I’m discovering I don’t have much patience. I am a baby boomer, but I am living in the ‘we want it now’ world. I get impatient waiting on the toaster, the microwave and the tea kettle. None of those things take very long, but if I am standing there tapping my foot watching for results, it seems that nothing is happening. I hate making phone calls and getting stuck on those endless loops of intricate voice mail. I am certain some sadist designed those.
I have ‘bad’ genes. My genes gave me the body type that has to fight aggressively to get rid of excess weight. I come from a long line of people who think diet coke cancels out calories. We were taught you had to eat to ‘keep up your strength’ and ‘finish everything on your plate. There are starving children somewhere’. I have sturdy German ancestors.
If you look at my family, we are all similar. I remember someone, when meeting my daughter for the first time when she visited, said under his breath, “The fruit doesn’t fall very far from the tree”. I hadn’t ever heard anyone say that in conversation before that, but I knew it was not exactly a compliment for either of us. We tend to have big butts and large hips and thighs, and I knew he was comparing us. We have to live with the blessings we were born with! Right? I can gain weight quite easily, almost without thinking about it, but losing it back is another story. I think that should be switched around, don’t you?
I’m finding since I had to quit work and have home health care and physical therapy, that I have to both expect and be eager for baby steps. Any progress at all is something to celebrate and I have to make myself realize that. I am one of those people who wants to lose 50 lbs. by next week, or go to bed one night and wake up thin.
I still don’t know exactly what happened to me or why. There was no warning. I was working. I could drive myself to work. Someone would help me into my wheelchair and take me into the shop, and I would stand up to my walker and transfer to my office chair. I have bone spurs in my knees which have grown and now prevent me from straightening my legs. And because I need two knee replacements, when I stand, it is at a low bent-knee crouch. It had gotten progressively worse over the years. I had progressed from using a cane to the walker to the wheelchair for anything other than very short distances. I was beginning to have problems pulling myself up from my chair to transfer to the toilet in the bathroom at work, but it was still doable. I was still getting around and still working.
One morning I got up from bed, got in my office chair, (it’s easier to push around and sit in all day than a wheelchair) and got my breakfast and went into the living room to start my day off on the love seat watching tv. When I tried to stand up from my chair, whatever muscles you use to lean forward and then lift yourself to a standing position…they all of a sudden wouldn’t lift me up. In general, we must depend on the strength in our legs also, which I don’t have, but this was a huge shock. Yesterday, I could get up. Today, I tried 3 times to get out of the chair and couldn’t do it.
That’s when I called 911 and decided a trip to the hospital for assessment was what I needed to do. The ER doctor was most encouraging. He hadn’t seen anyone like me before. He felt that my age and weight, and all the physical problems, together had decided to give out at once and now the only thing left for me was to move into a nursing home. I just looked at him amazed at his words. I was only 64 and I was still working. Move into a nursing home?
That was the end of May 2014. I immediately had to leave work, since I couldn’t get up without help. I took home a catheter and began physical and occupational therapy at home. (My lymphedema contributes to my problems. My lymphatic system doesn’t work too well during the day, but once I lay down at night, gravity helps it to remove excess water from my body and cells. This means I was used to making 6-8 trips to the bathroom during my eight hours of “sleep” each night.) Wearing a catheter has been a godsend.
When I had finished a few weeks of therapy, I realized I was no longer walking. To go to work, I had to get out of my office chair to walk out into the garage and get into my car. After work, I had to step from my office chair at work, to walk a few steps to my car. I had to use my walker, but I was walking some every day. Also, I was walking a few steps each night from my bed to the bathroom and back, and now that had stopped. I worried that the benefits of getting to rest at night might not outweigh the loss of my walking. The therapists assured me that getting the time to allow my body to refresh and heal itself during the night while sleeping was crucial and not to worry.
But it was still at the back of my mind. When I walk, I have to kind of scoot and shuffle my feet. Having all my body weight leaning unnaturally on my bent-knee crouched forward position makes it difficult to pick up my feet normally. The only place in my house without carpet, is the kitchen. So I decided it might be a good idea to begin trying to walk a few steps once again with my walker across my kitchen floor.
The first time I tried, I managed about 12 steps. It was exciting to know I could still walk. The less mobility and independence I had, the more handicapped I felt. I needed to know I wouldn’t end up where the ER doctor had prophesied.
It is now 10 months later. Progress has been slow sometimes, but progress has been made. I am stronger than I used to be, which is a good thing since the legs won’t get any better. My 12 steps in the kitchen has grown to 50 steps and then to walking across the floor, turning around and starting back before needing to sit down again. I can usually get about 70 steps now.
The last hurdle was being able to stand up and get up without help from my bed. Five days ago, I was able to stand up to my walker without help and transfer to my chair. That was exciting. Some day there are steps forward and sometimes steps backward, but always moving forward.
I have been consciously dieting since August and have lost 30 lbs. I still do my exercises each day. I am doing what I can to change what I can to better my situation. The progress may have been slow and hard to see at times, but looking back, I have improved. Now, more weight needs to come off so I can look into having knee replacement surgery in the future. I can’t even remember what it would be like to be able to walk like a normal person.
And so, the journey continues…
See you next time.