Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Acute Therapy Isn't So Cute

Moving South

Let me tell you, Valium does wonders for ambulance rides. Maybe I was just happy to be out of the hospital after days of waiting, but the ride from Fresno to Bakersfield was much better than the previous one. I bet having my spine fixed helped a little too...

I'll be the first to admit I was a little scared about the next chapter in recovery. Kim had recommended Health South as an acute therapy option when the doctors first mentioned I'd need it. I'll admit, when she mentioned three hours of physical therapy a day, I was a wee bit terrified. The most I'd done in a day was maybe 30 minutes in the hospital, if that. I was determined though, so I wasn't going to let three hours of therapy scare me too much. Little did I know, I was about to be on yet another crazy adventure...

I was thankful to have the bed by the window again, and it even opened! If I had been stuck without a window at either place, I might have lost it. I was thankful to have Dave there, and Jenn, Mike & Kim visiting on that first day. I was thankful to finally get some pain meds again - it had been a good 8 hours without them. I was thankful that I had fight and motivation to get back on the slopes and in the mountains (see tweet below). I was thankful for a lot of things, and I would discover more and more things to be thankful for every single day.

Me? Give up skiing?! Fuck that!!

The Young One

Let me tell you, being the youngest patient in a place by at least two decades is not easy. Don't get me wrong, there were a few patients that I loved talking to and were sweethearts, but it was just weird. It felt like a reminder at times that I should not have been there; I should have been running up and down mountains, carving up the groomers, just being anywhere but there. I had to keep reminding myself that this was temporary and I'd be back to all of that soon enough.

The first day of PT and OT was a giant slap in the face for me. I wasn't too surprised when I couldn't do things in PT because I knew my left leg hated me, that my feet didn't want to "pull up", that muscles and nerves were just going to take lots of time to come back to full strength. It really hit me during OT when they had me put my shoes on. I got my right one on, but couldn't get the left one. It hurt my hip just moving my leg to even start putting it on. I was in tears. I could not even put my own damn shoe on. What was wrong with me?! I really started to realize at that moment what all we take for granted...

PT and OT got better each session and day. My second day at HS, I was able to pull my feet/toes upward a little and remember being so thrilled about it. It was small, but it was something I wasn't able to do since the accident. I remember being allowed to carefully wheel my own wheelchair (that's a big deal when you've had back surgery). I remember when they let me have a walker in the room to use. I remember almost being able to take a shower without any help. Even with all the positive things happening, there were times when PT and OT just crushed me. Walking was exhausting at times. Standing for three minutes seemed like forever. Who would have thought things like this would come out of my mouth?! It was always difficult for me when exercises with my right leg/foot would go well and the left side just wouldn't cooperate at all. I remember many times when I couldn't swing my left leg to the side, when I couldn't raise it laying on my side (which I can still barely do even now), couldn't bend my leg when laying on my stomach. I remember slapping the mat several times when I was frustrated with the leg. Even with all the progress I was seeing, there were many frustrating moments. 

The Weekend

I was so happy for the weekend. I wasn't going anywhere, but it was nice to have a little break from things. There was still PT and OT on Saturday for me, but it was easier than the stuff I was doing during the week. Dave was feeling a little better (the poor guy got sick after all the time he spent in the hospital with me) and so he got to see some of the progress I was making during PT. He also seemed to enjoy harassing me while I was working hard too (shocking!). I actually got to have In-N-Out for lunch and realized I didn't have my appetite back because I couldn't finish my double meat and barely touched the well done fries. I was so excited about non-hospital food and I couldn't even finish it. Later that afternoon, Jenn and Sandy came to visit. They brought me some homemade Pad Thai and chocolate cupcakes! It was so nice to spend time a few hours with them and being more mobile when they visited this time! Their visit definitely helped lift my spirits. 

Sunday was a bit of a different story. After days of telling the doctor, the internal med guy and the nurses that my iron count was always low, they decided to do more than just the iron pills I was getting. They started me on five days of iron IVs. I was not happy. They were threatening me with a transfusion, but I made sure they didn't do that. My iron had always been low and my body never had a problem with it. My blood and all that crap never caused problems. I never got AMS when Dave and I were in the High Sierra. He'd get it, but I NEVER got it. My body was fine with my blood/iron. On top of being upset about that, they had problems getting the IV started. It took them an hour to do it. Seriously. Eventually things calmed down, but it was not a good start to the day for me. Poor Dave was sick again, so I flew solo that day. 

I ventured outside for the first time and soaked up some sunshine. It felt glorious. For the first time in two weeks, I was outdoors using my own two feet (and the walker). Every other time had been on a gurney. It was amazing feeling - sunshine, fresh air, and a sense of progress. Even with that positive feeling, I had some demons that decided to attack that night. Everything started to hit me really hard. I was in tears wondering why this happened to me? What did I do to deserve this?! Why couldn't I just have a do-over or something like that?! WHY?! I don't know why, but I shot Kim a short email about it. I remember trying to hide my tear-filled eyes from the nurses as I was getting ready for bed. Kim called and emailed back while I was in the bathroom. I listened to her voicemail, but I just couldn't bring myself to call her back. I just wanted to take my pain meds, sleeping pills and hope that feeling would be gone in the morning. Looking back on it, she was 100% correct in everything she said that night. 

Back at it... and walking

Monday was a weird morning. I woke up feeling a bit off from the night before, but at the same time a little better after reading the encouraging email Kim sent again. Dave was still sick and not able to go to work or visit. Even with all of that, Monday was a big day in PT. It was the day of trying the quad cane around the gym for the first time. It was the day of walking around the gym only gently hanging onto the hand of my physical therapist. It was the day to walk between the rails without hanging on for the first time. It was a big day. It wasn't pretty walking between the rails, and it was really scary, but I had some good steps in there. It was difficult to control my hips/legs/feet and balance while trying to move. It was just bizarre feeling trying to learn to walk again. There is no other way to describe it. I was thrilled though. For the first time in over two weeks, I was taking steps without hanging onto anything. I was exhausted that afternoon. 

Tuesday and Wednesday in PT and OT were much of the same - practicing walking solo more, working on balance, getting ready for life at home, etc. My final test in OT was taking a shower without any help. I passed with flying colors. I remember working my ass off those last few PT and OT sessions (not saying I wasn't before) because I wanted to be ready for attacking life back at home. I still hated having an iron IV every morning and the food at every meal, but I was happy to be making progress. 

My last day at Health South, Kim came to visit and brought a dark chocolate milkshake for me. We sat outside and enjoyed the sunshine and milkshakes, just talking about the progress I was making, how things were going since Sunday night and life in general. It was nice to just be able to relax and talk to a good friend. Dave was starting to feel better again and came down my last night to visit too. He'd been having a rough time being sick and all that jazz, so it made me happy to see him feeling better again. Their visits made my last night at Health South a much better one. [Side note: I blame Mike and Kim for my addiction to the shakes at Moo Creamery. Mike claims it's all on Kim's hands and he's "just the humble servant", but I'm still blaming both of them for the yummy addiction.] 

A great way to end this chapter of recovery.


Thursday morning was a glorious one. I was a bit nervous about going home, but at the same time I was so happy to be going home. My departure came at a good time too because my new roommate was just a little crazy and I'll leave it at that. Dave showed up shortly after I returned from breakfast and helped pack up my stuff. I had one last iron IV to go and then I was a free woman. Finally, after what seemed like hours on the IV, it was done. Everything was packed up and in the Subie. I turned in my discharge papers at the front desk and walked out the door. That's right, not even three weeks after the accident and two back surgeries, I WALKED out of Health South. Freedom...

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