Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 19 - Movin' on up

It was rough last night...for my roommate and me. I am writing this from my new digs, one room down from the old joint.

My old roommate apparently had dementia in addition to being an amputee. He was not supposed to get out of his bed and there were alarms - loud ones - that sounded whenever he decided to tour the facilities. He felt the need to go on walkabout on a random but frequent basis 24/7 and he has been doing this ever since I was wheeled into the room.

After a agitated night and a number of incidents, each and every one with at least one alarm and then the arrival of one or more nurses to tell him he needed to push the call button any time he needed to get out of bed, they finally put him in a wheelchair and took him out of the room around 1 a.m. So from 1 until 7 am I slept deeply with the fishes and awoke to hear unsettling snoring from my newly materialized roommate.

What I'm about to describe is something he had tried the day before with less success which I found unsettling and unsafe. This morning I noticed him moving around and I prepared my inner child for the alarm...I see his foot on the floor, my curtain is being pulled back, and a mostly naked man started grabbing the cups on my tray table. I pushed an empty one toward him thinking he was looking for the urinal bottle and had no idea where he was. He stumbled slightly and about then the nurse corp joined the fray.

I am a mostly patient person but having dealt with this the night before all day and again this night I did not feel safe in this room. Had he fallen on my stump and destroyed my surgeon's beautiful work and caused who knows what kind of complications...well...I asked that one of us be relocated.

So here I am in another room with a roommate who is lucid and I'm happy to be here. Too bad this experience colored my otherwise excellent care.

Shortly after The Incident the rehab doc took a look at my looked amazing considering I had my lower leg cut off just 6 days ago. One spot had some fresh blood which could have come from undressing the bandages themselves. I had to wait a bit for some special gauze that resisted sticking to a wound. My nurse took care of the rebandaging the distal end where the stitches are present and applied the shrinker back over my stump. Looks good!

Physical therapy was very enjoyable today. I got started right after lunch and was allowed to drive my own wheelchair to the gym. I quickly made the acquaintance of Mel, who’s above the knee (AK) amputation and other injuries were the result of a drunk driver's crash into him. We made quick friends and he showed me his prosthesis, how it used a vacuum system in the carbon fiber socket, and we talked about how he was enthusiastically working toward playing wheelchair basketball. A positive attitude is the wine of recovery! We chatted while using the weight machines, the one I used was called the rickshaw because, I deduced, if you back your wheelchair into it and do weight presses, you look like you could be planning your new transportation career in Singapore.

After this I was taught some more exercises for my right leg and then joined an assembled group to perform additional coordination exercises that will be otherwise useful in daily life. It was very enjoyable despite each person's individual limitation, everyone was trying and I witnessed a part of life hidden from me in the past. Or do we hide from it?

Since I plan to go home tomorrow I felt badly leaving the group when we had finished. Not sure if I will have PT tomorrow but we learned as much from each other by our actions as we did from the therapists, who were always friendly, positive, and helpful. I never felt like a stranger and I found the bond of shared adversity strengthen our individual resolve. I saw one woman who never played basketball in her life flick the wrist in a natural Jordan-esque fashion when tossing a ball into a barrel. Lots of smiles and I did not see any pity for anyone's condition. Just a few friends enjoying each other's company on a lazy Sunday afternoon.


Last night my friend Eric, his wife Shelley, and their youngest daughter Madi visited me after enjoying the Family Circle tennis tournament on Daniel Island. Eric is one of my closest and oldest friends; I've known Eric since the 4th grade, Mrs. Matthews’s class at Summerville Elementary school. I have a class photo at home of us sitting at our desks that I try to scan later and add to this post.

We lost Eric and Shelley's brother-in-law Galen to cancer last year. Eric and I had spoken yesterday and he informed me he was going into the hospital tomorrow with surgery scheduled for Tuesday. There appears to be something growing in his lung although preliminary tests have not found any malignancy.

I am rooting for you my friend, my brother, and I know your family and friends are holding you in their hearts and minds.

Photo: Jennifer Blalock - Sullivans Island Palmettos


  1. Hi there meester! Our friends at .homeless revealed your current location, so I thought I'd pop by and root for you a bit - and wow, that's some strong spirit you have, going through all that and staying so positive! Most impressive.

    I broke my ankle (3 small bones, healing well) this january, and even though I'm not that much into sports (jogging mostly, some badminton) it's really tough to not be able to go when the body wants to go - I can't imagine what it must be like for you. I really, really hope you'll be up and about soon. And I know you will.

    I'm a bit far away to sign your blade when you get it, but mentally it's done and done ;-)

    Stay happy & best regards to you and yours!

  2. Hey hon, Hang in there. Not long now until you get to come home. Then you can start your Home PT by installing the new doggy door. That'll be a nice challenge for you. ;)

  3. Joan D'AlonzoApril 20, 2009 at 4:46 PM

    Hey RB! I've been enjoying reading your updates- glad to hear things are going so well!

  4. Howdy Antti,

    Well I was trying to hide and I know my foot wasn't sticking out from the undisclosed location but Geo's search for sheep leaves no rock uncovered.

    I do recall your ankle break, you might remember why I was insistent that you make sure you have it thoroughly checked up. ;-) Keep arthritis a distant stink!

    Consider the blade duly honored, I can't wait to swing Jato in earnest.

  5. Well when Charlie offers his help...