Monday, February 22, 2010

The First One -- Part IV -- Home Again

To paraphrase the great sage, poet and all around good gal, Amy Winehouse, "They tried to put us into Rehab and we said, yes, yes, yes". From my perspective comprehensive rehab was the next step to getting better and going home. It was a new vista with new concepts, ideas, terms and goals. It was a foreign land but a land we wanted to visit.

It just happened one day; as suddenly as we went to Dallas we were back in Waco at Hillcrest Comprehensive Rehab. We met a new Doctor, a new Physicians Assistant, new nurses, new therapists and new social workers. It was new.

In any comp. rehab program the patient has to be able to work, participate in therapy for three hours a day. As I understand it this is a Medicare requirement and frankly one that makes sense. Rehab, therapy is hard; it requires a lot of focus, willingness to extend oneself and a strong desire and belief in healing. It can work wonders. I was very concerned about Marty's ability to be able to withstand the rigor of the program. She wasn't very strong, she hadn't been out of ICU that long and she had just started to do even the most rudimentary things like, sit up. But away we went with all of her tubes and such.

The first couple of days proved out my concerns. The trip from Dallas to Waco exhausted her and starting therapy was slow and largely unsatisfactory, but the therapists were patient and in spite of my own insecurities Marty began to grow stronger and more capable almost daily.

There are several kinds of seminal moments in this particular part of our trial that kind of stick out for me:

• Marty's good friend Sue had the courage to take me aside and say we needed to cover Marty's head. I understand it was disconcerting for the uninitiated to see her with the big "divot" in her forehead and being a guy I never thought about it. I brought one of my caps from home, a guy's hat. One of the nurses, just kind of out of the blue brought Marty a woman's pink cap. She liked that better, and then our other Gail and Sue brought Marty a couple of caps, one of which said, "Under Construction". We still have them.

• I walked into rehab one day, a big day as it turns out and I saw my Marty, with the help of a PT, walking down the hall. She walked about 50 feet. She was wearing her pink hat and support hose; maybe the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

• After they took out the catheter Marty would not stay in bed. If she needed to go the bathroom she would not wait for help. They set the alarm on the bed and Marty immediately figured out how to turn it off. Marty also managed to pull out all of her other tubes, she was tired of them. First she took out the tracheotomy, and then she removed the PIC line in her arm. I found them both on the floor at different times. Marty was back.

• Marty's return was never exemplified more than when she escaped. She had been hospitalized at Hillcrest several years before for minor surgery. She remembered going down and out to smoke. It was her routine and she by God wanted to smoke. One afternoon when I was out, right after therapy finished for the day she managed to wheel herself onto the staff elevator. She didn't have the wherewithal to go down, so she went up, she just knew if she could get outside she could smoke. They found her pretty quickly on one of the upper floors.

• Marty quickly moved from exhausted and bed bound to mad bored and she was really hard to keep entertained. Weekends in rehab, when there is no rehab are torture. The kids came down, friends and family came in, but it just sucked.

June 8, 2005 we went home, 66 days after Marty should have died, after Marty should have been completely disabled, we walked to the car, got into the car and drove home. I had to take lessons on how to handle Marty's newly discovered diabetes, we talked with Social workers about support, and we knew we had one more surgery left, the one to make her head round again, to replace the bone plate. Regardless of how scared I was of my new role and responsibility, on June 8 we walked into our home again.

Post Script --

Now the question -- still on my bathroom wall is a calendar. It's a rather ugly calendar; it has the front cover of the Saturday Evening Post from the 1920's. Some waif like woman with a flapper's kind of hat, and the calendar is stuck on April of 2005. I have not been able to bring myself to take it down. Within the next weeks we are going to remodel that bathroom. I don't know if I can take the calendar down and leave it down and I don't know why.