A lot has changed since last I wrote. I moved into my new home on Thursday, August 5th and was excited to begin my new life at Meadow Lake. I was already scheduled for spine surgery at Tuesday, August 24th and wanted to get my home organized and ready before that happened. The reason for the surgery was severe spinal stenosis, which was messing up my right foot and leg.
Then I fell. Again. Since November, I’ve fallen at least 8 times, which is 8 too many. I used the magic alert button to get help to get me up, but even I could see that I was weaker than I had been. And my left leg began to give me trouble, too. That was on Saturday, August 7th. Two days later I fell again, this time in the bathroom, when I let go of my walker and my legs collapsed under me. Not good. This time when I used the alert button, I had them call the EMTs to get me to the hospital. And before they arrived, I was giving instructions to help feed cats and collect charge cords and important things to shove into my purse.
I spent the day in the ER at UTHealth Tyler, which was like a circus. They did a CT scan of my head to be sure there wasn’t a brain bleed, since I hit my head in the fall. And x-rays of my back to be sure nothing had chipped off. When the doctors learned that I was scheduled for spine surgery, they arranged to talk with my surgeon, who also practices at the hospital. They did another back MRI and when I came out at 5:30pm, my surgeon was waiting to talk with me. It wasn’t safe for me to go home alone. And waiting for surgery 2 weeks later wasn’t advised, because hospitals were starting to cancel elective surgeries. The plan was to have the same spine surgery but moved up 2 weeks and at this hospital instead.
So I spent a few days in the hospital, able to get myself to the bedside commode using a walker, but finding that harder to do. Surgery went well and I ended up in ICU at 11:15pm on August 12th. Post-op I worked with someone from physical therapy but my legs were basically dead weight from the waist down. They did another back MRI which confirmed that surgery did what it was expected to do. And an MRI of my brain to be sure I hadn’t had a stroke, which I didn’t.
What the neurologists finally decided was that there were two different things going on. The stenosis surgery should help my right foot, but the nerves were so badly compressed that it will likely take 6-8 months. The muscle weakness is probably due to swelling in the conus area at the tail of the spinal cord – the spot that I kept reinjuring every time I fell on my butt, which I did a lot. It’s very unhappy and is going to take a lot of time to heal – if it does. Right now my best hope is that it gets a little better.
I moved to the Olympic Center Rehabilitation Facility at the UT Hospital on Tuesday, August 17th. My physical therapist explained when I asked that my condition is incomplete paraplegia. I have some limited control of my legs and the ability to pee and poop. Which are huge things. But it takes two people to get me out of bed now, or moved to a bedside commode or wheelchair. My upper body is strong and getting stronger. My lower body had a huge day on Saturday when I stood for 90 seconds, hanging on for dear life to the parallel bars while others helped hold me up. Success in very small things.
This is only the very first step in healing. I can only stay here 2 weeks, and then I will be off to somewhere else for longer-term care and rehab. I’m thinking that will probably be at Meadow Lake, since I’m a resident now and get priority access. The case manager will talk with me about what discharge means and what my options are, probably on Wednesday. I will leave here in a wheelchair.
And because this is going to take a lot of energy and work, I resigned from my job this week because I couldn’t figure out how to concentrate on healing and also do a job. Someone else can figure out bulletins and newsletters. I need to figure out how to stand.
I miss my cats. I miss my home. I miss the ability to throw off covers and walk. I miss having clean hair. I miss being independent.
I’m afraid and I’m grieving. And I’m also aware of how many small acts of kindness have been poured in my direction. People stepping up to care for my kitties. Friends unpacking boxes and moving things around so it will be easier for me to navigate when I can get back home. Friends shopping Walmart for comfortable loungewear and mini cans of Diet Pepsi. I can’t have visitors now – new Covid policy – but I so appreciate the texts, calls, and email. I’m alone. But I’m not.
More on this journey to come. I wanted to get down the details while I was still sure of what they were, especially timing. That I know I’ll forget as time passes.