I was sitting in the second row of our van as we pulled up into our driveway after yet another doctor visit. There was a truck in front of the house and a man was unloading something out of the back. Rosemarie got out of the car, went around to the back of the truck and started helping the man lift whatever it was out of the truck. I wasn’t sure exactly what it was until it came into full view. It was a wheelchair. I stared as my wife was struggling to hold onto it while the man was attempting to handle the task by himself. But I wasn’t really paying much attention to the unloading itself. Instead, what was going through my mind was that’s a wheelchair and it was for me. My mind in many ways is still like it was when I was a teenager, when I was a young adult, when I was a family man…but never, never did I ever imagine that I would be watching my wife help unload a wheelchair that was meant for me.. I cannot express the emotion that overwhelmed me at the time. But lucky me, I used it once and I don’t think I will be needing it again anytime soon.
There were more things to come: a walker, bedside appliances and little tools to help me hold onto things or reach for objects higher than I could lift my arms. They were all things I had seen before but they had never been meant for me. Indeed, a fall in the wee hours of the morning which resulted in such an incredible change in my physical well-being was now becoming what I thought at the time perhaps a lifelong situation…pending exactly how long that life was going to last now that it had already spanned ¾’s of a century..
I am pleased with my progress now that it’s been 4 weeks since I had spinal surgery to relieve the pressure on my spinal cord in the back of my neck. Paralysis in my hands and in my arms has not lessened much. My fingers are numb, they don’t hold things well, I drop a lot of stuff and I cannot write at all—not even scribble. I use a walker because I’m not able the guide my feet exactly where I want them to go although I have a good feeling that the Improvement I have shown so far will lead to walking unaided in the months ahead. My hands and my arms could take up to a year or more from what I understand. Or, I could get lucky and wake up one morning and magically the little valleys and tunnels and whatever passageways send messages from my brain to my fingertips will build new pathways back to some state of normalcy…or maybe not.
there have been one or two milestones if you want to consider than that. I have an electric toothbrush and I have been unable to have the strength in my fingers to push it on and push it . but then suddenly 3 weeks after my surgery I tried again and it’s familiar Buzz started up and it stopped when I push the stop button. It was as if I’ve mastered fine instrument and I took incredible Joy out of the progress I had made. I still can’t slice my own meat open a bottle without dropping the cap on the floor and lots of other things and I assume I won’t Venture Ali overcome at least that is my mission I’m sworn to it and I will work for it.
I have new empathy for people who are so-called disabled or handicapped like those returning from war with some horrific circumstance and who must start a new way of living in an entirely different environment. I am lucky I am told that over time most of my abilities may return. It will not be easy, it will not be shortcoming and it wiil not be without this awful feeling of sadness and frustration. The fact that I have always been a very independent person only exacerbates the situation.
I am a very fortunate individual because I have accumulated a gathering of good friends along the way. These people are in constant contact with me, expressing their concern and otherwise cheering me on. When you’re in this kind of situation and you realize the good friends you have you’ll never ever take them for granted nor will you ever look at your wife as you have in the past now that she has the burden of being your primary caregiver. While Rosemary has been an RN for entire life, taking care of an elderly spouse with the disabilities that I have at this point, well it’s even more than the expected “in sickness and in health.” Sickness was always supposed to be something like the flu, never anything like this. I am such a lucky man.
So that’s where I am today as I dictate into a microphone which interprets what I say and formulas the words my computer screen. there are a gazillion mistakes that I have to fix and some of the misinterpretations of individual words are quite humorous. Nonetheless I have a lot of corrections to do and that means I will be pecking away with my forefinger for a few more hours. But I want to make sure that as doom and gloom as all this may have sounded, I’m looking forward to continuing my recovery. I have enough determination and optimism to know that things will be better and they are just getting through these current days presents challenges more than any I’ve faced in the past. I am up for the task… but for right now I suggest you have someone else pour your coffee.