Saturday, May 9, 2009

Working stiff

There's been some delay in the blog posts since I started back to work. I thought I might begin with half days, but that immediately went to full time. First, Jennifer would have to come pick me up and take me home; not that she would mind, but a one hour lunch would turn into a two hour taxi ride. Second, it takes me longer to do many things in the wheelchair. I have multiple PCs in my office including a test bed for new machines and testing new technologies like virtualization. A half day hardly gives me time to touch several things I am working on in addition to the daily support issues that arise and need attention.

Once I get home, help feed the pets, change out of office clothes into retirement wear (pajamas), eat dinner, yada yada yada and usually have a pain pill somewhere along the way, the evening is short and my energy levels are at their lowest. I want to update the blog, but whatever creativity I have has taken a hike to nearest bear cave for a long winter's nap. So here it is Saturday and I am reviewing the past week. So that's my excuse for the quiet time; not much should happen until I see Dr. Ohlson on June 10th or so I hope.

Blackface sheep on watch
After my 3 week work hiatus I returned to the hallowed halls of the workplace, where I have managed to spend 26 years of my productive life drawing, designing, sneaking up on coworkers with deadlines late in the evening with a quivering air horn in hand, messing with computer guts, running on my lunch hour, dumping water out of computer guts after Hurricane Hugo, crawling in the attic and dropping network cable, winning $10 betting gold fish cannot not survive being frozen in the company refrigerator, and fond memories of a particular city engineer affectionately known as "Grandfather." I decided in order not to spend the afterlife burning in eternal damnation that I should stop with 99.9% of the practical jokes. The 0.1% keeps the sanity meter centered and is known only to me. In the interest of full disclosure with a duly noted exception, my brother Mark refuses to answer any phone call from me on April 1. Strange boy, Mark.

So on Monday, May 4, the lovely Jennifer, with Baxter the good looking dog riding shotgun on his way to doggie daycare, and yours truly residing in the back seat, set out on our adventure. I am considering repeating "chicken pot, chicken pot, chicken pot piiieee" all the while but recall wise words of discretion and valor and resist the temptation. I had hoped to arrive at work early to avoid seeing anyone until I was at my desk. I didn't want any sort of welcoming committee...I know my appearance is different, but I am the same guy they knew, and any other differences they will not be able to see. The thing is I was not sure how I would react to a formal reception, and didn't want blubbering Richard to show up and steal the show.

I want to repeat what Jennifer tweeted that morning:

Just watched Richard going into work in his wheelchair. Like watching your child go into the building on the 1st day of school.

That was sweet to read that night, but was glad I didn't read it on the elevator or I probably would have had a sopping wet handkerchief.

Building access was a bit of a struggle, at least the handicap ramp was. Jen had to help me up and I am not that weak; the chair wanted to tip backward so I had to shift my weight forward while trying to jack myself up the ramp. The next day I pushed myself up backward so I could use my good leg for propulsion and that worked much better.

The day went quite well; several folks came by to say hi. My foot was not in a happy place and the electrical twitch in the former first metatarsal area was quite strong at times. I still had a pillow left over from my first surgery, and I found if I propped my stump on it I was more comfortable. The pain was a little higher than I had been having; my pain med was almost finished so I knew I wasn't going to get weaned off it quite as soon as I had hoped. I called in for a refill and also asked for a change from Neurontin to Lyrica to see if I could get any relief from the phantom pains.

I found bathroom access to also be a bit of a trial. Our bathrooms are off the lobby with a self-closing door to an inner foyer with additional doors for the bathrooms and equipment rooms. The lobby door has a heavy action and could be difficult for some. The door into the bathroom has lighter action but it's quite difficult for me with the residual limb support arm to get around the door and sinks. A larger chair might have real trouble.

For lunch I had a microwave sandwich, easy to make and I eat it at my desk. I am tired but I really don't want to have Jen drive all the way from downtown to pick me up plus I haven't gotten much done, so I tell her I will stay and I manage to keep my head off the desk for the rest of the day.

The only minor incident I had was entirely my fault. I have two new Dell servers to configure and place in the rack. I will need help picking the servers up and chunking them into their new home, but I figured I could at least install the rack rails which weigh maybe a couple of pounds. I grab the first set of rails for the smaller server, poke them in the front and click them in the back. Good, got the right one. Almost immediately Sharon from the front office steps into the server room and informs me that there's a problem with the phone system.

I look and yes, the Cisco system has done an automatic fallover from it's server to the router; this allows calls to still be sent/received but things like voicemail are not available. I look at the Cisco server and sure enough, it's lights out. I check the power cable (check the physical layer first...geekdom 101) and it is loose...the cable exits the rack enclosure on the bottom to a power strip and I had run over it. Mea culpa! My Cisco engineer had actually warned me about those cables but having two feet at the time I wasn't quite so quick to fix it. Old dog, new tricks, even a dog with an odd number of paws needs to learn a thing or three.

The rest of the week went okay, except for some general fatigue at times. I was not sleeping well because of the phantom pains. When the lights went out and the room got quiet except for a fan to provide some white, the phantom pains grew louder and made it difficult to fall asleep for a couple of hours. Normally if I can't sleep and get up for a while until I get sleepy, but getting out of the room is more noisy with the chair and I don't want to wake the OO or have Baxter give a guard's bark or two before realizing it's just...Him.

My stump is swelling about an inch during the workday, I don't think it is causing any particular pain and it does retreat in the evening once I get it above my heart. (And there's another reason for the delayed blog posts.) My left calf is about 15" and my right is about 13" in the morning. I'm sure it will get smaller as the muscle atrophies. I can fire it a little near the top if I concentrate on it, but I don't think that will help with my running mechanics.

I did take Friday off because I was in such sleep deficit and wanted to doze later than 6 am. I was able to get about 8 hours Thursday night and 10 hours Friday night. Oh, on Wednesday morning I had very little phantom pain; that was almost certainly the result of not doing any PT on Tuesday.

It is Saturday evening as I write this. I did a bit of left footed driving around the hood today after my PT, Jennifer went with me in case I ran over someone and they required assistance. Fortunately for that someone they stayed inside and under the covers so the drive commenced without incident. We talked to the neighbors some afterward; I can tell it's going to take some time before being vertical is going to feel normal in the stump. There is quite a bit of healing going on in the residual limb with the severed nerves leading the riot; unfortunately for them the end is near, about two inches away.

Tomorrow I plan a practice run to the office, complete with getting my wheelchair into the Pilot and myself into the driver's seat without the door closing on my stump, thereby eliciting the profanities I usually reserve for politics. I believe I will be able to drive myself to work next week, and hope I will be able to leave at lunch to allow Baxter to have a moment or two of privacy in the backyard. Also if I fit in an OCD level of The World of Goo while eating lunch I'll be one happy clam.

As I get ready for bed - but not before I post this! - I am having very little phantom pain.

Shhh...let's not wake the dead doggy....


  1. did you end up doing the practice run? i'm very interested to see how this driving with the left foot thing goes :-)

  2. No, didn't make it, will explain in new post. But I am at work today with all pieces parts arriving safely sans foot.