Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 29, 2011 - A Saturday

New socket delivered on Monday.  This one is V-Pin technology - that's vacuum pin.  Artistically, it is a success.  I will get a picture out here, maybe before the day is over as I have grandchildren around to take one, and new technology that makes it easy to get from there to here.  So far, I am not having any limb problems with this socket.  However, I don't think it will be as easy to do the reciprocal stair thing with it as it was with the suction socket that I had that had to go.  What I can do however, that I couldn't do before (before is with the last working socket) is the elliptical bike or walking machine or whatever it is.  Now I need to get back to the gym and get working on it. And I went to Chico's one day this week and tried on pants, something I was not willing to do with the "before" socket because it was sometimes a challenge to get it on.  The prosthetist talked about "the pin dance" - all the stepping around that sometimes happens to get the pin in the ratchet based socket into the ratchet.  I didn't want to be in a dressing room doing the pin dance.  This new one is an easy on job.

Life has been too busy otherwise, and I'm not sure why.  And it's gonna keep being busy until the middle of June.  My plan is to do what has to be done - to quilt in between - to get back to the gym in between and get back to work on my body.  The bout of pneumonia and the socket that "had to go" set me back a bit.  But spring is here, my garden is beautiful and I have an urge to go a local nursery and buy some plants.  (I've been looking at on-line nurseries, but I need to touch the darn plants.  So, I'm gonna stack up the rest of the papers spread out on my dining room table and take that nursery trip.

A haiku as I was getting the first new socket -

Some feet work better
Some feet don't work at all
I want feet that dance

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 19, 2011

Measured for next socket this morning.  Instead of a cast, a computer image of my limb was generated.  Apparently that goes to a carving machine where a foam limb that matches mine is carved.  That foam is then used to create a plastic liner for the new socket.  This is done in Tempe Arizona as I am going with the V-Pin technology; it's newer technology; its being quality controlled by Hangar at the Tempe site for a while longer.  The liner is then sent back to Hangar here in Pittsburgh where a test socket is made using the liner as the model.  Next week I try on the liner and the test socket.  If it fits, that is then used as the basis for building the actual socket.  In this technology, the plastic liner has the V-Pin in it - the pin that causes the vacuum to form in the socket once its on.  I'll let you know how it works in a couple of weeks.  And now, I have to make a new cover for the socket so I have it ready next week when the final socket building takes place.  I'm working with very light fabrics, not my metier.  I'll figure this out.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

The scoop on the limb and the prosthesis - new prosthesis did not fit exactly right.  Space between the bottom of the liner (which fits tightly on the limb) and the bottom of the socket.  Thus, this great technology which is supposed to pretty much a vacuum around the limb, left a vacuum space between the bottom of the limb and the bottom of the socket.  The bottom of my limb (distal surface) was  constantly sucked down by the vacuum pressure, but couldn't really go down, because the bottom was too far away (2cm).  Anyway, I returned to the old socket for now, and will be re measured for a new socket this coming Tuesday.  This time, instead of a casting, Hangar (the prosthetic makers) will use computer imaging of my leg - which they believe to be more exact.  And I am going to move on to the next newest technology - something called a V-pin - that's vacuum pin.  More descriptions of this in the future.  For me, it is aesthetically more pleasing than the suction system that I just parted with.  The suction system had a neoprene sleeve over much of the outside of the socket so you couldn't see the art.  I also believe there is more positive contact between the bottom of the limb and the bottom of the socket.

That's the story for now.  Still have a bit more healing to do but I haven't gotten any infections in the wounded area - and that's critical.  Will have a new socket in about two weeks.  Pneumonia is about all gone.  A couple of more days of limb healing and I hope to get back to the gym.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monday, April 11. 2011

So - here's the scoop.  I am sitting at home in my wheelchair - I'm not in State College - and I'm not bounding around on the new leg.  I was bounding around on it yesterday.  Walked dog, Rags, up to "The Square" for his every three month grooming appointment and walked back.  Took myself to church.  Picked up Rags on way home (in car) and chatted with some neighbors as I was driving down our alley.  My son was at my house working on the gate for the new fence he is working on to keep Moose from leaving home when I'm gone.  He hadn't seen the new leg and was most impressed with my gait.  And I was becoming more impressed with it too.  Also was practicing the stair thing and getting better and better at it.  So we sat down in the yard and I took the leg off to show him how it worked.  When I took the gel liner off, we both looked at the limb and went "oh-oh - trouble"  Bottom of limb was covered with blisters, some of them popping.

Wheelchair was in the house as I had used it to move 50 pound bag of dog food from car to house. James moved dog food from chair, I got in chair, and I'm here for a couple of days.  Will use leg to go up and down stairs - for bed time and urgent requirements until this heals.  And no one at the prosthetist place on Sunday and no one in the rehab doc office.  And what would they do anyway.  So, I got prosthetist early this morning and went in for them to take a look.  Got to let limb heal before we can really figure out what is going on.  Limb is too swollen with this insult to go all the way into the prosthesis.  I am going to the prosthetic clinic on Wednesday and we'll see what comes of that.  Mostly I think I just have to wait a bit.  Good news, less good news.

On a different note, I was not planning on being home this week, so I took the opportunity today to sort piles of papers.  Filled a recycle bag with unneeded current papers.  It would be good to go through some of the older ones, and maybe tomorrow, I will take on a pile tucked in a less visible space.  I do want to sew - and I am going to shut this down and go make a couple of quilt blocks right now.  Think I will watch the news at the same time.  I am so disappointed with the state of our nation and the state of the world that I have turned off - not the right thing to do.  So I'll do the right thing and turn on CNN and see what Wolf is reporting for a bit.

I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

April 9, 2011 = a Saturday

Compared to yesterday, this will be a brief post.  My goal for the day was to finish my tax returns.  I used TurboTax and had started the tax process before I went on vacation.  All done; all submitted; now I have to come up with some money for the feds by April 18.  I can do this.

And because I finished my work mid-afternoon - I took myself to the movies and saw The Lincoln Lawyer.  I liked the book.  The movie was pretty darn true to the book.  I liked the movie!

About the new leg..... I am more comfortable with it today than I was yesterday for sure.  I walk different with it.  I can feel the heel-toe movement in the foot.  Couldn't feel that with the other leg.  And didn't have it for many years before that with the fused ankle.  Also have a little more movement in the knee.  All of this makes walking feel a bit strange.  I am using a couple of different muscles in my upper thigh - maybe even in my belly to do this this walking thing.  It is most interesting, but I feel somewhat unstable.

There is a special clinic at Hangar prosthetics in Pittsburgh this coming week.  Hangar is/are the folks who make my prosthetic.  They are having one of their super-prosthetists visiting and reviewing clients with prosthetics.  I am supposed to be in State College, but I think I will come back to Pgh on Wednesday so I can be part of this clinic.  I'm going to call them Monday morning and see if I can still get scheduled.  I want to know that this thing and I will become much friendlier with each other.

And that's my brief update.  I'll keep you posted.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April 8, 2011

It's almost a year since my right leg was amputated.  And today, I got my third socket. It's a different kind of socket, and I'm not quite comfortable with it.  The last beauty was held on the limb by a pin and ratchet system.  This socket is held on the limb by suction.  Air goes out the bottom of the socket when you pop your limb into it.  Then, a hearty sleeve is pulled over a large part of the socket and up high on the thigh.   Now, limb from thigh down is encased like a sausage, sort of like being vacuum packed.  (There is a more sophisticated system where vacuum packing is really used, and that is likely to be next).  I think I will call the doc and see if I can't get some PT so that I really master this.  I want to be able to go down stairs reciprocally.  I think this socket will support that, but I need some help figuring out how to do it and then practicing that.

In terms of beauty, I had made another covering for this socket - and I will get some pictures of it and put them out here (I think I can figure that out) as well as on my facebook page.  I am not as pleased with this socket as art as I am with the first one.  Maybe, it's because the big black sleeve covers a large part of the socket, and maybe it's because I didn't put enough colors in it.  What I learned it that once the covering (tattoo in prosthetic terms) is fitted to the socket, resin is poured over all.  The resin has deepened/darkened the colors of the tattoo - and because it wasn't as multi-colored to start with, it is less interesting,  This is another learning experience.

I was away last week with my Santa Fe Women (SFW) friends.  We stayed at a place on Marco Island, Florida.  Did some walking, took a boat ride in the Everglades, but the really exciting thing for me was a kayaking trip on an inland bayou.  It had been a few years since I thought I could get in and out of a kayak.  We were in open top kayaks, and with a little help, I was able to get in and out.  Getting in and out  did mean walking in the water with the prosthetic foot, and the foot filled with water during the walk.    It was very heavy on the way back to the hotel.  Then I took off the leg and dumped, not realizing how much water there really was in it.  Quite a bit, it turns out.  Prosthetist said that fresh water probably won't hurt the foot (there are mechanical parts in it that move and shake as I walk), but if I was in salt water, I for sure needed it cleaned out.  Anyway prosthetist, Sam, cleaned it up this morning as part of the whole "new leg" business, so I am good to go there.  I am NOT going to white water, but I am looking forward to more float trips.

Among my SFW friends, I am the most unreasonable eater.  A couple of them (much smaller than me to start with) are currently doing Weight Watchers  (WW) - with great success - and a couple have done it in the past.  So, my friends really encouraged me to more rational eating and I went to a WW meeting this week with one of them.  Hopefully, this puts me back on a sane food plan and I can begin again, to work on removing those excess pounds.

I went off to Florida in the early recovery stages from a bout of walking pneumonia.  I am almost done with it.  I am heading to State College to work next week, and when I come home, I am planning to be fully recovered from the pneumonia so that I can go back to the gym.

And now I am off to an fiber art show at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.  I have a friend with a most interesting quilt hanging in the show and I want to be there with her when the show opens.  Time to spiff up and go.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 13, 2011

It's a Sunday morning and I am skipping church so that I don't get in a time bind in just a little while. I am taking my grand daughter AliBeth to lunch and to the Pittsburgh Ballet in an hour and a half. We will be sure to enjoy lunch and I hope we enjoy the ballet, it's a performance of Dracula.

I just returned for a week away - with IT Leaders programs - at Penn State University in State College PA and then to Green Bay for a University of Wisconsin program. This work continues to energize me - leadership development with folks that I consider "young" from these different university systems. It was really a treat to be back in Wisconsin with some folks that I knew when I was there, but mostly with folks who were new faces to me, and of course with my friend Kathy, the CIO at UW-Green Bay. Brian, our fearless leader, talked about a couple of things at these programs that are pertinent to me right now - change - and how our brain integrates new behaviors (practice, practice, practice). I have been thinking about these things on a very personal level, so I'm going to ruminate a bit in this blog.

I am committed to addressing body issues this year. For me, that's about an exercise program and a weight reduction program. To those ends, I have joined a new health club and I have joined weight watchers. I'm going to both. The gym thing is much easier than the weight thing. If you go to the gym, you work out while you are there, and you get stronger. I am working with a trainer - that's simply something that happens when you join this place - ten sessions - I'm up to session five tomorrow - and we are figuring out what will work best for me. In terms of endurance work, I can't do the bicycles or rowing machines with this prosthetic (that's another story and I'll get to it, if not today, in a couple of days - because it is a big "change" thing for me - and a bit scary) but I can do the treadmill - and I can watch CNN while I do it so I don't get freaky about "wasting time" - my brain has a place to be. Jonas, the trainer I am working with is working with me on some of the weight machines - and also on stretching - and that feels so good. My sense is that all I have to do is show up and this program will work.

The weight thing is much harder. Showing up doesn't do it. I even went to a weight watchers meeting in State College this week - but you don't lose weight by going to the meetings. You have to put the program into practice 100% of the time. I can more-or-less do that if I am at home, but I am not yet able to do it when I am out and the food is in front of me. Buffets - and there are lots of them in the places I go - are killers. I can do the salad bar - but there is all of this other stuff - and I just want to taste it - and then taste it again. I have mostly passed up desserts, but then there are the chocolate taffy nuggets (like malt balls, but with taffy inside) on the break table at Penn State. I have not been able to pass them up. I know I have a brain with some addiction wired into it. And I've worked hard to leave some major stuff behind, but this food stuff still has me. I'm going to be home for the next two weeks, and I am going to work at the program trying to reset my brain around food during that time. And I will keep showing up at the meetings (and that's hard for me to do if I am not showing a change (down) on the scales). This is a huge personal challenge for me.

And now the prosthesis thing. Turns out, when I am working out in the gym, I get sweaty - sort of supposed to - but the sweat on the limb in the gel liner (and that liner holds the prosthetic leg and foot on) causes the liner to slip - and I find myself with the liner maybe an inch - maybe more lower than the end of the limb. A bit weird. I figure out that, when I am done exercising I need to take off the liner, dry off the limb, dry off the inside of the liner, and dress the limb back up again. But it didn't seem to me this should be happening. Liners come in different sizes. The liners (I have two, I wash one every day so it is ready for the next day) were fitted when I got my first prosthesis. The limb has shrunken substantially since then. So I wondered if it was time for, new, smaller liners. So, I made an appointment to see Harry - a new (to me) prosthetist. (Bobby, who I have been working with since the amputation has gone off to run a West Virginia office for Hangar - my prosthetics group. So I saw Harry last Monday morning - just before taking off for State College. Harry had just come back from a week's training session on new technologies/equipment so he was full of information. Harry measured my limb and agreed that I certainly needed a new liner - but with a new liner comes a new socket. (You have probably all checked out my quilted socket by now). And then Harry started talking to me about different kinds of sockets - and he thinks that I should have a different kind of socket. My socket is held to my limb by a screw on the bottom of the liner and a ratcheting device in the socket. Harry suggests that sockets that are held on my suction pressure or by vacuum pressure are much friendlier to the limb. The liners can't rub up and down on the limb as the liner that ratchets in does. Also, the inflexible part of the socket does not have to come up as high on the limb so that riding stationary bikes and working rowing machines cease to be impossibilities. But they are different. Getting in and out of them is a different experience. Learning to use them appropriately is a new challenge. (And I would have to figure out a new quilt covering - but that part will be fun). This liner and socket has become so easy. I know how to slip into the liner and the socket quickly in the night when I need to go to the bathroom. I have learned to walk well in it. I don't carry a cane unless I am looking at ice on the ground. This week I had "A" seats in two of the airplanes (I usually try for "B" seats which are on the aisle with my prosthetic limb on the aisle side) and I was able to slip into and out of the seats and was comfortable on the flights (they were short - on a long flight I would be more adamant about the aisle seat). I feel as if there is a "spring" in my step again. And Harry thinks I should change that. I told Harry I would check back in with him in about six weeks. In the meantime, I am going to plan a little more time for the gym so that I can dry the liner and limb after the treadmill and again after the weights and stretching. And I will take son James with me on next visit to Harry so I have someone who thinks about me and this stuff with me while I decide what my next prosthesis will be. There are four options - (1) what I have but smaller again, (2) V something - a screw and ratchet system but the screw is hollow so that air pushes out as you insert the limb in the socket and you have some modest suction, (3) suction, and (4) vacuum. I need to do more research on the pluses and deltas of each of these before I take the next step.

So - this is where I am now in my public ruminations. It's time to get dressed, get AliBeth, head to lunch (someplace where I can have sushi which is fine on the weight watchers plan and she can have something else) and head to Dracula. More about all of this as time goes by.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

January 30 2011, Sunday

An early morning observation, if you only have one foot, you only have one set of toenails, so cutting toenails takes just half as much time. Gifts come in the strangest ways.

Yesterday was an absolutely do nothing day for me - and I'm working at thinking that was okay. I awoke at 6 am and picked up the book I was reading Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Sumer. (My book club is discussing it this coming Thursday). I didn't get out of bed until I finished it, not even to feed the dogs. Got up ad 12:45, but on some flannel clothes, fed the dogs, checked e-mail and sat down in front of the TV. Never do I do this. I watched two John Wayne western movies, fed myself and the dogs modestly in between the movies, and then went back to bed (by now it is 8 pm and dark and dreary out). Picked up another book , The Inside of a Dog, and was aslepp by 9 o'clock. What a weird day this was for me. Can't do this again for a long time.

The day before was really busy with two stints at the gym and snow shoveling. Perhaps that was what it was about. That level of work out had the nerves in the limb really talking to me - and that is not a comfortable conversation.

And now for another busy - and fun - day. Off to the 9:30 church service - lunch and the theater (Carousel) with grand daughter, AliBeth, then to dinner with friends. And tomorrow, I simply can't pull another lazy day because it is full too.

Send out good thoughts to the universe for sunshine.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January 20, 2011

Not blogging very much anymore, am I? I used the blog as a way to tell my friends what was going on with the leg amputation process and learning to walk with a prothesis. It also helped me ponder and diary this difficult time for myself. And now that I am back to living my daily life without that being my major preoccupation, I have neglected this thinking, record keeping and communication strategy. And maybe that's okay. There are things I could certainly write about because life is always interesting and often comical. It's just that it's not the stuff of high drama that having a leg cut off represents. So - here's the haiku (not quite)

Do I keep blogging?
Do I use facebook instead?
Decisions decisions.

I do put an occasional entry on facebook. It's a medium that supports cryptic messages, in other words, quick and dirty. And because I visit facebook daily to check on the status of my daughter and grandchildren in Cape Town, it's easy to drop a quick message there. Blogging requires a bit more thought, and for me, more time. And there are a lot of stories to tell, if I elect to take the time to tell them, and if I had any idea if any one wanted to read them. For example:

I am now in Champaign-Urbana and getting here from Pittsburgh was a 27 hour adventure by plane and then bus. Bags arrived three days later. American Airlines paid me money for the inconvenience. Struggled with hotel about rooms with walk-in showers. This summary does not tell the story and it would take a while.

Do I tell stories about the trip to South Africa - Kruger National Park, Robbens Island with a prior political prisoner (personal tour), the townships, the glorious landscape, being with family? Multiple stories here to tell.

Then there is the story about the wound on my head. (Oh, also the one about falling getting out of bed in South Africa because I was half asleep and forgot I didn't have a leg). But back to the wound on my head. Could it be African Sleeping Sickness? Was I gonna be dead soon? (Answer is no, but question was asked and I lived with it for a couple of days).

Another blog opportunity - what's next for me? I am pondering whether I want to continue to live in my house. Probably not. Then what do I want to do, how do I want to live instead? And can I part with some of the beautiful stuff that I have surrounded myself with if I decide to live smaller?

Lots of stuff. Shall I take the time to write it down? If I only write occasionally is that enough? Do I need a more deliberate practice of putting my thoughts into words? Is a blog the right format?

So, I am thinking in this electronic media instead of in a paper diary.

And now, because I have an evening to myself in a lovely hotel in Champaign, IL, I'm going to see if there is a movie on TV.