It’s been an interesting week. Paul’s had two more sets of x-rays, seen two doctors, and had 6 total visits from home health care nursing, plus occupational and physical therapists (2 each). They all agree. He’s doing better and has a long road ahead of him.
The original accident details are here.
Paul’s lungs are clearing, but he was told not expect the pain to go away for at least 12 more weeks. That’s 3 months… He doesn’t complain a lot about the broken ribs, but the broken sternum has a huge hematoma (big bump with lots of swelling) on top of it that makes him cringe if people looking like “huggers” get too close.
He still has the blood clot behind the sternum, but it’s dissolving slowly. He sees the lung doctor again in two more weeks and continues to use his respirator tool as much as possible to build up his breathing force and keep his lungs clear.
Coughing is his biggest challenge which brings on pain, so he has to be careful not to eat too much at one sitting, or to talk too long, and to drink lots of water. Oh, and while laughter is generally good medicine… it hurts too.
His neck x-ray also showed he’s healing as he should. He must continue to use his brace if he’s not sleeping or stationary/sitting in a chair. I’ve caught him a couple of times “forgetting” to put it on to move across a room and we’ve had words about this.
He cannot drive yet, and actually said to me later that if he’d known when the doctor asked him to turn his head that she was assessing his ability to drive, he’d have made more effort. Uh, huh. Like I’m getting in a car with him. Another 6 weeks at least.
He was having trouble sleeping so we talked to both doctors about him getting off the pain meds and muscle relaxers (Some are narcotics which can affect his ability to sleep; seems like a dichotomy to me…), so he’s switching to a combo of regular strength Tylenol and Aleve. I bought a bottle of each and then Paul informed me we already had two bottles of Tylenol (from 2009; that’s how often we use pain meds…) – those have been pitched. We also clarified he could not have alcohol while taking narcotic RX’s as the combination is counter-productive to healing.
The 19 staples in the back of his neck were removed in less than a minute (I did leave the room in case of male screaming…) and his scar will soon not show when his hair grows back. (Did I tell you they called him Sasquatch in the hospital?) I see there is a Sasquatch Music Festival on the Gorge River in Washington (the state) for Memorial Day Weekend; one of his target windsurfing destinations – maybe next year…
Yes, my guy is one hairy dude.
He was given the green light to shave the area around the front neck surgery. His beard had grown in so thick (and white) during the past two weeks, the assistant doctor didn’t recognize him.
One of Paul’s biggest concerns is the nerve damage to his right (dominant) hand. He’s has about 4 hours of exercises prescribed every day which he’s being pretty diligent (and motivated) about doing.
The neurologist gave us an excellent analogy. Imagine your thumb being smashed in the car door (Who never had that happen?). The door can be opened, and the pressure removed, but the thumb still has to heal on its own. The surgery opened up the nerve passages at his neck (C7, I think), but nerves grow at the rate of 1 mm per day, so… we have to be patient and keep working. It could be six weeks before he sees any significant improvement in his hand.
Six weeks seems to be a magic number as that’s when improvement in his raspy voice should also happen.
The neurologist emphasized that while Paul is recovering as well as he is for what happened to him, he’s not to lose sight of how serious his injuries ARE (She stressed the present tense, not the past tense.) and that she was very happy not to be looking at a patient permanently in a wheelchair. She sees him again in 3 weeks (halfway to six…).
The Rest of the Story
So… a few other tidbits.
His mind is working.
My dear husband got one of the therapists to write a note that he’s to have as many mini-massages as he wants, whenever he wants. He forgot to have her write that I’m to drop whatever I’m doing, even if I’m in the bathroom. Sorry honey.
He told me I was the best nurse ever. Then he told me when he called the nurse about switching the pain meds, she said (upon his asking) that, yes, he may have an “occasional” beer or glass of wine if he’s only taking Tylenol or Aleve. He then informed me he was ready for his beer as it was Friday night and I was home from work for the weekend. When I calculated it hadn’t been 24 hours for the narcotic to be out of his system, so he couldn’t have a beer until Saturday, he told me I was the worst nurse ever…
Speaking of nurses, he got a new nurse this week, Ed, who spotted Paul’s guitar and made him play – a bit. Apparently Ed plays exceptionally well and Paul loves it when Ed comes to the house. He most recently played Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”. When Paul said he also sang to him, I asked if he was cute… Natural question, right? One question that always stumps my guy.
Eric Clapton, Circa 1973. For some reason, this is how I imagine Ed, the nurse.
We think getting off the narcotics will help him sleep. I hope. He was starting to walk around the house in the middle of the night with his neck brace on and sooner or later I would wake to see him looming over me in the dark. Asking if I was awake? Like a Zombie with broken body parts, shuffling and swaying and mumbling. Considering all the drugs pumped into him in the hospital, we have a plan to detox and fill him full of good stuff.
Once Paul was allowed to eat in the hospital, nothing appealed to him, but he needed to regain his strength. I ran home to make a smoothie only to discover our 19 year old VitaMix was kaput (Oh, yes, long story there but the final analysis proved that Moi did not cause the damage…), so I contacted the company and made the best deal possible and our newly refurbished VitaMix is ready to use. Today’s the day we’re adding smoothies full of greens and health back into both our diets.
I can’t imagine being in Paul’s shoes. He was way more active than most people I know. He is seldom content to sit and veg. He is more restricted than he’s ever been, and his will is not overcoming his physical limitations. Think Alpha Male. He also has a total klutz for a wife who is also super slow at doing certain things. Imagine his frustration at watching me open (for example) the cap on a ketchup jar and seeing it fly across the room, accompanied by my usual “Darn it.”
So, when I (and others) tell him how lucky he is to be as incapacitated as he is, he doesn’t necessarily feel that way. He said “lucky” would be to have walked away from the accident with a few scrapes and bruises… Well, I let this sink in as I pondered how to answer. Everyone is entitled to feel overwhelmed and “Why me?” for awhile.
So, I changed the subject and asked him to list 10 things he was grateful for. He gave me 5. The next day, I asked for 5 new ones. He easily answered. We are counting our blessings every day.
His occupational therapist asked if he knew any five-year olds. By chance, why yes, we have a special five-year old, J– , right next door. If you’ve ever seen Paul around children, you know they get along so well because Paul has that eternal childlike enthusiasm and wonder that makes the kids tell their parents “Paul’s the fun one!” (Guess who I am; the one who makes them take their meds and stop jumping on the bed with Paul…)
Apparently five-year olds have these games that are perfect to hone Paul’s fine motor skills. J– generously and proudly brought over a crate of his games/toys to share with Paul, and he’s been put in charge of making sure Paul wears his neck brace when they walk.
In fact, the day Paul was having his darkest thoughts (above), he took a nap and when I told him J– was looking for him to walk, but it was too late, Paul was stricken that he’d let a five-year old down and vowed not to do that again.
Thank you, Mr. J–! We love you.
Um, I might have to amend some of these comments/descriptions as Paul has already pointed out discrepancies in my last entry. Like, he walked 100 yards before the guys who found him got their vehicle. (Ok…) I suggested he is free to write his own guest post.
But here goes.
We are touched by the generosity of our friends, family, and neighbors, even those who do not know us so well.
Our yard is being magically mowed. (Yes, I do know who’s taking charge of that and THANK YOU!) By the time I get home from work, our trash cans have been whisked back into place, the dog has been walked, and let me not forget the food.
Omg, people tell me I’m close to describing food porn when I list the wonderful things people are bringing to us. I admit, since Paul took over the cooking (Hey, I used to like to cook, but why? Paul loved to cook and I had other things to do.), I haven’t cooked beyond salads and brownies for the past 20 or so years…
It’s a huge help on weeknights especially, but I think I might have to start running again pretty soon as I am an eating machine. While Paul’s appetite has returned, he is proud to say he’s reached his formerly elusive goal weight (What is it about guys and their high school weights?) which he has been trying to do these past 20+ years, but never thought he’d attain it this way.
Since we’ve been married, Paul has grown into a bit of a curmudgeon as far as inviting people (No honey, you need more people than me…), but is now opening up and enjoying visits from our sweet friends and neighbors who bring him Sleepytime Tea, and books on tape, and politely sense when it’s time to leave. (Coughing and waning voice is a good cue.)
We’ve also reconnected with many friends and co-workers we haven’t seen in years and it brings tears to both our eyes when Paul gets a touching card or message. Why haven’t we stayed in better touch?
Paul’s also starting to get feisty about riding his mountain bike again. I say no. He says yes. I say… we’ll talk about it (way) down the road.
I’ll end with this quote from one of our 7 nephews (who asked not to be named in front of his mother) that made Paul – painfully – laugh: Injuries heal, but being a bad ***bad words*** lives forever. Something like that. (Any guesses which nephew?)
Apparently someone told Paul he sustained more injures than Evel Knievel when he jumped the Grand Canyon. I checked when looking for this pic… Evel did a lot of other things, but he never actually jumped the Grand Canyon. Sorry honey. You will never be Evel Knievel because I am not going to be Mrs. Knievel.
Ack – Evel and his bike. Please don’t give Paul a shirt like this.
Hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. I intend to get a bit more centered (code for organized), work on my screenwriting/marketing, garden, give mini-massages, and breathe the fresh air sitting on the back porch with Paul.
THANK YOU again to ALL our angels out there. We appreciate you more than you know. P & G
PS: I hear Paul playing his guitar as I write this and although it’s not quite his usual…. it sounds great to me. Ed, I owe you!