Monday, September 26, 2011

Bored--moi??? Oui, oui!!!

I really hate to admit this, but yes, I think I am getting bored. It's either time to do something constructive or just sleep for the next few weeks/months of my recuperation.  I'm not going to do that.  I think it's just that I'm feeling well enough now to be bored so that means I'm well enough to start being productive.  The logical thing to do would be to write as I have many, many writing projects to begin and/or finish.  That's something to look forward to.  Last evening I was getting a bad case of cabin fever so Dave hauled me out and loaded me into Murray (his car) and drove me around just like "Miss Daisy".  It feels kind of silly in the back seat but that's all I can do because I have to stretch my leg out.  It was a beautiful evening and we just drove around Woodward Park and the neighborhood.  We stopped at McDonald's for one of my favorite treats--an ice cream cone.  Really, it is so good and only 4 WW points and it costs just over a dollar.  Reminds me of going to the "Custard Stand" back home when I was a kid!

I've been 'mourning' missing my 40th class reunion this past weekend.  This was also to be a reunion with my mom and two sisters.  That happens so rarely and I was really looking forward to it.  We always laugh so much that our sides hurt for days.  Last time I got a bruise on my side from holding it while I laughed.  One sister is from Indiana and the other lives in France and my mom lives in Illinois.  Too far apart, but they say I'm the one who moved away from them so it's my fault :-)  We talked on the phone today for over an hour.  Our trip wasn't cancelled, it was postponed, so we'll see if we can have another go at it.  The class reunion will have to wait until 2016.  I hope I last that long!!!!!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Shower of Blessing or Blessing the Shower

Yesterday was a banner day!  I got to take a shower for the first time in  almost 3 weeks!  Since our bedroom and bathroom with a shower is upstairs I hadn't anticipated being able to 'hop' into the shower so soon.  But when geniuses put their heads together they come up with interesting ideas.  We thought that if I would scoot up the stairs backwards while Dave held on to my leg it might work...and it did.  I waited at the top of the stairs while he got 'Chuck' (the walker).  Getting into the the shower isn't a one-woman job.  I do have my trusty shower chair and the ledge of the tub is high enough for me to rest my leg.  Waiting for that first blast of water from the shower, I'm a sitting duck.  So far the first shower hasn't given me 3rd degree burns or turned me into an icicle!  Never, never, never underestimate the importance of a hot shower!  I feel human again!

Here I am sitting in my own bed!  We just got a new mattress and have a 3" memory foam topper.  It's awesome and the first time I lay down I knew I had really missed my mattress!  Last night I slept there and it was the best night's sleep I'd had in weeks....Can't wait until bedtime tonight!!!

The Chair

I'm getting a lot of rest and relaxation while I'm on my 'med-cation'. Here I'm in an ancient leather Lazy Boy recliner. A few decades ago it was a Christmas present to my father-in-law. He logged many hours on this baby in a few different residences and at the end stage of his life it was his escape from his bed in the nursing home. He had it sitting right next to the window and he'd sit there basking in the warmth. As I lay here crippled I thought of him. At age 30 he had a particularly nasty episode of polio and was left without the ability to walk. From age 30 to his death at almost 80 he sat either in a wheelchair or some other chair. We tried to help him by getting him comfortable places to sit to give his backside a rest. He was constantly re-adjusting himself in the wheelchair because of painful pressure areas. He tried every kind of seat cushion and whenever something new was on the market he would try it in hopes of being more comfortable. Once a product came out that was supposed to be the end of his troubles. A gel cushion would give support yet avoid any direct pressure areas. Your butt would just happily float along wherever you went. We were all excited about this state of the art cushion. The problem was that after only weeks of use, the gel cushion became a pancake. Flat and hard. No good. What a disappointment. My father-in-law was not a big man and with his atrophied muscles he was well within the average or below average weight for his height. So, it was back to the drawing board. He never did find one that was really satisfactory. He did have a sheepskin that he sat on that helped some. I have that now and am using it as well as his chair.

As I'm in my period of being unable to walk I think of him a lot. At first he was able to use a walker some of the time but soon he became too weak because of post-polio syndrome. Gradually his wheelchair became his home away from home. I rarely, if ever heard him complain. If something was uncomfortable for him or he wasn't able to do something he would make a joke instead of whine. I'm feeling restricted because of what I'm going through right now, but I'm so very fortunate. Unlike Al Friesen, I have an end date. I know that in a few months I'll be walking again independently. He never had that assurance. When he had polio, my husband Dave had it as well. Neither one of them was expected to live but they both did and went on to have incredibly productive lives. In spite of the recovery, that experience in 1956 changed their lives forever. I'll hit those details sometime. It's an incredible story!

What I'm getting at is this: There are a lot of similarities between what I'm going through now and what he went through. I'm trying to have a good attitude and make the most of this time. It's not that hard to keep my chin up for a few months. I'm having a hard time understanding what it would mean to try to do that for decades like Al did. He suffered privately. Sometimes he would let us in on his grief, but usually he kept it in. That's contrary to popular thinking--we're supposed to seek support and let our feelings out so we can do things to improve the situation. In the mid-fifties there wasn't much in the way of that kind of support so he suffered in silence. It would, undoubtedly have been much healthier for him if he had outlets to help him, but he managed to rise above so much adversity and carve out a place for himself and his family. I loved him for many reasons, but I also learned from him. I'm taking a page out of his book and am going to make the most out of a situation that could be destructive. As I sit in his chair I'll try to channel some of his energy and love and hopefully be an example to others of how to handle adversity with dignity.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Punxsutawney Doc

 OK, so here's the deal.  Punxsutawney Doc poked his head out of his office on Wednesday and saw his shadow.  In medical terminology this means that I will have another 4 weeks under house arrest in my knee immobilizer with partial weight bearing, glued to "Chuck" ( Walker Texas Ranger aka 'the walker'--if you don't get the Chuck connection, don't worry.  Here's a hint: Chuck Norris IS Walker Texas Ranger).

Anyway, I knew he would see his shadow--I was warned that knees and hips take  a while to set so it's all good.  We took more x-rays and everything is where is it supposed to be.  Now we just have to let the bone do its miraculous work and knit itself back together.  Anyone know how to knit really fast? Maybe you could help???????

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thanks to Family and Friends

I have to say something about all the great people helping me.  Meals have come regularly since I've been home from the hospital.  Friends are coming over to do laundry & dishes and whatever else I want them to do.  In the midst of all this, our son Michael and his girlfriend, Kendra are moving to Long Beach.  They've been coming over to keep us company and we've loved having them over.  We watch Giants games together and visit and eat together when possible.  They help out wherever needed and are wonderful people.  Here's a picture of Kendra and our babies, Abbey and Eddie.  They have adopted her as a sister and get really excited when she comes over--Abbey knows that since mom's out of commission, Kendra will play ball with her as much as she wants!  Abbey is snuggled on the left and Eddie is snoozing on her lap.   They love having her around!

Thursday night Dave treated all of us to a traditional German/Russian dinner.  We had Verenika, Zwieback and German Sausage.  It was Kendra's first try and she passed with flying colors!!

Emilie was home the first weekend and it was like having "mini-me" around.  She knows what I want before I do!  I love having her around and wish she was here all the time.  But, she thinks she needs to have her own life, too.  (Kids these days!)  Actually she's a second year Pharmacy student in Oregon and we couldn't be more proud.  We talk on the phone a lot and she's my rock.

Matt, our middle kiddo, is in San Francisco finishing up his degree at SF State. He was around when my accident happened and then had to go start his fall semester.  Even though he's not able to be around right now, when we talk on the phone I'm always encouraged.  He's an amazing man and seems to know just the right things to say to his old momma.

I'd never be able to handle this alone.  Last time I had major surgery I just gave up and hibernated for several years, keeping my contact with friends at a minimum.  When I finally came out of that depression, I realized the great value of having friends--lots of friends with varied talents and gifts.  This time I'm not going anywhere!  I want to reach out to all my friends and am gratefully receiving their help.  I don't want to go through this alone.  While Dave is my very best friend, I love and need my girlfriends, too.  Thanks to everyone who is hanging in with me! 

One last pic of last night's dinner: Oops, I ate it too fast!  Sorry, but when you hear what it was you'll understand.  Old fashioned roast beef, just like momma used to make, potatoes, green bean casserole, fresh fruit and chocolate cake.  Thanks to Leola, who is one of the angels who fly in here around dinnertime and leave such good food!  I'll try to get pictures before I eat next time, but no promises!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Falling Thoughts

While I was falling off of my roof I was completely conscious.   That's a really good thing because I think that's what kept my head up and avoided a head injury. But it's bad because I remember every second and millisecond.  I remember in mid-flight being so astonished that this thing had happened.  I also realized at that moment that this probably wouldn't end well.  The things that go through our minds are so detailed and rich that we could never, with our human abilities, be able to recall everything but I remember sights and sounds pretty vividly right now.

I'm 58 years old and am beginning to see some real aging things happening to me.  My eyesight has definitely gotten worse, my hearing is slightly impaired, my skin is looking wrinkled and dry and my memory is often a source of embarrassment, especially when I start to tell someone something and they get that far away look in their eyes that says, "Here we go again.  She's told me this three times already!"  Some people are too nice to say that.  My kids are mercifully honest so that I can put an end to the repeated story.

There's a huge irony here.  My memory is beginning to dwindle, especially short term memory: "What did I come into this room for?" "Who is that person?" However, when I was falling I recorded the events in slow motion and remember every little frame of action.  While in the hospital these memories kept replaying over and over in my mind, becoming so bad that I'd just close my eyes and cringe when they started.  I knew the ending and I wasn't anxious to relive it.  My hearing was also very acute as I remember hearing the ladder splash into the pool right before I landed with a thud.  The flashbacks are less now and I've been able to look at the "scene of the crime" without tears.  Since it's just outside our patio door I better get used to it because I'll be confronted by it many times a day as long as I live here.  Maybe with time I'll forget the horror, just as with many painful memories, and just remember the great things that have happened in the past week.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I walked with a walker once in the hospital and then was discharged to my home.  I was very anxious to get back home but I knew I needed help.  I needed help last Monday as I lay on my back patio with the worst pain ever and I sensed we needed help now.  Maybe not the kind of HELP! the Beatles were calling for in their famous song (What was their problem anyway?) but I knew we could not do this alone. My room had been prepared and, while I knew that my entourage of medical staff wouldn't be there, I wanted to get home and make the transition and get settled.  My husband is a rock.  He's the most patient, kind man I know.  Seven years ago he was my primary caregiver and it worked out well.  We had weeks to plan how we would handle my home care.  This time we're seven years older and this came completely out of the blue.  We had no warning--no plans A, B or C.  Our first evening/night at home were stressful.  The boys had brought one of our "hospital" beds ( part of an electric bed-set that my in-laws had once used, now our guest room beds) downstairs to our family room and all of my other supplies were kind of strewn about as Dave was trying to organize my "space".  There's plenty of room, lots of couches/chairs and I'm in the hub of the house so I can be part of whatever goes on.  Dave slept upstairs and I called him on his cell when I was ready to use the bedside commode.  He finally just slept on the couch beside me.  Interrupted sleep isn't very restful!  Anyway, by the second morning or so Dave looked completely exhausted as he provided my breakfast, did laundry and dishes before work and the light went on--we needed help.  Immediately I got out a pad and pencil and we made a list of things we needed help for.  I made a few phone calls and Voila! help arrived.  I have often been heard to say a line I heard on Seinfeld: "People.  They're the worst!"  I'm going to amend that to: "People. They're the best!"  Here's a picture of Deb W.--my own personal hair stylist and neighbor extraordinaire.  She and her husband are the ones who rescued me!!

The Chopper Room

It's been a week now, but feels like yesterday and a decade ago at the same time.  I'll continue my account of the events of last MondayBy the time all the tests had been done, and meds given I had calmed down quite a bit.  I had complete trust in my caregivers.  They were gentle and very concerned about me.  I couldn't eat or drink and was getting tired and a little hungry, but that didn't matter.  I was safe and in very capable hands.  Howard and Debbie had left whey my family showed up.  Mike and Kendra, his girlfriend went for food.  My husband, who did NOT kill me, was his usual comforting self.  It made me feel good just knowing he was there.  He had called some of my family members and friends which got the prayer chains working.  I felt prayers that I didn't even know they were being sent.  

My prior experience with Fresno Community Hospital had not been good.  Seven years ago I had back surgery with complications that resulted in three surgeries in 6 weeks.  Without going into detail, I received poor care by nursing staff and vowed never again to darken their doors.  HA!  But, at this early date I was already sensing a huge change in the tone of the place.  Good service, caring caregivers, feeling safe--it was a pleasant surprise.  Most of the time I was in a morphine cloud, but I remember enough to know I was at the complete mercy of my caregivers.  I'm so thankful that God, as the one who heals all, was watching over the whole lot of us!

When I was admitted to my room I was delivered to a quiet, out of the way single room (all privates there).  On a previous admission I was in a room on the same floor that was next to a train track and it would blow it's whistle every 30-45 minutes as it rumbled by all night.  I was sure not to be put in that room BUT my new room was next to the helipad!  Oh Great!!  At bedtime the nurse brought me a set of ear plugs.  I certainly could have used them 7 years ago!  As it turned out, however, the "choppers" which came in 3-4 times that first night didn't bother me at all...without the ear plugs.  Each time I heard it I prayed for the patients they were bringing in who were surely in more pain than I was.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Femur, Patella, Knees and Shins

Not quite the same words as the song, "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" but the tune fits!  I'm going to recount my memories of a recent escapade of mine.  (I have pics, too.  I'll warn you before putting them in.)  So here goes: On Labor Day, just a few days ago, I was home alone and pondering what to do with my morning.  I had options: take a nap, put Velcro on my slipcover, take a bath, read or wash one last window from our recent exterior painting extravaganza of our house.  The choice I eventually made is, by now, widely publicized: I decided to wash the window.  For those of you who don't know our house, I'll explain a few architectural details.  Our two story home has the master bedroom on the second floor facing the backyard.  Along the entire width of the back wall of the house we have a covered patio  and beyond that a pool and deck.  From the very highest point of our  house (which is in the front) to the ground it's about 26 feet. From the patio cover in the back to the ground is approx. 8 feet.  The distance from the master bedroom the window to the roof of the pack patio is about 2 feet.  It's easy to open the window and step out on the patio roof to wash the window.  I've done it before several times.  The roof is fairly flat but slants gradually toward the gutter.

 I had already gathered my cleaning supplies and expected this to take a few minutes, then I'd go back into the bedroom to take a nap.  Now, should I have been washing the window in the first place?  No.  Should I have been on the roof even if it was "just" a patio roof?  No, for so very many reasons.  Would I have done this if my husband had been home?  Probably not.  Was this activity against all conventional wisdom especially considering my other health issues I have? Yes.  So, you might ask, why did I do it?  I could wimp out and say, "I don't know."  But I think it's deeper than that.  I had something in mind that was "on my list" and only focused on that.  I thought I could get away with it.  I hate having any kind of restrictions on my activities and rebel now and then.  The thing is, I can usually get a small job like that done, no problem.  If there are complications, BIG PROBLEM.  Then it migrates from my realm to others' realms and in that, this kind of stuff is selfish and totally disregards the safety measures that Dave and I have put in place for us to have a good quality of life.

Bottom line: when I screw up like this, the majority of the grief falls on my husband's shoulders.  Yes, we have an awesome family and many, many friends who are willing and able to help out, but when they all go home, it's Dave and me.  He has "bedside commode duty" at 2:00 am and again at 4:00 am and many more duties that only he can do.  I disregarded our safety policies and now he suddenly has, on top of all his other responsibilities and stresses of life, a brand new "fire" to put out. My consequence is a broken, hurting body.  Not what you would call a "win-win" situation.

This is the last self flagellation exercise I will do.  I am fully accepting responsibility for my actions here and am understanding all the ramifications of my poor decision.  I have told Dave I'm sorry for what happened and as we continue on I'll have a new respect for taking good care of myself.  Pain is no picnic and we had enough to do without navigating our way through this mine field.     We've been handling all sorts of crises over the past 38 years and won't stop now.  When all is said and done we will find the positive things that will come of this mess, we always do.  Our faith in God and others will be strengthened as we lean on Him and others so heavily during this time.

Now, on to the action!  After assembling all my supplies, I slid the window open and stepped out.  The window cleaning went well and yes, the window did get clean.  The problem was that when I closed the window behind me it locked into place and I lost my only way into the house.  I had a mini panic attack but then started problem solving.  The options were to: stay there til someone found me; jump down; find a way to  climb down the chimney or...AHA! There was a ladder on this roof, a remnant of the recent painting.  I could slide it down to the patio and climb down.  I thought I was saved!  I closed the ladder and started sliding it to the edge of the roof. Remember, it's flat with a little slant.  It was at this point that gravity took over.  The ladder ( see above, now safely on the ground out of MY way!) slipped out of my hands and I followed it.

I remember sliding off the roof and seeing the Adirondack chair right below me.  I didn't have time to figure out how best to land and the next thing I knew I heard the ladder splash into the pool right before I landed on the ground.    I was somehow sitting on the patio with my back towards the house.  I looked down and saw my right  thigh going one way, right knee going the other and right,  lower leg heading another.  There was a protrusion from under the waistband of my shorts which must have been the right hip joint.  I sensed something very, very wrong here and grabbed the lower part of my leg to try to straighten it to see if I could get out of this easily. It was dead weight and I realized there was blood all over.  It quickly hit me that I was in major trouble and I stared yelling, "Help me! Call 911! Somebody help!"  My voice seemed to crack and I was afraid that no one would hear me.  I don't know how long I yelled--it seemed like hours--but it wasn't very long.  Suddenly I heard voices and people running and yelling.  My across the street neighbors, Howard and Debbie came to me at about the same time my backyard neighbor called out that she was calling 911.  Howard tried calling but wasn't getting through.  The backyard neighbor yelled that she had gotten through and help was on the way.  I was so relieved.  The pain I was experiencing was incredible.  The very worst I ever had.  Now when someone asks me to describe my pain with ten being the worst pain I have ever experienced, I'll have a good reference point.

In the meantime Debbie had bent down to check on me to see what I needed.  Fortunately there were lots of towels and a rug around the pool so I had her put pressure on the gash on my lower shin (left side).  She talked to me calmly and soothingly and reminded me that help was on the way.  I kept saying, "My husband is going to kill me."

Debbie and Howard responded by repeating, "He won't kill you.  He's not going to kill you."

My mantra at that point was, "Oh God help me!  I'm so sorry! Dave is gonna kill me! Help me!  I'm so sorry! Oh God, help me!"  I tried some deep breathing and found comfort in singing my Grandma Smith's favorite hymn, How Great Thou Art. 

Howard went into the house to find things like my phone, purse and a large pillow so I could lean on a post  in the patio.  As the siren got louder, Howard went out front to direct them to me.  The guys arrived and started assessing me with me hollering again whenever they would even look at my right leg.  I was in excruciating pain.  Howard and Debbie offered to call my family but I was coherent enough so I called Dave. I tried to be calm so he wouldn't panic. I said, "I fell and need you to come home.  I'm so sorry.  I fell.  Be careful, don't drive too fast, Howard and Debbie are here and the ambulance is here and they'll go with me. I'm going to call Mike."

His steady and confident voice has always comforted me when I've been in panic mode.  He said, "O.K. I'm on my way.  I'll meet you at Fresno Community ER?"

"Yes. I'm sorry!"

I then called my son, Michael and said, "Mike, I need you.  I fell and am going to Fresno Community on the ambulance."

"We'll meet you there was his quick response.

I was medicated while still in the backyard and by the time we reached the hospital I had 10 mg of IV Morphine on board and was still in unbearable pain.  I was strapped to a backboard with a neck collar so I couldn't look around.  I was kind of disappointed because I'd never been inside an ambulance before. Having a cockeyed leg is one way to get you right in at the trauma center.  Remember that if you're ever there!  The team of MDs, RNs, Xray techs, PA's, NP's and many "persons with initials" got me poked and pulled and scooted, xrayed and assessed up one side and down the other.

One of my RN's happened to be a former high school classmate of my son and they had played soccer together.  I was glad to see him because I knew it would be so good for Mike to see a familiar face!.  The family came, Dave arrived and I was able to relax a bit.  I'll break up the rest of the saga because there's so much to tell and my energy is quite limited!