Coming home is hard! I’m home from the rehab hospital after being there 17 days. I haven’t been home since August 19 so I’ve actually been away 19 days total. When the rehab hospital finally settled on my release date I jumped for joy. OK, I did that in my head since jumping for joy was strictly prohibited. The point is I was excited to finally break out because, let’s face it; life in a hospital isn’t all that fun. The problem with coming home is that you suddenly realize just how much they do for you in the hospital and having to do it all yourself without the full use of your legs is staggering to say the least. Life in a hospital may not be fun but, at times, it is certainly much less complicated.
Most of you, I’m sure, have spent some time in the hospital so you will be able to relate with much of what I’m about to share. When you can’t do for yourself you lose all sense of decency and modesty. Let me explain. As you know I had surgery on both of my hips and the restrictions are such that I cannot bear my full weight on either leg. Think about that for a minute and really let it sink in. Think about using the toilet, taking a shower, getting dressed, performing your morning routine i.e. brushing your teeth, doing your hair, shaving etc… What about preparing and eating food, making your bed (which to some I know is not a worry at all but I love making my bed, I know… I’m weird), cleaning up after yourself and so on.
I think we need to go back to when I was in the hospital where I had my surgery. I awoke in the recovery room and the first sensation wasn’t pain it was actually a very, very full bladder. What do you do when you can’t put weight on your legs? Yep, you guessed it, bed pan here I come. Oh the humiliating joys! And let me tell you, it takes a major overhaul of the psyche in order to convince yourself at the age of 37 that it is all right to actually wet the bed. I mean think about it. Since the age of about 2 years old we’re taught that it is wrong to pee while lying in bed but that is exactly what you do when you use a bed pan. I lay there trying every trick in the book to relax enough to let it all out. It took me about twenty minutes and finally a big internal PUSH and… ahhhhhh, finally relief! Then comes the worst part, the nurse has to come clean you up. They tell you that they are used to it, they do it every day, they’ve seen worse or that it’s no big deal. To me, it was kind of a big deal to be wiped down again like I was a giant oversized baby, ugh.
Let’s move on to the first post-surgical toilet experience. After several bed pan usages and an ego that was bruised to within an inch of its life the physical therapist shows up with a walker and says it’s time to get out of bed. This is good and bad news. First of all I’m required to put as much weight as possible through my arms to be supported by the walker and not my legs. I’m still recovering from my Crohn’s flare so I have little to no muscle tone which made this an almost impossible feat. We manage to actually get to a standing position and the pain is unbearable. Against my better judgment I allow her to lead me a few steps toward the end of the bed and suddenly I feel as if I’m going to faint. She sits me down in a chair and after several minutes I tell her I feel ready to proceed. I imagined she would just lead me back into bed, alas; she apparently had other things in mind. She gives me the option to either walk down the hall a bit or to walk to the bathroom. After the bed pan a trip to the toilet seems like a Disneyland vacation. Woot woot, here we come oh porcelain deity!
Here’s the problem. She sits me down and walks away. I mean she leaves me, as in goes home. Apparently she stopped by the desk where they are running the call light switches and warns them that I’ll be pulling my string when I’m done. Sad, I know… I can’t even go to the toilet without help. I finish up and start feeling faint so I’m hanging on for dear life to my walker when I notice I don’t even have toilet paper. I pull the string and the operator says that she’ll send someone to “fetch” me soon. I sit there for several minutes feeling absolutely sick while the pain begins to mount and I pull again. This time I tell her about the lack of TP and she says she’ll send someone with the necessary paper item right away. Again, several minutes pass and I pull the string again to hear a clipped response saying someone would be right there. Long story short, I sat there for almost forty-five minutes finally to be rescued by my husband who heard me pounding on the door and crying out for help. I was hysterical by the time he found me. They always ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 – 10, 1 being almost nothing and 10 the worst pain of your life. Well after 45 min on the loo I can tell you I wanted to scream that my pain was at a 20. Believe you me, I wasn’t feeling faint anymore, just fighting mad if I’d had any fight left in me. Before you get too hot and bothered we put in a complaint with hospital administration and finally found that the culprit was the call switch operator. She just couldn’t be bothered to pass along the information to my nurse, who when my husband found him, was incensed that I’d been left for so long especially as faint as I’d felt and in so much pain. So using the toilet turns out to be both painful on the ego and the body, who knew?
It was determined that I would go directly from the hospital to a rehab hospital where I would be doing occupational and physical therapy to build up my strength and teach me how to care for myself without hurting myself. I wish someone had done that before surgery, I mean we’re talking about Miss Clutz here. I was always hurting myself while trying to take care of things. I still remember the first shower I took in the rehab hospital. Holy moly, if I thought needing help on and off the toilet was awkward having someone help you in the shower is nothing short of complete mortification.
They have this chair (I even found a picture of one similar for you…) I’m not even sure how to begin to describe it but it is plastic with a high back on wheels and it has a hole so that you can conveniently roll it over the toilet before pushing it into the shower. Um ya… So I shimmy out of my pajamas as I sit on the bed then I slide over onto this chair wearing nothing but my undies while the CNA looks on with a business like air. She wheels me deftly over the toilet, taking care to make sure the holes line up just right and, in an effort to provide some modicum of privacy, she steps out while I tinkle. After relieving myself I quietly call out and she returns to help me finish undressing so that I’m sitting over the toilet on a chair with wheels in nothing but my birthday suit. What is a girl to do? Well I’ll tell you what she does; she does her best to hide the “goods” while being wheeled over to the shower and thoroughly scrubbed down. The real excitement comes when she takes the detachable shower head and “shines” it up under the opening in the chair and says slyly “head’s up!” I’m not even sure what to say after that. Uh Hu…
The saddest part of this story is that by the end of 2 ½ weeks I’m practically tearing off my clothes and starting to tinkle before the CNA can even blink. At that point she’s seen all there is to see and there’s not a thing left to hide so I might as well get it over with as quickly as possible. In fact, I am almost looking forward to having my hair scrubbed and rinsed down although, I can still wash the rest of me just fine thank you very much. Then it is time to go home and you tell yourself to be prepared for the shock of caring for oneself without the nursing staff but knowing it will be hard and experiencing it are two very different things. The first shower I had left me actually longing for the days of sharing my naked glory with my own private scrub nurse. If you had told me that I would have felt that way at that first shower I would have responded with a resounding HA HA HA, but now? Oh my, what I wouldn’t give for that disturbing shower chair that can be wheeled from one end of the bathroom to the next.
There you have it; the story of my not-so-triumphant home-coming. What I am so happy to have back is my family. I knew the boys were beginning to suffer despite the loving care of their grandma when they both were becoming overly emotional over the littlest things. I remember one night my youngest, Alex, finally looked at me and said “I just miss you too much!” Those were the hardest nights to watch my little family walk away and feel my heart being wrenched out of my chest as it left with them. What they don’t know is that many nights I would cry myself to sleep after their visit. Although it has been a struggle it is still very good to be home! So good riddance blessed/cursed shower chair I’ve got one at home that isn’t quite as versatile but it does the job. Goodby hospital bed, although you can raise me up with the touch of a button nothing compares to the pillow top mattress at home. Finally, goodby nurses and CNA’s while you will be missed I’m afraid you cannot compare to the love of my family.