Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Final (I Hope) Wrap-Up Report

How well is my recovery going?

So well that yesterday, in three separate ventures, I walked with just one crutch a total of almost a mile. I can take several steps independent of any aid. My pain level has dropped to occasional minor discomfort, needing only Tylenol once in a while; my flexibility is increasing daily; my strength ditto.

I’ll be seeing the surgeon on Tuesday for follow-up; I hope and expect to be given the green light to drive – freedom at last! I’m ready to get back to work full time. Getting back to doing horse chores no doubt will take another month or more of further strengthening, but it too will come soon, I’m sure.

I am forever grateful to all the people who’ve helped me through this process: the medical professionals, the friends who’ve been doing so much for the housebound invalid, the folks who’ve cared for my animals when I couldn’t, and all who’ve offered moral support. I could never have gotten through this without you all! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Stepping Out

Major advances today during physical therapy. I’ve felt a significant surge in my ability to ambulate over the last few days, a marked lessening of the need for even one crutch’s support. When my PT arrived I demonstrated this for her: I walked entirely unassisted for four steps, right-left-right-left; turned with the crutch, and walked four unassisted steps back. Now, mind you, they were shorter than my normal stride, but neither were they hobbling gimps; they were real steps. A day shy of three weeks post-op, I walked without aid.

Kristin was gobsmacked. She’s been surprised and delighted all along at how well I’ve progressed, but this just amazed her. I then tried ambulating with my cane rather than the crutch. It’s not as reliably steady a feel, but no problem; let me get a few days farther along and I’ll be caning merrily around the house; for now, I prefer the greater security of the crutch.

We went downstairs to the garage so I could practice getting in and out of my car under her supervision, both passenger and driver side. Piece of cake. We went for a walk outside, me back on both crutches for safety’s sake though I needed very little of their support, down the driveway as far as the mailbox, then instead of turning back we kept going onward down the exit drive all the way to the street, a doubling of distance. I stuck my toe over the property line in triumph, then we marched back up-slope to my condo, moving right along. Well, yes, yes, I was a bit winded by the time we got back, but oh! What an invigorating expedition it was!

To be fully back to myself, able to do everything as I had before the hip went to hell – able to muck a stall, push a loaded wheelbarrow, haul hay and shavings and grain – I know is still some months away. But by golly, I’m going to get there, and do it faster than your average bear.

A confession: I did take one oxycodone today, a couple of hours before PT, because the exercises and house chores I did in the morning got me to hurting. But this doesn’t depress me; it’s not a defeat; it’s merely being sensible, not trying to be a hero. I doubt I’ll need another today; I’ll go on tomorrow and thereafter without taking any unless I push myself too far and need the relief; and I have no doubt that I’m very nearly done with that drug.

The ravelled sleeve knit up

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday was another day of no oxycodone, any modest discomfort eased with ice and Tylenol, of following faithfully the prescribed exercises and even expanding upon them, of walking outside despite the chill in the air, of resting when tired and enjoying quiet amusements.

Last night’s sleep, taken in the lift-recliner? The best so far; just one wakeup after the first hour and a half, then back to five deep and restful hours. I drifted up to wakefulness, arose eventually and fed the cats, then crawled into my bed upstairs and drifted back down for another hour-plus slumber.

Today when my physical therapist comes I’ll ask her to assess whether I’m ready to move up from one crutch to a cane, at least indoors. I see my surgeon next Tuesday and hopefully will be given permission to drive. Recovery marches on!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care

It was another night of broken sleep last night, one of the worst since I came home from the hospital, and yet its very brokenness encourages me.

I have, in fact, slept remarkably well since the first night or two at home. Oh, I’ve had to get up two or three times for a bathroom run each night, but that was my pattern before the surgery, and I’ve fallen swiftly back to sleep most times and slept deeply. I credit a good part of my rapid recovery to such restful nights’ restorative powers.

Over the last few days, as I’ve tried with indifferent success off and on to move from the lift-chair recliner to my own bed, I’ve also been weaning myself off the oxycodone. Yesterday, for the first time since the operation, I took none at all, just a couple of Tylenol for the minor discomfort that bothers me at times. I do wonder whether it’s the opioid withdrawal, however modest its effects given my low dosage and limited time on the things, that’s playing havoc with my sleeping, rather than the place where I lay myself down, since last night said place didn’t seem to make much difference.

If I’m right and withdrawal rather than positional discomfort is what’s keeping me awake, then in a few days, when the body’s readjusted to its drugfree state, I should do just fine wherever I settle for the night.

In the meantime, I can and do nap when I feel like it, and it’s amazing how much reading you can get done in the wee hours with no competing distractions.

Oh, and I feel stronger when I walk now, which is entirely with one crutch; the crutch takes very little of the left leg’s burden at each step. The thought did flit through my mind this morning: “Time to downshift to a cane?” but that may be too much too soon; I’ll discuss it with my physical therapist this week.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ups and Downs

Ups and downs, ups and downs, there’s been a fair passel of ‘em over the last 24 hours.

I hit the recliner*-sack early (for me) last night but couldn’t quite drift off; the left leg was twitchy. Finally I gave in and took half an Ativan (my fallback prescription for restless leg on the rare occasions nothing else will work) and decided, what the heck, let’s try the bed again. So up the stairs I hitched, got settled, and drifted off to a good four hours of deep sleep. Who’dathunkit, huh? When I woke for the inevitable bathroom run around 5:00 a.m. I decided to finish the night in the recliner. So down the stairs I hobbled, got settled – and discovered that, after hours of unaccustomed stretching out of the leg, the hip was now achy. Sigh…. Up to the drug stash; one 5 mg oxycodone down the hatch; back into the recliner, and down into Morpheus’s welcoming arms….

At 8:00 a.m. the rumbling of the basement garage door opening sent the cats clumped asleep on me fleeing wildly and I woke up in time to greet the friend delivering groceries. We chatted, she departed, and I decided to feed the frightened felines, most of whom emerged from their hiding places by the time I’d finished dishing out the morning meal. I carried Sally’s up to her second-floor realm, eyed the abandoned bed across the hall, and decided what the heck, I’m up here anyway, so heaved myself back in and dozed off.

The arrival an hour later of the woman who’s cleaning the catboxes for me woke me up and I stumped back downstairs for breakfast and some reading for pleasure, then proofread a job. That done, I assembled a batch of paperwork and lurched up to the second-floor office and its computers to take care of various banking, bill-paying and bookkeeping that needed doing. Given how uncomfortable the office chair is for me, even padded with a pillow, I’d been dreading the duty, but it had to be done.

Well, at least Sally was happy about the hour I spent in there; I sure wasn’t. I had to get up and stand or crutch-walk about now and then to get through what all had to be completed, but completed it was at last and I could lumber back downstairs, suck down another oxycodone, fix myself a much-belated lunch, and collapse into the living room recliner, icepack at hip, rest and repast restoring me to comfort and good humor.

It’s a damned good thing I set up the mini-office downstairs before the operation; there’s no way I could do extended work in the upstairs office, not for almost a month before the operation, in fact; not now; and not, I suspect, for some time to come.

So it’s been a time of ups and downs, stairwise, physically, and emotionally as I contemplate what I can accomplish now on one crutch (got the plants watered, even upstairs where I have to fill the can at the bathtub faucet, an awkward process even with two good legs), what the accomplishment takes out of me, how far I’ve come and how far I still have to go.

*I may have been unclear in previous missives: I have two recliners at present. The sleeper is on loan from a friend and lives in the front room downstairs; my own recliner, less comfortable for sleeping but just fine for lolling about, lives in my living room, flanked by side tables for laptop and printer/scanner and facing the television.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Small Setback

Last night I tried sleeping in my own bed, having prepared it with the occupational therapist’s help with the necessary hip precautions designed to keep one from putting certain torsional pressures on the healing joint.

It did not go well.

Oh, it seemed comfortable at first, though a bit odd to have my upper body only slightly raised on my own slim wedge pillow, instead of the larger angle the recliner provides. But I soon discovered that, even when I put a pillow under my left knee, that whole limb, from hip on down to ankle, was not enjoying lying flat. I started getting the occasional spasm of restless leg, and no amount or variation of repositioning within what was feasible could relieve my left leg’s discontent. The hip itself began to ache.

So finally, after an hour and a half of trying to get beyond uneasy intermittent dozing to real sleep, I gave up and hobbled down to the trusty recliner, where I spent the rest of a blissfully comfortable, soundly sleeping night.

I’m going to try taking a nap on the bed this afternoon, see if I can retrain myself to sleep there, and hope that it won’t take until the hip precautions are finally lifted and I can again sleep as I prefer, curled on my right side, to be at ease.

Or maybe I’ll just invest in my own sleeper-recliner so I can give back my friend Annette’s generous loan of my present salvation and still get a good night’s sleep.

My recovery has been going so swiftly and so well, it’s no doubt salutary to be reminded now and then that I am, in fact, getting over a major insult to the old body.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Today's Update

Doing well, is what it is. Yesterday was a down day, tired and achy; not surprising given how strenuously I’d overdone things Tuesday, and the discomfort was exacerbated by attempting to wean myself entirely off the oxycodone. After a discussion with my surgeon’s office I did take a couple of minimal doses to help rest and icing work their magic.

So this morning I find my energy restored, my comfort re-established, and so far no need to take any analgesic despite having done the usual morning chores and the first set of PT exercises. I won’t try to be a hero if I get significantly achy, but hope to go opioid-free today; we’ll see. Today will be a good day to work on the one job I have, do some light reading, and otherwise continue convalescing.

And tonight, a next step, hopefully: sleep in my own bed rather than the recliner!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Progress Report

And it’s a good one.

At the moment I’m sitting quietly, resting and icing an achy hip. But fear not – the ache, and it’s a mild one, is from what I’ve already done this morning:

Got up, washed, dressed.

Fed the cats, the first time I’ve been able to do that myself – yes, including taking one bowl upstairs to Sally’s realm.

Tossed a bag of laundry down to the basement, then followed it down and started the wash going.

Gone up to the second floor again to fetch down some clothing.

Had an extensive physical therapy session, including another trip to the basement to flip the laundry from washer to dryer. I now have approval to walk with one crutch whenever I wish. My PT is amazed at how well I’m doing – after all, at this time two weeks ago I was having the surgery.

So, yes, all in all, things are going very well indeed. If it turns nice this afternoon I will go outside for a bit of a walk; yesterday was gorgeous and I went out three times, walking short distances each venture but the total was probably a good city block’s length, if not more.

Right, right – don’t get cocky. But I daresay optimistic is okay.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Well, that was instructive

I hitched upstairs to my office this morning, to get something and say hello to the cat who lives in that part of the townhouse. While there I succumbed to temptation and turned on my main computer, if only to download and dispose of all the email that’s accumulated since I shut it down late on March 26th. Of course I couldn’t leave it at that; I wound up sitting down to pay some bills online as well as sort and dispose of the mail backlog.

Hoo boy. My hip is NOT ready to spend time in an office chair, not even with a plump pillow intervening. It was a relief to finish the tasks and get back to the relative comfort of the recliner, where I plan to spend the rest of the day. Here I’m much more at ease, and here I’ll be working on my first proofreading job since the surgery. It’s promised to be not too long, not too difficult, and not urgent, so it should be a good test run to see how resuming work will go.

Dunno if I’ll try to repeat yesterday’s walk outside; the day isn’t quite as pleasant. But I’m tempted to give it a go. Perhaps it would make a good mid-read break from the proofing.

Baby steps, O impatient patient; baby steps.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Don't Get Cocky

As I keep reminding myself, that’s good advice, and its truth is evident this evening. After today’s triumphant walk, I spent the rest of the afternoon resting in my faithful recliner, quietly reading, and felt good enough at suppertime to heat up one of those meals-in-a-bag on the stove and hand-wash the dishes after I’d finished eating. Now I’m tired and a little achey and not inclined to do anything more strenuous this evening than sit here and read.

So much for giant leaps forward. But I’ll take what I can get and be grateful.

Getting Out and About

Another great step forward today – I walked outside this afternoon. My physical therapist asked me if I wanted to try, and by golly I was ready. So she slid rubber-soled slippers onto my feet and out the front door we went, me in my nightgown and robe, she at my side, ready to catch me.

But no fear of falling! I peg-legged it down the stairs and crutched merrily down the driveway, employing an alternating-crutch-swing technique that let me power up to a respectable speed with a substantial stride. We went all the way to the mailbox stand so I could send out an envelope, then headed right back before I could overdo it. I had no trouble getting back up the front stairs; wasn’t even all that tired or sore at the end of today’s grand adventure.

It was wonderful. Fresh air and sunshine! Being able to walk straight and free without constantly having to maneuver around stuff! Out!

We decided not to bother with the usual round of exercises, since I’d already done one set that morning and the walk was enough for the afternoon; if I feel up to it I’ll do another set this evening.

I have the therapist’s okay to try this again tomorrow, solo, with the promise not to overdo it. Huzzah!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Tonight I washed my hair.

Let me step back and try that again.

Tonight I washed my hair!!!!!!

It’s been a week since I could say that, and it’s just been AWFUL to feel how dirty it’s become, how grubby I’ve felt. Just a week? It feels like forever!

So a little while ago I grabbed a bath towel from the half-bath, stripped down at the kitchen sink (crutches propped nearby), leaned over, and let that hot clean water run over my tacky head. Lather. Scrub. Rinse. REPEAT, luxuriating in the sensation of layer after layer of accumulated dreck washing away.

I quit after two rounds, though I daresay my graying mane could have done with a third, if not a fourth; didn’t want to overdo it. Instead I toweled, rerobed into my night clothes, and crutched back to the half-bath to hang up the towel and brush my CLEAN(er) hair.

It was necessary to resist trying to dance with crutches. Singing was on the program, though, along with a giant smile.

We’ll see if I’ll be up to doing that every day – although I must say, now that I’m settled into my recliner, I feel fine. But even if it’s only every other day, still the psychological boost from accomplishing this is marvelous.

A Good Night's Sleep

It really does make a difference.

Until last night, my post-surgical nights have been a jumble of fitful broken sleep, never more than a couple of hours at a time of true slumber. No surprise, that, in the hospital; at home, though, it didn’t get much better. The living room recliner, where I’d planned to sleep, turned out to be neck-crimpingly uncomfortable for very long. I transferred myself, the first night, around 2:00 a.m., to the couch.

The transfer process itself was slow, clumsy, curse-riddled, but ultimately successful enough that I decided to continue there. In daylight the setup got rearranged to something usefully better. It still wasn’t all that comfortable; I still slept fitfully; but it would do till I felt strong enough to go upstairs to my own bed.

Trouble is, that couch is low enough to make getting up for the bathroom runs difficult. Last night, having awakened a couple of hours after settling in, I almost fell back in mid-rise. My stiff body ached. That was it. I pulled the blanket off and crutched out to the dining/front area where my last hope sat: another recliner, kindly lent to me by the good friend who’d hauled me to and from the hospital.

This recliner is all upholstered (no hard wooden arms), and motorized to lift one up or gently settle one back at whatever preferred angle. Into this I settled, and proceeded to sleep deeply and well for a good three hours, then after the inevitable bathroom run for another blissful four. I awoke refreshed and minus most of the usual stiffness. Even the two cats lying on my lap didn’t make anything hurt.

Okay, all right, I hear you saying “What took you so long, you looney?” -- a legitimate question, to which I reply that the first time I tried sleeping in it I got a neck crick; the position of the head roll at the top was just wrong enough not to work for me. So while I’ve been enjoying lounging in it as a change of pace from my own recliner, and found it perfect for dining from at Sunday’s feast, it didn’t register as a bed for the night till all other options were exhausted.

What made it work this time was hitting upon just the right pillow – a thin, near-worn-out, floppy but still serviceable dogbone neck pillow that had been my mother’s for many years. With that in place, sleep came to stay.

And the ultimate goal: my own bed? I want to get stronger and steadier first, but the physical therapist took me upstairs yesterday and I have the go-ahead, with suitable precautions, to get back into it when I feel ready. Hopefully a few more good nights’ sleep in my wonderful friend’s wonderful recliner will do the trick.

Monday, April 1, 2013

post-Niagara report

Been updating status on Facebook:

Bottom line: Worth the trip.