them constantly.
We know, because we used to live this way too, but my medical adventure and Fluffy’s unexpected retirement from the work force have changed our lives radically in the past year.
Nevertheless, from our vantage point, the snail’s way of life has some advantages. It is not altogether bad to live life from quarter-speed, if you can manage it, which most of us can’t. Even I couldn’t have managed it, if my body hadn’t stopped me in my tracks and managed it for me. Now I have no choice but to live snail-like, one precious inch at a time.
We have learned many lessons in the past year. One of them is this: It doesn’t matter how fast one goes; it only matters which direction one is going. As long as I am going in the right direction, I have an eternity to get there. And because Fluffy has slowed down to join me on the journey, we can enjoy every sublime moment of the adventure.