Monday, August 13, 2012

A Car, A Walker and A Ride Home

Over the two weeks I was at the rehab facility, I worked with the Occupational Therapist, Lisa, to make sure that I had enough strength in my arms, was mentally alert and had the hand-eye coordination the hospital required for my discharge. I worked with the Physical Therapist, Mohammad, gaining strength, balance and coordination both with walking and standing in place for longer periods of time. What we hadn't really worked too much on was stairs, and that was something we were going to have to do since I lived on a third floor apartment back in Colorado.

So, during one of my sessions in our last few days in rehab and with a room filled with patients and us not being able to get to the mock stairs to practice, we headed for the buildings stairwell to the second floor. Lisa had pretty much finished everything she could with me where Occupational Therapy was concerned, so the stairs were something she thought we could do to still fill our required therapy time. I practiced going up to the second floor and then back down to the first floor again. It was quite a chore to handle all at once and not in small increments, but I was soon going home to my parents house and needed to ramp up fairly quickly. If I was going to learn this from professionals, now was the time.

I exerted so much energy trying this many stairs at once (and a lack of ventilation), I was drenched in sweat. I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts with socks and tennis shoes. My shorts were made of the same material as the t-shirt, so they kept sticking to my legs as I made my way up and down the stairwell. Every once in a while, I had to stop and pull the shorts down as they were clinging to my thighs like a scared cat clings to a tree branch as someone tries to pull it down to safety.

If going home wasn't enough, my dad was also getting ready to leave for a business trip. Mom was a little apprehensive about taking me back to their house by ourselves, so the therapists practiced a few things with us so her nerves would be lessened. It was very helpful for all of us; dad would know what to do when he returned and mom and I would feel a little more comfortable going to the house without dad being there for extra support. These daily therapy sessions had become such a part of my life for the past weeks, we were not sure how to handle it when we got back to my parents. This change in routine was sure to set me back some, at least that's what I was thinking.

Part of the rehab's discharge strategy was to make sure that our home was set up with all the things that would aid us in making my life just as normal as it was within the halls of the hospital and rehab, not to mention as closely as possible to before surgery. We sat in my room with the coordinator for discharges. She had a list of items usually requested by patents and families for re-entry into home life that was several pages long. It was quite overwhelming so we asked for time to review the list and make our choices. We sat and talked about what we thought I might need to become as independent as I could, and we had a few items we thought would be best. Lisa, the occupational therapist, came in to see us between patients. She made some suggestions based on her experience and knowing my specific situation. We took it into consideration and made our decisions, utilizing some of Lisa's suggestions as well. When the coordinator came back and we provided our choices, she asked about a few other things that were not on the list that we hadn't discussed. It really took us back talking about hospital beds and wheelchairs not thinking in the direction of mobility outside the home, but we made our decisions knowing that we could always get other things later. And, we did have to get other things as we found out by trial and (major) error.

Knowing that I was going to be leaving soon, the therapists suggested bringing the car to the back door of the therapy room so we could practice getting in and out of the passenger seat. After taking dad to the airport just down the road, mom brought her car for us to practice with. We quickly found out that her car was too low for me to get into and we were going to have to try something else. Thankfully, we had my Jeep with us in CA, so mom came back the next day with my car. It was the perfect height for us to work with. The therapists worked with the car for a few minutes to find the best method to teach us for my situation. Every condition requires a different method to maneuver the patient and reduce any risks of injury. And of course, my case was so different than what anyone was used to, it took some time to figure it out.

Mohammad worked out the movements and positioning in his head, would then try it himself and talk us through it by demonstrating at the same time. It took several times of trying before we were able to get into a routine for getting me in and out with as little pain and trouble as possible. Believe or not, this was a very tiring experience for both me and my mom. But, we got it for my release the next day.

For the two weeks in rehab, our family had worked extremely hard in getting me mobile and comfortable with being out and about in society again without having a therapist right there with me. It was now October 17, 2008 and I was getting ready to go home with mom, seven weeks after my initial surgery. The items we had ordered arrived and we got to make sure they were the right things. The personal items for getting my shoes on by myself and something to grab things off the floor with were all correct. The bigger items didn't arrive until later.

A new walker came later in the day. They also brought a full sized wheelchair, when we asked for a chair that could be lifted into the Jeep easily. We sent it back and said we'd find one we could use somewhere else. I wasn't wanting to wait around for them to deliver something else, I wanted to get on with being discharged from this place. I had been cooped up in hospitals for seven weeks and I was ready to get on with my life.

It still took several hours for the coordinator to finalize all of the paperwork from Dr. Zand and the insurance company. We had to agree to having a nurse come to the house to show us how to self-administer the Daptomycin IV I was still taking and to make sure I knew how to take my blood sugars at home while still on the steroids for the reaction to the other antibiotic. It seemed as though they wanted to keep me here to get a whole day paid for by the insurance company. I think I was right too, because the process that had been started at 9 am was not completed until after 6 pm. But, when that time came, I wasn't saying goodbyes to people, I was to the elevator to the underground parking to go home. I was so ready.

Mom and I made it home and my grandparents met us at the house to welcome me home. It was so incredibly wonderful to be sitting on a real couch with real home carpeting underfoot. We called my dad on his business trip to let him know we were finally home. Mom got my room ready for me and by the time my grandparents left, mom and I were both ready for bed. By 9 pm, we were both in bed for the night. Hallelujah!!!

Next..."Here A Staple, There A Staple, Everywhere A Staple Staple..."

"Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare." 
Psalm 40:5

1 comment:

  1. Stacey, I can't tell you how much we can relate to your story! This post I loved the first attempts to get in and out of the car. We did that too! First they made me practice with the therapist and only after I did a successful "car transfer" with her did they let me try it on Joanne. Isn't a little thing like that just amazing when you think of how critical it is but how much we take for granted the ability to do it! Great post!