Aiee! Learning Experience!!!

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This one in the shape of “If you can Google it, never trust them to make good decisions without your input.”

A week ago Monday I had my second knee replaced, and if anything, the surgery went even more smoothly than it had last time. No nasty little surprises like the blood clots in my lungs. But by Friday I was ready to move on to rehab. Fidgeting my brains out, actually. My roommate was a tiny older woman who amused and annoyed me by complaining about how much nicer my attendants were than hers–amused, because this was a textbook case of the Golden Rule, annoyed because I have limited patience with cranky extroverts. When she left, I realized that I would never have to hear the story of how the dog pulled her down the steps again, and life was GOOD.

Then my ambulance arrived, and off I went.

Now, for those new or who have forgotten, my last rehab center was quite nicely posh, and the two weeks there were a sort of vacation. The case manager at my hospital had explained to me this time that one could never be sure of landing in the right areas, and hinted that my rockstar recovery from the first surgery might mean I would only qualify for a “skilled nursing facility.” They had reassured me that my surgical group was all over this particular one out in Boston (i.e. easier for my spawn to visit) and it was quite nice; people wanted to go back. “OK,” I thought. “Sounds like a plan.” They waved a list of rehabs and SNFs at me, and made researching them sound boring and complicated. Besides, I knew that chances were great that it all really boiled down to where a bed was open. And maybe that’s what happened here.

It took a couple extra days, as it was; and although the place they picked (NOT the one my surgeons liked) didn’t look spiffy from Google maps, their website made them look a good bit spiffier. So then there we were, on the second highest heat index day of the year, and . . .

. . . I smelled pee. And bleach. Started to panic. But then, of course it was a nursing home, with people living there, not just traveling acts like mine. My eyes met those of the sympathetic ginger dragging the gurney. “I hope you know I’m trying not to throw myself around your legs and scream not to be left here,” I said, feeling my pulse begin to rocket.

He grinned. “You’re not here yet.” Meaning I still had a bit to go before not being able to change my diapers inspired me to clean out the medicine cabinet the uh, final way. Then they left, and I started to blink back tears.

I have no idea what my deal was even now; I have no nursing home-related traumas. But this place was . . .OMG. Remember, I was expecting a nice state-of-the-art rehab facility. Luckily for me, the admitting nurse was a nice normal person who validated what I was saying, squeezed my hand, and told me what the steps were to get transferred to another place. (Complicated and overwhelming.) She overheard me asking a kid on the phone, “Remember the sanitarium level in Psychonauts? This is it,” and cracked up. Aha, gamer girl! No wonder she rocked.

The residents shuffled. Or sat in gloomy deshabille in wheelchairs. It was hot and sticky, and, I repeat, there was The Smell. No art on the walls except for a big, dour calendar of events–your basic bingo, arts and crafts, and other thrills, none of which were actually announced while I was there. I was wheeled into a room with a lopsided old lady, who started telling me her woes immediately. I noticed that my bed was only sort of made, with the pillows scattered here and there. At least they were embarrassed enough of themselves so as to keep the rips in the pillowcases face down.

The bed itself was scary. It was from I don’t know how many decades ago–it had to be cranked from the floor to be raised or lowered, and the gizmo that made the head go up and down was the squeezy thing covered in grotty-looking rubber. It had a headboard and a footboard made of cheap lumber. The mattress was a chunk of foam rubber.

I ended up having a panic attack. My first real panic attack, complete with chest pain. Mercifully, I’m prescribed a benzo to help me sleep, so they had an order for that that came through by 11. I cowered in my weird little tent (the sheet-thickness curtains went right around the bed itself) and tried to work on my breathing. I have never been so close to having something click in my brain and send me to a psych ward involuntarily. (OK, it would have been voluntary. Anything to get me the hell out of there.)

The one decent nurse apologized a lot, especially for “dinner” which was what the kitchen scraped together in the wee hours of the morning (i.e., 6:30 pm): two limp cheese sandwiches in humid wax paper, with soured canned fruit and milk cartons (it was a 94 degree day, but still) and teeny yogurt containers. I had half of one of the sandwiches and one of the yogurts, because diabetes; but it was hard to get down.

In short, you name it, they had it–nurse assistants FOB (fresh off the boat) who didn’t have much English. (I unfortunately have no Haitian Creole and had to point at things.) Roommate fell out of bed in her quest for City Hospital. Got popped in upon by residents who were lost. Strange noises. The staff went through all my stuff, ostensibly to catalog it in case of “loss.” (I got a speck of amusement at how impressed they were that I’d packed a full two weeks of panties.)

My daughter there-there’d me during our incoherent phone call that evening, but her face made up for it the next morning. “Did I lie?” I demanded. Wide-eyed, she shook her head.

The nice nurse had warned me to expect resistance on the part of the upper staff to the idea of my getting out of there, and they indeed treated me almost as condescendingly as they did the dementia patients. And why not? I was saying the same things: I don’t belong here. I want to go home. Please, just let me go home. I’m not crazy. I bolstered myself by remembering that there were laws against imprisoning people against their will unless there were compelling and legal reasons. And took my Ativan around the clock, all weekend long, until the full staff (i.e., decision-makers) showed up on Monday morning. At least they had internet and I had my laptop so I could block out the screams, hoots, and moans of the milieu.

Big stroke of luck–their visiting doctor (yup, no full-time on staff as with the last rehab) works in the same team as my own PCP, which I swear gave me points or something. Or maybe it’s just that he didn’t have a whole lot invested in bed-filling in this dungeon. Anyway, I used the big word decompensation (pro-speak for “mental breakdown”) and he admitted I made a very good case and he had no problem signing me out to go home.

By more luck, I had already been practicing going up my 37 steps by using my good leg only, so I got home on Monday afternoon, only briefly flashing on kissing the ground and claiming it for Spain.

This Monday marks the three week point, and I would have been leaving a nice rehab right now anyway. Knee is doing well–0 and 105 degrees of straightening/flexion, so I can’t complain too much over all that missed PT and OT. But it took me a few days of awakening in my own bed before I realized immediately I was home and not still back there.

Next week: I learn how to complain. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha. Feed me soggy cheese, I dare ya.

 

 

 

A Confession

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I read self-help books. A lot of them; I think my average is about one a week. But here’s the thing: I am not the typical reader Looking for Answers. Instead, I’m looking for bad grammar, faulty spelling, and an inability to stay on topic–i.e., I style-edit them. (How’s that for a What’s My Line? job?)

Most of them say the same things: Stop negative self-talk. Get in touch with your spirituality. You can be happier–here’s how. (Many of the suggestions are solid, but then, some Harvard professor did a lecture course and wrote a book about it, so we already know this stuff.) In fact, I’m waiting for the book entitled We Already Know This Stuff. (But maybe that’s the subtitle of this blog entry.)

Every once in a while I run into one that borders on the toxic, like the followers of gurus who are considered really sketchy, or who tout pish coming from organizations under the disapproving eye of people like QuackWatch. Sometimes it’s really hard to smush down my opinions on the material, but we’re professionals here at Nova Terra, and even the unintentionally hilarious bits go no further than my kids. But none so far have been written by haters, although there’s some unconscious naivete now and again that I squash like a bug. (It’s the 21st century–for the love of Mike, don’t have your bad guys dressed in black and your good guys in white! *facepalm*)

But most of it is a cheerful treacle of love, joy, and unconditional good stuff, and you know what? It kinda works, in that I am more conscious of the good things in my own life. I’m not so sure it’s because of the soundness of the philosophies in the texts; rather I think it’s because I’m spending time with upbeat people. You know, sorta like how you get on a bus full of Jesus freaks headed cross-country and somewhere around Idaho you get drawn into a surly chorus of Kumbaya. And then they let you play with the tambourine, and you teach them a little bit about Neo-paganism or secular humanism, and you all get off the bus giggling and hugging.

Somewhere around here I have a couple of crystals and two Tarot decks, and I think my daughter has some essential oil. Maybe I should get it all together and play and then journal, especially since I’m at T-3 days for the surgery, and I have some sort of staph which already requires this purification ritual of putting stuff up my nose and showering with surgical scrub. Some silk scarves and candles and chanting with the Buddhist rosary might make it all more . . . fun. And fun, mah brethren and sistren, is what this vale of tears is all about.

I Wanna Be Sedated

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In a little over two weeks, I have the second surgery. The stress has been driving me nuts; I doubt it’s a coincidence that my blood sugar has catapulted to over 200. I have another week of work, my insurance still hasn’t cleared my root canal with my dentist, the housing lady still hasn’t gotten back to me to acknowledge that we need to meet to renegotiate rent because now we will all be living on my disability, Long-Leggedy Beasties is being steadfastly ignored, sob–and my rewrite of the very first book–the trilogy–is like rolling in a huge wad of flypaper: Just as soon as I free one piece, something else gets stuck. I even had to dive in and do a nip and tuck on Max, because he will now chronologically come first in the series.

But the most irritating part of my life is that I can’t seem to sleep well. There are three big basic types of insomnia: difficulty in getting to sleep, staying asleep, and waking up too early. I have all three.

Worst of all, I have something called Restless Legs Syndrome, where just when I’m about to drift off, this electric impulse shoots through my body and I have to move my legs and sometimes my arms. The med my long-suffering shrink suggested (Mirapex, or pramipexole) doesn’t seem to be working. I went off my anticoagulant so I could try a dose of an NSAID. Nada. What did work was Percocet (courtesy of dentist above), and can’t you just hear the threatening chord of music there?

Luckily, I’m not stupid, having just had to wean myself off oxycodone for Knee #1, so I’ve just happened to take the one. (Dental tip: Take the antibiotics, stupid. They cool down a “hot” tooth and are a far more effective way of dealing with the pain than narcs. Who cares if it messes with your GI tract for a few days? Eat some yogurt, and stop whinging. Oh, and take all the antibiotics, which is your way of keeping resistant bugs from spreading.) But, ooh, that night of uninterrupted sleep was nice!

So I’m dealing with my surgery anxiety in the possibly unhealthy way of looking forward to the drugs.

The down side of the narcs, though, is that for some reason they slow my creative processes down to a crawl. (Picture Flash the sloth at the Zootopia DMV.) Don’t expect much from me while I’m on them. Coloring is a lot of work; I just hope I can find something good on Netflix, having exhausted NCIS at last. And then there’s the pain they’re treating. Not kidney stones or bad cramp pain, just a gnawing sort of ache and the discomfort of your leg having not enough space to accommodate all the swelling your body wants to do. Le sigh.

But at least I’ll sleep.

 

 

My Silent Instrument

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(Written to Genesis’ “I Can’t Dance.”)

I’ve just finished a spot of what my son calls “ADHDing,” which means browsing the net (usually inspired by something on Facebook; this time it was actually from a piece I’m editing) and pulling up YouTube vids by the criteria of “Hey! Let’s go lookit that!” This is by far my favorite way of wasting an hour, but it always ends up making me feel a little bad.

I can’t sing terribly well, and my dancing is a private thing. My photos are all badly composed and only the evolution of the camera saves my thumbs from being stars. I can’t play a musical instrument, and I’ve lost my drawing facility through non-use. And I kinda doubt I have the kind of fantastic patience it takes to do animation. Is this what it’s like to feel dumb? In both senses of the word?

All I can do is write, or so it feels. And I know that’s important, and it has its own magic: I can make people hallucinate sights, sounds, and smells. I can make them feel sad, or make them laugh. I can make them happy. But sometimes that’s not enough. Or is it?

Bribe

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A number of my followers and friends have read Long Leggedy Beasties, either when it was posted here or by my giving out beta and review copies. And the first two and a half chapters are available on Amazon. Here’s the deal: I hope you liked what you saw–writing for me is at least partially in blood and sweat, and now I’m going to offer to do a little bit just for you . . . but you have to do a little bit for me first:

Below is a link to my book page, which will take you to Amazon. (Or you can just go to your Amazon account and search for me (Idony Lisle) or the book.) The first twenty-five reviewers will get either a limerick or a haiku, written just for you. (You can pick which and suggest themes, but cut me a little slack.) Just slip me a quick comment here after you write your review.

Why that number? Because that’s when Amazon starts including the book in “You Might Like” lists and “also bought.” Means a lot.

Oh yeah, the book is only $2.99. Support the up-and-coming author! (You can buy it on any of the other venues, but please review on Amazon.)

https://books.pronoun.com/long-leggedy-beasties/

Stupid Writing

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OK, got Long Leggedy Beasties launched as my first experiment in self-publishing, finished fine-combing Max AGAIN and am now waiting for my typographer son to finish the cover. Meanwhile, I’ve dived back into Dark Crimson Corners, which is now almost ten years old, and . . . yeesh!

It’s not that I was a bad writer back then. I was a somewhat weaker writer back then; but the yeesh! part is the intensity. This was my first novel, folks, and of course I threw everything but the kitchen sink into it–autobiography to just weird wild hares up my bum. Going through it is exhausting and I need breaks. I’ve been editing out unneeded plot threads and random asides (and changing “Pharaoh” to “Max” because Max’s book is coming first.) I’ll then put together Damascus the serial Slayer’s story (said unneeded plot thread) and run it as a sort of prequel to the rest.

After that? I dunno. By then it’ll possibly be November, and time for NaNoWriMo while battling the pain of a post-surgical knee. (Am going in for the other one on August 8th.) Seeing as I already have a stub done for Things That Go Bump in the Night (sequel to Da Kitttehs), I’m not sure what my WriMo will be. I might stick with the cat theme seeing as it seems to be working.

Oh–an aside for anybody who actually ends up *reading* the stuff: Eureka (published here) is non-canon, meaning it’ll stay here and not mess up the reality my fingers are trying so hard to make coherent.

In other news, back at work and trying desperately to do everything that needs to be done in the seven weeks remaining before my surgery, including putting together a training on the autism spectrum for my co-workers.

My allergies have been killing me, to the point where I have succumbed to using Flonase (ewww), and the new knee is still stiff with painful muscles. (The surgery has healed solid as a rock–no more bone pain!) My sleep is disrupted in that I now wake up too early. (It’s 07:30 now; been up writing since 5, and am yawning to nigh-decapitation.) Despite having tea and morning meds, I will now try to go back to bed for an hour.

Alphabetical Acrostic

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(This surprised me by taking under ten minutes. I think I’ll do another prompt today because I feel like I’ve been let out of school early.)

Another writing prompt, another day—

Bizarre or quotidian: Who knows?

Challenging my creativity

Despite initial doubt,

Every day my fingers surprise me.

Frightful or frivolous,

Good or mediocre; when I

Hear my words as

I read them aloud, it

Just gives me a quiver that

Kills my insecurity, my feelings of

Lameness, if only for a

Moment.

Nature, it seems, has given me this talent

Of being a wordsmith. My ground-in Christianity

Perennially brings me to the Talents parable.

Queer, in such an agnostic adrift, I know.

Reason, however,

Still brings me

To Gibbs’ Rule #5: Don’t waste good.

Unless I can come up with some other

Very good thing to do,

Writing is my thing, whether

Xanthic or fertile, it holds me accountable.

Yesterday and tomorrow, I must cry forth my One, else be a

Zero.

 

And for the Next Six Weeks . . .

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. . . I sat around on my butt at home. Ice packs were my friends. All told, the pain hasn’t been too bad, unless I have the thing in a weird position, it’s just the Sisyphean journey to try to just get sheeping comfortable.

The PT my insurance sent out was a nice guy, but we didn’t really do PT per se–he just watched me do my exercises and evaluated how I was walking. He seemed to have a curious aversion to touching me, in fact. *shrug* My real PTs tell me it’s like that, and that they make good money, too. *shrug again*

The nurses who had to come out and give me a finger stick to check my coumadin level were a mixed bag. My favorite one was thrilled by the ferrets, and even took a selfie with one of them! It got so that whenever a new stranger came to the house, they started mugging in their cage to be let out, heh.

Finally I had to venture out into the Big Scary World at the foot of the 37 steps, but that is going well enough. I’m still easily exhausted by it, but I’m building up stamina. This means writing too, but ironically, I’ve just done enough of it that I’m tired now, and will talk about it later!

I Don’t Wanna Go to Rehab

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Well, I didn’t . It conjured up the picture (or whatever sensory thing it is) of old person pee; this because I know some folks who live in “rehabilitation facilities” and they’re just nursing homes. Nope, I was going home after my three days in the Beth Israel tomb and hiking up them steps like a mutha-sheeper. This was my plan.

Instead, I found out that for many practical purposes, “total knee replacement” means “removing your leg and replacing it with a pillar of pain.” I needed Mommy to help me pee; no way was I going home to my kids like that.

So, off to rehab we went, me and my stuffed leopard Max, who I discovered is useful as a cervical pillow. There was a support strut up the length of the ambulance’s stretcher that dug into the sore place worn into my butt by four days in bed, and I spent an hour trying to wiggle around it and not make prolonged eye contact with the car in back of us, because weird.

My rehab hospital was in the boonies of Woburn (pronounced WOO-burn) and I was there for only two weeks, because (to quote a certain popular video game) I was filled with determination. I had three hours of therapy a day except on the weekends: an hour of individual PT with the adorable Amy, another hour of OT with the lovable Leigh, who re-introduced me to the wonderful world of personal hygiene with tactful assistance, and then Gait Group, which was boring and rubbed my nose into what a wussy I still was. Those 37 steps loomed over me like a monster guarding the gates to my longed-for home, and I was vastly relieved when Amy and I worked out how to do the hardest part, which is stepping through the door of my building.

Little by little the knee became more cooperative. I got a canned lecture on how Pain Meds Are Bad while I was there, which was weird, because my surgeon’s practice has made it clear that there’s only a certain window to bring the knee fully online, and if pain is getting in the way, it makes the whole freaking exercise pointless, and you can always just be brought off the meds if needed. (Yay! say I. Especially since the anticoagulant for the blood clots mean I can’t use NSAIDs like most post-surgical folks.)

I ordered some basic stuff while there, joining Amazon Prime to make sure it got home in time: Handlebars for my john, a bench for my shower, and a couple of reaching tools which have captivated the cat, who can’t get her tail grabbed by them often enough. I recommend all these things.

Then the golden moment came when the bestie showed up to spring me the hell out of there. It hadn’t been a bad stay–bed was comfy, roommates nice–but the night shift left something to be desired in terms of getting the pain meds out on time. (I Officially Complained, which caused a minor kerfuffle, with night service improving radically afterwards. Use that phone number on the wall, patients of the world!)

And with the help of my daughter at thar sheeping doorway, I made it up all 37 steps just fine. Yay me!