There were other difficult and sad moments. Six times a week I would have to go a group exercise hour. The first week was extremely difficult for me. I did not want my disability on display for others to see. I felt helpless and embarrassed and angry. But soon realizing that all of us patients were in this together. All of us were some where on this bumpy road of recovery; to get father down the road; to recover some normalcy to our lives. There were also some patients from the cardiac rehab program that would occasionally join us.
Several young women who had come close to death due to heart failure because of drug addiction; now with permanent heart damage. Another young woman that ended up with an infection some where on her spinal cord related to drug use and some paralysis in her legs. I felt so sad for these young women and yet inspired by their perseverence and determination to get better and embrace life.
There were good moments: I had not had a shower in 3 1/2 months. Nothing but bed baths at the SNF. The Occupational Therapist(OT) came in the end of the 1st week and asked me if I wanted a shower. Yes! I did not know in the moment how that would happen, but soon found myself sitting in the shower.
Sitting in a hot shower was heaven! I still can close my eyes and feel the pure joy of the hot water flowing over my body. Then there was the day I really looked at myself in the mirror. Boy, did I need some work! Where was my moisturizer? That was the moment I started to care again about how I looked; how I present myself to the rest of the world and how I presented me to me!
The University of Washington Hospital has some outstanding art hanging in its lobby and adjacent halls and lobbies. I worked at the U – Dub (as it is affectionately referred to) for 9 years as a part-time on call nurse in psychiatry) and was very familiar with their art collection. Several times Don or a friend would wheel me down and we would look at all the amazing works of art. It would give me great pleasure.
I loved the U’s gift shop. I have several items from there that continue to give me pleasure. By the way, hospital gift shops are wonderful places to find unusual gifts for family and friends; or yourself. I recommend the hospital gift shop at Providence Hosp. Colby campus in Everett also.
One morning, a Recreational Therapist came into my room and said she wanted me to experience going out in public and doing something fun and to experience something I might have done before the stroke and know that I could still participate in life. I chose the Henry Art Gallery on the campus of the U of W. I had not been there in over 20 years. It is a very Avant Garde art museum, full of wonderful and very unusual installations. Don went also and we all enjoyed several hours of interesting, thought provoking art. A great experience for me. Lesson learned. I could still go out and participate in and enjoy life. It would be with different rules and guidelines. As I like to say; “working from a new base line”.
Of course, the staff – I can’t say enough; lauding their compassion, intelligence, sometimes brilliant, humor, dedication and hard work of nurses, doctors, social workers, nursing assistants, all the therapy disciplines – OT/PT/RT, lab, x-ray personnel, unit support people, dietary, and cleaning personnel. Yes, all of them! And to think that I have had the extraordinary privilege through most of my work life to be in the company of such amazing and quality human beings. For that, I will be forever grateful.
I was getting ready for discharge. Discharge planning in full gear! Outpatient PT/OT scheduled, home safety, follow-up appointments with PCP, orthopaedic MD, Harbor View Burn Center etc, etc. Don and I are both beginning to feel overwhelmed.
Don had secured that little apartment in the U district. That was my discharge destination. Fortunately it would be only a couple miles to travel for all those follow-up appointments. It would not be an easy living transition but we did it. It was almost like being that newly married couple in our first apartment. Although our first apartment was much bigger and nicer. Our little apartment was modern and served us well while we were there. We continued on that roller coaster. We continued our education of life’s lessons; some I could have done without. Onward and upward.
“I think little by little I will be able to solve my problems and survive.”Frida Kahlo – Artist