One Year Out of Rehab

I’ve been out of residential rehab for a year this week and am so happy to be home, living my life as independently as I can (which is most things). I’ve learned how to adapt to things that seemed impossible when I first got home, and others may be time consuming but very doable. They seem like small things – taking a shower, changing the sheets, putting on AFO’s, making cookies – but each was a major challenge. But I live here independently with my floofy girls and do more than just worry about whether I can stand. I have two more weeks of PT working on my inflammed shoulder and then I’m on my own again. I’m so ready.

Walking:

For the last 2 weeks, I’ve been walking with a rollator in physical therapy. Right now it lives up in PT so I’m using my regular walker at home and to my surprise, I’m finding the rollator to be easier to use. When I tried using it a year ago before I was discharged from rehab, it was a disaster. My legs are much stronger now and my rollator is appropriately sized, so I feel stable. I also know how to use the brakes to keep the rollator from flying away from my feet. I’m easily walking about 150 feet using it which may not sound like much but it means I know I can handle it in the apartment with shorter distances and I feel confident about bringing it home to use on my own. If I need to, I can hire someone to walk with me for 30 min a day when I first start using it here.

Sleep:

My sleep has finally turned around. I’m making myself stay up longer in the evening, which seems to have eliminated my “get up in the middle of the night to pee” problem. I use my nifty flexible “bed ladder” attached to the bed frame to roll over so I can sleep on my side, which eases lower back pain. I usually find myself on my back by morning, but have figured out how to set the adjustable Sleep Number bed to be comfortable and supportive. And best of all, my CPAP problems were fixed by adjustments made by my DME provider so I’m getting plenty of air. After months of short nights mostly spent in the chair, I’m now getting 8 hours of sleep and have plenty of energy during the day.

Blood Clot:

Two ultrasounds in early July found a blood clot in my right thigh. It’s a chronic thrombus or DVT which means it’s been there a while and has hardened and attached itself to the femoral vein from above the knee almost to the groin. Yup, it’s big. They did the ultrasound in the first place because my leg and foot were swollen and super tight. The doctor explained that, because of the clot, the blood couldn’t get up the leg through the narrowed vein. What made it swollen wasn’t water retention, it was blood. They put me on blood thinners to dissolve the clot, though it could take 6 months for it to go away completely.

Three months later, things have improved. Two follow-up ultrasounds show the clot is still there, but my foot looks normal in the morning and only slightly swollen at the end of the day. Foot and leg are more swollen if I have to spend lots of time in the wheelchair with my legs down, but even then, the leg “gives” more than it did three months ago and feels more normal. I elevate my legs in my lift chair when I’m home and also raise up the lower part of the bed at night, which all helps. Elevating didn’t really do much before and I’m not sure how much it’s necessary now, but I’m happy to have more normal legs.

Hopefully the whole clot will be gone by the end of the year. I’m thinking I’ll probably need to stay on the blood thinner to be sure another clot doesn’t develop, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Image credit: Photo 155001899 / Progress © Designer491 | Dreamstime.com

In today’s medical fun and games

I went to the doctor today about intermittent waves of weakness and pain in the upper right arm between shoulder and elbow but also up the neck into the scalp. No loss of motion or function, just sensation and pain. But not all the time. This started not long after my recent fall on the concrete floor of the garage. Hmmm, cause and effect? We think so.

With my comprehensive medical degree from WebMD, I had concluded it was a pinched nerve. The fact that I have pinched nerves in other places helped me reach this diagnosis. The doctor thought adding in a spinal x-ray might be helpful.

As you can maybe see in the grainy copy of a copy, my spine has lots of knobby little bone spurs and loss of cushioning between the vertebrae. This is not new and it looks like the rest of my spine, which explains the nerve burns for the lumbar area. And there are some black blobs, too.

The vertict is that the hard crash to the concrete floor jolted the spine and pinched a nerve. Yayy me for a good guess. There may also be a partial tear of the right bicept, but there’s not much we can do about that so we’re not going to test for it. If the weakness and pain continue or get worse, we’ll go for an MRI. But for now we’re just sticking with muscle relaxants, heat or ice, stretching, and massage.

In another medical update, I got my first Moderna Covid vaccine shot last Friday from NetHealth at Harvey Hall in Tyler. It was a very well oiled drive through process with many volunteers and great directions. I was very tired on Saturday and a little on Sunday but otherwise felt fine, and am to go back on February 26 for my second shot at a time TBD as we get closer. I would have taken either vaccine but really wanted Moderna because it was developed at Vanderbilt, my alma mater, with partial funding from Dolly Parton, who donated $1 million to help develop a vaccine. I love Dolly.

Last night I created a chart of 10 years worth of weight, BMI, and blood pressure rates. I went back to my Yale Patient Portal and dug through medical records to get some of that, adding more from the UT Health records here, plus my Noom info. Oh, it’s not weekly by any means. But as I get smaller, I find myself wondering when I was this size last and what I looked like then. When I see pictures of myself, I have zero idea since I mostly just see fat. There are a few that I think look really bony and skinny and I don’t like how I look there.

I’ve been going to physical therapy for my knee which is actually helping other body parts as well because, well, they’re all connected. I feel safe at the gym and go in the afternoons when it’s not at all crowded. And I just bought a new pair of New Balance shoes which should arrive today. I’m pretty sure the ones I’m wearing are too long for me so keep your fingers crossed that these new ones will work. If not, Zappos does a great job with returns. But I’d rather have the shoes when I hit the gym today.