Friday, July 30, 2010

July 30, 2010

It's been a busy and interesting week for me. The highlights of the week were yesterday and today. Yesterday son James took me to Johnstown PA for a date with Tim Brant of Brant Driving School. We drove around a parking lot in tim's little red Ford Focus until he was clear that I knew about a left foot gas pedal, then we did a couple of parallel parking exercises to be sure I had that down pat, then Tim took me to Penn DOT in Johnstown where I took a driving test. Last time I did that was in 197 - quite a while ago. Tim drove me through the probably course first, then we signed up in the office and Dan met me at the car and tested me. After telling me I jumped the curb, ran a stop sign, exceeded the speeding limit and hit a chipmunk, I got my license updated. Actually, I had it down pat, and my parking was exceptional. Then today, James took me to Keystone Coach with my proof of adaptive driving license and a prescription for a left foot gas pedal. After two hours, I had a left foot gas pedal on my car and drove us home from Bethel Park. Driving is not the challenge. What to do with Daisy and Tiger while driving is something I am figuring out. I think if I was to drive long distances, I would take the prosthetic off. So, once I got home and James went on his way, I fixed some lunch and took off all by myself for the movies. I am reminded off the name of one of my favorite Dr. Seuss books, "Oh, the places you'll go". I get to go again.

(Why is blogger changing my margins, putting numbers on paragraphs, etc? I'm simply going to ignore so I can get this posting up and out).

So beyond that, I had two good deliveries today - new dog beds arrived for Moose and Rags. I have makeshift beds in my bedroom next to my bed. Without their own bedding, the dogs want on my bed. I'll see how they do on their new beds tonight.

And I ordered two new pairs of trousers from someone who sells Flax stuff. And they just arrived and they have lovely large legs. And I have a large bin of pants to take to the resale store in Swissvale. Now that I can drive, I will do that. It makes sense to get rid of stuff I won't use, as hard as it is to give some of the stuff up.

And I made a date to take my Toyota to the dealer on Tuesday to take care of that recall (remember the Toyota recall stuff), to get the brakes adjusted and see what Toyota wants to do with a tire that keeps losing air on me that I bought not long before my surgery.

Monday, July 26, 2010

July 26, 2010

It's a day alone for me. Wow and whoopee!! I didn't get out of bed until 10:30 this morning - spent from 7:30 am on reading a book by someone I worked with at Northwestern, Sophie Littlefield, who is writing fun novels. That was my fifth book for the week, one Scott Turow, one Harlen Coben, two Sophie Littlefield, and one lovely book sent to me by my friend, Barbara Morgan, title The Cradle, author Patrick Sommerville. One of the activities that I love is lying in bed in the morning with a book. (I fall asleep when I do it at night).

Had PT this afternoon. Used Access transportation to get back and forth. This is the local service for the elder differently abled. I'm one of those. Folks very courteous and timely - at least today. Will do this again on Wednesday to get back and forth to PT. On Thursday and Friday I need attention of son to get me to the driving folks and hopefully get me my license. Friday is scheduled for getting left foot gas pedal on car.

Learning how to manage this prosthesis better. It's a matter of changing the weight of the socks on the gel liner on Daisy. I am currently up to six ply. That's as far as I have gotten. Foot has stayed straight for a while today so six ply seems right at this moment. But it does change during the day, so have to carry socks of different weights and be ready to change them. And I have two gel liners, one has a longer screw on the bottom than the other. I have on the one with the longer screw today (they simply get changed each morning, put on a clean one, clean the one from the day before and let dry). With all this ply and longer screw, I sometimes have trouble in getting prosthesis off when want to bed down at night. So - working on getting another appointment with prosthesis - make the pylon just a little longer (maybe another 3/8 of an inch of length), but make the screw that ratchets the gel liner into the prosthetic a little shorter. This is really minute tinkering.

And I have ordered three new pair of trousers on the internet. Hope they work. I have filled a big bin full of my pedal pushers and slacks to go to the local resale shop. This prosthesis makes my big leg even bigger, and most of the slacks in my closet simply won't go over the leg with the prosthesis on. I have set a few pairs of pants aside with plans to put a strip of fabric up the legs to make them bigger.

I'm learning to walk
Forward, backwards and sideways
With bionic leg

Living alone now
House empty of all people
Just me, Rags, and Moose

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 21, 2010

Something get easier when you simply do them instead of thinking about them or worrying about . So - now that I have the driving test scheduled for a week from tomorrow and the car modifications scheduled for the day after that, I decided it was time to figure out about car rental. I want to rent a car in Portland OR in September for a week. So, I did my rate check on line, decided I should try to rent with Enterprise, and called them telling them I needed a car with a left foot gas pedal in Portland in September. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but they simply said "OK". And that's that. Enterprise told me that calling 48 hours ahead of time would get me a car with a left foot accelerator when I needed one.

And the other thing about this recovery process is that the phantom pain has not been relevant for the past few days. I think it's mostly gone (rather than that I am not paying attention to it). There are some weird sensations, like when I get out of the shower in the morning and for a while thereafter, I feel as if the phantom foot is totally water-logged. So, when I pull on the gel liner, I feel as if there is a puddle of water in the bottom of it. This goes away over the next hour or so, and it is more interesting than troublesome.

And now, I'm going to take my rollator and walk to the Square (Regent Square shops - about three blocks) with the twins (grandnephews, 15 years old) and get either pizza or Thai food for an early supper.

Monday, July 19, 2010

July 19, 2010

It's 6pm on Monday. Worked with Al Stunden in Oregon this morning so we both knew we were comfortable with Skype. One of these 15 year old nephews was the real help on this.
Right now, I am waiting for a pot to boil so I can fill it with pasta. Made a small batch of pesto with basil from my garden. Basil is very happy, and I have lots more pesto to make. So tonight we will have pasta with pesto and some red snapper to put on top of it and a salad. These boys are non-meat eaters, and I am figuring out how to work with that with the stuff in my refrigerator and freezer. Neighbor said she would take me to Trader Joe's in morning, and I can be sure we are all set for the rest of the week (and beyond).

This is supposed to be a quick update. I have been in touch with the Drivers Ed folks. I am scheduled for my drivers review as well as a test with PennDot for a week from Thursday (July 29). Tomorrow, I will call the folks who do the left foot gas pedal install, and see if I can get that happening on July 30. If I can make that so, I'll be able to do all sorts of stuff without calling on family and friends.

Now I'll go see if the pot is boiling.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

July 18, 2010

It's Sunday at 6pm. Every experience is to learn from, and one of the key learnings for me in this bionic annie business is about being slower and being patient. I use to be able to get up and just GO. Now I have to get up, center myself on my feet, be sure I am balanced, and then I can go. When I prided myself in the past in being able to get up in the morning, shower, dress, be ready to go in twenty minutes (and I have gotten slower about that as I have gotten older, now I need to plan on 90 minutes from the time my alarm goes off until I am ready to leave the house. This is about getting up, putting the prosthesis on, getting the shower set up for myself (I like a walker next to it and the walker is by the bed at night so I don't try to step out and down as if I have two legs - a reminder) setting myself on the shower chair, taking off the prosthesis,, showering, getting out of shower onto chair in bathroom, being sure leg is totally dry, especially in folds behind knee, putting prosthesis back on, folding up walker and tucking it away (behind toilet it fits nicely), back to bedroom to dress, collecting clothing to wear, taking off prosthesis as it is too big to fit over undies and slacks, getting those garments on, putting prosthesis back on, putting on rest of clothing, taking yesterdays gel liner from prosthesis to bathroom to wash, back to bedroom with it to hang it to dry on special do-dad, taking pot to bathroom, emptying, washing out, putting some make up on (and I forgot brushing my teeth earlier, but you knew about that), back to bedroom with clean pot, make bed, am I ready? Maybe, but I might want to put on some earrings and I might want to find my watch, and I don't want to go downstairs without the bag of socks to go over the gel liner in case my leg shrinks in the day and the prosthesis starts veering right while the residual limb keeps pointing forward. Anyway, that's at least an hour of stuff without having a cup or coffee or tea or something. And I am trying to adjust to the fact that I will have to plan on this forever.

I have had some morning dates this week - a trip to the Farmer's Market in the Strip yesterday with my friend Karen. We left my house at 8:30 - and I did set my alarm for 7am. Great trip - thank you Karen. This morning I went to church - scheduled pick up for me at 9:30 am - so again, I set my alarm to accommodate. I'm learning.

I have three PT appointments scheduled for this week. Balance and endurance seem to be the name of the game with this PT group.

And I am going to get back to work on the driving thing. I CAN drive with a left foot gas pedal and I am going to stop fighting to get licensed for both left foot and hand controls and go for the left foot so that I can be vehicularly mobile. That means I have to get on the schedule for these drivers' ed people to take me to PennDOT for testing (after they have given me a lesson or two that I don't think I need - but I've been wrong before and that is how they earn their keep). So, I get on their schedule, son drives me to Johnstown (about 2 hours from here), they give me a lesson on the spot, I take test in Johnstown on some day, then we take one of my vehicles and get left foot gas pedal installed - and that is an hour in another direction completely, and I'll bet they have a waiting list too. The same day testing thing is theoretically possible, if, according to the guy who evaluated me - asked me what month it was, who was president, etc - the owner agrees to go along with it. So, tomorrow I call drivers' ed place and try to be nice to the owner, or whomever I get on the phone. Son has final exams in school this week, so I am hoping we can do this next week. Son, James, is being a real sweetheart about getting me from here to there.

Maryland twin grandnephews are here with me for a week. 15 year olds. Tied to their computers. Daughter Julie and grandchildren Maeve and Liam left for Cape Town on Friday. They have arrived safe and sound.

And bedsides getting this driving thing down pat, I am trying to figure out how to travel. West coast in September. What mobility aids will I need to take? Guess I wait a few more weeks before I settle in on this.

Monday, July 12, 2010

July 12, 2010

It's 10:30 on Monday evening. I have been at a soiree for my daughter - one of her singing groups hosted it. She and her children are leaving for Capetown for a year this Friday. Her house is rented so the staging for this trip is in my house. The soiree was quite nice. There was a soiree yesterday too - at my house, where the folks who came brought the foodstuff. Tomorrow evening she has a banjo outing, but I do believe that the children and I sill stay home. I will fiercely miss these folks once they are gone. They do lighten my life.

And my prosthesis has been bugging me for a couple of weeks. I have been convinced it was too short - and also, I found that it was turning. So, after sitting a while, or sometime while walking, i would find myself discomfited, and take a look down and find the right foot pointing far to the right instead of straight ahead. Looks weird. Feels weird. Finally got a date with prosthesis (who said I had been calling the wrong number). I have a new, longer pylon - and we added about 5/8 inch to the length of the prosthesis. Also have some additional padding inside Tiger, to inhibit the rotation, but that is likely to continue to be an issue until Daisy shrinks more and develops a new shape. And, we all think that Tiger could be even a bit longer, but will hold off on that for a couple of weeks. This lengthening made a real difference. Walking is easier. Back is less stressed.

Other biggy today was evaluation for driving with assistive devices. Would you believe that I had to take a series of tests where they showed me pictures and asked me which picture was like the others? They also asked me if I knew what month it was and what time it was. I did pass those tests. I am fussing about wanting to be certified to drive a vehicle with a left foot gas pedal as well as a vehicle with hand controls. Drivers' Ed folks tell me it is one or the other, not both. I have not finished challenging that, as I find no place in state regs that say that. I have experience driving with left foot gas pedal in past lives. Would need more training on hand controls. And I have to be licensed to drive and get a prescription to have my car modified. And I have to get on a waiting list for all of this stuff to happen. Bureaucracy at it's finest here. My challenge is not to be so in folks face that they don't want to work with me to get this done quickly. I want to be able to drive ASAP.

And I was thinking about pain level. It's become very modest. It's worse towards the end of the day, so right now there is a bit. Gave up pain pills quite a while ago. Still take neurotin in large doses, but I have reduced the amount of the drug by 1/3 because i keep neglecting to remember my mid day dose. It occurs to me that the pain question and answer, easily falls into haiku format - so here it is, and then I am hitting my bed and my book.

Time to report pain
What is your level of pain?
Between three and four

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 5 #2

4:45 pm - a really quick entry. was out in the yard picking up dog doo with just one cane. fortunately there was not a lot. then i sat down for a minute and had another haiku in my head. thought i would write it down before i lost it:

House and The Girl Who
Entertaining mind candy
More, more, I want more

And thanks to Susan and Cam for their recent haiku contributions!!!

July 5, 2010

It's about 2:30 in the afternoon on the 5th of July. I spent the morning in bed finishing Stiegg Larrson's second book, "The Girl Who Played With Fire". I am afraid to start book three because I know that I will be immobilized for another day and a half. I find these books mesmerizing. I have a huge pile of wonderful reading material to go at - actually piles - my living room and bedroom each have multiple piles, and I'm sure I can read nothing else until I read book three. Perhaps I can get through the day without starting the book.

The other way I have found to spend time as I am "resting" is watching House. I am not a huge TV watcher - a couple of the major network shows, CNN and MSNBC. I'm not sure how I happened on House, but I became hooked here too. And BRAVO seems to run entire evenings of House reruns, and I ordered past seasons from Netflix. I haven't turned on the TV since I started the Stiegg Larrson books, but I guess I could watch another disc of House reruns before starting the next book. And then again, what is the virtue in that? One mind game versus another. Good I haven't gotten hooked on WII or something similar. That would be never ending. At least these are both finite.

So about the recovery. I am walking. I can walk without any aids, but not far and it is hard. I do great with two crutches and okay one one crutch. I do okay with two canes and am able to walk with one cane. Yesterday daughter and I had a day out. I for sure needed another sneaker (actually a pair, as the prosthetic wears one too). Physical therapist, Terry, had suggested I get a rollator. What is a rollator you may ask. You see old folks with them at the shopping malls. They are sort of walkers, with four wheels, and a padded seat. You can use them as walking aids and when you get tired you can sit down. Mine is red aluminum -bless internet shopping. So, off we went with rollator. Church first (two canes to get to and from vehicle to church service), where friends welcomed me as they had not seen me upright, then off to visit a friend of Julie's who was visiting in town and wanted to see Jules before she headed for Capetown. (Jules and children leave on July 16). Then we went on our shopping spree - a trip to Marshall's and to DSW's. I got a couple of clothes items and a pair of sneakers. This rollator is a great invention. We were out shopping for a couple of hours, and I could not have done that without the rollator and the option to sit down every ten minutes or so. Last stop was dinner at Mitchell's Sea Food Restaurant. Then we both headed home and to bed (where I went back to THE book). Heard fireworks. Didn't see any and that was fine by me.

And this all followed five days at Granny Camp. Granny Camp is a special place that my friend Beth and I have been taking grandchildren for four years now. (I need to note that I don't take all grandchildren, it began with and has stayed with just Julie's children, Maeve and Liam - and that is another story and one that is hard to tell, and probably not a story for this blog). Beth brings her grandson, Jamison, and a another child Catherine who is a dear friend of her family. Granny Camp is on 40 private acres in the Finger Lakes area, up a half mile private dirt road. There is a large pond, a main cabin, and a couple of subsidiary cabins. The outhouse is a two seater. Water is pumped from a well into a holding tank. Are you getting some idea of what this is like? My nephew, Mark, flew out from Oregon to drive me to and from Granny Camp and he stayed the five days with us. I was concerned about whether I could manage in this kind of a place. I used two crutches and did okay for the five days. Mostly I sat around, watched events, played Banagrams with Mark and read that book and one other that I had started before I got to camp as well as a Robert Parker book that I found at camp. I kept Daisy clean with those wonderful aloe body wipes. I did travel with lots of mobility assisting gear - a wheelchair, a walker, two crutches, two canes. I have to pare this down before I start traveling by plane again in the fall. And I do have a trip to Seattle and then to Depoe Bay OR planned for September. I want to go to Capetown in December. I had hoped to take another grand daughter to Manhattan this summer, but I simply can't see myself doing that trip that soon.

So, if you ask me how I can doing, I am likely to say "Okay". I'm still not comfortable with the prosthesis. And I still have phantom pain - not nearly to the extent that I had it early on. But I am sitting here typing and the damn ghost foot is burning. I want to be 100% mobile NOW. But, I am able to walk - even on unlevel ground - both dirt and hardstuff. I am able to do mild grades (something I understand can be a real challenge). I can't haul furniture around, I can't take the dogs for a walk (they have to be leashed and they might pull), I still need walking aids. And mostly I can't drive my car. Next week I will go for a drivers evaluation. I will report more on that later. I hope the whole process doesn't take too long.

House and The Girl Who
Mind candy for the ages
Time to do some work