The physical trainer (PT) is chock full of energy, as usual. She claps her hands in front of her torso, parallel to her forearms like a college cheerleader. I think of my time at Clemson, and all of the fun we had on Saturdays at the stadium. She is has a bob, dirty blond wisp to her hair, and is fit. I can tell she works out, but she is no bodybuilder. Her black clothing is tight enough to exercise, and is conservative enough to wear in a hospital.
The PT takes hold of my walker with one hand, and whirls it around, edging it closer to my bed. I notice her cement gray running shoes, with a florescent pink stripe. The black soles appear as if they have never touched any asphalt. "Are you ready", she asks? "Today we are going to stretch our boundaries." She is talking about my limited ability to make it much further than the nurses' station.
"I know", I tell her. "I am going to do my best", I tell her honestly.
I need help to sit up, and attempt to use my arms to move my body towards the edge of the bed.
I grab the PT's forearm tightly, and she interlocks us when she grabs my left arm. She is holding me up with her right arm, while she guides my leg toward the floor. When the ball of my foot touches the floor, a loud beeping fills the room. It breaks my concentration.
"Whoa. Hey. Sorry about that", the PT says. "I forgot they put an alarm on your bed."
"For what", I ask? "Is that going to let the staff know that I fell out of bed?"
"Oh no, you won't fall off of your bed", she discloses.
"What is it, then", I inquire?
"We want to make sure you don't get out of bed when you're alone", she tell me.
Alarm, or no alarm, if my bladder says otherwise, I will listen to my urge to release pressure.
We are ready when I am securely fastened to the nurse behind me. There is a canvas loop around my waist, and I am tied in like a tandem sky diver. Another nurse is attending to my hat rack of IV bags, and the PT is in front of me. She is the carrot dangling in front of the mule, but I want nothing to do with it. It is literally time to put my best foot forward.
My knuckles are white, and my breathing is heavy by the time we get to the door. The walker's left wheel catches the door jam, while I am trying to adhere to all of my instructions. Keep your head up. Stand up straight. Eyes forward. Take longer strides. All of these finished with the regular advice of "never fall backward., fall forward."
I finish my first leg of the hike, and we stop at the nurse's station, again. Last time, the PT pointed outside, and told me I could look outside. This time, she gives me an option. "Do you want to go to the right, or to the left", she asks?
"What's the difference?" I am drawing breaths between words, again.
"If you go left, you can see the courtyard, again. If you choose right, that way is longer", she tells me.
"How much further is that way", I ask, as I nod my head to the left?
"The left is twice as long, I think", the PT replies.
"OK, then", I say with confidence.
I have decided that I am going to start walking, without the PT telling me to do so.
In a blink of an eye, I begin to lose my balance, and when I try to make a correction, my left knee buckles. Soon after, the right knee gives, and I have no strength to stop myself. Before I know it, my elbows are above my ears, and I am still gripping the walker.
The nurse tending the safety harness grabs my belt, quickly, and stops me from hitting the floor.
"I'm OK. I'm OK", I say. "Pull me up. I can do this", I wince.
The length of the hallway looks insurmountable.
I grab the walker hard.
"OK. One, two, three."
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Photo: Power Walker