Saturday, March 19, 2016

Celebrating Small Stuff

I'm betting most of you can get your own shoes on by now without even giving it a thought. Or a passing twinge. Well, guess what? I can too! OK, just not that twinge part. But I don't need help with the shoes any more.

Mostly that wasn't an issue. Either I didn't go anywhere or it was just barefoot around the house, LR to toilet, back to LR, back to toilet.... When it was PT time, Steve was always there to help. And drive. And that help in itself is worth three cheers, even though it feels like more progress to get to where I don't/won't need it.

The first big step midweek was when I slipped both feet into a binful of soapy water and scrubbed their bottoms with a sponge on a stick. What a relief! They could have been my Halloween costume. The household dirt made their bottoms black, and the Betadine turned bits so orange I almost worried that something squirelly was going to sneak in and take off with what it was sure was a Cheeto! I made sure I stayed in that inch of water until all that mess was gone.

Next thing was getting my socks on myself, as well as off, even if it did mean a shopping trip to find something cheap enough that they were easily manipulated. White/grey cotton anklets did the trick. It took me a couple days longer to stretch the knee enough to get close enough to the shoe laces that I could manage them. I considered buying something with Velcro closings, but it's hard enough just finding shoes I can wear without crippling up my feet that I decided to forgo the experience. A couple more days stretching and there you have it!

Everybody had been asking whether I was off my walker yet, though nobody suggested how I was to know whether I was ready to do that or not? If I asked, I was simply told to wait until I was ready, not to risk damaging the knee. But how was I to tell?

Of course, once the seed was planted, the progress started. Up against the sink/counter, let go of it for a step or two, see how wobbly it went. In the bathroom, instead of doing a 180 and backing in with the walker, I simply parked it and guided myself in using the counter top, the toilet rails, the window ledge... any and everything that could be useful to prevent a problem.

There weren't any. A single step became 3 or 4, the walker got lifted and turned while I stood next to it, using my arms only for turning. My balance was OK. I still had one "good" leg, and in fact the PT was strengthening it alongside the replaced one. I could walk over to the bed, or from the microwave to the fridge, though the latter was less of an accomplishment as I regularly cheated with a hand brushing along the counter. But to the sink with a coffee mug of water to heat, no biggie.

The big thing was that it didn't hurt any more without the walker than it did with. Of course, I was not about to push it, but I didn't always need the six extra legs. Oh wait, four extra, six total. Nor using the strength of both my arms resting on its framework, a very tiring position indeed. And after a few practice stand ups in PT without hanging onto anything whatsoever, I gained the confidence that such support was becoming optional.

Of course when I am very tired, the walker is  lot less optional. That seems right. On the other hand, my "mad dash" down the hallway often leaves it parked just inside the bedroom door with 7 or 12 steps yet to go before pants tugging time. I'm trying not to get reckless about it, but independence is growing. A few steps is almost never a problem, with care. What's much more of a problem is trying to move the walker along with the used dishes from the last meal, the water bottle needing to be refilled, the three things I'm working to tuck into my pockets because this whole thing is an effort to make another trip down the hall without having to backtrack it into three trips.

PT introduced me to the use of a cane yesterday. I've tried those things on numerous occasions, never successful ones. First she fixed the height properly for me, then guided the cane to my "bad" right hand - wobble wobble - and then to putting it down at the same time as the bad leg. I could never get that part right. Always thought it ought to be on the same side as the bad leg to give it support rather than lean everything on the opposite side with either step. It takes a lot of concentration to follow through without switching out the sides or the timing, so mutch that it seems easier and more logical to just switch straight to regular walking. Much less of a tripping hazzard too, I should think.

I certainly can't carry anything along with a cane. If the pockets ain't big enough nor the waistband tight enough, whatever-it-is just ain't coming along!

I got permission for my first actual shower this morning, Whatever strapping tape it is they used to replace yesterday's pulled staples with, it withstood the wetting nicely. Of course, it itches ferociously as well. Not sure if that's just random healing itches, or allergic reaction to the adhesive, first application in the area. I'll find out. Eventually. Two more weeks and I'm allowed into the pool!

But today's shower felt wonderful! Not least because it was preparatory to my getting out of the house all on my lonesome for the first time since the surgery. I forget what they called it but all the different clubs at the community center opened their doors to show the passing world just what they did/made, sell what they could, distribute brochures, demonstrate techniques. I wheeled down in my scooter (OK, really, 4 hours was a bit much in retrospect, especially by the bumpy trip home!), set up back in a corner of our room with the cash box and a smile, and assisted in sales of donated items. These might have been earrings, or slabs of rock of various values to be worked on or used as coasters perhaps. We took in funds from the boxes of Cracker Jacks as well. The two women also handling this part of the room discussed techniques, classes, materials and prices of items, and gave out small bags to tuck the purchased items into purses with.  On both slower times, we three had brief conversations among ourselves, but there were not many opportunities.

It was great to be welcomed back, and EVERYBODY, friends and strangers alike, knew what the particular set of tapes across my knee stood for. There were almost as many conversations about replacements as about jewelry and rock sales. One woman showed her scar, saying "2006." I pointed to mine saying, "March", and suddenly her eyes widened as she realized what month it still was. Universally it was pronounced that I would enjoy the improvement, even from the woman who's had 1 replacement and 15 corrective surgeries on her knee and vowed never to let them touch the other knee, ever!

Overall it was a great time, not the least of which was because I could finally be somewhat useful to someone again. At least from back in my protected little corner. Now, wheeling down the hall to the restrooms brought the dependency back in a hurry. Remember: this rec center is the newest in Sun City. It pretends to follow ADA guidelines. But if you can't push open the heavy door to the restroom by yourself or pull it open on your way out, well, just forget it! Wear a diaper! Once in, there are a couple stalls with side bars to hang onto, though none is big enough to get into along with your scooter. And while the rails are nice - make that the only things which make the whole process possible! - the toilets themselves are only standard height. It was something I'd forgotten about. Before surgery I could cope. Grumble, sure, but cope. Afterwards it was nearly impossible, plus downright painful, to pull myself forward, up and off that seat.

Oh hey, isn't it pain pill time again?

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