Thursday, October 25, 2007

Post Op Shop II

Since my last post, things have progressed quite a bit. I remained in the hospital room until yesterday (24 October) noon. This was one day longer than I expected, but mostly due to tiredness.

Crutchety Old Man
On 23 October, the PT person got me out of bed and on crutches for the first time. Crutch use isn't as difficult as you might think, but it takes lots of arm strength - more than I expected. Crutch use mimics the walker - move both crutches forward, then bad leg, and good leg. Though tough at first, I was able to go all the way down the hall to the PT room (~20 meters). Once there, I rested a bit and was then tempted with a short set of stairs (5 steps). I decided to give it a go and was able to go up and down with effort. Up with the good leg, down with the bad leg - that's the mantra for doing stairs. You use only one crutch, and one rail - lots of arm strength again. After stairs, I crutched back down the hall to my room.

Holy Crap
I was able to repeat the crutch feat later in the afternoon - around 2:40pm. But before that I had an ordeal the likes I had never expected when I had to have my first bowel movement. Often after surgery, you are dehydrated and the cocktail of drugs they give you leaves you constipated. When mother nature paid a visit to me, I had to wait 15 minutes before a nurse could help me to the commode. Then when I got there, the urge to go was great - but so was the pain. I had to make a lot of effort, then was scolded by the floor nurse in the middle of it. They were worried I would pass out. Well, after assuring them I would just 'let it happen', I was able to finish. The pain was excruciating, and I was exhausted. And it was embarrassing to have a nurse tech clean me up after. Aaagh! Perhaps this was worse than catheter removal.

Night to Forget
I had hoped to be discharged on the evening of the 23rd, but the constipation episode wore me out. I felt I could use the extra rest and attention. Unfortunately, the nursing staff was not particularly cooperative or quiet that night. I couldn't get pain pills when I wanted, and they bothered me when I was trying to sleep or nap on several locations. Perhaps this was a sign that they wanted me gone. :-) But more likely that they had a very busy night shift.


There was no doubt in my mind I needed to leave when I woke up on the 24th. I was tired of asking nurses to do everything (and impatient), and weary of my surroundings (except the great river view). My mother had already checked into the Belaire (hospital's hotel) and it sounded nice. Perhaps the thing that propelled me most was what I saw in the mirror when I got to the bathroom. After 5 days I desperately needed a shave, and my skin was very red around my beard where my eczema (dermatitis) often flares up.

The PT people came around again to confirm my first outpatient appointment, and even arranged for a sales person to come by with a 'reacher' - a device that helps you grab or pick up objects beyond your range of movement. I had one more PT session at 11am to practice crutches and stairs, then signed the paperwork for discharge. I had to agree to only take the prescribed medications (vicodan and enteric aspirin), and a number of other physician mandated restrictions. Then at noon, I said goodbye to my urine bottle and room, while a nice, tall blonde Russian girl wheeled me to the Belaire.

Reality Bites
Once in our 6 floor 1 bedroom apartment, it became clear that home life was not going to be a piece of cake. This realization came crashing down on me soon after I had entered the room. Although this hotel is run by HSS for families of patients needing extended care, it seems to lack things required by disabled or recovering patients like myself. No elevated toilet seat or chairs, low sofas, and a too soft bed. I can't really complain, as this will get paid for by someone else eventually. But you would think they'd pay more attention to needs of the disabled.

I also found that things are quite different when you aren't flat on your back in a hospital bed. You have to walk to the bathroom, stand while washing, move several meters to bed, chair, couch, etc. on crutches. If you change clothes (or pull up your pants), you have to use the reacher (or get some help). Fortunately, my mother helped me with many things, including going out to get meals, cleaning clothes, pushing chairs, picking up dropped items, reaching hard to reach places, lifting my operated leg, etc. Hell, I can't even get to the phones from the couch or bed in a few seconds.

Wow. If I was alone somewhere, I'd never make it after release from the hospital. Now I understand why hospitals in Japan keep you in a rehab facility for nearly a month for full hip replacement.

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