I said “ok” and packed my bags and went.
I may not be in here for drug addiction, exhaustion or alcohol abuse but it still feels like I am channeling some form of celebrity heading off to rehab. And with a name like The Hills Rehab Centre it seems like something straight out of a reality TV show.
This is the business end of things and there are bursts of excitement exploding in my stomach as we pull into the rehab centre.
Chris, the cute physio, is in the carpark when we arrive. He gives me a warm smile and a wave. Things are off to a good start.
There’s a bit of a glitch when we get to reception. Seems like they still need to organize a bed for me. I also discover with horror that there is no Wi-Fi access. What fresh hell is this? There is internet access in the coffee shop. I perk up. But the coffee shop is closed until the end of January. I slump down again. Mum and I sit in the uncomfortable waiting room chairs. With arms folded I look like a bratty rich kid or spoilt celebrity who has been denied a basic right. I mean no café or internet access? What primitive place is this? #firstworldproblems.
I should really be laughing at myself for being ridiculous. I am here purely to walk after all; it’s not a five star vacation.
The room itself is large and spacious with plenty of room to set up my yoga mat and weights and enough chairs and couches to facilitate a small party. I have my own bar fridge in my room, I am overjoyed that I can bring my own food in. I do feel like a celebrity who has demanded they only eat certain foods as I stock it full of salads, yoghurt and mineral water.
In the shower there is a strange looking green string and later when I am showering I am playing with it when I realise it is connected to a call button. I instantly drop it. Thank goodness I didn’t yank it. That could have been awkward.
There’s a large flat screen TV on the wall and with the door closed you can almost forget you are in hospital at all. Except for the stream of nurses that come to take your blood pressure and ask a million questions.
The first nurse seems startled to find me in the room and doesn’t quite now how to react. She gestures to my leg.
“Was it an accident?”
I inwardly groan. Here we go again.
I simply tell her no. I’m tempted to leave it at that but it decide it’s probably best to add that I have recently had osseointegration surgery.
The blank look on her face tells me she hasn’t the faintest idea what that is.
“Oh,” she says awkwardly.
“How long have you been missing the leg?”
Her eyes widen when I tell her it was due to a birth defect.
“Oh. Everyone I have ever met has had an accident or is really old,” she says.
I guess there is a first time for everything.
I know she is only doing her job but I find the questions a little intrusive. How I came to have one leg is really none of her business. Does it really matter how I lost the leg in the scheme of things. I’m here to be treated for the osseointegration process. Does how I lost the leg factor at all into her treatment of me? Not in the slightest.
She then wheels in a weighing machine that is a chair on wheels on top of a scale. It looks like something you might weigh cattle or a small whale on.
I feel like an obese animal sitting on it.
Another nurse pokes her head in and also seems shocked that I am the patient.
“You are so young! I thought it was strange that the visitor was sitting on the scales,” she says eyes wide.
“I don’t really know how to look after someone who is so young and independent,” the other nurse adds.
From what I have seen I am the youngest patient here by about 50 years. Jaime had described this place as heaven’s waiting room. It seems an accurate description.
Chris comes in and introduces himself extending his hand. I shake it with a bewildered look on my face.
“Don’t you remember me?” I ask.
“Yeah of course, I just thought I should do that,” he says a little awkwardly.
He talks me through the physio process. I will just be doing more weight loading today and then will need to be fitted for the leg which will be made within a couple of days and then I can walk. I feel a little frustrated that the process seems so lengthy. I had thought since I had already done all my weight loading at home I would get here and be ready to go and just get straight into it.
He asks me about my Christmas and with some detective work Mum would be proud of, I learn that he does indeed have a girlfriend.
Damn. Mum is going to be disappointed. There goes the love story.
I ask him about using the gym and he laughs.
“It’s not like Fitness First,” he says with a smile.
There is a bike but I will need to be supervised at all times so my plans of just visiting whenever I want are dashed.
Before I can do any physio I have to get signed off by the ward doctor. He comes in with his clipboard and endless questions.
He seems horrified when I tell him I had been wearing the previous style of leg for the past 24 years.
He wants to check my range of movement with my leg and hip and when I lift my leg his eyes widen.
“Are you a gymnast or something?” He says.
No one has ever confused me for this but I’ll take the compliment. I suppose compared to the other patients in here I would be pretty flexible. They can barely touch their toes.
The ‘gym’ is definitely no Fitness First. It’s small and filled with old people doing small exercises like stepping on a box or lifting their leg up.
I do my weight baring and then show Chris my leg and core exercise routine.
I ask for the 5kg weight for my sit-ups.
“Now you’re just showing off,” he says with a cheeky grin.
He asks me about my goals with the leg. I tell him about riding a bike and climbing Mt Coolum. About using the cross-trainer again and doing the 5 or 10km events at the Mooloolaba Marathon.
He barely bats an eyelid. He doesn’t laugh or tell me they are pipe dreams like some of the other doctors have said before. He doesn’t say I will need to take it easy or that I might need to adjust my goals. He doesn’t tell me they are shallow goals or that I am focusing on the wrong outcomes.
He simply says, “ok, we’ll work towards those.”
I am flooded with gratitude and I can feel the excitement building.
He sees how keen I am to be fit and active and he tells me he will do his best to organize for me to have access to a cross-trainer tomorrow afternoon.
I can’t contain my grin.
The plan for tomorrow is to have three weight loading/physio sessions spaced throughout the day.
But there is still no concrete plan as to when I will be walking. No mention of when Stephan will come and fit the leg. I feel a little deflated, defeated and frustrated. I just want to be walking.
For me it’s not the usual process of coming straight from the hospital after surgery. I have already done all the weight-loading, I’m already at my target. It’s the business end of things and I just want it to begin. I’m concerned at this rate the process is going to take a long time.
Mum also seems a bit stressed about it all. She wants to spend a week with me in QLD to make sure I am right when I get back home but she needs to be back for her work the first week of February so we are on a tight schedule.
Hopefully when I see the rehab doctor, Dr Nario, all the questions will be answered.
I just feel really frustrated and a little flat. At this rate Daniel and Ali who had their second stage operation today, will be walking before me.
But comparison is the thief of joy and I have to remind myself I am a different case. I think I might be the first amputee who is an amputee from a birth defect not an accident to have this operation so my case is different and because of the size of my bones have to take things a little slower.
Still it’s tough. I don’t see the point of being here if I’m just doing more weight loading. I could do that at home. I don’t want to be trapped here.
I just have to focus on the inspiring messages I have printed out to decorate my room and keep me motivated. I have so much to be grateful for and I just have to focus on these.
From the small things like being able to access the internet through my phone, to the big things, like being able to have this operation at all.
I had an email from a guy in California who had come across my blog. This surgery is not available in the US so in order for him to have the operation he would have to come to Australia and like Jaime pay all his hospital bills straight up as well as the surgery costs. But unlike Jaime he doesn’t have an insurance pay out and for him to afford it he will need to raise $100,000.
I may not be able to afford one of the fancy, top of the line legs but at the end of that day I am incredibly fortunate that I can afford to have this operation at all.
Dr Nario stops by my room late at night and says he will get the ball rolling with Stephan tomorrow and there should be a plan by the end of the day. I feel so much happier and excited again.
I can’t believe how grumpy and down I was feeling before. This whole business sure is a yo-yo of emotions.
Tomorrow is a new day and I am one step closer to walking then yesterday.
I will be walking in a few days and then this whole process will be worth it. It’s starting to get more exciting than a Directioner on the eve of a 1D concert.