Standard Positions

When you have hip surgery, you are deluged with boiler plate from the hospital, from the surgical practice, from the physical therapists, telling you how to sit down and stand up, how to get into bed, how to walk,what position to sleep in, how to go up and down stairs, how far to lift or extend your legs, and when you can be less cautious about any of these. You get a sock wrench (it looks like a half cylinder of PVC pipe with a couple of ropes attached), a device for pulling up your underbritches, and a sort of a waldo for picking things up off the floor.

You know what activity, one which places heavy demands on the hips, barely gets discussed? Yup.

Not impressed by the single line in the prep class that said “Sexual activity can be resumed at six weeks, very carefully, with  your partner doing most of the work [work? WORK???],” I set out to pick my physical therapist’s brains earlier this week. She really didn’t want to make the call and suggested the surgeon would be the one to say. So when I went in for a follow up yesterday, I plowed ahead, asking if he considered a boink safe and in what positions.

You would expect someone who spelunks around inside people to be less prim, but he kind of swallowed hard and said “Um. Standard. Positions.” Maybe he felt abashed because the Engineer was there, but you know, we’re all adults.

“Well, I don’t even know what he means by that,” said the PT the following day. “I mean what does he consider standard?” So we just got down to anatomizing the matter. We came up with something safely supported, involving one of the hardwood cat trees. or possibly the back of the futon couch. I mean it’s just biomechanics. I am not yet allowed to do anything that would amount to “multiple deep squats,” or put my feet on the wall behind my head. I figured that.

I did not even think to ask the surgeon about treating the scars, which are still pretty sore but now getting to the point where I can endure releases and drainage massage around them. No fear, though, a nursing case manager at my insurance company called to see how I was doing and recommended an over the counter nostrum called Mederma. “Or,” he mused, “you know, the active ingredient is allicin, so you could just slice an onion in half, express some of the juice and rub that into the skin.”

I paused to reflect about the social implications of this, quite apart from the toxicity to cats of allium plants. I don’t think they are going to be licking my scars, but why take chances?

He really seemed earnest about it and repeated a couple times that it would be a cost savings over something that cost twelve dollars a tube in the drugstore. I guess this case management thing has him focused on economies of the sort.

People seem to be entirely too close to their fainting couches so I refrained from saying that I was just trying to figure out how to get my ashes hauled again and that dousing myself in onion juice seemed like a bad plan. People mean well.

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Holy Sh t

There is an interesting gimmick to riding in motor vehicles when you have just had your own chassis upgraded. Nothing really hurts any more but I can only characterize the experience of healing hip implants as having a hair trigger butt. It feels as if any scooch or squinch or wrong move is going to set off at the very least a nasty cramp, and nothing that pulls at the knitting scars is good, so hoicking yourself into a car, especially a low lying one, is not the thoughtless maneuver you would normally expect.

First you get a trash bag. Just the standard plastic kitchen drawstring thing, folded in half. You put it on the seat before turning and addressing the open car door, leading with your can. One hand goes on the dashboard, the other on the seat back, and down you go on the bag; when you pivot, the layers of slick plastic act like K-Y for your trouser seat, and you can concentrate on whether your legs will lift at the hip enough to tuck inside. In my case, the left is still a little bit of a stinker. The physical therapist thinks the nerve got bruised while they were hauling on retractors and lifting my femur up to meet the bone saw, which I can kind of see. I’ve had nerve entrapment from overuse that put my whole hand offline. If I get two or three fingers under the knee, the left leg goes where I need it to.

Today  it got more interesting because I wanted to drive. Snaking under the wheel of a Honda Fit, which is kind of a Gemini capsule or escape pod, requires suavity. And it’s amazing how unfamiliar the pedals of a car can feel after nearly six weeks.

But I really can’t justify touching people for rides any more, and I have more therapy tomorrow, and today I was cleared to go to the gym.

Some notes on accessibility. There is one, count it, one crip space at the gym, which miraculously wasn’t taken (on Sundays, misuse of this space is a cottage industry for a local cop who was once a member). The space is at the end of a row, right-angled so that the rear bumper of someone’s sedan is usually overlapping the approach. You can nudge over into the zebra striped area blocked out on the driver’s side of course. This was my first foray into getting a folding walker out of the back seat, snapping it open and rolling it up to the double doors of the gym. Note to self: without training partner, consider rapping forlornly at the glass front until someone from the desk notices and opens the heavy ass things.

Never mind actually getting the walker in between most of the crammed-together stack machines, where my writ runs right now. (I’m good with walking poles in the house, but public spaces are full of gormless idiots who need the visual cue of a walker to realize you are a crip.) I worked out a route from station to station eventually, knocking out parallel rows and stack chest presses, alternating with some of the fey little PT exercises that have been moving me along, like box squats on the seat of the chest press, or bent-knee leg lifts in between sets at the tricep cable.

The free weight rack almost stumped me, because all the benches are too low for me to decant myself onto, but I recruited the Engineer to throw his arms around my midsection from behind so I could curl and shoulder-press a pair of small dumbbells without overbalancing. It looked like an especially kinky sexual position but everyone is minding their own business in there.

I had the same problem in the waiting area up front while my lad was finishing up with a few core exercises. I ended up leaning on the front counter. and explaining to the beardless youth thereat that I was sporting brand new hips and the flimsy armless chairs weren’t safe for me.

“How long ago?” he asked. I told him a little over five weeks. “Holy shit!” he burst out, eyes widening perceptibly, just as the Engineer showed up to escort me.

See, it is moments like that that get me through.

I sashayed out with the tassels on my walker dancing in the spring breeze. It folded up and went in the back seat for me just fine.

The country is headed for hell in a bucket, the ice caps are melting, and there is a lot of very bad music on the radio, but it is still possible for an old broad to meet the energy of youth with dogged persistence. Together we will persevere.

 

Where No Zimmer Frame Has Gone Before

We are at the four week mark since they got me up on that car lift surgical table and overhauled my suspension. I have not sat still this much in the past ten years. It is not me.

I have a rotating daily team of local friends and clients who show up, usually in the early afternoon, and take me out for a walk on the rolling walker, or Zimmer frame as it is called in the UK — a term I like, since “walker” has sort of an invalid sound, or else recalls the ice world of Hoth. (I suppose that could be cool, if it could be fitted up with blasters.)

Got a Spare 400 Hours? Make Your Kid a Tri-Level Star Wars Imperial Walker Bed -Craziest Gadgets

Aside from pimping it out with a bling bicycle bell and hologram tassels, I’ve had to get new rubber feet and protective caps after simply and sordidly wearing the old tires down to the metal. I don’t feel quite steady enough yet to go out with just Alpine poles (they work indoors, sometimes) much less with nothing, but I’m up to covering about seven blocks before one of my calves starts to Charley horse. Then I come inside and slap on a couple of the big freezer gel blocks you use in a picnic cooler (back to Hoth). And have to sit.

I now have a fifteen-item list of movies that I’ve missed in the past couple years, some of which you can actually get on Netflix and the like. So far, this is my favorite, the kind of black comedy that makes you bray without ever betraying the ghastly seriousness of its subject matter:

 

 

I have no idea why this didn’t play to a wider audience. Nikita Khrushchev yelling “Fuck” every few minutes (you know he did), the incessant pulse-checking and toadying of the Party’s Central Committee, the absurdity of life in a dictatorship run by a madman… maybe it’s too much a story for our times.

But if you know me, you know I cannot go long without geeking, and here is pure gold that I had no idea was out there:

 

Fan films are a constant in the Star Trek universe — or were, until CBS got all grabby and halted the latest in mid-production; fortunately, these got in under the wire. Not even the theatrical movies of the 70’s and 80’s captured so well the pacing, thematic and camera-work conventions of Roddenberry’s original series. The gentleman playing Spock sounds a little campy and no one is ever going to quite get DeForrest Kelley’s indignant rasp, but the guy in the Sulu role has George Takei’s diction down cold. We’ve already seen one actor reprise a role from the original season. Also: Lou Ferrigno as a green Orion slaver — a wicked touch. This is like falling down a rabbit hole and ending up in 1967.

After playing the first episode of eleven, I turned to the Engineer and asked if he was up for another one. “Half of me wants to binge the whole thing,” he said, “and the other half wants to make it last as long as we can.”

We compromised by watching the second, and going to bed. At least this will keep me in the chair with the ice long enough for it to do some good.

Marble

Large Marble Statues - Venus of Canova 43cm Greek Garden ...

I didn’t quite look like that in the surgeon’s office today, when I got the staples taken out, it was more of a drop trou thing.

But he said something that I am still smug about.

We were comparing the two sides, the left with its multiple injuries over the years, still way more sore than the right, where he spent the extra hour scraping the bone surface smooth and shaping it for the artificial joint. “Your bones are hard,” he said in a complimentary but slightly exasperated tone. “They’re like marble.”

All those years of lifting. Pays off.

Some people like their hair or outfit complimented. I have always fantasized about listening in on my own autopsy and hearing the med students say “Wow, will you look at that.” Close as I’m going to get.

Just Leaving This Here

We are now at Day 8 of rehab, if you count the promenades I did around the hospital, and an unfortunate side effect is that I spend way way too much time scrolling through Twitter on my phone, resulting in a barrage of the daily news that is probably socially responsible but goddam exhausting.

This gem, surfed up by the Engineer, encapsulates my state of mind. Impressive upper range, too, even if he needs a little work on containing the tone of the high notes.

Hardware

According to the surgeon, the accumulation of stalagmites in my right hip joint was so profound he had to spend an extra hour in there with instruments scaling it off, like bad dental plaque, before he could commence with the replacement process on that side. I asked him if he used a Dremel tool or what and he looked at me funny, but I  imagine it being something like that.

The whole production took four hours. They are used to doing this to old, sedentary people I think and expect their lungs to kind of close down during the anesthesia, so there was someone right at my ear coaxing me to deep-breathe the moment I came up to the surface in the recovery room. I immediately launched into Puccini. By the time they found my posse — the Engineer and his mom, who had been out eating fish tacos — I had gotten through Wagner, Brahms, Schubert, and Oscar Brand’s repertory of dirty songs.

One of the recovery room nurses reportedly stuck her head out into the surgical lounge and asked who was here for the opera singer. I think they were glad to get me off their hands.

I spent one night in outer space, most of the next evening profoundly crashed, the intervals hobbling gingerly around the orthopedic floor on the hospital’s walker,  and meal times cursing hospital kitchens. They did do a decent grilled cheese sandwich, of all things, but I was glad to get back to the Engineer’s cooking.

I am full of staples, sealed inside some kind of space age waterproof bandage, stuffed with drugs that make me conk out at random intervals, and swollen up like a toad from the bruising and the gallons of fluids they piped into me, but everything seems to have worked about as predicted so far. I am going to be yea tired of sleeping on my back by the time they get the staples out (god, that’s barbaric), but rolling onto a side full of hardware is not a promising idea.

Mr. Ferguson and Nickel’s nightly habit of performing their marital shenanigans right on top of me is problematic too. The Engineer shoves them to the floor, where they utter the feline equivalent of “oh god, oh god!” before yowling loudly and running madly off in all directions. Don’t ask me; they’re both fixed.

Catmasutra5

Keep the good vibes coming, if you have any to spare.

 

Being A Crip

1. Rock On

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This whole “not being able to walk without leaning on something” gets fucking old at a rapid pace.

For months I’ve been using one of my Alpine poles to keep from loading my left leg wrong and making myself yip (unexpected, sharpened-screwdriver jabs of pain would erupt at any point in the region of my ass or groin); then I really felt the need of one whenever I went anywhere just to allow me to walk at a decent clip. Then I went off the painkillers (Advil and so on) because I was fairly scared of ending up like Mr. P, , the trainer at my gym who took fistfuls of the stuff dealing with residual pain from a broken pelvis after a car crash, and ended up in the hospital with a hemorrhaging ulcer. Ugh. That meant I needed two poles. Which is now how I get into the gym, looking absurd as I pole my way from one weight station to the next and then slam everything I can while working around the hot spots. Lately, around the house I’ve been using a walker a client lent me, which I blinged out with a rhinestone bell and some bike tassels.

It came in the nick of time because last week as I was snailing my way out of the gym, the old bicep tear I incurred dropping a forty pounder decided to lodge a complaint about my arm being used as a leg. A nasty pinging sensation in my right elbow made it feel more like a tricep strain but the next morning the old scar area felt swollen and I couldn’t straighten out my arm.

I only had the Minotaur to work on in about three hours so I weighed the priorities, slammed some Motrin and swathed my arm in Rock Tape, a wonderful invention which is to an Ace bandage as a pantyliner is to an old lumpy Kotex. It supports everything and helps the swelling drain by lifting the skin over the lymphatic capillaries, and the minute you put it on the pain backs off. It comes in nifty designs. The leopard lasted several days, though I just replaced it with some sassy Coco Chanel polka dots.

I now have one uninjured extremity, my left arm. This continues to suck.

2. Spanish Guys (III)

Being a crip gives you some interesting insights into human nature.

When a woman is limping painfully and unsteadily across a snowy, ice-packed parking lot or sidewalk apron using two poles, people have a spread of reactions.

Younger people, especially hot young women in Spandex, go clip-clopping by as if they don’t see you, and even if you are only a few paces behind, don’t appear to think of holding either of two sets of double doors. A lot of guys well into their thirties are the same way, whitebread guys anyway.

Older people get it. Only the older women coo and poor-thing you while offering to open the door, and I can kind of do without that.

And then there are the young Latino men, a large population at my gym location, who will trot over to a door if they see me near it, to say nothing of the almost beardless youth who saw me from several yards away and ran up (calling out in broken English) to give me his arm, like the classical Boy Scout helping the old lady cross the road. Until the last snow melted, another “Spanish guy,” as people around here tend to mass-identify any men from the Latin countries, popped out from behind the desk every day to bird-dog me out to my car, handing me down from the curb past an obstacle course of packed slush while I hung onto a credible set of solid forearm extensors. Life could be worse than being eased into your car seat by a muscular youth named something like Carlos or Ramon.

If this is what we get from immigration, open the goddam borders.

3. Tagging Along

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If you think getting a little courtesy from the young and undamaged is hard try getting a crip tag.

By the time I saw the rheumatologist — the one who tested me for lupus, rheumatoid, ankylosing spondylitis and every other thing  before concluding I was just busted — I was already teetering painfully on the damn sticks. I asked if she would write me for a crip tag to hang on my mirror so I could park in disabled spots, and she said absolutely and gave directions to her staff and it all seemed excellent.

On the way out they charged me $25 to “process the forms with the doctor’s signature.”

Okay, fine, everyone has a nickel and dime racket. Whatever. Only when I got home the forms were blank.

I filled in my part and called the office back. Oh dear yes I would have to mail the forms back. Could they just send them on to the state from there? I asked. Oh no, you have to take them to the DMV in person. Well we don’t really know. Here’s an 800 number to call.

The number was not in service.

A week and some later I called the office, reminding the person who answered that I had sent back the forms and had they been sent back to me or the DMV or what?

Oh, I left you a message a few days ago to find out what we should do. she said.

The hell she did. I have caller ID and there wasn’t the trace of a call. She maintained that they could not be mailed to the state office. “Send them back here then,” I said.

When I got them back I detected some small print, the kind that often escapes my blind-four-ways eyes, stating that the forms could be immediately processed at a DMV window OR mailed to the main office in Richmond.

The damn thing just arrived yesterday, six weeks after I asked for it.

At least this is better than my client whose first surgical consult was with a Dr. Dick who declined to operate on her unless she lost thirty pounds — something that I had seen her struggling to accomplish for two years with a personal trainer and a mean, joyless diet. She asked him if he at least could give her a tag so she could spare herself the length of the Safeway lot on a bad day, and he said “No, I want you to walk so you’ll lose the weight.”

I sent her to the guy who’s doing me next month (I had already seen his work) and he didn’t blink at her weight and was brandishing forms for a tag before she could finish asking. At least some people get it right.

I always knew disabled people take a lot of shit because after all I work with hurting bodies, but you still kinda got to live it to get it.

Twelve days.