It’s the evening before my first surgery (I hope, anyway–after the false start of a couple of weeks ago I’ve learned not to make assumptions).
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks going to work (short-term disability doesn’t count unless you actually HAVE the surgery, I discovered), tying up ever-growing collections of loose ends around the remodel, making sure that Nathan has access to all the home automation stuff (I never realized how much automation is in the house until I had to set up guest accounts for each app–took hours), and just generally trying to chillax before I headed back down to Walnut Creek.
On Friday night, Sept. 16, 2016, I fractured my left femur just above Elmo, my replacement knee. I lived in a wheelchair, facing hip-high amputation of my left leg, for about two years while I fought health care bureaucracy, cost-conscious HMOs, and myself to figure out a way to walk again. (Spoiler alert: Elmo won!)
I documented my adventures in remobilization in this blog. They’re awfully self-indulgent, occasionally icky, and probably only of interest to me, but on the off-chance that they help someone else with a catastrophic injury, I’m keeping them together here. If you don’t want to read them, that’s OK; I still love you. If you do, you might want to start from the beginning, on the archive page that lists all posts.
I already miss my incredible bathroom, but I have a nice consolation prize: I FINALLY have a really, really great wheelchair-accessible hotel room.
Marriott Walnut Creek, please take a bow. These guys know their accessibility:
Great lobby. The lobby is hard-surfaced; no toiling across thick, plushy carpets. I just rev up the wheels a bit and let ‘er rip.
Terrific front desk. I’ve learned my lesson: ALWAYS call the hotel, multiple times, to ensure you really have a wheelchair-accessible room. Even then, you have a less-than-50-percent chance of actually getting one.
Not so with Marriott. I called the front desk (never call the reservation number, they’ll tell you anything) and spoke with Brittany. She assured me that they had real wheelchair rooms available and one had been reserved for me. When I checked in tonight, Brittany was here and my room was exactly as promised.
Remarkable. Astonishing. Refreshing. Wow.
Great bathroom! The bathroom really has a roll-in shower, with grab bars, an adjustable (up and down) shower head, and a fold-down bench. There are grab bars around the toilet, plenty of room to turn 360s in the wheelchair, and extra towels (you tend to get a lot more water on the floor).
The sink is firmly attached, with no give when you put your weight on it. I still wouldn’t rely on it when doing a wheelchair transfer–that’s a quick way to more hospital bills–but it’s great for a casual pull.
Spacious, easy-roll room. They’ve put wood-grained vinyl on the floor, attractive but a breeze to navigate across. There’s room enough to turn the wheelchair around at every point, and solid furniture around the bed to make transfers easier.
The desk/drawer arrangement is especially easy to access (I’m typing in it as we speak).
Amenities at wheelchair height. Sounds dumb, but stuff like light switches, robe hooks, thermostats, and curtain pulls are all at my level–I don’t have to reach up.
At least for now, Marriott and I are a one-night stand, more’s the pity, because the only bathroom I’ve seen better than this one is the one I’ve built for myself, in my house.
I’m due at the hospital at 9:30 tomorrow for check-in and surgical prep. Just before lunch I’ll have the first of the three planned surgeries. In between trips to the OR, I’ll be chillaxing with IV antibiotics and an open wound. The final surgery–the big one that reconstructs my leg, shoves rods up its center, and grafts a bunch of new bone and fertilizer in the holes–is tentatively scheduled for October 24.
After that, I’ll probably wind up in a Bay area rehab center for awhile, while I’m learning to use the new hardware.
So let’s talk about fear.
Ever hear the one about the dog that always chased the sports car, until one day the driver, fed up with all the barking, slammed on the brakes. “OK, you caught it, you dumb dog,” he screamed, “Now what are you going to do with it?”
Picture me as the dog, chasing this surgery stuff. I’ve fought so long to have it, gone through so many delays and snafus, that the fact it’s actually starting tomorrow is…a bit daunting.
What if it doesn’t work? What if they get in there and discover that they can’t operate after all? What if something goes wrong? What if What if What if What if What if…
Hold it. Stop that RIGHT NOW. We are thinking POSITIVELY these days, remember?
This WILL work. I will be walking by Valentine’s Day. OK, maybe only hobbling by then, but… I will turn Spiffy the Wheelchair into an office chair (even if I don’t want him as a permanent fashion accessory, he’s still the most comfortable chair I’ve ever graced).
I will stop gritting my teeth at all those people walking brazenly around on their legs RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, like a fat guy eating puff pastry in front of starving children. That’s because I’ll be one of them, brazenly bipedal.
My yeehah-we’re-walking to-do list is already as long as my arm:
- I will go back to walking 30 miles/week
- I will go walking on the beach, through the sand, hunting for clams or something
- I will go mushroom hunting
- I will go to Ikea and WALK THROUGH THE ENTIRE STORE WITHOUT SHORTCUTS
- I will walk into my backyard and visit my new studio shed without a retinue of helpers clearing the way
- I will climb the hill and pick blueberries
- I will take my wonderful new camera out on photo shoots
- I will walk down my driveway to get the mail
- I will go to the gym and do exercises with my actual legs
- I will hop into the driver’s seat whenever I want and go on shopping trips that involve MULTIPLE STOPS, without planning
- I will have a reason to wear a FitBit
- I will cast a great big glass sculpture that needs standing up to make
- I will paint the bathroom, get up on a ladder and everything
- I will build out my new jewelry studio and assemble the new workbench ALL BY MYSELF
- I will prepare an entire meal in my kitchen, standing up
- I will take a class at Bullseye
- I will take a class at Pilchuck
- I will go on some vacation someplace that has a LOT of stairs
- I will WALK down the stairs into my living room, carrying a load of firewood, and build a nice fire for a stormy night
- I will go back to my hairdresser for a cut and color (her place has stairs between me and the bathroom, a no-no)
- I will wait for a great big rainstorm, go STAND in the middle of it, and get absolutely soaked (you don’t want to know how miserable a wet wheelchair can be)
- I will resume Sunday evening dinners at Mom’s
- I will cry for joy when someone looks at me grumpily and says, “Why don’t you get it yourself?”
- I will buy a bike and start riding it down to the coffee shop and bakery instead of driving there
- I will take a plane ride where I WALK all the way to the back of the plane and sit down
This is NOT going to fail; I’ve got ‘way too much to do.
Good night; please keep me in your thoughts for tomorrow.