Sunday, August 19, 2012

Elephants and industrial design

When my daughters were small, maybe before first grade, we often read a little book called Brave Baby Elephant.  The kids may still remember it, because the title became a sort of secret byword for brave adventures.

The plot was that a pre-first-grade elephant decides that he will go "by himself, alone" up the stairs into the possibly dark second floor and brush his teeth without adult assistance.  Of course, he succeeds.  There were probably congratulations.  So for a long time, we would describe some new plan to do almost anything "by myself, alone."

Why am I telling you this?  I looked at the calendar and realized it's been a month since my first ever ambulance ride, and my walker and I have never gone  past the front walk by ourselves.  Muscles are disappearing, as they will when we are over 29 and under-exercised.

So today, I set out for Gelson's.  By the time one risks the parking lot and gets into the store, it's easily two blocks from here.  In said parking lot, an SUV and a kid on a skateboard each missed me by inches.  Not many inches.  Previously, I had hoped to be inconspicuous and non-invalidish.  Bad idea.  If I had been wearing Jimmy Chous, at least the woman in the SUV would have noticed me.

So my new walker design will include, of course, a London taxi horn, maybe a flashing red light as well.  There probably is no law against having these on a walker.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Designs for the well, designs for the sick

I have a car that was the one I could afford.  It has been running, except for about 10 or12 days in the shop, for over 20 years.

When I left the hospital recently, they (or Medicare) gave me a walker that will, with any luck, last 20 weeks.  The man who adjusted it to my height told me not to give it away-- it was the only one I would get in this lifetime.  A plastic guard at the bottom of one leg, to keep it from catching on the carpet, disintegrated in less than two weeks.  I found the pieces in the alley leading to the laundry room.  I guess I was supposed to carry the walker. 

A week or so later, I was told to buy a shower chair.

This blog is supposed to be about getting what we need, so I should start a letter like this:

Dear Invacare:
About this shower chair.  Really thoughtless design.  It's not safe, except maybe for washing my feet.   
The plastic seat and back are nice and shiny, so my soapy hand grasping for safety slides right off.

The back legs on this beauty do not cant backward.  If I even brush against it, it tilts backward immediately, leaving nothing for me to grab onto.  I'm back to showering standing up.

My roommate just got an exec chair for only $45 more than the shower chair cost.  His chair wouldn't fall backward if hit by a small car. 
What's wrong with this picture? 

Friday, August 10, 2012

It's not easy being without Green

I'm a mystery fiction addict.  I read the big boys--Michael Connolly and that crowd, because I like the way they write.

When a character in the book is on the run, hiding out, broke, or otherwise in trouble, he rents a dingy room that has a commanding view of the side of another building.  No tree, no bush, no sky. 

When I was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago, my room had a window.  It had a great window shade that kept out the hot sun, and unfortunately, the sky.  I missed the sky.

This was not a big deal; I was only there for three days, and it was pretty luxurious as hospitals go.  The nurses and aides were incredibly busy.  I guess I could have thrown myself on their mercy on our many trips to the bathroom, and got the shade opened. 

There is a "garden" at that hospital.  It's really mostly concrete, with a double koi pond and real koi.  As a patient, I saw it for only 3 seconds as I was rolled at high speed down a hallway/bridge to another wing.

Once, as a visitor, I noticed it could not be seen from my friend's room. 

My goal these days is to ensure that hospital gardens are for patients to see, and to heal from.  If you get tired of hearing about this, please give me a comment.  And if you've been a patient who could see or touch a garden when in a hospital or convalescent home, please tell us where it is.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

She Don't Look Sick to Me Part 4

Several years ago, a woman from another country was my regular coiffeur, or however you spell it, cutting my hair in her own salon.  She informed me that multiple customers had told her they didn't want to come any more because so many people in wheelchairs were always there.  I decided I might someday be in a wheelchair for even a short time.  I didn't like their attitude.

Since then, someone I knew went to Europe and the UK and mentioned that they were less concerned about helping handicapped persons than the US is.
(Forget the ramps and such--get along the best you can.)

I'm lucky to be here.

For various reasons, I now have a different woman cutting and styling my hair.

And now, without much warning, I use a walker.   Sitting in the front row without it, I am the still the woman who could probably make you laugh.  Walking to the ladies' room with the walker, who am I?

Friday, August 3, 2012


Suddenly, I do look sick because I have a walker. Now I am the patient.  It's a good name for us because the role requires patience.

A year and a half ago, I made a bad mistake moving furniture, which either  aggravated an existing spine problem or started a new one.  One injection.  Then, for a year and a half, I was okay as usual.  Physical therapy and some lifting restrictions.  Did my job.

Then, about a month ago, I got leg pain that an injection didn't help.
Almost two weeks ago, Saturday night,  the pain was so severe in the right leg that I didn't quite make it back to the apartment.  My roommate and benefactor more or less dragged me to the courtyard and called an ambulance.

Three days in the hospital, home for one night with big pain medicine, then back for a different kind of injections.  There are already three doctors involved.

 That right leg is the one that lets me hit the brake pedal, of course. So I'm not to drive. I can get out of this secure apartment complex, but no one can just walk in even to visit until I go to the gate.   

Some wonderful friends have helped. 
There is also a wonderful home health nurse, and wonderful as she is, there are still communication problems.  For example: Every 4 hours for mild pain as needed seems to mean different things to each of us.  I was not expecting communication problems.  There's a physical therapist and a social worker.  And I don't like thinking their questions sound like I'm 99 and a bit dotty.

Probable surgery is lurking, hovering over everything I do.  I was job-hunting; now that is on hold.  And my family is far away.

Sitting in a meeting or a waiting room, with the walker behind the chair, I don't look sick.  And yet almost my whole life is on hold.  I needed a copy of my birth certificate to apply for transportation vouchers.  The printer ran out of ink, and here I was with no transportation.
Have you been in this situation?  How did you cope with any fears of helplessness, fears of surgery that may not work, or of whatever?