Saturday, January 26, 2013

Higgledy Piggledy, Physical Therapy...

It's a promising beginning for a double dactyl, but it will have to wait, because I have too much, um, physical therapy on my plate at the moment.

I haven't forgotten the blogosphere or this blog, but when even the simplest household acts require twice the time and four times the energy, it's a bit overwhelming. E.g., imagine going to the bathroom, on a walker, on only one leg.

Or changing clothes. Or rinsing a dish in the kitchen sink while sitting in a wheelchair. AND having assignments of exercises, some supervised by your P.T., some using fancy equipment but many just as difficult using cut-out sections of colorful balloons, either gripped in your hands or tied in knots around your leg(s) and the chair you're sitting in. Or lifting weights that seem tiny when you read the numbers on them, but not so small on the 10th, 15th, 20th... repetition of some simple exercise.

Or learning to climb the shallowest step from a brick patio to a wooden deck using a walker... when you lack one foot or one leg.

Or walking around a typical American 3-2-2 house on a walker for every. damned. thing. you. need. to. do in the course of a day.

I'm sure jams knows exactly what I mean; he's been through it. I don't doubt others of you have some first-hand experience as well.

Twice this week I've slept 12 hours in a night. The greatest injustice is that Stella can't do the same herself, and goodness knows most of the housework falls on her, including the chores that once were mine. With luck, they will be mine again at the conclusion of this process. But that's weeks or even months away.

Still, none of us has any real complaint, compared to the many children with disabilities (and their caregivers) who face all these things and more. And my disability, though permanent, can often be remedied to a point of resuming a more-or-less normal life. How many people, including children, have no such prospect? I have no basis for bellyaching.

For an amputee, balance is the key
I suppose the WSJ sees these kids as "lucky duckies" because they receive government benefits including some tax breaks. There's about as much basic human compassion in these members of the 1% as in Republican candidates in the last election. And they wonder why they did so poorly in that election. And I wonder why Democrats cut GOPers any slack at all. I mean, it's not as if the 1% never ends up physically disabled...

If this post has a point, it is that the political IS personal, the more personal for those with greater disabilities, and more personal in the other direction for people with greater advantages.

I know none of the people in these pictures personally. But I share a bond with all of them. We face a challenge which does not confront people who have no major disability. Every day we face such a challenge... sometimes with good grace, sometimes with unrestrained frustration, but it is always there in front of us. Steering a wheelchair through narrow hallways or balancing on a walker as one transitions from a chair or bed or wheelchair to our primary means of mobility... at least for now... or making it up a single stair (even 2" or 3", even just one), we grin and grit teeth and go for it. It is a game we win every time we arrive on our feet (or foot) without crashing, or return to the table with a dish not shattered on the floor, or just plain make it to the bathroom with no accidents. The victories in this life are small but savored unreservedly by every one of us you see in those pics.

Join us in our fortune, good and ill... it's like nothing the WSJ's self-satisfied "lucky duckies" are likely to experience in their lives. We are alive, when we might so easily not have been... and damn, we know it every single moment. Join us!


  1. I'm going to be terribly un-PC to say this but you have the right to complain. Acknowledging others who have worse difficulties is fine, but remember to acknowledge your own. (I think this reaction comes from caring for my mother-in-law....) (And yes, complaining is different from whining.) (And why do the British say whinging?)

    Thanks for describing what you are facing. I've never realized the scope of things affected by a loss of a limb.

    1. ellroon, thanks for the kind words. Don't worry; I "whinge" probably more than my share (and no, I don't know the origin of either the American or the British version). Usually Stella hears the worst of my whin[ge]ing; sometimes she bears it, or says something that sets me grinning, and then again sometimes she has had enough and (always kindly but firmly) sets me straight about how much griping I am permitted.

      It's the kids whose pain really bothers me, especially if (sometimes thanks to the WSJ editorial types) they aren't getting the therapy they need. The human body is amazing in its ability to compensate for all kinds of losses, including (in my case) a foot below the ankle, if the wherewithal and training are provided to it. When kids are not provided what they need, I get cranky and political. It isn't unnatural for a 64-year-old to suffer diminished mobility, but six-year-olds are another matter altogether. "Tough luck" and "kid" should never appear in the same sentence in today's America: the circumstance that causes the tough luck can and should be addressed with what modern medicine has to offer.

      Most people have no clear idea what a cripple (I do not shy away from the word; some find it distasteful) faces, and most newly-formed cripples learn the hard way. My one real fall came from forgetting momentarily to apply a hand to my weak-side support at all times... ALL times... and it was a moment of negligence or perhaps sheer stupidity. But I forgive myself; I am no more accustomed to surviving stupidity at all times than most people are used to keeping their hands in the right place and their balance over existing limbs at all times. If practice doesn't make perfect, but at least doesn't make broken limbs, one CAN be taught. There is, no doubt, a lot to remember, and all of it in real-time.

      And now I have another therapy session...

  2. I'll make this real simple: You are just amazing, courageous, and gutsy as hell.

    1. karmanot, watch out; you'll give me a swelled head... if falling on it doesn't do the job first...

  3. what karmanot said. i really hope i have your courage and perspective if i ever have to face a challenge like that.

    1. 'noz, I hope you never have to face this kind of obstacle, but I have every confidence that if you do, you will face it with all the courage and perspective you need and have. Meanwhile, just remember to balance on the good limb while you compensate for the missing one...

      Stella directed tonight's therapy session, literally... ask the therapist! We learned the difference among several walkers we found (all available for next to nothing at garage sales), then the therapist... a licensed P.T. who was once a football player... taught the two of us how to use one walker, one wheelchair, and Stella's lovely and strong frame to transition both of us out the back door, over deck steps (shallow but challenging), across a bumpy brick patio and to Stella's car and on to an appointment (or, one day, one hopes, out to dinner), without harm to either of us... and with neither cat escaping through the same door. It was quite an evening!

  4. Hoping with a Zimmer frame is a pain in the arse. At least Shirl rewed me up jugs of coffee to last me the morning and then the afternoon

    I was only doing it because one leg was encased in plaster for six weeks but stick with it Steve. Things will change with your prosthesis

    1. jams, all of this happened so suddenly... one week, I was feeling some pain I didn't feel before; the next week, I was confronted with a choice: have the foot amputated or risk dying of sepsis. Either prospect was surreal to me, but I wasn't quite ready to die yet, so I chose amputation. I did so on a wholly logical basis... best long-term prospects for mobility, less chance of dire infection, etc. ... but I felt as if I were choosing what to have for breakfast, there was so little pressure riding on the choice. I was once told by the orthotist who built my giant boot that (successful) amputees often feel great relief just from the absence of infection; so far, I would believe that is true. There are miles to go before I walk normally, but I can foresee a time when I do, so there is psychological benefit as well, as I'm sure you know.

      A walker (Zimmer frame)) is a real piece of work. All the difficulty is in the first two seconds as you mount the frame; if you don't crash then... if you keep your balance... it's just grit and strength after that, until you have to dismount. Because walkers so often turn up in garage sales (sorry; I don't know the British term for a garage sale or yard sale), I've ended up with three of them, each bought for a song, each slightly different. One I use daily; it is slightly too small for me but is structurally very sound and fits through our narrow halls. Another is my original; I named it Ranger, short for "Ranger, Texas Walker" (there was a TV show starring Chuck Norris called "Walker, Texas Ranger") and yet another walker may become my standard when I develop a more galloping gait outdoors. Practice, practice, practice! Not since I took piano lessons as a child have I been so devoted to acquiring a particular physical skill and the strength associated with it.

      Tomorrow is a long day; that's why I'm skipping blogging. I meet with my PT and also my prosthetist to have my stump measured (hey, that sounds obscene!) for a first cut, so to speak; they say they will make one to four versions (don't ask what it costs, and hope the insurance covers most of it). Meanwhile, Stella has a long day in her own arena; wish us luck.

      Thanks for the encouragement, jams; I hope any ongoing therapy for you is straightforward and trouble-free. I look forward to when both of us can, um, shake a leg!

    2. My knee is fine now. I needed a second operation but apart from the arthiritis I get around fine...although sometimes a waling stick is needed. It'lltake time ut you will be getting around fine too

      I will never get impatient with anyone who has to use one of those damned frames

    3. Glad to hear your knee is better, jams. I never leave a chair without a walker (frame) or a stick, and I usually end up changing vehicles every 50 feet or so, even indoors.

      I do not understand people who are impatient with the disabled. There's something subhuman about venting frustrations at someone who has no choice but to move slowly and awkwardly. But there's no shortage of short-tempered people out there, and I've mostly gotten used to it.

  5. Having been a caregiver for over a decade and now in a situation where the situation is reversed-----well, a perfect opportunity to acknowledge Stella and the love, dedication and strength of character do it. Lucky man!

    1. Lucky I am indeed, karmanot, and so apparently are you. Each of us is well cared-for in his own circumstance; each of us has a loving and dedicated partner. Good for you!

  6. I'm so sorry to hear (okay, read) about all your health problems! I sure hope you continue to improve and that your physical therapy is going well!

    Take care!



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