Reactions

“How long have you been in the chair?” The sales assistant asks.

I’m shopping at Erina Fair and the distance is too great to crutch so I’m back in my trusty wheelchair.

It seems a rather odd and personal question. While I’m not usually in a chair the question isn’t really offensive but I’m not sure it would be appropriate to ask someone who is normally in a wheelchair.

But people’s reaction to disability and even surgery and my hospital visit have proven to be quite interesting.

When I first told one of my friends about my surgery, she interrupted me as I was midway through explaining the operation to bring up the fact she had met a cute boy on the weekend. She didn’t bring up my surgery again. Even when she asked me to a concert and I said I couldn’t go as I would be in hospital, she still didn’t ask any further questions.

Just last week ago a friend had texted me asking me if I could do him a favour and when I said sorry I was heading down to hospital for my second stage of surgery there was no well wishes or good lucks.

I guess hospitals simply freak people out and make them feel awkward. I think it is the same with death.

I tell the sales assistant I have only been in the chair a few days (a slight lie but it just comes out) and I have just got out of hospital.

“Oh that is too bad,” she says in what I gather is a consoling voice.

This morning I asked Dad if he could please pick me up a few magazines from down the road.

- A discount on mags, why yes please

A discount on mags, why yes please

He returned with a grin.

“You got 10% off,” he informs me.

“The guy took one look at my pile and said it looked like I had a fair bit of holiday reading. I told him my daughter had just got out of hospital and he gave me a discount for bulk buying.”

I much prefer this reaction. I should go to hospital more often if it means cheap magazines.

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Working Out

I have been home two days and I am eager to get back to the gym and do cycle class.

Dad is less enthused.

He expresses his concern about doing the class so soon after getting out of hospital and is worried I will push myself too hard. He knows me well.

I just want to get back to normal.

“Well you are 25, I suppose you can do what you like but I’m telling you I am concerned,” he tells me.

It is later that as I am getting changed into my gym gear I realize it might not be the best class to do as with the metal sticking out of my leg my stump will be longer and I worry about the right pedal knocking my leg. I can be careful but if I am pedaling away focusing on getting speed up I might forget and at speed a knock would cause excruciating pain. I can’t help it, I cry a little. I so desperately want to be back to normal, getting sweaty and going hard at the gym. I have been doing my daily weights but very little cardio and all I want is to be able to do that.

I’m able to weights on the machines just fine and decide to attempt the stationary bike. It is harder than a spin bike but I manage ten minutes before switching to the cross trainer.

- Two days out of hospital and back to getting sweaty

– Two days out of hospital and back to getting sweaty

Overjoyed, I can do it! I build up some speed and while I am just under my normal performance I’m not doing too badly. But boy does it feel tough and I can’t quite push myself as hard as I normally would. It has only been two weeks since my last cardio session but it is frustrating how quickly I have lost my fitness.

I should feel proud of my achievement, especially since a lady in the change room says I am an inspiration, but I leave feeling frustrated at my decrease in fitness.

I think it is just a day of frustration really. I am really missing my old life, hearing about all the Christmas parties, interviews and cool events I have missed out on is making me homesick.

My hip has also been aching a little at night from the increase in weight loading and I’m a little nervous what this will mean when it comes time to walk. I’m trying not to panic as Dr Al Muderis has repeatably warned me I will likely get hip pain but it could settle down after my muscles adjust and get used to the new way of walking.

I am also finding my new hardware a little impractical in clothing. It won’t always be this way once the leg is actually attached but for the minute I find my clothes snag on it. I’m not sure if it will always look a little odd in clothes around the knee. But the trade off is while I might lose some points in the looks department, I will gain function and that is the most important thing when it comes down to it.

Rehab is still a few weeks away but it pays to be prepared so I hit up Lorna Jane for some shorts. Every occasion calls for a new outfit right? I’m sure Lindsay Lohan stocked up new accessories before her rehab stint.

I have never worn shorts as I don’t like to show off too much of my artificial leg but I need to wear something that will show off my knees so the leg can easily be attached and the physio and prosthetist can easily see my stump and make adjustments to my leg where possible.

Knowing I will soon be walking and dressed for the part cheers me up somewhat.

I will treat those corridors of rehab like a catwalk.

Busting Out

There is a pit of excitement in my belly when I wake.

- Won't need to fill this out as today I am busting out

– Won’t need to fill this out as today I am busting out

Today is the day. Today I am getting out. I can almost taste the freedom.

It might be my impending release or the lowering of my medications but I feel the best I have all week.

I do my last weight loading session with Nat and at the end she gives me a big hug and urges me to come back and visit when I am walking. When she says this I can’t help but think of the Robin Klein book, Came Back To Show You I Could  Fly. I may not be flying but I imagine I will feel as if I am once that leg is attached.

Nurses continually buzz in and out of my room and I find myself growing increasingly frustrated with their interruptions.

Only a few more hours, only a few more hours.

One nurse asks me how I lost my leg. When I tell her I was amputated at 14 months I brace myself ready for her to tell me that I must be used to it.

Instead for the first time she seems to understand that having one leg your whole life is just as challenging as losing it in a an accident.

“Wow this is going to make such a huge difference for you then,” she says excitedly.

“You must be so thrilled.”

Dr Chow seems to think I should only stay weight loading at 10kg until I get to rehab. This is not what the physios have said and my heart sinks. That would mean an extra two weeks in rehab and away from work and my life back home and that is the last thing I want and I tell her so.

She checks my bone scan.

“You’re actually not as osteoporotic as we thought,” she says with an approving look.

I didn’t know this was a concern but am relieved all the same.

“Your bone density is only a fraction less than an average girl’s your age.”

I feel like I have just received some great marks for a test I had thought I had flunked. This is surprising but fantastic news. It also means I have her blessing to continue to increase my weight loading amount until I reach 30kg and will be able to get to rehab and begin walking straight away.

Mum arrives promptly for the expected 10am discharge but by 11am we are still waiting. We both sit arms folded in my room like cross protestors. We both just desperately want to get out of here.

After all the effort the nurses went to in teaching Mum how to do the dressing they have changed their mind and want it down a different way. We have to wait for someone to come and show us this.

And then we are free.

To celebrate I kick back on the couch with an Asian salad and mineral water. After a week of hospital food, real food has never tasted so good.

Since I have moved back home I have become bizarrely anal about keeping my room tidy. The tiniest bit of mess makes me feel anxious. Getting home and seeing piles of washing on my bed and my suitcase full I freak out slightly. I feel anxious and panicked and just have to get it all put away and neat. I can’t relax until it is done.

Mum seems understanding.

“There is so much you can’t control at the moment but this you can control,” she says.

Oh god, isn’t this how obsessive compulsive disorder starts?

As I do my physio exercises I can feel the piece of metal sticking to my flesh as it moves slightly with each leg lift. It is an unsettling and uncomfortable feeling. I can feel it tilt and at a certain angle it feels ok but it’s getting to that point that is unpleasant.

The wound looks slightly weepier tonight when Mum changes the dressing. I know I shouldn’t be but I am a little repulsed. Nat had warned us that as I increased the weight loader the wound would ooze a little but still it’s a little of shock.

Another thing to get used to I suppose. But at least I am home and boy does it feel good.

Stark Contrast

This morning is a stark contrast to yesterday. If waking up yesterday had been black and then today was dazzling white.

I wake up feeling the best I have in a long time. I have no headache, I feel lighter and in positive spirits.

I discuss with Dr Chow about lowering my pain meds so I don’t feel quite so sick. We agree to ditch one of the morning pain killers that is notorious for causing nausea. This is a good start. I’m supposed to be on the cocktail of drugs until Christmas Eve but since last time I was frightfully sick for the three days following stopping the pain meds I have decided I will stop taking them on Friday so I can withdraw during the weekend and feel fine by Christmas Eve and Christmas. There is no way I’m spending Christmas on the couch with my head in a bucket and missing out on the Christmas feast. But like a naughty child I keep this plan hidden as I know she won’t agree.

As I am about to push down on the scale for weight loading I am a little nervous. This is my first time at 10kg and I wonder how much harder it will feel and cross my fingers I don’t faint. I’m supposed to go home tomorrow and I don’t want anything to jeopardise this.

It does feel heavier and harder to push down but my leg quickly adjusts. Nat distracts me with talk of her plans for Christmas and I am grateful for this. She tells me I should name my stump loader something. She suggests Lucy. It seems as good a name as any.

Dr Al Muderis pops in and I scramble for my list of questions, he seems in a hurry to be out of there so I just squeeze them in before he breezes out.

He says I can shower without bagging the wound if I would like, but Dr Chow has already said to wait at least a week before I do this as she is worried about the water getting in the wound and not drying out.

He tells me I can cut down the dressing to just once a day if there is not much ooziness or discharge. This is a relief as the skin on my stump is becoming red and irritated by the constant yanking of tape on and off.

Sanders teaches Mum how to do the dressing so she can change it at home and I won’t have to have a community nurse come by. She looks nervous as she yanks on the sterile gloves. She is far more delicate than the nurses. Its nice to not have your leg roughly yanked about.

On a trip to the courtyard I pass the ward manger and he asks me about my fainting spell on Saturday and says he has to write up an incident report. I feel like I am being scolded like a naughty school child about to be put on detention.

He also asks me about the leg and how much it will cost, whether I will have the same ones as Jaime and will I be able to do things like Step classes at the gym.

“God I hope so,” I tell him.

It makes me a little sad talking again about not being able to afford the high-end leg but it is still going to be a vast improvement.

She’s Not A Bitch…

The instant I wake up I am smacked with nausea and a throbbing in my head.  I feel truly awful.

I try to sit in the chair and read the paper but I can feel the nausea rising and my eyes can’t focus from the pain in my head.

I have to lie down and I can feel the waves of self-pity engulf me like a rock in high tide. The tears spring from my eyes. I feel sick, in pain, I’m tired of being in hospital, fed-up with being uncomfortable and not being able to walk.

I also discover I haven’t been paid in the last pay cycle and stress about money as I was supposed to be covered by leave till mid-January.

Mum comes and tries to cheer me up. She blow-dries my hair, takes me in the wheelchair to the café and buys me some mags.

I appreciate her efforts and apologise again and again for being flat and feeling down.

“It’s all part of it and you have been so good up until now,” she tells me.

I manage three lots of weight loading, the first day I have done the full 3 0minutes of loading and tomorrow I will go up to 10kg.

Still I feel glum and sick.

The discharge nurses comes to chat to us and says she will need to line up a community nurse to change my dressing daily once I get home.

I am horrified. This is the last thing I want. I want freedom, not waiting around for a nurse to come by. What if I want to go to a class at the gym?

I try to attempt some physio exercises and to my surprise despite how sick I have been feeling, I manage them well. It even makes me feel better.

I decide to attempt some weights.

It’s like the cloud of nausea and depression has been lifted. I feel physically better and my spirits buoyed.

I’m able to sit up and chat animatedly and I’m actually hungry for dinner.

It reminds Mum and I of a teenage drama we used to watch when I was a teenager, Gross Point, I think it was. One of the main characters is always horrible, a complete bitch really. She is always on a strict diet and when she decides to eat normally in order to gain weight for a TV role there is a line, “she wasn’t really a bitch, she was just hungry.”

“You’re not a bitch, you just hadn’t exercised,” Mum says with a laugh.

A Cute Physio Helps With Weight Loading

From the moment I wake up I guzzle water. There is no way I am having a repeat of yesterday so I want to be well hydrated before the physio comes for my first weight loading session.

It’s Sunday so Nat and Jenny are off but Chris, the physio who will be working with me during my stint in rehab, will stop by for today’s session.

Hmm Mum’s dream of me meeting my future partner in hospital might just come true, is my first thought when he enters the room. He is by far the best candidate as the leading man in Mum’s romantic hopes for me.

With a Ryan Reynolds/ Dave Annable, look to him he is really rather cute. I instantly brighten up.

He chats to me throughout our session to distract me from the loading process. He has worked with Jaime and tells me all about the process and what to expect when I get to rehab in a few weeks.

He talks about Jaime being amazing and inspirational and up for anything.

“I’ll do anything you tell me to,” I promise him with a smile.

I hope it doesn’t sound too suggestive.

He tells me I am going well and I beam.

I want to casually ask if he will be spending Christmas with his girlfriend but I am not smooth like that. His relationship status is yet to be confirmed.

My friend S is visiting me today and when she arrives the nurse is changing my wound dressing. It is probably a rather confronting sight but like a pro she doesn’t let her reaction show in the slightest.

We sit in the café and chat for hours and it almost doesn’t feel like we are even in a hospital. We gossip about boys and I tell her about the cute new physio.

She is still here by the time my second loading comes around so she gets to glimpse him for herself. She gives me an approving nod and a conspiratory smile.

Mum and Dad are here for my third session and the minute Chris leaves the room Mum turns to me.

“He has such dreamy eyes. Is he single?”

At that minute he returns to pick up a piece of paper he left in the room.

Like an embarrassed teenager I hope he hasn’t heard.

“You need to find him on Facebook and find out,” Mum urges me.

“You’re a journalist, surely you can find out this stuff.”

Dad just laughs and we roll our eyes.

Ah, mum the matchmaker.

It’s my first time doing three lots of loading in a day and at night I am overcome with nausea and a bad headache. Dinner goes uneaten.

Chris had told me earlier there would likely be quite a bit of pain and discomfort for the next couple of months as I continue to do new things and use my leg in a different way.

He said not to try and be brave and ride out the pain I might have as that would only hinder my recovery and prevent me from loading again the next day so I ask the nurse for a painkiller when the pain sets in. The tip of my leg is on fire and with sizzles of pain.

I cry a little. It’s going to be a tough road ahead but I just have to be strong.

It doesn’t last long for as soon as that pill slips down my throat, I feel instantly floaty and sleepy.

Mmmm gotta love those drugs.

-Mmmm drugs

-Mmmm drugs

A Touch Of Drama

The morning starts off well. Mum had snuck me some towels last night so I could get up and shower straight away without having to wait for the nurses. It feels good to have some sort of control again.

I had just finished chatting to H on the phone and telling him how great I feel and how I’m ready to be out of this hospital when Jenny arrives for my second round of weight loading.

We chat as the time ticks over. It is a welcome distraction. Towards the five minute mark I start getting flashes of burning hot pain but I continue on. I figure it’s just like an intense burn at the gym.

Just as five minutes clicks over I suddenly feel faint and light headed. Jenny tells me to take a seat for a minute and she’ll just grab the blood pressure machine to check how I’m going.

I am in an alternative reality of strange visions and hallucinations and the next minute I open my eyes to find Jenny right in my face peering at me worriedly repeatedly calling my name.

“Can you hear me Miranda?” She asks.

An oxygen mask is placed over my face and I am told to take some deep breaths.

It takes me a moment to work out who she is, where I am and who I am even.

As my eyes come into focus I notice seven other nurses barking instructions at each other. They scoop me up and place me on the bed. One is taking blood, one is injecting a cannula to hook me up with a bag of fluid, another is urging me to roll to my side in case I vomit. I feel hot and clammy and icey cold all at the same time.

One nurse is sticking electrodes to my chest for an ECG.

“Can you loosen your bra,” she asks.

I just blink. Both my arms are being pulled and tugged and injected by two nurses and I am lying on my back with an oxygen mask obscuring my mouth.

Is she mad?

Through snatches of conversation I learn I had fainted. Jenny returned to find me passed out, eyes rolled back, not responding. She hit the emergency button on the wall and the nurses came running.

I feel oozy and ill.

They tell me I have extremely low blood pressure, lower than even normal for me and I am very dehydrated. This puzzles me since I go through five or six bottles of water each day but they say with the cocktail of drugs I am on I need to be drinking even more than usual.

I want to cry, I feel nauseas, the sort of sleepy where you feel you don’t have any control and I worry my parents who are due to visit, will arrive and freak out when they see the commotion around me.

After the nurses leave I try to watch an episode of TV on my iPad but I can’t focus my eyes and can barely even keep them open. It is a horrible feeling.

I try to sleep but weird visions and dreams dance before my eyes.

I guess I still need to be here after all.

I worry I have taken a step back just when I was going so well.

Mum and Dad arrive to find me hooked up to an IV line and with an oxygen mask on and concern paints their faces.

We had planned a morning trip to the café but that is cancelled.

I am also banned from doing my physio exercises and weights. I feel anxious and frustrated and a disappointed in myself.

An hour or two passes, it’s hard to tell in a drugged state, and I am able to sit up and eat some lunch.

Jenny returns relieved to see me sitting upright again. She wants to give the weight loading another go. I am nervous about fainting again but I push that fear down, take a deep breath and get back on those scales.

Trepidation floods through me like a Biggest Loser contestant facing the scales at their weekly weigh-in.

I am experiencing a little more pain this time, I feel a flicker of faintness but I continue on and I last the five minutes.

I survived! It is a good feeling.

Dr Al Muderis stops by. The nurses had called him after this morning’s incident.

“You gave the nurses quite a scare,” he says brightly.

I ask him about the wound and whether it will ever close over fully.

“Some do,” he says matter of factly.

“Some don’t. It depends on how much fluid leaks out.”

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

It’s a new nurse that does my dressing at night.

She is doing it wrong and not wearing the right gloves. Mum corrects her but she refuses to listen, arguing with us that she knows what she is doing. Mum is not impressed but the nurse refuses to change her ways.

If I get an infection I know who to blame.

She later returns and with a worried look on her face and apologizes. She has just spoken with Sanders and she realized she was doing it wrong.

Despite this morning’s drama I am still on track to go home on Wednesday. Happy days.