By Jan Chait | April 21, 2009 1:09 pm
Fellow travel-lover Sandy and I had hotel reservations. We had tickets to see "A Chorus Line." I had visions of Sandy and me ducking in and out of stores along the Magnificent Mile and trying out some new restaurants. It was probably the worst time in my life to be having surgery — especially surgery that was going to mean that my mobility would be even more limited than usual.
We went anyway. It was probably the best thing I could have done for my mental health, not to mention that of my family members.
I cannot put any weight on the foot that was operated on to repair a totally severed Achilles tendon. I live in a nearly century-old house that isn’t exactly accessible. There are 10 steps to street level in the front of the house and five steps in the back. I have a wheelchair that doesn’t fit through all of the doorways in the house. In fact, there are rooms I cannot get to in the wheelchair — the kitchen and my bedroom included. I also have a walker, a cane, and crutches. I’ve not been trained on any of them. Taking a shower involves getting into a bathtub.
In other words, I’m pretty much confined to most of the house and the front porch unless several people help me up and down steps. Bathing is such a hassle that I mainly take “bird baths,” which is not the same as taking a shower.
I have food available to me during the day only because my husband puts cold food in an ice chest and hot stuff in Thermos bottles and places it in the combination TV room and office. He also makes a pot of coffee for me at night, puts it in a Thermos, and places it on the table on the front porch so I can continue my routine of having coffee on the porch in the mornings.
But for one weekend, I was in an accessible room with a zero-entry shower, and was able to get onto my scooter and out into the big city all by myself. For one weekend, I was free!
On Sunday morning, while Sandy went to the gym in the hotel, I drove into the shower, transferred over to the seat, pushed the scooter out of the shower area, and let the warm water pour over me. I then motored over to a café a couple of buildings from the hotel and got us oatmeal, milk, and fresh fruit for breakfast. I was clean. I could get food for somebody else. I was, for the first time in too long, useful.
When I called my husband and asked if any of the children were at the house, he said: “No. I just need a day to myself.”
It made me realize just how much he had, of necessity, been doing for me on top of his other obligations.
And I was almost independent. I still needed some help. For example, when we went to the theater, I drove to my aisle seat, transferred over, and then Sandy took the scooter to the lobby and parked it in an out-of-the-way spot. She then brought it back to me after the show.
But then she went back to the hotel and ordered room service while I — all by myself — meandered along at my own pace, even stopping when a woman painfully creeping along with a walker asked me about scooters.
We didn’t do much, but what we did was important to us. I got some serving pieces for the synagogue kitchen and stocked up on books at a bookstore so I will have plenty to read while I continue to recuperate. Sandy looked around in some stores we don’t have around here. We both rested a lot while I put my feet up and recharged the scooter.
I’m convinced that having a couple of days being abled instead of disabled, of finding out that I could do things, was what gave me the impetus to try climbing the steps to the front porch by myself when I arrived home. And, with the help of a cane and a handrail, I did it! Well, and having somebody at my elbow for moral, if not physical, support, and having somebody ready with my walker at the top of the steps. It beat having people huff and puff to get me up the steps in a wheelchair. (We do have a portable ramp, but it’s way short of what it needs to be.)
It’s showing me that mental attitude has a lot to do with physical abilities. Without that trip, and the good feelings it gave me about being able to do things by myself, who knows when I might have attempted going up the steps by myself? Maybe not until I can put weight on that foot again?
Last week, the doc said I am healing well physically. I think I am healing well mentally, too. I believe they go together and I believe even more that it’s important to focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t.
My husband greeted me with a big smile when I got back home. Maybe he had some needed mental healing as well while I was gone. Maybe today I will hobble into the kitchen with my walker and whomp up some spaghetti sauce for dinner. It may not be the best meal for diabetes, but it’s easy to put together and doesn’t require a lot of attention while it’s simmering. For my mental health, it may be just the thing.
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