Thursday, March 22, 2012


I got the first really good news of this drama yesterday at my neurologist's office. It was the post-surgical, post-rehab, post-outpatient physical therapy appointment. He watched me take a few steps while holding on to me and said this:

--You will be walking unassisted by the end of the year. To which I replied:
--No shit? How confident are you of that? To which he replied:

Boy oh boy, was that good news. I don't think he would give me false hope at this point so I choose to believe him and work very hard to make his prediction come true. I won't be tap dancing or running a marathon, to be sure, but I at least hope to walk onto a stage again with a modicum of comfort and ease, if not elegance, and be able to stand through at least half a rehearsal.

My physical therapist punishes me three times per week and thinks I am doing beautifully, given the damage to my nerves and the resultant weakening of leg muscles. For the first time since the Minor Setback, she took away my walker and put me onto two canes and made me walk with them about 150 feet, with rest stops every fifty feet. I was sweating at the end of it. I have to keep doing that because Two Canes is the third stage of treatment, with One Cane being the fourth (wheelchair and walker are One and Two).

I am lucky to have a superb caretaker, Dorothy Miller, during the week, who punishes me almost as much as the physical therapist and is a joy to be around. We're going out for Happy Hour oysters and martinis tomorrow for a minor celebration of sorts. Erin comes home Sunday and maybe we can do the same.
This will be the last post about this soap opera for some time: nine months is the gestation period for humans and my gestation period for a rebirth of ambulatory independence. It's a long time. I may go back to discussing politics, which at the moment is rich with topics. Who knows? Maybe I'll run for president in 2016.

Thanks for staying tuned. All told, I'm a lucky guy: I have two daughters, two old friends, an adopted family, and numerous former students who apparently really do give a rip about me and bother to tell me so, for which I am more grateful than I care to express here.

Cheers, then,


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Minor Setback Amidst Slow Progress

I'm back in the wheelchair. At 300 am on 16 March, whilst taking walker to the toilet, I noticed my right leg was dragging. When I got up at 700, neither leg was working and I was in the same condition as before surgery: useless. I was unable to do any of my leg exercises that morning. At physical therapy that day, the therapist who is very experienced in spinal cord injury said that my symptom is not uncommon. My strength will probably return, but I must work hard daily to regain the progress I had attained in the 5 weeks since surgery. (I'd been out of the wheelchair for about two weeks). As a result, I have requested 24-hour caregiving while Erin is on tour next week; if something happened at night while alone, I could be helpless until morning, unable to even reach my cell phone. Sigh, sigh, double sigh. Will use walker AMAP today and resume trying leg exercises. Triple sigh.
I think it's important to relate here what I have to tell myself more than weekly: I did absolutely nothing to myself to deserve this. I did nothing to cause it. Shit happens. Nor did I coach the four incorrect diagnoses from three neurologists and one orthopedic surgeon over a four-year period of slow deterioration; I merely accepted blame and one unnecessary back surgery. Neither blame nor surgery helped. I am where I am, that is, a victim of the "best health care system in the world." Only frequent bouts of cursing seem to help temporarily, as does a lot of sleep (everything I do is an exhausting effort). According to my neurologist, it could be six months to a year before any real progress might be noticed. No guarantees as to how much progress I might experience nor how long it might take because we have no real idea how much nerve damage was done before the corrective surgery, which may have come too late. Only guarantee is that symptoms will not get worse. That's something, at least.
Am looking forward to a corned beef sandwich today to celebrate St. Paddy, as well as more of the world's second finest athletic event: NCAA BB Tournament.

Cheers, gang.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Up and At 'Em (I guess), At Least Not Down and Out (yet)

Was discharged from an acute rehab facility here in Huntsville and returned home on 27 Feb so on Monday it will be a week. I had been hospitalized since surgery on 2 Feb and have been in a wheelchair since. My walking with a walker improved very much in the three weeks of daily therapy and am now in outpatient rehab here in town three days a week, where we continue to work on muscle strength and flexibility in the legs, as well as my gait. While in rehab I learned to transfer smoothly from wheelchair to bed, easy chair, dinner chair, and toilet with help. I now do those things without help but I still need help in and out of the shower. I dress and shave myself, though I have to transfer to a stool so I can sit at the sink for ablutions (wheelchair is too low). In short, I think my legs have improved in terms of strength and movement. We'll see what Erin thinks when she arrives home.

I have two long term care policies to which I have made claims so I hope they don't act like normal insurance companies and find an excuse to refuse me: my nest egg would disappear; it would have disappeared long ago without Medicare (Democrats and Lyndon Johnson be praised). I have had in-home help from Home Instead since my arrival at home: my main caregiver is a delightful woman who was here from the first day. Have also had help from three others this week when Dorothy is off and during the night; we didn't want me home alone at night while Erin is attending the ACDA Southern Division, where she made a successful presentation today. She arrives home tomorrow.

Am trying to use the wheel chair less and less; I now take the walker instead when going to the bathroom or into the bed for a nap or at night. I can now do everything for myself except stand and cook, as well as fetch things (hard to do when you have both hands on the walker). Standing without any support at all is still very hard because of weak muscles, yes, but primarily because I can't feel my feet, so my brain doesn't know where I am in space and I weave like a helpless drunk after a short time.

Thanks for the many expressions of support both here and on Facebook; I am deeply grateful for them and am so glad that I have so many former students who still care about me after all these years and take the time to say so in some form.

Am trying to follow my Viking forebears' excellent advice: 'Pray to God in a storm if you like, but keep on rowing.'

Will keep rowing.