Monday, April 30, 2012

22- Endurance Training

It must be about seven in the morning because it looks like the bustle of a shift change.  Just like working in a job in a bar or restaurant, people are soon leaving and others are just getting in.  So, for a little while there are too many people.  

Its the usual start to my day now.  "I'm going to turn this big, scary light on.  OK?"  That's ICU speak for, "Bright Light!  Bright Light!"  This always causes me to pull my blanket to my face quickly.  Its almost like I were to give a wedgie to a seven foot tall person.  Pulling the heavy drawers right up to my chin.
I think I've been using five blankets lately.  These suckers have to weigh at least eight pounds a piece.  They make it really hard to move, yet I'm still cold.  Immediately, the nurse folds down all of my blankets near my waist.  My entire torso is exposed to the frigid air.  At least they gave me this gown as thick as a dryer sheet to keep me warm.

Exposed to the elements, the staff checks my sheets for any over night mishaps, and move the icy blood pressure cuff up my skeletal arm.  With a clamp on the tip of my finger, and a lazily placed thermometer in my mouth, they ask me what I want for breakfast.  I find this to be an odd question because they never ask, or when I do they say that I can't have it.

However, my server looks at her menu for me, and discovers that mine is predetermined.  Quicksand grits, no pork (too salty), some jello, and their finest hospital bed coffee.
They bring my breakfast and I know I have to eat fast.  The physical trainer always arrives on my second bite of a meal, without fail.  Hmm. 

Here she is, and she still has the obnoxious get up and go attitude about her.  I understand its her job to get me excited, but that doesn't make our meetings any more pleasurable for me.  
"I just got my breakfast.  I'm hungry.  Can you come back?"
"Come on, Sweetie.  It will only take a minute, then you can eat and relax when you get back."
She's lying.

My pseudo-breakfast will be cold and congealed by the time my feet hit the floor. 
 I won't be the only one getting a workout because someone has to get me in and out of this bed. 
There is a system to getting up.  I have to scoot my rear-end up and let my feet dangle at my knees.  In the meantime, I have to make sure I don't snag any of my numerous IV's, and electrode wires as I bare witness to my possession of an eight year old boy's junk.

All of my helpers are on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what comes next.  I slide forward to get my red-socked toe on the cool tile.  There's one.  I pull my left leg inward with my right hand, and slide down.  Two feet on the floor.
Now, stand.

Although I'm using the full strength of my arms and legs, I can't get all the way up.  This is so much harder than last time.  Did I get more ill?  I'm supposed to be getting better.  Now, Richard Simmons wants me to stand all the way up and straighten my back. 
"Come on!  You can do it!"

With all of my strength I push myself up far enough to lock my knees and elbows in place.  One of .the nurses looks up at me and says, "Wow.  I didn't know you were tall."  I'm guessing she is about five-three.  She's been looking me at her level because my bed is above her waist.

As I'm waiting to be strapped in, I start to roll back on my heels.  Whatever.  The bed is right here.   I could just sit back down.
Nope.  Not allowed.

Just as before, I'm in a Jane Fonda workout video, and everyone is smiling except for me.  Once again, my tormentor tells me, "If you're going to fall, fall forward.  Don't fall back.  You may get hurt."  I'm starting to think these words might actually be of some use in real life, too.
 Its time to move forward.  One person grabs the bag o' urine, another grabs my Christmas tree on wheels, each bag of medicine sweeping back and forth.  They hold up my tubes and wires, and we're off.

As I move forward, I am immediately hunching over because this walker is too short.  I never thought I would be using a walker.  Not now.  Not ever.  Yet, here I am.  I think this jalopy needs a wheel alignment when my front right wheel catches the door jam.  I'm trying to go straight ahead.
Now, my coach wants me to back up to try to get through the doorway again.

The last time we played this game, we shuffled down the hallway to the nurse's station, turned around, and came back.  That's about twenty five meters.  Tops.  
When we are almost to our turn around point, we stop for a moment so I can catch my breath.  
My trainer taps her fingernail on the glass window in front of us.
"You see that?"
"That hallway on the other side of the courtyard.  That's where we're headed."
First, I don't think I can make it that far.  Second, I have to walk back.  No way.  
We're off to the races as we walk by other nurses with smiles that say good job. When we are down the hallway a bit, I get to stop.  I'm breathing like I just ran a quarter mile sprint.  There was a time when I could run that distance in about 65 seconds.  That just took a very long twenty minutes.
"Alright!  Great job.  Look you can see outside," she smiles.

She's right.  It is gorgeous out there.  On the other side of the glass is an ocean-blue sky, and the courtyard is drenched in sunshine.  Its early November in Charleston.  Even though I am indoors, I can still feel the nearness of the Atlantic Ocean.  My emotional attachment to the salty ocean air ranges somewhere between really happy and absolutely outstanding.  
"Now.  Let's head back."
My response is one syllable per breath.

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