Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Going Backwards

Barb Polan
Barb's Recovery
March 20, 2016

Setbacks are a common occurrence in everyone's lives, right? It's not just me, right?

I have a double-whammy of steps backwards going on right now: after having knee surgery, I've regressed to my immediate post-stroke state. On top of that, although I was progressing rapidly, given my circumstances, according to the nurses and PT's I've seen since the surgery, I took two steps back last Friday...

When I stood up to greet the nurse who was going to remove my staples, I felt pain in the side/back of my post-op knee; I slowly limped (don't I always?) to the door, trying to pretend my knee wasn't threatening to collapse under me. I told her it was hurting a bit more than yesterday, and she thought that wasn't unusual.

I, on the other hand, was appalled that that day didn't bring improvement - that's what was supposed to happen: my knee was supposed to feel and behave a little bit better every day. Eventually I'd get back to my half-disabled-and-half-unharmed body. Ironically, the abilities of that broken body now seemed a desirable goal.

I conjectured that I'd "overdone" it the day before - not with exercise, as my knee hurt to much riding the bike Thursday for me to overdo that. I blamed the staples, which were scheduled to come out that morning, leading to yet another milestone on the way to "better."

But, the day before (Thursday) was St. Patrick's Day, and I had made a traditional corned-beef-and-cabbage dinner - beef brisket, carrots, small potatoes, onions, and cabbage, with Irish soda bread (from an old - and perfect - Manning family recipe) and Guinness.

Our new kitchen is beautifully designed to minimize walking; everything is stored exactly where you're going to use it, and even the cooktop is behind my back when I'm at the sink so that I can put water in a pot, pirouette, and put it on a burner. A cutting board slides out next to the sink so that veggies can be washed, cut, then dumped in a pan on the cooktop behind me. There are lots of counters too, so that I can pull something from the pantry and put it on a counter, then retrieve it from the other side for preparation at the sink or the cutting board. The thing is, when I cook, I still have to carry some things, even if it's just a bag of onions going from the pantry to the counter, and carrying generally requires a working hand. My tossing method of things that should be carried works well outside gardening or giving someone sturdy objects inside the house, but does not work at all in the kitchen (except for getting a teabag into the sink, and things like that). Certainly, it couldn't help me during the preparation of a corned-beef-and-cabbage dinner.

So, that day, that St. Patrick's Day, I hung my cane from a doorknob and walked without it. Yes! That was a significant achievement - walking on my stroke leg and my post-op leg without a cane! It didn't feel great, and my gait was far worse than ever, but I could do it. "Just while preparing dinner," I told myself, knowing I really shouldn't.

Successful stroke recovery is not for the timid, though, not for the compliant patient who follows every instruction from the medical professionals. No, successful stroke recovery is accomplished by people with cajones. So, even against my better judgment, I prepared dinner without using my cane; like I said, it didn't feel great, but I could do it!

Millie and her father-in-law came to dinner, and it was delicious. And fun. Just like I intended.

It was the next day that I could see (wrong: FEEL) how wrong my bravado was. The visiting nurse came to remove the staples, which I thought was going to make a huge difference in my ability to walk pain-free, and here I was, knowing that I could barely walk without my knee collapsing. The rest of the day, I clutched Tom to walk wherever - the bathroom, mostly, because nothing else seemed worth it. No exercise, no going outside, just sitting in my armchair by the fire, enduring the recriminations repeating in my head.

Another night's sleep, and my knee had recovered a bit from my overzealousness, enough for me to go upstairs ( a 14-step flight), shower, and then come back down (the harder part). Instead of over-doing again, though, and going upstairs a second time that day, I stayed downstairs and slept in the living room again. See? I catch on.

And today? A bit better. I did some baking, but used my cane the whole time, which is not so easy - much easier to ditch the cane and just carry the cookie sheets. But I didn't. I took the harder way out, which will make it easier tomorrow.

No more going backwards for me.

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