Lessons Learned #2 You can’t always be in control
After five days in hospital, the powers that be transferred me to a Rehabilitation Facility nearer our house —one that deals with stroke victims, spinal column injuries, fractures, and replacement joints. To me it sounded like somewhere you’d go to dry out or kick a habit, but never mind. People will think what they want, anyway.
It was actually a very nice facility — overcrowded and a bit worn, but full of lovely caring staff, some fairly good cooks, cute dogs who visited twice a week, and a gentle and compassionate team of therapists. The only problem — I felt as if I were in a nursery rather than a nursing hospital. To start with, the beds were wired with alarms, so that if you tried to get out of bed, even for a moment, an alarm shrieked and lights started flashing. Getting up on one’s own was forbidden, even though down in the therapy room, they were trying to show us how to get up and down without help. To add insult to injury, about halfway through my 10-day stay, they took down the signs about ringing for help in getting up and replaced them with kindergarten-sized stoplight cutouts. Now, if the traffic light was red, we knew to stop. (And of course, it was always red.) OK. I played the game.
Second, I violated an unspoken rule very early. (I’m trying not to get too scatalogical here, but . . . ) That rule was that patients who used the bathroom were not allowed to flush. Now, my mother always told me . . . .
But not here. I finally twigged to what was going on when they started feeding me laxatives because the doctor had ordered them. I flushed; they thought I had failed to produce. That one took a day or two to straighten out.
The nurses were also scrupulous in following orders in other ways. One of the medications I take is usually labeled “Take on an empty stomach” — so I take it right before breakfast — no problems. Here? They wanted to be sure my stomach was empty, so they woke me at 4:30 every morning just to swallow that one little pill. And so it went.
Therapy was also odd. The PT folks worked me to death walking up and down halls with the walker, climbing stairs, doing obstacle courses, and other necessary movements. But I also was scheduled to do an hour of “Occupational Therapy“ which amounted to endurance training. How long could I stand without leaning on something? Here, fold this load of laundry. (Oh, Joy!) How long could I turn a set of bicycle pedals with my hands? Not a very marketable skill. Eventually I convinced the therapist to play scrabble with me while I stood at the table. At least I had the fun of beating her!
And so it went. It forced me to recognize why I was so cantankerous. I’m used to being in control. Take away that autonomy, and I start feeling helpless.
But now I’m home. And I stood at the counter today for half an hour making a pot of soup. I’m useful again!