DAY 116, June 21. It was time to progress to the next phase of my recovery. It was time to leave Houston and return to Austin. My day started with my usual routine while mom and Kevin finished packing. They had already finished packing up their apartment. I said my good byes to the doctors, therapists, nurses and assistants. The staff had autographed a tee shirt for me. I prepared for my 150 mile cab ride to Austin. I did my transfer to my wheel chair, and the staff sang and danced in a parade to the elevator. Heart-felt thanks and good luck salutations were exchanged, and off I went, pushed by Martha and accompanied by mom and Kevin. I was loaded in the back of a mini van, which was designed to carry a wheel chair. Mom sat in the passenger seat and Kevin followed in my old van to complete our convoy. I felt like cargo strapped down in the back of the van. Mom and the cab driver hit it off and had a great conversation. I watched the landscape as it flew by. I had driven this route many times. After a three hour drive, we found our way to the hospital. I checked into my private room, which was rumored to have the biggest TV on the fourth floor. We unpacked and I settled into my new digs. It was a nice room. Mom and Kevin eventually left and went to a near by hotel.
Day 117- Mom and Kevin left for the long drive back to Wisconsin. I was on my own. I can’t thank them enough for all they have done. They both put their lives on hold to help me to recover. The definition of family.
The epic event of the day was my first real bowel movement (without an enema). All those mini-enemas came home to roost, with a vengeance. I filled my diaper with what felt like a big mud pie. It happened just before my therapist showed up, so I was mortified that he had to clean it up. But from that point forward, I had regular bowel movements. So it was another milestone, though a messy one.
Day 118- Today’s therapy was bathroom training. The usual toilet is like a low chair. The problem is that it is too low. It is impossible to get up, because my legs were too weak. The solution was to have an elevated seat mounted over the toilet bowl. I successfully used the toilet. Ker-plunk. Another milestone.
My mother and Kevin arrived home safely. Hurray.
Day 119- Evaluation Day. I met my doctor and therapists. Again, I had hit the jackpot. They all turned out to be exceptional….My room was near the nurses’ station, and close to the lunch room and therapy. My nurse was Vlady, complete with a Russian accent and the tech was Jack, a bear of a man with a heart of gold…. I still used a wheel chair. And when I was in bed, there was an alarm that sounded, to warn the nurse that I had left the bed without assistance.
Day 120- Therapy started full speed. In physical therapy, my therapist was Don. I started immediately on the treadmill. Again, I had a harness to help support a percentage of my weight and to catch me, if I fell. In occupational therapy, I worked with Mel(issa). We started on the hand bike, which had pedals like a bike, but for the arms. In speech therapy, I worked with Kirsten. We worked on facial exercises.
Day 123- Today, I walked alone using the walker. Another huge milestone. My independence day approached.
Day 124- The food was great. I loved the salmon and mashed potatoes. Eating was a pleasure. I ate salmon every day!
July 2013- My morning routine was different, yet similar. I was awakened for vitals. I would swallow my pills instead of having them ground up and washed down my feeding tube. I was not getting my anti-clot shot in my hip anymore. Breakfast would be served in bed. Then I would transfer myself with assistance into my wheel chair. This was done by adjusting the bed height so I could sit up, hold onto the handrails and stand up, then pivot into the wheel chair. I would then wheel myself to the wash basin to brush my teeth and wash off my face, and comb my hair. Then I would check the schedule for my therapy times. It was much simpler than before.
I wasn’t using my feeding tube for water intake. It was there as a back-up plan just in case. I was drinking thickened liquids with my meals. Eventually my feeding tube was removed. The way the tube was removed was pretty low tech. The doctor came in and firmly gripped the tube and pulled on it until it popped out. It was kind of like a tug of war. There was a ball attached to the tube just inside the stomach. This served as a gasket and a mechanism to hold the tube in place. There was no blood. A band aid was placed over the hole. It was over in minutes. Another milestone.
I did a field trip for Mel(issa). I was to demonstrate a product for a class of therapists in South Austin. I told them I would work for BBQ. We traveled in a Yellow Cab outfitted for wheel chairs. I demonstrated a product that attached to my right hand that was designed to help a handicapped person pick up objects with more ease. All went well and I got my BBQ.
In therapy, the trend is your friend. The goal was for continued improvement. The good days kept getting better and the bad days, less bad. Sometimes the greatest strides happened on a day where you just felt tired. Work Hard, Never Quit, and take it one day at a time.
One of my personal favorite milestones was the day I quit wearing diapers. I was having regular bowel movements and I could hold the urge long enough, to get to the toilet. The same was true for my bladder. The day I converted to boxer shorts was AWESOME! And being able to wipe your own butt was something we take for granted.
My toe nails had grown long and gnarly. And my left big toe hurt due to an ingrown toe nail. A foot doctor came by and did a bedside procedure to trim the ingrown toe nail. As he cut, he asked, “Does this hurt?”. I replied no and he responded, “It should”. I had lost some sensation in my feet due to the stroke. He bandaged me up and I eventually ate lunch in the community lunch room. As I sat there eating my salmon and mashed potatoes, a good samaratin approached and stated ” Not top alarm you, but you are bleeding”, which is a sure fire way to alarm someone. It turned out the toenail surgery plus my blood thinner medication, had caused me to bleed through my bandage. There was a puddle of blood under me. I was wheeled back to my room and Vlady changed my bandage.
Therapy continued daily. Physical therapy involved longer walks with the walker and exercises using the horizontal bars. My right knee still tended to buckle, but it was getting better. Occupational therapy involved building strength and dexterity in my hands and strength, endurance and range of motion in my arms. Personal hygiene was also monitored. Did I shave good? etc. I was to the point that I could shower and wash myself, and dress and undress with assistance. Speech therapy involved facial exercises and conversation. I was still having trouble swallowing water without coughing, so I still drank thickened liquids. I would take a bite, chew, swallow, and then take a drink to wash it down. My swallowing was still weak.
Mom and Dad visited. They came to prepare my house to move back into. They also stocked it with food and supplies such as toilet paper. My dad installed an elevated toilet seat that I ordered over the internet. And they removed potential hazards that might cause a fall such as rugs. And my mom cleaned the house. Thanks Mom and Dad! They headed home to Wisconsin on July 25.
For socializing, there would be games held on the third floor every week. I would push myself in my wheelchair to the elevator and downstairs. There were games of chance such as crazy eights and bingo. And there were small prizes. Patients and their families were invited. My favorite prize was a ‘murse’ which I won in a wicked game of crazy eights with an eight year old. I used it as an ID badge and money holder which I hung from my neck. I continued to use it after my discharge.
To develop more independence, I was also doing my own laundry. This was also on the third floor, so I would take my laundry down there twice a week. I was also taken to a mock bathroom to practice getting into and out of a bathtub.
I had received a mechanical chicken that played the Chicken Dance. It was a joke gift that brought a smile to my face. I loaned it to one of the therapists so she could practice for her wedding reception.
Thanks to my fantastic doctors, nurses, therapists and everyone else who has helped in my continuing recovery. My run of good luck continues.