|Sitting in a normal-size wheelchair.|
Part of my physical therapy in the nursing home involved sitting. That's it. Well, it was sitting in a wheelchair. I wasn't given a seat cushion at first because they didn't have enough to go around. (John Silva eventually scrounged one up for me.) Without a pad, there's nothing but a vinyl sling below your butt.
So what, you may be thinking, director's chairs are fairly comfortable. Try sitting on one not for an hour or two, but all day. I wasn't yet strong enough to sit up that long, but I also had general pain that I attribute to my body getting used to being animate after my awakening. Residual muscle pain from my dermatomyositis might've contributed to it, as well. And then there was the bedsore just below the base of my spine.
But considering that my body wasn't up to sitting for that long, it wasn't that bad.
When an assistant physical therapist came into my room to take me to physical therapy and wheeled
in a double-wide wheelchair, obviously meant for the morbidly obese, I was merely amused. After all, my weight had dwindled under my liquid diet during my coma and many weeks afterward. I looked like a concentration camp survivor, my bones sticking out of my skin, creating pressure points.
|I had already gained a few pounds by the time of my home visit in October, but you can see how skinny I had become as I attempted to play the wonderful Dorsey Williams dulcimer Keith had given me for our anniversary.|
After my physical and occupational therapy session ended, I was wheeled back into my room to perform the second part of my therapy--the sitting. The goal was to sit as long as I could to retrain my body to remain upright and get used to sitting in a chair.
The physical therapist is supposed to make sure you have the call button within reach before leaving. But they kept forgetting, and this time was no exception.
It wasn't long before my hips and butt started to ache. Then the shooting pains began, followed by pulsing waves. When I couldn't take it any longer, I started to pound on my wheelchair for someone to help me. No one came. As the pain continued to increase, I began to weep.
"I need some help," I kept saying, but this was after my speaking valve had been carelessly trashed, so what came out was barely a whisper.
Finally, someone passed in the hall and I called to her, pounding on the arm of my wheelchair to catch her attention.
She was a nurse. "What's the problem?" she asked.
"The wheelchair is too big for m." I ran out of air, as usual. "It hurts." I sniffled. "It hurts!"
"I'm sorry you're in pain. Where does it hurt?"
I pointed to my right hip and my butt.
"What would you like me to do to help you?"
"Give me another wheelchai." I took a breath. "Or put me back in be."
"I can't do that. I'll send for a CNA."
"Thank you." She put a box of Kleenex in my lap before she left.
I daubed my nose as I waited. And I waited some more, as lightning bolts of pain shot through my right hip.
When the CNA finally arrived, she propped a pillow under me. I was really determined to regain my lost abilities, so I didn't want to give up on my wheelchair training. It was worth a try.
But I continued to list in the cavernous depths of that enormous wheelchair. What's worse, the CNA also forgot to give me the call button. The tears started flowing again, I banged on the wheelchair, calling as best I could, as my panic increased.
When someone finally came, she tried yet another arrangement of pillows. At least this time, the CNA remembered to give me the call button, which before long I was forced to press.
"What is it now?" the nurse asked.
I reached for a Kleenex to wipe my running nose. "Please put me back in be..." Breath. "It hurts."
"I'll go get someone to help you."
Another looooong wait followed.
But when a CNA finally arrived, she wasn't trained in transferring patience and she had to get someone to help.
I thanked them profusely after they slid me into bed by lifting the sheet underneath me. Finally, I was in bed, exhausted, still in pain, and emotionally wrung out.
The next day, I insisted the assistant physical therapist give me a small wheelchair. Still, a painful drama ensued when they left me in the wheelchair yet again.
But that's another story.