On The Roller Coaster

As I was being wheeled in on a gurney into the acute rehabilitation unit at the University of Washington hospital, I could feel the anxiety rising. The halls were cluttered with beds and equipment and staff busy rushing around attending to their duties. I was wheeled into my room. It was a two person room, but currently unoccupied. When I was in the SNF, I had a private room (all the rooms were private). I enjoyed my privacy and truly believe it was instrumental in my improvement. I have always been a person who needs my alone time. Fortunately Don is the same kind of person and we understand and respect that in one another. I was not wanting a roommate and not wanting all the noise and activity that goes with having a roommate. Here we go! The roller coaster of life.

It turned out that I only had a roommate for around 4-5 days out of the 28 days I was there. She was a lovely young woman who was not interested any more than I was in a lot of chit-chatting. She was transferred to her own room and we could both enjoy our privacy.

I thought that I had been expected to work hard in PT/OT at the SNF. Well, in comparison, at the U of W it was twice as hard. And there was rarely any breathing room. Sunday was the easy day. Something I looked forward to every week I was there. I did not dare miss anything. I ended up only sitting out one hour session one time. I simply could not bare to do another hour of exercise.

One day they had me strapped in a piece of equipment with a canvas seat around my crotch hanging from this metal contraption on wheels. They rolled it out into the hall and I was to “walk” to make it move forward. It was shear torture. I moved it 100-150 feet. I was exhausted and breaking out in a sweat. Aerobic exercise!

I was very fortunate to be in this program and knew it. I expected to be there 2 weeks. They had to ask my insurance, I think every 4-5 days after 2 weeks, to stay longer. Because I worked hard and continued to show some progress, I was able to stay another 2 weeks. The doctor who referred me from the SNF saw me practicing walking in the hall and asked to take a picture to show back at the nursing home to show them my progress including showing the doctor who said to me months prior at the SNF that I wouldn’t walk again. I felt good about that and very grateful for the acknowledgement.

The stay at the U was an emotional roller coaster – highs and lows, hills and valleys. I am not remembering the sequence of different events. Some of the lows or valleys were…

The worst was the day the real estate person came in to have me sign all the paperwork for the sale of our condo. It went on the market on a weekend and was sold by the following Friday. No time to mentally prepare for this; for either Don or me. Don was faced with moving out much faster than he was mentally prepared to do; sort, pack, throw out, etc. He also had to find a place for us to land until we could find a permanent home. I would be discharged in about 2 weeks and no place to go. Mental chaos.

Then good friends stepped in. When the time came, they were there for packing. Not much throwing out, but everything boxed up and into storage. Another friend researched places to temporarily move. Through Airb&b, she found a 350 square foot apartment in the University District. It had a small kitchen, a separate bedroom, and a small room with a desk and TV and a small table and chair. It was used as a bedroom for our daughters when they would fly in from NY and Oakland, CA. The bed was sleeping bags on the floor. We rented a hospital bed for me and Don put the mattress on the floor and slept next to me on the floor.

Go back two weeks and still in the hospital and signing the papers for the sale of the condo; this was the worst time. I never did return to my home of 20 years. A place that I truly enjoyed living in close proximity to many of the joys of living in the city. It still hurts when I think about it. I saw the pictures in the real estate listing. Damn! did it ever look good! Friends and the help of the agent and his cleaning/staging person really made the difference. Thus it sold in 5 days and almost 15 thousand dollars over the asking price. It was all devastating for me in the moment. Fortunately a mental health social worker was there for me. Don had some friends he was able to reach out to. I am reminded of a quote:

“Every adversity brings new experiences and new lessons”

Lailah Gifty Akita – Author

Now, on with working through the anger and sense of loss. The loss of my home and the loss of use of the right side of my body, and my old way of life so I can get on with learning the lessons.

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