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.