Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Gubernatorial Platform

On Sunday, my wife and I managed to sleep away most of the morning. Her recent injury made it hard for her to get comfortable in bed, so there was a lot of fussing with pillows. Eventually, the Percoset kicked in and she slept well.

Because her ankle is broken, she can’t walk. Because her shoulder is broken, she can’t use crutches. Sooner or later, she was going to have to visit the bathroom, so she sent me off to her school to borrow a wheelchair from the clinic. By the time I got home with it, she was just about ready to burst.

So she painfully elevated herself from the bed, swung around and gingerly settled into it for the short ride. We approached the bathroom door and discovered something ugly about Florida building codes. It seems that normal household doors are 30 inches wide, which accommodates most sizes of people and a typical wheelchair, which is 26 inches wide. However, in Florida, bathroom doors need only be 24 inches wide. This makes them a tight squeeze for extra-large people and an impossible barricade for wheelchairs.

A normal door.

A narrow bathroom door.

We panicked, but eventually came up with a workable strategy. It seems that an ordinary desk chair with casters on the legs can fit through a 24-inch door. My wife sits in the chair, and I pull her through the bathroom door. She’s able to use the bathroom and then I pull her back out. Unfortunately, the lush pile carpeting that feels so delightful on bare feet drags at the chair casters in such a way that I must strain to move her. She helps by pushing with her good foot, but it’s still an effort. It’s too late for me to run for Governor in 2006, but just wait. I’m going to have those building codes changed, and I’m sure I’ll have a lot of support from the vast, wheelchair-bound elderly constituency in Florida.

The bathroom express.

We called the orthopedic surgeon first thing this morning and after waiting on hold, we were told his first appointment was tomorrow. My wife was outraged, demanding to know how they could send someone home from the emergency room with broken bones and expect them to wait 2 days for treatment. I printed out a list of orthopedic surgeons on her health plan, and she found one who agreed to see her today, at 11:00 in Orange City, which is about an hour’s drive. She told me this proudly, and I looked at the clock, noticing that it was 10:30, and we still had to swing by the hospital to pick up her X-rays. She said, “So we’ll be late. So what?” This is a fundamental difference between my wife and I, one that will never be resolved.

The orthopedic surgeon turned out to be a nice guy, who gave my wife one of those high-tech space boots that has Air Jordan pumps on either side. He told her sternly, “Don’t put any weight on it for at least 2 weeks and we’ll see how it’s doing. If you’re not careful, I’ll have to put plates and screws into it.” As for the shoulder, he told her that there’s no way to immobilize it. She has to keep it in a sling and it will either heal or it won’t. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible keep from bumping it or jarring it unless she takes a lot more Percoset and just drools in bed for the next month.

He gave us a prescription for a wheelchair and a bedside commode (so that she won’t have to make the bathroom trip by herself if I’m not there). And more Percoset, of course.

The wheelchair prescription turned out to be something of a joke, though. He prescribed a very special kind of wheelchair, with a unique axle enabling it to be operated by someone with the use of only one arm. Do you know what car salesmen do when they’re so hideous and incompetent that they can’t even sell cars? They sell wheelchairs. I made a couple of calls and was told that those wheelchairs are very expensive, have to be specially-ordered, and will take 6 to 8 weeks to arrive. Which means that by the time we got it, my wife won’t need it.

I found a place that sells bedside commodes, but they want $95 for them, and insurance won’t pay for them. So I went to Wal-Mart and picked up a camping toilet for $22. Call me cheap if you must, but she’ll thank me when she has to use it.

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