Friday, December 29, 2006
Time off for the Holiday's
Today Dad and I went to the auto show which took up most of the day. I spent several hours getting in and out of different vehicles. Most of the vehicles were difficult for me to get my legs into. The wheel and steering column take up too much space. Even the ones that did have enough leg room may lose it when the hand controls are added. There was one vehicle that had perfect leg room but the door opening is probably too small to fit a wheelchair through. I won't know until I have a new wheelchair. Once I have that, I'll be able to make a decision.
The wheelchair will be lighter and have removable wheels to fold up smaller. I'm in the process of getting that through Voc Rehab (state agency) so the process is slow (go figure). I haven't worried about that this week because I've been spending time with my family. Christmas morning was especially nice, beginning with Madeline, my five year old niece, telling me to wake up and then telling Dad that I was going back to sleep.
Christmas was as wonderful as always at Mom and Dad's. The house is tastefully decorated, stockings hung on the mantle, a tree in the corner by the stairs. The stairs added quite a challenge this year. Christmas Eve was the first time that I've walked up those stairs in over a year. Christmas morning was the first time that I walked down them. My first Christmas gift was that down is definitely easier. Well, that was really the second gift, the first was that Madeline didn't wake up till almost eight!
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Holiday Parties and Old Friends
While I was at a holiday party over the weekend I commented to a friend that if I didn't have any inspiration this week you, my loyal readers, might be subjected to an in depth description of what it was like to finally urinate standing up! (The guys who read this should understand how important that is, ladies, I just don't think you can fully grasp it.) A year ago one of my goals was to get to a toilet instead of using a hand held urinal or a bed pan. Since the addition of the legs one of the goals has actually been to urinate standing up. It wasn't until the last few weeks that I was able to meet that goal. (Luckily, I've had some inspiration, so I'm not going into a detailed description of how this goal was achieved.)
Last weekend I went to a few holiday parties. The first was a gathering of my high school best friend's family. Mark and his wife Lauren came into town on Friday night and our friend Kelly Clements took me over to see them on Saturday. The wheelchair stayed in the car while we visited with the Hatfields for a couple of hours and then headed to our next party in Crawfordsville.
A few weeks ago an ex-girlfirend from high school reached out to invite me to a holiday party at her house. Several of the "old gang" was in attendance. These were people that I had met in junior high but hadn't seen since we graduated in '93 and went our separate ways. (There were also several people I had never met but look forward to seeing again next year.) It was touching to me to see the concern in their eyes as I walked into the house. However, in a short time the concern changed to acceptance and we moved around the house from time to time to escape the raucous noise of the children. My old friend Kevin quickly took on the role of chair holder and crutch keeper as I moved from place to place. Kelly (who is like a sister to me) was my driver for the night. She also nominated herself my wife for the night as she inevitably would ask if I needed water whenever she saw a beer in my hand and insisted that I rest when I was on my feet a lot.
The remainder of the week has been extremely busy as Mark and his Mom dragged me around town. They seemed to find new ways to test my skills. Walking at different restaurants, sitting in and standing up from a recliner, walking at a couple of bookstores, and my first trip to the mall. The majority of the time we left the wheelchair behind, although, we did need it at the mall due to the long period of time I was on my feet. During the college years Mark and I grew apart and I lost my connection with his family so it has been very special for me to have them involved in my recovery.
I returned to the burn unit yesterday for a follow up with Dr. Sood. The staff was overjoyed to see me walking around in the waiting room. Other than going from the building to the parking garage I walked the whole time. Dr. Sood was happy with my progress and doesn't need to see me until April.
To cap the week off Mark took me to Wishard for therapy today. I hadn't been there for a while so the receptionist cried when I walked off the elevator. Mark and I went straight to the parallel bars where I started to practice walking with one hand. Renee joined us after she finished with her previous patient. When she came around the corner she grabbed the crutches and asked me to walk down the hall. When she noticed my pants she let out an expletive and then rolled them up so that her new patient could see my legs as I walked by, and understand what a feat it really is. (This is actually one of the reasons why I prefer to wear shorts; I also find that people are more careful around me when they see the prostheses.)
The therapy visit ended with a walk from the parallel bars to the elevator, standing in the elevator as it descended from the fourth floor to the first, and then from the elevator to the exit door a long way down the hall. As I approached the exit door it occurred to me that I had never made it that far before. We've attempted it many times but I've never gone the distance. I was ready to sit when I got to the door, partly because it was raining outside and I didn't want to add wet pavement and puddles to my list of obstacles, but also because I was getting tired at that point. I wasn't completely out of energy but, with the rain and all, I didn't see a need to push it. However, that walk, and the week of running around with Mark and his Mom really opened my eyes to how much improvement I really have made. By the way, it's now Friday morning, so I guess I'm late again, unless, of course, you're on the west coast. Merry Christmas!
Friday, December 15, 2006
Playing with Fire
A few weeks ago I was asked if I thought I would be able to light an Advent Candle during one of the church services this season. Years ago, as a youth, I had lit the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve and, since the accident, didn't think I would ever be able to participate in that way again. Feeling very honored to be asked, and confident that I could do it, I immediately said yes.
Renee and I talked about getting together at the church to practice the candle lighting. I watched the process the week before and thought that I'd be able to handle it. Not wanting Renee to waste a trip to the church for me to prove to myself that I could do it I declined the practice session. However, as the day came I grew more and more nervous that it wasn't going to work. The last thing I wanted to do was fall in front of the entire congregation while attempting to light a candle.
The morning started like most Sunday mornings except that Mom and Dad were out of town so Sarah and Madeline came to pick me up for breakfast. I decided to leave the wheelchair at home, thinking that it would be easier if Sarah didn't have to deal with me, Madeline, and the wheelchair. The process of getting out of the house and keeping the cat in the house while trying to close the door was difficult to say the least. By the time we got to church I was starting to feel less confident about my walking that day. Part of that may have been mental because I didn't have the wheelchair to fall back on if I got tired of walking.
As I came in to the church I saw our Pastor who greeted me by saying "I hear we're letting you play with fire today." I promised not to set the church on fire and he laughed it off saying that the congregation could probably use the excitement. I continued on to the room where we have Sunday School feeling shakier and shakier as I approached the room and starting to regret leaving the wheelchair at home. About half way through Sunday School Sarah and I headed upstairs to scout out the area for where we would need to stand to do the readings and practice lighting the candle. When we finally sat down in a pew I was shaky, drenched in sweat, truly wishing I had not agreed to light the advent candle.
The service began and, during the first hymn, Sarah, Madeline, and I went up to the front of the church. I maneuvered the two steps up to the dias where the altar is. I did my part of the reading and then Madeline and I moved over to the candles while Sarah led the congregation in a prayer. Madeline handed me a taper and, with a look at the Pastors (who were offering silent support but were probably praying that I wouldn't light the Christmas decorations ablaze), I lit the taper on the first Advent candle and proceeded to light the second.
In the process of setting the taper down my right crutch fell off my arm. Madeline helped me get it back. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the choir director come running over from one of the side aisles to help but he turned around when he saw Madeline hand me the crutch. We turned around, maneuvered the steps again, and headed back to the pew. During the whole time I felt calm and was walking comfortably. Of course, once I was back in the pew the sweat and shakiness found it's way back.
Afterward I visited with some people in the parlor of the church. We talked a little about the accident but more about the improvements that have come in the past year. One year ago I had been laying in a hospital bed. It was my first full day in the ARC at Wishard. At that point I still couldn't move much on my own. My goals were to be able to get to a toilet and be home for Christmas. Now I'm trying to figure out how to light a candle without catching the church on fire. It's amazing how much healing one year has brought.
Friday, December 08, 2006
During the visit, we had some great conversation and food. The part I have to mention though was my 5-year-old nephew, Noah, pictured here:
When we got there, Noah's eyes were fastened on the TV, which is pretty normal for him -- he has an incredible way of blocking out everything around him when he's watching TV. But when Jeremy came walking into the room (the entrance is right by the TV), little Noah looked up, saw his prosthetic legs and shouted "Cool!" He then proceeded to follow Jeremy like a little puppy, watching closely as Jeremy maneuvered up 2 steps and sat on a chair in the dining room. Then the questions started. "What happened to your legs?", etc., etc. After Jeremy told him everything, he said "but where are your legs now?" to which Jeremy replied "They're gone." Noah's eyes got big and he said "They disappeared??!" :-D
Jeremy handled all his questions and comments with a lot of grace and patience. He even held it together when Noah matter-of-factly told him: "You look like one of my Bionicles, except you have a face." I'm sure at this point, my sister was wishing Noah was still watching TV. :-)
Noah also brought Jeremy food -- anything he could get his little hands on. According to my Mom, at one point he came walking up to Jeremy and handed him about 1/2 of a teaspoon of jello on a spoon. :-)
I've gotten back a few pictures from the visit, but I'm waiting on the 2nd roll, which has a couple of pictures of Jeremy standing. I'll post one as soon as I can.
Thanks for letting me temporarily hijack the blog.
(Love you Jeremy!)
Returning to Target two months later
We did have a good time last night. I met some interesting people and had a great time updating them on my progress. Everyone seemed very curious about how the prostheses are working out. My best description is of the most recent visit to Target.
If you recall that my first visit to Target was just over two months ago. At that time I would walk 100 to 150 ft and then sit down either to rest or to add socks to fix issues with the fit of the sockets. I reached for a few items but Renee did most of the shopping. This time was considerably different.
The goal was for me to push the grocery cart. I was afraid that it wasn't going to work. I had been at Mom and Dad's that morning and had fallen while standing up from a chair to help decorate the tree. I got back up and helped with the tree but, I was feeling pretty fatigued and less confident by the time we got to Target. I was so certain that I was going to fall when I tried to walk with the cart that I wanted to make the first attempt away from the entrance so as not to cause a scene.
My crutches were dangling from my arms as I took my first few steps. I hadn't moved very far when they fell off and I came to a shakey halt. Renee tightened the crutches on my arms and I walked down to the beer aisle. I reached for a six pack (not easy with a long crutch dangling off my arm) and then tried to put it in cart. The crutch got in my way and I couldn't get my arm low enough to put the six pack down. I put the six pack back on the shelf, took off the crutch, and then picked up the six pack and put it in the cart. I then took off the other crutch, put it in the cart with it's mate, and pushed the cart to the next aisle.
The rest of the trip was pretty much a success from there. I continued going up and down the aisles. Stopping from time to time to take things off of shelves or down from pegs. I would sit occasionally, to rest or to wait while Renee browsed but, for the majority of the trip, I walked. I'm sure we made quite a sight. Me pushing the cart, Renee walking behind me holding onto my belt, and dragging my wheelchair behind her.
When we got to the checkout counter I had planned on sitting and allowing Renee to empty the cart. I was so pleased with the success so far that I decided to empty the cart and reload it after paying, all while standing up. After a cup of coffee we headed outside to the parking lot. I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to control the cart while going down the ramp from the sidewalk.
I learned pretty quickly that I had to let the cart control me and go with it's momentum. Now, of course, Renee was still holding onto my belt behind me and I could see an imminent face plant in my future. I told Renee to stay with me and let the momentum of the cart pull me out into the parking lot while I tried to remain standing. Thankfully Renee did not pull back on my belt and we avoided the face plant. I loaded the car groceries into the car, put the cart away, grabbed my crutches and walked back to the car. Now, what I haven't mentioned up till now is that this was all midday on a Saturday of Christmas shopping season!
On Sunday Sarah and I decided to try my luck at Toys R Us! It was a little more difficult due to smaller aisles and lots of kids running amuck. However, that test worked out wonderfully as well. Sarah was a little nervous but she handled it great and we had a fun afternoon of Christmas shopping. I can't express how much more independent those to shopping trips have made me feel.