Going Home: August 2, 2013

DAY 158: AUGUST 2, 2013.  My personal Independence Day.

STATUS CHECK: I had a wheel chair but I used a walker to get around. All the paraphenalia from my stroke (traech, feeding tube, pic line) was gone.  I was on a blood thinner and a statin.  I was weakened with poor balance but I was independent. Hallelujah.

I was going home. I couldn’t wait. I was so excited.  Paperwork, good byes, and waiting.  Finally the hospital released me and I was free.  My best friend Mike drove me home. It felt surreal as I entered the blistering Texas heat and got into Mike’s truck; not in a wheel chair, but sitting in the car seat. I was ready to start the next chapter in my life. When I got home, it felt surreal, but familiar and comforting.

I was living alone for the first time in five months, which presented new challenges.  I had to be responsible for taking care of myself. If I fell, I had to get back up on my own. I had to make my own meals, shop for groceries, feed myself, arrange transportation, etc…With independence came work and responsibility.

I got around the house using my walker.  I zip-tied a chair to the side of my bed, to give me something to hold onto when I pulled myself upright in bed.  Then I would stand upright and get my walker.  And of to the bathroom, I went. I had ordered an elevated toilet sheet, since getting out of a low toilet seat was problematic.  I then brushed my teeth and washed up.  Then I would make a phone call to my parents at 7:30, a ritual i continue to this day.  Originally this was a means to signal to my parents that I was okay.  That I hadn’t fallen and injured myself.  So the phone call was a signal that all was well.  For breakfast, I would have something simple like yogurt and applesauce. Then I would feed the local tribe of feral cats.  That was the start to my day.

The next order of business was to tackle my medical bills.  Thankfully my insurance company was great, but I still had to deal with a lot of bills. This involved lots of phone calls. My voice was weak and a little garbled, so talking over the phone required extra effort and patience.  It was generally frustrating and thank God I could refer them to my insurance company if there were any disagreements. I would only do two calls a day because they were usually an emotional and physical drain.

I had my first fall at home.  I was opening the door and it was stuck.  I gave it a tug and I lost my balance.  Down I went.  Fortunately, it was onto some empty cardboard boxes which softened my fall.  I was alone and as I laid there, I thought “This is the test. Can I get back up?”  After much effort, I was able to roll myself over onto my stomach and maneuver myself back up onto my feet.  Well that was a close call, but I survived without injury.

I began my outpatient rehabilitation at Hospital C.  I did it three days a week.  I would take a cab.  I would have one hour each of physical, occupational, and speech therapy. My therapists continued to be great. I was truly blessed.  My occupational therapist was Nancy.  Her focus was to work on my right shoulder and get it limber again.  My physical therapist was Michael.  He focused on general strengthening, stamina and balance.  John was my speech therapist, where the focus was getting my voice stronger and clearer.  As time went on, I continued to get stronger and more flexible with more stamina and better balance.

I went for daily walks with my walker.  I purchased a new type of walker.  It had four wheels and a seat to sit on when I got tired.  It was more manueverable and using it felt more like walking.  I would try to go for a half hour walk every morning.  A couple times a week, I would go for a hour long walk to increase my stamina.

The one thing about my house that concerned me was that there was no handrail on the front porch.  I was afraid I would lose my balance coming down the steps and injure myself from the fall.  My friends, Eric, Mike and John installed one for me.

I won my Rotiserrie Baseball league.  Sweet!  The Spencer Park Howlers are champs.  It went down to the last day, but the Howlers won by a nose.

Originally I was taking a cab to therapy, but I was able to get into a handicapped transportation service provided by the city of Austin.  it was a Godsend.  Originally I went in a wheelchair on the bus, But I evolved into using my walker to get to van. I would use the service to go to therapy 3 times a week, get groceries, do laundry, doctor appointments, etc. It saved me