I’m back. Still not enough energy to do all I want to do. Napping as much as I’m awake. I guess that’s an important part of healing, but it does take time away from writing. Anyway, I felt the urge today to share with you one minor product of my recent participation in a writing course — the conversation with my crash.
From June 14th through the 19th I attended a superb writing course at the Madeline Island School of the Arts. The staff made it possible for me to attend by finding ways to accommodate some of my special needs. On top of that kindness, everyone was wonderful in every way possible.
It was also the beginning of my walking outside for any distance. It was the only way to get from my room to the location of the food and classes. And that was really good for me.
Of course, then, as now, I spent a lot of time sleeping. But there was plenty of room as well to write. By choice I focused on “My Father’s House.”
All in all, I learned a lot, got to spend time with some bright, energetic, and lovely fellow students, to say nothing of the instructor, Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew.
Among other things, Elizabeth had us doing some writing exercises, and that’s what I want to share with you today. One assignment was to visualize an important image, and then to spend a few minutes writing a dialog with that image. Even though I promised to focus on “My Father’s House,” the image that came up was the noise of my car rolling around as it flipped into total destruction on April 15. So I wrote a conversation between “The Crash,” and “Me.” I think I learned a lesson for myself in the process of reading through it.
What I’m presenting here is the pure, unedited dialog I wrote in the five or so minutes we were allotted.
CRASH: Hear me! What a racket I can make. Have you ever heard such a cacophony? I mean – really, a cacophony.
ME: Hear? Oh … Oh My God! I …, Oh My God! … I … really – you thought I’d have something to say? Oh My God.
CRASH: Hear me. I’m rattling, banging, crashing, squeaking, squealing. I mean – have you ever heard such a noise?
ME: I know. You are totally beyond my control. Too late to find the brake. Oh My God! What are you doing? You’re falling apart. But you’re banging together. Oh My God! Who am I kidding? I don’t have time to say any of these words.
CRASH: Gotcha! I silenced you. Now your words do you no good. I’m nothing but noise, noise, noise.
ME: And you’re fascinating. Oh My God! Wow! What can I say?
CRASH: That’s the point! You can’t say anything. Whoopee! Hear me. I really have your attention, don’t I?
ME: OK, OK. Will you stop? Please stop!
CRASH: Crash, jingle, jangle, rattle, steam. What about the nice, black sound I’m making …?
ME No, you’re wrong. It’s not black, it’s gray, or purple, or blue? Or white? But heavy.
CRASH: No. “heavy” isn’t a color.
ME: But it is black. Oh hiss – no. I’m not swearing. It’s hissing.
CRASH: Just settling, my dear.
ME: I’m not doing anything. Just let them take care of me. Whew!
Thanks to all the wonderful people who helped in the prep, I’m home nice and safe and comfy.
Having trouble, though, catching up with the messy pile of stuff to do –including working on ways to encourage sale of my books. I certainly could use some royalties when the bills start rolling in. Suggestions?
And then there’s the constant urge to nap. I assume that’s an important part of the healing process.
I’m not encouraging lots of visitors, but it would be nice to have some here on the blog.
Things are moving in the right direction.
Yesterday was Xray and talk-to-the-Doctor’s-rep-day. I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear, but I also feel much better because I know precisely where I stand, making it possible to work at solutions.
First off, I had already discovered that health insurance covers treatment requiring care by a licensed professional, including Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. It doesn’t cover things provided by talented aides –all the things that help with the practical aspects of living with this brace, for example.
As for the Xray, things “are looking the way they are supposed to look.”
I also learned that the brace definitely must stay on for a total of three months – two more to go. And it must always be on whenever I am upright. So there’s no license to get up without it in the middle of the night for a pit stop, for example.
Then I was taught how to put it on and remove it myself, with the hope that I can get to the point of doing it quickly when I need to get up. Besides that, it’s clear that I am not the only person experiencing this brace thing and people have learned various ways of living with it. For example, some people choose to sleep in it.
All that information left me feeling good, because problems can be solved when the facts are clear. Since I’m planning to leave rehab on June first, I have this week to practice proficiency in putting it on and off. I’ll have the opportunity to try sleeping in it. And I’ll be able to set up the bed situation to make it all work at home. Plus I’ll call on friends to help me set up my house to deal with these temporary requirements.
As has been the case all along here, I have learned so much more practical understanding of the situation for others, especially for those with long-range problems, so much more serious than mine.
All of which adds to the powerful sense of gratitude I’ve experienced ever since finding myself still alive after the “event” of April 15.
In no particular order, but worth remembering and sharing, here are some things I’ve observed in the process of treatment and recovery from the April 15 event.
I’ve often wondered what’s the best way to speak to someone in a wheelchair. Kneel down? Bend over? Remain at one’s own level? I still don’t have the answer, but I know the most important thing is to be within comfortable view and hearing for the person in the chair. It can be a lonely position to be in, as if one is not a part of the world around one. That’s especially true if there are two or more people involved in addition to the one in the chair. Don’t forget there are at least three people in the group. Just because one is in a lower physical spot is no reason to be demeaned as belonging in a lesser position. Maybe a better way to put this is to strive to remain within eye-contact position. Obviously if you are pushing the wheelchair, you can’t be in front of it or beside it, but you can maintain conversational presence. Just don’t overlook the person in the chair.
This applies as well to being with a person using a walker. It’s a rule of courtesy that should apply when just walking with someone. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.
In using a walker, one becomes aware of variations in the floor, and the danger of rugs that can catch on the non-wheeled part of the walker. A couple of days ago I almost caused a woman to fall – it ended in a stumble – because my walker caught on the exit rug, pulling it up enough to trip her. Maybe people who place rugs and such in public places should be better aware of these dangers. Certainly the person using the walker, and those walking with her, should be aware of the danger.
I’ve learned the terror of helplessness, which for me is a temporary situation, but certainly heightens my sympathy for people with severe and permanent injuries that make them more dependent on others. When I am lying flat on my back at night with orders not to roll onto my side and unable to get up for bathroom calls, or in an emergency, I am aware of my almost complete inability to take care of myself. It’s a lesson I’m happy to have learned, though I’d much rather not have learned it the way I did.
On another note, I’ve learned to appreciate the help my friends have given me shopping in my closet. Especially, I’d like to point out the importance of pockets for carrying things around. They chose one hoodie which is perfect for leaving hands free for the walker.
I’ve also learned to appreciate the tools to which Occupational Therapy has introduced me for reaching things without bending over, for pulling on clothes, including sox, the long shoehorn, and another grabber. In that, I’ve developed such empathy for people who need such tools for the rest of their lives.
Another thing I’ve observed is the problem with some restroom doors and facilities. Once inside there are the large booths to accommodate people in wheelchairs or walkers, but the entrance door can be very heavy – more than the 10 pounds I am currently limited to, for example. It’s not true everywhere, but where it is, it can be a serious obstacle.
I’m sure I’ll think of other things to add, but this final one has been really important and instructive for me. The staff at the hospital and here at the rehab – Auburn Manor — are amazing. I believe the aides would qualify formally as “unskilled labor,” and I watch them eagerly accepting overtime to add to their pay-by-the-hour income. But they are definitely not unskilled. And the best thing about it is they all very clearly enjoy their job. One aide left at one point for a corporate job and begged to return after a couple of days because she loves the work she does here.
The dining room staff as well is amazing. Most everyone is wheeled in and wheeled out by staff, and set up with the right meal for them. I believe there are as many special needs as there are people, so it’s quite a job to carry out quietly, competently, and with kindness. All in all amazing, skilled, giving people.
Finally, I’m so aware of the fright of being unable to meet the bills. Today has been largely given to exploring all insurance options. My heart goes out to people whose savings, and even their homes, have been sacrificed to medical bills. My dismay goes out to those who blame the victims for being in that bad situation.
So that’s it for today. Like so much of what I do, this has been written with frequent interruptions, this time working at preparing to go home and finding the necessary support – financial and otherwise..
Every day I plan to share a bit of an update, and every day gets away from me. I try to get in a lot of sleeping, but sleep is a scarce commodity in rehab. As fast as I doze off, someone else is here to collect me for occupational or physical therapy. I do enjoy the working out, though, and I can see improvement every day. If only it weren’t for this brace that must be worn whenever I’m in an upright position. Actually, It’s not bad while I’m up. It’s the helplessness of lying on my back in bed at night, unable to get up should nature call.
But I wanted to tell you of the nice things that happen. First there are the wonderful folks who go shopping in my closet for things to wear, picking up my mail on the way, and watering my plants. Oh, really, there’s no way to list all the lovely things people have done and the kind torrent of well wishers.
My daughter surprised me by being here from Colorado on Mother’s Day, and I had a great outing with her and my son — brunch at Baccio followed by the matinee at the Guthrie – a super production of “The Crucible.” Tired when I got back to rehab, but well worth it.
If I’d been better about keeping up this report there would be more tales of kindness. Take, for example, my friend who has decided to send me some published jokes every day. Just too many thoughtful gifts to list them all
But one thing I want to be sure to report is the kindness of the fireman who supported my neck and kept me occupied while they worked on getting me out of the car. He actually spent time on saving my earrings. I have an inexpensive pair of little diamond earrings – tiny, not easy for big fireman’s hands. “Do I just pull it out?” he asked. “No, you need to pull out the piece in the back too.” He did, and put them into his plastic glove. Then he went to work on the very slim chain I chose to wear that day – one from my high school days with one pearl drop. In those days the clasps were very, very tiny, but he worked and worked and managed to open and remove it. I am so happy to have that chain, and so grateful to him for saving it. I wish I knew his name so I could thank him for that loving touch, so meaningful at that time.
I feel that I’m just loaded with stories of the beautiful things people have done for me. I hope to share more as time goes on.
But now I’m ready for a nap.
I was on my way home via Audubon Road in Chaska, Minnesota, a short distance from where I would take a right turn onto Engler Boulevard. Not far from the safety of my own garage.
I knew I was sleepy, so I was fighting it, when suddenly there it was, the last car in a line of cars that I was bearing down on. There wasn’t really time to say words to myself, but I thought, “I did it!” (fell asleep, that is), Not wanting to injure anyone else, I turned off into the grassy area on the side of the road. From there I rely on the report of an eyewitness who saw the whole thing. In fact, he called 911 before my car had even hit the ground for the third time. “Send everything,” he told them.
I just barely clipped the bumper of the car in front of me, and apparently accelerated to turn off into the grassy area. There ensued a wild ride, steering desperately to avoid trees and poles, knowing I wanted to get my foot to the brake, but too busy steering. The eyewitness tells me any other choice I might have made would have been disastrous for lots of people.
Then my car hit something that propelled me about 8 feet over the street sign, taking out a street light as I landed for the first time. Two more rollovers ensued before my car came to a stop right side up. All I could do was repeat “Oh my God!” Several times as I listened to the loud metallic noises of my 2002 Acura RSX in flight. Not like a prayer. More like astonished observation.
By the time I landed, the eyewitness had left his car behind and was there to lean in the hole that once was the passenger side window. I saw black smoke and thought “I’d better get out of here. The car is about to burst into flames.” That’s when he reached in and touched my hand, telling me he’d called 911 and help was on the way. “What’s your name?” he asked, and I told him. “Where do you live?” he asked, and I told him. “Are you married?” he asked. “Divorced since 1976” I said.
“I expected to see a bloody dead body,” he reports, “and instead I found you tucked away in your little cocoon.”
Help was there in two minutes, and what wonderful help it was. Such kind people who went well beyond the call of duty.
I have more details to report, but I’m running out of energy. For the short version – every part of my car was smashed except the part I was in. I have three broken ribs, lots of bruising, and a fractured?/crushed? vertebra, L1, I think. It’s the one at the base of the spine.
I’m doing great. Ever so grateful I didn’t hurt anyone else, Amazed I’m alive. More than that, I’m joyful.
I’m even blessed by the fact there was a place for me in a rehab location just 5 minutes from my home where some of my friends volunteer.
Already the ribs are less painful. My logistical problem is the brace that must be worn for three months (predicted) whenever I am upright – even in the shower, for example. We’re now down to the point where two of us can get it on and off, an experienced aide and me. I won’t go into the problems of living alone with it, and I assume I’ll solve it at some point. Right now, though, please don’t ask me when I’ll be going home.
I did go out this past Tuesday, though, to participate as a presenter in a forum on forgiveness.
I’ll try to attach photos of my car.
Anyway, that’s why I haven’t been around the blogosphere much lately.
It’s been a long time since I told you about my granddaughter’s Australia difficulties. Today I’ve finally reached the point where I can report to you that all’s quiet on the Aussie front. It took understanding, forgiveness, and problem solving on the part of all three victims, but now peace, quiet, and good will prevail.
First was converting the anger over the situation into working together to share the pain and reduce the extent of it. All three sides made sacrifices. The landlord managed to find someone else to take on the balance of the lease; the young women sacrificed their initial bond; and each party accepted some loss.
Most of all, they gave up anger toward the cheater who caused the chaos as they focused on problem solving instead.
Now my granddaughter is looking to raise enough money to return to Australia for the balance of her work visa.
As for why I’ve been so slow in telling you this, I’ll let you in on the reason sometime in the next few days.