Friday, June 6, 2014

Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab/ I Said If I Must, Must, Must

I was not keen on going to a rehab hospital. A representative from Healthsouth, the place I was to go, came to visit me three days after the feeding tube insertion to fill me in on what would happen. The plan was for three hours of exercise a day. That would be an hour and a half of physical therapy in the morning and an hour and a half of occupational therapy in the afternoon. Considering I could barely make it down the hallway and back with the hospital’s physical therapist, the plan sounded daunting. The average stay at HealthSouth was 21 days. Oh, dear. On the plus side, I told the lady I had not had a roommate in nearly ten years other than a cat. She assigned me one of the rare private rooms.

The wheels turned faster than I thought, because I was in an ambulance headed for HealthSouth the next day. Speaking of wheels turning fast, I had forgotten what it was like to take a long trip in the back of an ambulance. Ambulance drivers own the road, folks. My crew weaved in and out of traffic at rapid speed for a good forty minut6es. Picture Richard petty in his prime transporting a pregnant woman to the hospital, and you just about have it. All I could do was lay there and look out the back window. An adventure, that.

Never one to avoid making a splash, I earned everyone’s attention on my first day of exercise. As expected, an hour and a half of physical therapy was tough. When I was wheeled back into my room, the bed had not been made up. I waited a moment to see if the nursing assistant had been in the middle of making it up and got called away, but then I said the heck with it an laid down on the bare mattress. Sprawled is more like it. Guess who should come to visit at that point but the quality control director. She wanted to give me her card in case I had any problems. She discovered the obvious one immediately. She hauled my nursing assistant in right away and watched her make up my bed. Frankly, I was more irritated I had to get up for her to do so than I had no sheets.

My treatment was quite good after that, though. The only problem I had was the day a dementia p0atient rolled in, advised me this was his room, and I had until the count of three to get out. When a nurse came in to defuse the situation, he said he was angry this old lady--meaning me--was in his room. Maybe he was nearly blind, too. I had not had a haircut in a while. I guess it could have been an honest mistake. There is always something there to bug you, no? On a more serious note, I had a rough time adjusting to the feeding tube. For the first few days after surgery, I suffered an enormously uncomfortable bloated feeling after tube feeding. My stomach had shrunk over the last few months of barely eating. Stretching back out was an ordeal. I did not eat at all after getting the tube outside of the graham crackers forced on me hours after the insertion procedure. HealthSouth cut to the chase and prescribed the appetite enhancer again. Between tube feedings and regular food I had to eat in order to fill that emptiness the pill caused, there was nary a moment I did not feel overly full. With all the rigorous exercise, it is a wonder I never threw up. The urge was certainly there.

As with my original hospital stay back in October, insurance decided when I was fit to leave. I was at HealthSouth for a scant twelve days. There were other patients who had been there for months with no end in sight. I found my short stint peculiar in two ways. One, a long stay there was supposed to boost my spirits by improving my health. Two, I still could not walk around without aid. HealthSouth ordered a new walker for me, then booted me out. Only two days prior to me leaving, I had fallen asleep while on the exercise bike. Perhaps things were not working out as well as planned in the beginning. Denise drove me home. She noted I was stronger, but clearly did not think I was strong enough to be released. It was most certainly true. If I had fallen and injured myself, HealthSouth would have figured out a way to keep me another month.

It had been so long since I had enjoyed any normalcy with my physical health, I began dreaming about myself in my current state. I remember vividly a recurring one in which I climbed to the top of one of those simulated staircases they have at rehab, but there was no handrail at the top. Without anything to hold onto, I wobbly a bit and fell every time. Every time I woke up with that frightening sensation you feel from a falling dream. Presumably, it was the subconscious fear my weakness would be permanent. Or as permanent as it get when one is ready, willing, and able to embrace death.

My adventures at HealthSouth, for all the issues involved, provided a lull in the period of time between my surgery in October 2012 and my unceremoniously getting the boot from home in May 2013. I had hoped to make this post a lighter one to reflect the ease and give you a breather, too. I am not certain it worked out that way. Oh, well. Take it away, Amy:

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