Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Breezing Through the Yawning Chasm of Death


TumblrsVasquez Rocks

The history of our walks/hikes at Vasquez Rocks can be told in the assistive devices I've employed. The first visit to Vasquez Rocks, on March 30, 2014, was also the first time I used the four-wheeled rollator Keith had bought for me on a rehab walk.

Keith didn't know that rollators aren't recommended for people who are just beginning to walk again. It was the only type of walker he could find in the drugstore for my four-hour tour of our home, on furlough from the nursing home.

He only needed to buy it in the first place because a bitchy physical therapist wouldn't allow me to check out a walker, as the PT helping me to walk had instructed me to do. But he was off duty, and I was at her mercy.

We learned why rollators aren't advisable when it slipped out from under me while I was trying to get to the toilet. I banged my head on the bowl, but wasn't hurt.

I think the PT on duty that Sunday wouldn't allow me to check a walker out, despite the fact that it was common practice, because she didn't approve of John Silva's methods. She had previously carped that I wasn't really walking, since he was initially supporting my weight as I walked.

The furlough was to work out any kinks in preparation for my pending release from the nursing home. As I've written about before, we had no choice because I would've lost my health coverage if I had stayed in Country Villa Sheraton past October 31.

So, instead of allowing me the use of a walker, she actually endangered me. She's lucky I wasn't injured.

But I was much stronger by March, 2014. We knew that my safer, two-wheeled walker would be all but useless at Vasquez Rocks. And since I was a lot more stable at this point, we decided to give the rollator another try.

I coincidentally wore the same outfit on the second visit.
The next time we went to Vasquez Rocks, on March 22, 2015, we brought my lighter, seatless, three-wheeled rollator. But I soon abandoned it when it became stuck in the sand of the rougher trails we were attempting. Keith had recently given me the hiking sticks which have proven to be invaluable in opening up landscapes I could never have tackled otherwise.

Last Sunday, we went to Vasquez Rocks with Joella. She brought with her the identical hiking sticks we gave her for Christmas.

We again travelled along the Geology Trail. The narrow path, which Keith gave the tongue-in-cheek name, the Yawning Chasm of Death, was now a cinch for me.

And the hiking sticks allowed me to climb most of the way--up a steep slope--to the undulating stone walls I had only admired from afar (see Tumblrs). It was a bit like walking along the bottom of the Grand Canyon in miniature.

The hiking sticks continue to open up new avenues for me and my recovery.

Yes, it was a steep as it looks.

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

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In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.