Friday, December 21, 2012

SPINE FUSION - shoes and a couple Real Solutions

I'll start with some solutions, and get to the whining later.

    - a long-handled back bath brush is good for feet and calves.
    - in a situation with no grab bars, I've fastened the cane to a door knob.  The door to the bath area opens with the knob right right next to the tub.  It steadies me safely getting in and out of the tub.
Thank Heaven this tub has a non-skid bottom surface. 
     -there are non-skid mats for the bottom of the sink.  You can carry a couple home for the tub easier than the tub-size non-skid mat.
    - I found a funny looking glove for 99c that is apparently intended for the tub.  I bought it because it's some kind of plastic mesh that dries quickly and you can slip a little soap inside so you never drop it.  A regular bonanza for anyone who can't bend.  BONUS:  it makes a nice exfoliator if you're gentle.
    -At probably the same little store, I got a small mesh bag that hangs over the shower rod AND holds my shampoo and my "soap glove." (The grabber doesn't pick up wet shampoo bottles that fall in the tub.)
Maybe the shoe thing isn't a problem unless your fusion is lumbar?  Or maybe it is.  I gave up heels.  I bought the walking shoes that look like nurse shoes used to look, because they don't have dangerously excess non-skid tread.  Lacing them feels like it's putting my fusion at great risk. 

Would a professional brow shaping make up for the way I would feel with Velcro walking shoes?  Might as well wear a sign that says Beware of Old Broad.  Note to shoe manufacturers - a wedge can be wider than a razor blade and still be stable-with-style.  Please manufacture some right now. 

Your turn:  How many uses have you found for your "grabber?"

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

SPINE FUSION - more incidental healing

A nurse, somewhere away from the hospital, heard me say something about swollen feet.  She looked me in the eye and said firmly:

     Swollen feet are about the chair, not the shoes. 

Finally someone who gets it!

The supposed solution is to put a cushion on a hard chair (or a painful wheelchair) which makes the seat even higher.  As I mentioned earlier, some nurses or aides didn't know that the foot rests on a wheelchair can be raised to take some pressure off the backs of our thighs.

When I was a decorator, I never found a manufacturer who gave a choice of seat height on a particular chair.  So if the client/wife was much shorter than her husband. . .

Donald A. Norman, in The Design of Everyday Things reminded us that even if we design for over 90 per cent of people, we still  neglect millions if others

After the hospital trip in July, I gave up wearing heels (except for the mid heeled evening slippers hidden in my closet In Case.)  So a church pew is going to be torture.  

Now I do what I have to do.  I put a box "footstool" in front of my posture chair, since my ottoman didn't make the move to TX with me.  I also put a low box in front of the desk chair. 

If you want to share how you change your environment to serve your recovery, please let me know.

Soon:  about the car

Monday, December 17, 2012

SPINE FUSION Incidental healing and

One more incidental happening:
I may have mentioned this, but it's worth repeating:
Waiting in the surgeon's office, I mentioned that at the end of 4 weeks, I started getting some leg pain.  His assistant asked what I'd been doing and I confessed this blog kept me at the keyboard a bit longer.  She said:

Divide your time:  a half hour at the computer, some time lying down, some time walking. . .
And of course I need time for the exercises.  I still have to force myself away from the keyboard.  Since it's a laptop, my posture is at risk.

Look around you in a coffee shop, and ask yourself if you're doing some of those duck postures that will have consequences.  I see a bonanza for orthopods coming in future years.

The car
I liked my car and my jeans.  In my free time, I liked being totally relaxed, JoanCool in the driver's seat.  Since the surgery I realized:

That shoulders-and-hips in the same plane move that gets me out of bed should be getting me in and out of the car.  Guess what!  In my youth, all women were supposed to back into the car and then rotate shoulder-and- hips in the same plane into the car.  So now I do.  Takes too long, but. . .

Guess what else?  I saw my friend Tom getting out of his vehicle that way, mentioning that it's good for his back trouble.

Now I'm getting a real course in using the side mirrors, hoping to eliminate twisting to look around the hateful head rest to see whether I'm backing into someone's lobelia or on someone's shiny new bumper.  Another learning experience. . .  Face it, I'll still have to get out of the car and look sometimes.  And since my lens replacement, I'll still be four feet from the car I thought I was hitting.  I'm way too young for all this.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

SPINE FUSION Incidental healings

Sometimes I'm tempted to take a physical therapist's or someone else's word as true and vital, because some of them have seen much. 

The very first PT, when I was first diagnosed, said several things that stay with me: 
       Hold your stomach in.  
       People don't do their exercises, so they end up back in here. 
That last remark sent me right to my floor mat.  Like my favorite mystery fiction heroes, I finally started doing the exercises before breakfast, so there would be no excuses later.

Now floor work is NOT advised, and I can do some routines standing up or sitting

She even wrote a letter to my employer admonishing no twisting, no heavy pulling, no lifting over eight pounds, no strenuous activity. 
I still try to stick with this in everyday life, and try to stand my ground with people whose are sure I am now Good As New.
  My daughter warned me away from a certain airline where she had needed to twist even to get out of her aisle seat. 

In the hospital, two therapists mentioned my big fear:
     Yes, you will need to be careful from now on to protect the rest of your spine from the fused part. 

The surgeon had handed me a huge-looking plastic-y thing with some bolts.   When the shock wore off, I knew the adjoining verebrae would be working overtime.

In another hospital, a PT or nurse dropped into the conversation:
     Well, it's better to push yourself up than pull yourself up.  

This one is hard to abide by, since the grab bars in bathrooms are so high that only an NBA star would be pushing down on the bar to get up.  The arms of my chair are the only place I can push myself up.
   My friend got a stool to help me get into his Jeep, so I could stop pulling myself up.

The thing that I count on daily is my "posture chair," the light weight chair my  daughter bought me at IKEA.  Its back is nearly flat (no funny lumps like dentist chairs and airline seats.)  I can get some rest there.  Moving, I had to abandon it and I was really worried about my back

With a lot of effort, the daughters made sure the identical chair was in my new room when I got here.  Bless them both.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

SPINE FUSION - Arm Exercises

Before the surgery, I was doing floor work with five-pound weights.  

But in the hospital, my elbow and arm were straining to learn the new "log-roll" method of getting out of bed - keeping the shoulders and hips in the same plane, pushing up with arm and elbow to sitting position. 

The surgeon did mention in rehab that surgery takes a lot of your system.  The OT or PT handed me those cute lime green plastic dumbbells, but only for a couple of seconds.

Then I got home and the PT was taught arm exercises by putting a few ounces on the almost weightless "grabber."   I used it with both hands and it seemed foolishly easy until the second sets  of all these:

1.  Straight arms:  lift the "bar" up and down ten times--higher than shoulders then not necessarily down to thighs.  Repeat.

2.  Straight arms:  shoulder height--bring the bar toward you then push it away until arms are extended still at shoulder height.  10 times.  Repeat.

3.  Straight arms:  shoulder height. Move the bar left and right and back 10 times.  Repeat.

Embarrassing how easy this looks and still my arms got tired.

Now I use the cane for the bar.  I need something to hang on it--better do some research for when I can drive to stores.  Soon, they say.

 Finally the Duh moment:  Haven't been allowed to lift more than 8 or 10 pounds since diagnosis almost two years ago.  Then the week after surgery, couldn't sit up far enough to get fork to my mouth. So the arms didn't get much stronger - use it or lose it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

SPINE FUSION - protect yourself: the all-day PT exercise

Work on your Red Carpet/Grammy Award walk. 

BatMan doesn't slouch.  I have to back up against the door frame and check whether I'm leaning forward.  And hold my stomach in even when I'm reading Michael Connolly.  Right posture is the exercise that keeps that lump of new spine hardware from abusing the rest of my vertebrae.  This surgery should keep working way longer than a vintage Rolls.

Upgrade leg exercises:  after I'd done them comfortably, the visitng PT put light, soft ankle weights on me.  I doubt they weighed more than a few ounces, but it's a start.  And did I mention: ask the doctor before you do even ounces. 

If you were a jock before the surgery, don't necessarily expect to get away without the stiff legs now.  All my years of climbing around my hilly past neighborhood are not helping with today'sstiffness after unpacking my clothes one at a time with the grabber.

Did I promise arms exercises?  Next post.   Honest.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Might as well start with the usual disclaimer:  do not do any exercises without checking with your doctor.  

The visiting Physical Therapist gave me this series.  On her visits, she made me do them in front of her (clearly I'm not the only patient who forgets to do them.)

One nice thing is:  one set lying on the bed; one set in the chair.  Since the surgeon's assistant told me some of my pains could be avoided if I alternate places--lying down gets us away from the computer. 

OK Lying down on my back:  again I remind you that I have buns, so I don't lie on my back with both legs flat on the bed; I need a pillow under them.  So:

First the bun squeeze - just tense both buns a few times.  I do this with a pillow under my knees and calves.

Then with one knee bent, extend the other leg and then dig the heel in to the mattress as you pull your heel close to your buns.  Back and forth 10 times.   Then other heel.

Now: one leg straight - move leg left to right and back 10 times.  Then other leg straight, same move left to right and back.

In the chair:  my chair supports my back - the seat and back make a letter L tilted back a couple of degrees. 

Lift one knee  a few inches ten times.  Do not strain or force it. Rest.  Then other knee.  Rest.  Repeat both

I rest legs on my ottoman and:  Lift one whole straight leg an inch or two.  Ten times. Rest.  Then other leg.  Repeat including the rests.

Then on the ottoman:  I move one leg at a time left to right and back 10 times.  Rest.  Other leg.  Rest.  Repeat.

Next time:  Arms

I really mean ask your doctor before you do any exercises.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

SPINE FUSION - Healing - more Doctor's orders

The surgeon has insisted from the beginning:  WALK.  I realized months ago (not the same as practicing it) that walking is the only place I can really watch my posture.  Otherwise I'm reading or leaning toward the keyboard, or grabbing a desk phone or a boiling pot on the stove.

The walker is still an awkward nuisance but necessary.   The leg with the most recent nerve punishment still feels a bit awkward, and once in awhile a bit weak for a second.  Wanting to get back to my room with a pretty cup of coffee and the walker has been a powerful motivator.    

The alley to the laundry room is now strictly forbidden.  Even with the walker, that rough rubble surface back there can throw me. 

It's easy to use the walker wrong, and I often do.  They taught me to stand sort of inside the walker (not too far in, or you would bump the front piece.)  This keeps us from leaning forward or putting weight on the handles.  Yes, I learned all this before the surgery, but sometimes lately  I feel like a weakling who's lucky to stand up.

The PT says the leg stiffness will go away after awhile. 

(Apologies for times I repeat something from earlier posts.)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

SPINE FUSION - Healing - Doctor's Orders

  Home at last.  My surgeon or the hospital has arranged for a different set of home health visitors than the ones I had in July.  The  nurse arrives and starts at the gate talking to my daughter about me.  When she gets into my room, she sits facing my daughter and  keeps talking only to her, referring to me as "she."  I just want to yell the words from . . .THE TITANS:    I'm hurt, not dead!

I finally stand and say as calmly as I can, "It would be good if you talked directly to me."   When she looks at the incision, she becomes upset because the area is red.  She puts a gauze pad over it, though the doctor had taken the cover off.   She insists I must see the surgeon.  Now I'm upset.  After a three-way conversation, we make an appointment to go clear back to Pasadena the next day.

While waiting in the surgeon's office I learn from his assistant that I was  given a sheet of post-op instructions earlier that urged me to shower!  (No baths.)  With only a few hundred papers from the first hospital, how could I have overlooked that instruction sheet?

The surgeon comes in and says the incision is red only because it was irritated.  I am short.  The brace has been way too tall and not nearly tight enough at my waist.  (Irritating and painful as it sometimes is, I remember being grateful in Rehab that I didn't have the hard braces up to the neck, and one hard wood neck frame I saw on other patients.)  He sends my daughter downstairs to have the big outer shell (heavy as a winter coat) removed.  One hurdle overcome.  He removes any remaining steri-strips.                  


My daughter went back to her home in a few days.  When the nurse had only me to talk to, we became friends. 

The two steps/landings into the apartment I used to do in my sleep.  Now I stop and think of the PT slogans.