How Ya doin’

My friend asks how am I doin’. Fair question. I can think of a lot of ways to answer that, but since I’m still stuck with a semi-logical mind, let me divvy it up:

BODY

You have to remember, I have been through a lot and still am. I had a stroke on my left side (cause unknown) that weakened my left leg considerably as well as my left arm.

Then, after being released from a month of probing and testing at Sinai, I went to a semi-prison environment for rehab.

Then home to a 2 floor walk-up.

Then a home aide, after two other aides couldn’t walk up the stairs without getting asthmatic attacks; then an aide that had all the symptoms of autism (esp. yelling at me and hitting her head with her fist); she ended up being hospitalized and then the angel gladiator came: Marlene who was able to help me get up and down the stairs by lifting me by my belt in the back on the way up, with me pulling on the banister with my right hand, which I think may have caused rotator cuff injury (we are still waiting on that).

And then, just for toppers (the chronology is a little off here) but I did have a 2nd stroke, on the right side, while I was home and this was lesser than the first one. But brought me back to Sinai.

This time, the geniuses gave me blood thinner instead of baby aspirin. And so far that’s prevented another stroke. But it has some annoying side effects: my arms get little red blotches and itch all the time.

If that’s keeping me from another stroke, I’m not going to play around with it.

In my mind the thing that started all this off was having Crohn’s Disease for the last 30 years and some complications and side effects of various medications I was taking. That is for another day.

While all this is going on I’m working with my sister to get into an assisted living place which looks very nice in the brochures, and accepts Medicaid.

They have good in-house PT.

I walk with a Rollator most of the time. My biggest issue is my back. I can only go about 1/2 block (on a good day) before the back muscles want to collapse and I start to curve forward.

I am not on pain meds.

One of the treatments I’m on is called Stim ( for electrical stimulation). Pads are applied to the areas that are injured or need strengthening and electrical waves are used to contract and relax the muscles. This is one of the first things that PT has used that is actually working.

It’s more complex than that, but this isn’t a medical treatise.

And the progress is slow, but it’s heartening that issues I thought were purely nerve damage are responding to the Stim therapy.

In a nutshell, I’m able to do just about everything on my own except carry things, like the laundry or make the bed (which I never did anyway).

THE MIND AND SENSES

For whatever reason, cognition remains as it was. I think too much. Memory is as bad as it ever was, unless I make an effort. For example, my short term memory (say ten minutes) was always poor, but after the strokes they began giving me tests where they’d tell me three or four unrelated words: sock, blue, St. Louis – for example.

Then they’d quiz me about things to take my mind off it. Count backwards from a hundred. Recite the months of the year backwards. Do this, do that. But since I knew that at some point they were going to ask me what the three words were, I simply repeated them to myself before doing each task,

I made that a habit.

sock, blue, St. Louis

and if I could I’d associate the three things.

I also always had trouble with people’s names. So I started the same association trick. Ralph became Ralph Kramden. Oscar – Felix and Oscar etc.

None of that actually improved my short term memory, it was just a trick.

But since I’ve come to this assisted living joint, it’s been my misfortune to have my hearing and eyesight intact. I hear conversations in the dining room from three tables away, and they are so bizarre that I often have to put my over-the-ear headphones on and blast music or listen to mystery stories on Audible.

I have yet to run into anyone here who has heard of Audible.

So when you say, how am I doin’. Honestly, mostly aggravated. I think I’m one of those people (was it Marx or Woody Allen or both) who wouldn’t belong to a club that would have me as a member.

There’s just no way around it. The recreational therapists have given up on getting me to play trivial pursuit with people who don’t even know where they are half the time; and the people who knock on your door at ungodly hours to get you to breakfast, have been leaving me alone lately.

Apparently, I have been marked as a non-conformist. Dangerous in an institution based on conformity.

This morning, I was waiting for the elevator to take me from the ground floor where you get meds, to my room. I was standing next to a guy with a cane that I have seen around but don’t know his name. He looks like a Charlie.

The elevator arrives. There’s one bewildered looking lady in it. Charlie and I know the door is going to close if she doesn’t move but she just stands there. Staring at the two of us.

We’re both yelling at her that this is the med floor. To get out! She continues to stand there motionless.

Our mistake. Neither of us were quick enough to stick an arm in the door and it shut and she went into the wild blue yonder. We pushed the button again. The elevator came down and she was still standing in it, motionless.

This time we ignored her. Got in, and pushed the buttons for our floors.

Charlie mumbles under his breath, “I gotta get outa this place.”

I said, “I just got here.” It’s about 8 weeks.

So how my doin’? Physically, some hope.

Emotionally, depends on the day.

Oh, and by the way: some fights have been won. For example I suggested that if it was too cold in the dining room – which it was for the first month I was here – that people get their food to go.

This caught on. Slowly, the lines of people sitting outside the dining room waiting for take out grew. Everyone who sat there let the blue shirts know that it was too cold in the dining room.

Making food to go is more labor intensive and costs more.

After three weeks, the temperature in the dining room became balmy and the number of people taking their food to go decreased drastically.

I wasn’t alone in this. Maria, who speaks to me in a kind of sign language, was very helpful because she complained to all the Spanish speaking wait staff.

And the one waitress who complained all the time about it being too hot when the temp was 72F just about got her comeuppance yesterday. More on her later.

Pamela, was the only resident who complained about 72F being too hot. Her neighbors informed her that she was wearing two sweaters!

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