Tis the Season

Tis the season to be jolly.  Fa la la la la la la la la. Tis the season to be with friends and family.  Fa la la la la la la la la.  Tis the season to be reminded that you’re handicapped.  Fa la la la la…D’oh!

My dad loves holiday traditions.  It used to be the 4th of July.  When we were little, we’d have a huge 4th of July celebration.  Partly to celebrate Independence Day.  Partly to celebrate my grandpa Poppy’s* birthday.  Partly because it was the one time a year when my mom let him get away from his fatherly duties and drink with his friends.  One doesn’t waste a good opportunity such as that! 

The 4th of July parties were always amazing!  My dad would have a band playing classic rock. (My dad and I share a love of John Cougar Mellencamp, Bob Seger, and the like).  Us kids would run around and go swimming in our indoor pool.  At night we would light sparklers and little fireworks.  They were the best.  Now the 4th of July parties are on the 3rd of July and are held at their beach house.  A live band has been replaced by reggae on Pandora blasted through Bluetooth speakers.  Sparklers have been replaced by beer. 

Now my dad has started a new tradition, and this is where our story picks up.  Newport Beach, CA has a big boat parade every December.  A ton of boats get lit up with beautiful displays.  It’s fun and festive.  My dad rents a boat and a bunch of us cruise around the harbor to see the boats up close and personal.  This year, due to my current situations, I was unable to go on the boat.  So my dad planned a nice evening for the hubs and I so we could still feel included and so he wouldn’t have to cancel his boat reservation.

What should have happened: Hubs and I drive up from our house and check into a nearby hotel.  We grab a cab down to a restaurant where my dad pre-paid for us to have a lovely, leisurely dinner on the bay to watch the boats go by.  We would then meet my parents and some friends at a nearby bar for a couple drinks.  What a lovely way to celebrate the season and be a part of the magical event.

What did happen:  We left from home an hour later than I had hoped because my bladder decided it didn’t want to cooperate.  (Since the surgery my bladder has been very temperamental.  Just one of those fun side effects.)  Once we did leave for the nearly hour drive, we didn’t hit any traffic.  I took that as a good sign.  I should have known better. 

We checked into the hotel, where I had specifically booked a handicapped room.  I didn’t want to, but the reality is that I’m in a wheelchair, so I may as well be comfortable.  We got to our room and it was not a handicapped room.  I got stuck getting into the bathroom.  But, being the stubborn person I am, I forced my way in, scraping the doorjam some.  Whoops.  But once in, I couldn’t even maneuver onto the toilet.  So I politely (read: very angrily and upset) called and asked to be moved.  They told us they didn’t have a room for us.  They also told me I booked online and that doesn’t guarantee a room.  I called BS and after some persuasive arguments, I was given a handicap accessible room.  Ok, so crisis averted. 

The hubs then called for a cab.  He told them that we needed a regular sedan and not a minivan as I am not capable of transferring into the van from my wheelchair.  The cab arrived and lo and behold, it was a minivan.  Shocker.  At this point, I was so frustrated with everything that I was on the point of tears.  The cabbie called dispatch and they said a sedan was on the way.  We waited for 15 minutes and no cab.  The hubs called.  They said it was 5 minutes away.  Another 15 minutes later, they called and said they had no sedans available.  Now I really did lose it.  This night was supposed to make everything better and make me feel like I could still enjoy things I always enjoyed, but instead it was reminding me of just how handicapped I am. 

The hubs ended up driving.  We had to park far away from our restaurant destination as there was no parking.  We were nearly an hour late at this point, so he ran me down the sidewalk.  A car had parked on the sidewalk so we had to go out onto the street to get around.  We finally arrive and they still have our table.  My dad had explained my wheeled presence and they assured us we’d have the very first table.  If by first table, they meant the farthest table and that several diners would have to get up out of their seats so we could squeeze by, then they totally came through.  Dinner progressed nicely. 

After dinner we were going to meet my parents and some friends at a bar across the street.  I thought I’d use the bathroom first.  Fail again.  The hallway was so narrow and full of people and sharp turns that I didn’t even want to try.  Instead we went to the bar.  My mom took over control of my wheelchair and wheeled me to the bathroom.  To get there, we had to go out the side door and back around the front, as there was one step in the middle of the bar.  We went in and found the hallway with the bathroom.  My wheelchair wouldn’t even fit down the hallway.  The bouncer was apologetic and told us we could use the public bathroom on the beach, ¼ mile away.  My impatient bladder forced us to make the trek. 

All in all, it was a fun night.  Yes, I broke down in tears a couple times, as I realized that the comforts and ease of normal life were no longer things I could enjoy.  But, my family and friends go out of their way to help with accommodations that I really can’t complain.  We all have to learn to adapt in life.  

*I always though we called him Poppy because he loved the flower.  It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I realized it was actually Papi, because he was from Spain.  But, because I fondly remember him as having a love of flowers, and because the poppy is my favorite flower, he shall always remain my Poppy.   

Drill Sergeant, et al

You know those people who compare everything they’re doing now to things they did before?  And the things they did before were always so much better?  (Ex: Oh, I like this bakery, but the bakery in my hometown made the MOST delicious cupcakes.  They were so fresh and yummy.  But, I mean, these are good too…….)  There’s a word to describe those people: annoying.

I hate to admit it, but I am one of those annoying people.  I hear myself doing it, and I can’t stop it.  The words spew out of my mouth before I can shut it.  Before I can even think to shut it.  But, to be fair, I find myself only really doing it (that I notice anyway) when it comes to my rehabilitation.  This is so not fair to my current physical therapists.  They’re really great.  I see them two to three times a week and they push me and encourage me.

The problem is that I had the benefit of going to the best in-house rehabilitation facility in the world.  I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere.  Possibly it was in the reviews I gave them.  But no matter, it was the best.  I was there for a little over four weeks.  I went in a crying, sniveling, scaredy cat.  (I left in a similar state, but that’s beside the point.)

Drill Sergeant:  My main physical therapist was often referred to (by me) as the Drill Sergeant.  Sometimes, when he was especially cruel, I referred to him by other names.  But, that was usually under my breath or after he was gone.  Also, besides the point.  He was seriously the best though.  He pushed me and did not let me get away with any of my normal tricks (read: trying to fake through exercises to just get them done with).  I remember one set in particular when I got stuck on the number 6 because he kept. making. me. do. it. over. and. over. and. over.  If it was sloppy, redo it.  If it was weak, redo it.  If he wasn’t paying attention, redo it.  I used my never fail trick of crying in frustration.  He let me sit for a minute to calm down.  Then he made me redo it.  I know, you’re thinking why was he the best.  It’s because even though he put the “UGH!!!” in “tough”, he was super fun and hilarious.  He cracked jokes while torturing me and made it somewhat fun.

Dr. S: Because Drill Sergeant seemed to always be on vacation or on days off, my other main physical therapist was Dr. S.  She was the complete opposite of Drill Sergeant.  While Drill Sergeant was crazy hyper and silly, she was mellow with an awesome dry sense of humor.  She pushed me just as hard and was always quick to answer all of my technical “But why?” questions.  She was a PhD which, I think she should have bragged about more.  Seriously.  If I had my doctorate, I’d probably throw that into any conversation several times.  “Would you like bread on your table?”  “Well, since I’m a doctor, yes.”  See, it works very naturally.  Dr. S and I also had a ton in common, which probably also led to me liking her so much.  We had the same first name.  We got married on the same day.  She often vacationed (and got proposed to) in the city where I live.  She’s from Chicago and I love the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Her husband is English and mine speaks English.  See, the similarities are endless!  We’re practically the same person.

All of the other PT’s there were amazing as well.  I worked with just about all of them.  And the aide’s were great too!  They all got used to my emotional roller coaster of a recovery and were quick with the support and encouragement or with the kleenex.  I’m surprised none of them obtained stock in Kleenex.  Seriously, I cried a lot.

[Sidenote: My OT’s were so amazing that they will get their own post later on.  I mean, the people who gave me my first shower after 2.5 weeks and taught me how to pull on pants while sitting on a toilet deserve their own post for sure.]

When I was an inpatient, I was in therapy 1000 hours a day.  Ok, I think it was really 3-4 hours, but it felt like 1000.  I was always drained by the end.  OT started out fun.  They brought in Connect 4 for me to play.  Um, yes.  I can play a game.  They got more cruel from there.  Making me sit on the edge of a bed.  For a few days, that was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.  I specifically remember saying that I hang out with criminals on a daily basis for work (I’m a criminal defense attorney) and that doesn’t cause me any worries.  But they want me to sit on the edge of the bed and I was going to hyperventilate.  It’s really a very scary thing when you’re in pain, have no control of your body or legs, and can’t even feel them on the ground.  But, they got me going little by little.  They knew exactly what they were doing and how to do it.  In PT, it started out as torture.  My very first session, they tried to have me stand while strapped, buckled, barred and cushioned into a frame structure.  I stood for a “nanosecond” as that PT told me, all while crying, yelling, cussing and snot flowing.  The weird thing was that for all my freaking out, my go to reflex was to hold my breath and close my eyes.  Apparently I felt it was better to pass out blindly.  To this day, the common trend in my rehab is the command “Breathe!”  But, I eventually went from a nanosecond to an entire second to minutes.  They never pushed me more than I could do.  They mixed it up so I wouldn’t burn out.  They answered my annoying questions.  They put up with my emotions and terrible jokes.

So, it’s no wonder that at my new outpatient facility they’re going to hear repeatedly “Oh, at CS they had me do it like [this].”  Or “My PT at CS would have me do it like [that].”  You’d think they were rockstars the way I talk about them, or that they were the inventors of physical therapy itself.  But, in my limited world of rehabilitation, they are and they did.