Once safely at home, I made it my business to move around on the walker as much as possible. Sitting on the edge of the bed, all I had to do was grit my teeth and make the transition from sitting to standing, the hardest and most painful part. After I’m vertical, there’s not much pain and I can shuffle around the house pretty much at will.
I was visited by the highly competent Home Health Care nurse, who inspected my incisions, took my vitals, and arranged for my doctor to issue prescriptions for the meds I’d need during my recovery. This included a bag of syringes preloaded with an expensive medication intended to prevent blood clots. She demonstrated the injection, and on her next visit, taught me to give it to myself, into a pinched roll of belly fat (which I have in abundance).
It’s surprisingly easy, although lots of my friends go white-faced at the mere idea of injecting themselves. The hardest thing is avoiding “reflex bounce.” This is where you jab in the needle, but before you can inject the medicine, you reflexively yank it out, and then have to jab yourself again.
The Home Health Care nurse came by daily for about 4 days, then every other day for a little while, and then stopped coming altogether, due to my dramatic improvements.
The Home Health Care physical therapist came by daily as well, giving me instructions on using the walker, and supervising a series of exercises to develop flexibility and strength. She’s a slim Filipina woman, gentle and encouraging, but she makes me work like a rented mule.
A friend of ours from Boston came down to visit for a week, providing much-needed distractions from the tedium of daytime TV. She and my wife shared the duty of ensuring that I did my exercises as required.
I made rapid progress. By the end of the first week home, I could get out of a chair easily, walk short distances without the walker, and leave the house occasionally. Today, nearing the end of three weeks since the surgery, I no longer require the walker (or a cane) for anything. I’ve been encouraged to use the stationary bicycle (with zero resistance) and swim in the pool for exercise.
Strangely, although I’ve always been a strong swimmer, I seem to have lost my flutter kick. I had an anxious moment in the deep end of the pool, where I was holding on to a float and tried to swim to the side, but just hovered there in the middle, not moving, wondering if I should call out for help. Eventually, was able to thrash my way to the stairs.
I can simulate a normal walking gait, though at this point it’s a bit less painful to walk with a pronounced limp.
People in the hospital, the nursing home and Home Health Care have been very impressed with my progress, which everyone attributes to my age. One large Jamaican nurse, watching me struggle to my feet on the walker, said “Dot’s yoof working for you, mon.”
My physical therapist comes by every other day now, and has transitioned me to rubber-band exercises. These are wide bands about three feet long, color-coded yellow, red, green and blue. The colors represent the thickness of the rubber (yellow is the thinnest). She’ll make a loop of one, wrap it around my ankles, and have me fight the resistance of the rubber to spread my legs. Or she’ll loop it around a chair leg and an ankle and have me straighten my leg from the knee. We’ve been moving through the color spectrum for the past week, and we’re on green, which is really hard. “Next time blue,” she threatened me today. Thank God I have my yoof.