Notes from the Home - April 23, 2016



I have been picked up off the floor three times in the last month. The only injury was to my pride. My right leg caused the first two falls. Well, a few other body parts might have been involved, but the irresponsibility of the right leg is what I noticed. Until a year or so ago, the right leg was darn near normal, or so it seemed to me. The doctors told me several times that the right leg was stiffer than the left leg. Perhaps. But, stiff or not, the right leg did as it was told, which the left leg had stopped doing years earlier.

These days, the right leg won’t straighten up – literally. When I stand, my right knee remains crooked, and I can’t get my right foot flat on the floor. The heel stays two inches above the floor. If I press on my knee hard enough, the right foot will get closer to the floor, maybe even make contact with it for a few seconds. As soon as I quit pushing on the knee, it bends and I’m on tiptoes again.

As a result, transferring from the wheelchair to the bed is tricky business. To get into bed, I get the wheelchair about a yard from the bed, place my hands on their respective armrests, and push myself up into an unsightly standing position. Leaving my right hand on the armrest, I lean forward just a little and reach out with my left arm to get a hold of the fitted sheet. It isn’t easy to get a firm grip on a fitted sheet. It is worth the struggle, though. Unlike the other sheet, or the blanket, the fitted sheet stays put, and I can bring myself forward by pulling on it. As I edge forward, I push with my right arm, then let go of the armrest, bring my right arm forward as quickly as possible to brace myself as I fall on the bed.

Twice in one week, the right leg gave out before I got my right arm down to brace myself. Both times I slid off the bed and found myself between the bed and the wheelchair.

The first time it happened, I was up late for some forgotten reason and fell as I tried to get into bed at midnight. My call for help was answered by the man working security that night. He is a tall, muscular man. He looked at me lying on the floor, bent over, and told me to put my arms around his neck. When I did, he stood up, taking me with him, then put his hands about my waist and sat me on the bed. After asking if I was OK, he rode off into the sunset, or more accurately, walked out the door and went about his business. I still don’t know the gentleman’s name, but given his size and strength, I’m sure “Sir” will do.

One day the following week, I gave a repeat performance as I attempted to lay me down for an afternoon nap. This time I knew the folks who came to get my carcass off the floor. Cherie, from home health, came to make sure I hadn’t injured myself, and Cepeda and Lucas, from food service, came to do the heavy lifting.

Two days later, my bedside bar arrived. Rob, an occupational therapist, had suggested I get one when I told him about the first incident. “They’re around thirty dollars,” he said. Rob knows his stuff. James, one of the maintenance men, brought the package from the UPS guy to my apartment.

Russ had said he’d be over the following morning to take me grocery shopping. My plan was to ask him then to help me assemble the contraption. But after staring at the box for fifteen minutes, it dawned on me that I should get the instructions out to see what tools we would need. I don’t have much in the way of tools, and whatever tools the job required, Russ would have to bring with him.

Once I opened the box, I had to take everything out, because the instructions were conveniently placed at the other end of the box. When I found the instructions, I discovered that no tools were needed. And looking over the parts strewn across the floor, it looked like a project I just might be able to do myself. Going forward in my own inimitably inept fashion, I got the darn thing together. There are two horizontal bars that go between the mattress and the box springs. The instructions said to take the mattress off the bed, position the horizontal bars, and put the mattress back. Fat chance. Instead, I put a stack of books between the mattress and box springs and pushed. When I could push no further, I put the wheelchair into switch-engine mode and pushed.

Russ came over the next morning, and I let him push the assembled apparatus the final inch between the mattresses. Then I had him retrieve a small part that rolled under the bed when I doing the assembly work the previous afternoon. In a highly technical sense, I didn’t complete the project on my own. But, boy, it felt good to damn near get ’er done by myself.

 I'm still trying to find an easy way to get into bed using this thing. But I haven't fallen since I put it up. And it does make getting out of bed much easier.

Things went to crap again Tuesday evening when I went to take a crap. To pass the time until my bowels did their job – they usually take longer do to their job than the U.S. Congress takes to do its, and the results are strikingly similar – I took a crossword puzzle with me. Three clues into the puzzle, I dropped my pen. I reached down to retrieve it, lost my balance, and fell off my perch.

A yank of the emergency pull-cord got Teresa’s attention at the front desk. Via the intercom, she told me she would find someone to help her get me up. A few minutes later, she was back on the intercom: no one was available to help. The nurses assistants in personal care were all busy with people whose needs are greater than mine. “Would it be OK if I called 911?” she asked. “Sure,” I said.

Teresa and three EMTs came in my door a short while later. There was the take-charge guy, who looked around for a second and said, “I’ll get around here, you get his legs, and we’ll get him out of here.” There was the sensible guy, who said, “Shouldn’t we move the wheelchair out of the way first?” “Oh, yeah,” said the take-charge guy. The third guy must have been the boss. He had the disgusted look of a man who wanted to be home in his recliner, drinking a beer and watching TV. Instead, he was watching his crew pick up a clumsy old guy who’d fallen off the toilet.

*     *     *

There was a setback on the wheelchair front. Lou from NuMotion called Tuesday. He said Humana doesn’t think I need a wheelchair of the sort I am hoping to get. He said he was going to fax the information Humana sent him to Dr. Verson. I will see the doctor on Wednesday. With any luck he’ll be able to reword things to the satisfaction of some clerk who has never laid eyes on me.

I had better luck with catheters. My order was delivered on the day the email informing me it had been shipped said it would be delivered. So now, I can at least piss around until I find out about a wheelchair.

*     *     *

Chances are more than a few people in the Cleveland area turned off their TVs in anger as Jeopardy ended the other night. The Final Jeopardy category was the origin of city names. The clue: “This city, which has an NFL franchise, is named for an 18th Century British prime minister.” None of the contestants knew which city, and after the third one revealed his lame guess, Alex Trebek said, “No, the correct response is Pittsburgh – the city of champions – named in honor of William Pitt the Elder.”




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