Power chair in my future

January is my target for starting the process to get a power chair. Doing it in December made no sense, what with offices shutting down for the holidays and businesses stressing to get through year end on December 31st. I don’t want to risk this getting lost in the cracks. After all, I’ve seen MY office at the end of the calendar year and know how paperwork piles up.

I need this chair more than ever. I put off getting one at first because I didn’t want to believe I’d need it; my goal was to not need any chair much less a power chair. Those were for people who couldn’t walk. Well, hmmm. I can walk some but it’s not likely that I’ll ever be able to walk from my apartment down to the dining room or the mailboxes or auditorium for activities. And in late September, my surgeon was clear that I’m not likely to get much more mobility back than I have now. It’s okay, I can live with this. But it will be so nice to be able to get around more and more easily than I do now.

One of the local DME providers told me that all of Meadow Lake counts as my home, not just my apartment, especially because I do need to go a distance to get to the dining room. Plus I’ve had a sore (and sometimes stabbity) shoulder for at least six months. It never seems to get much better and hurts when I roll around with the manual chair. Somewhere in there I did something to my right wrist and thumb joint which also hurt. Add in that I’ve fallen twice in the last year, and getting a power chair seems like a necessary step and we can make a medical case for Medicare, which will usually pay for a power chair when there are medical reasons for the change.

The application involves reams of documentation – naturally, since we’re talking about the government and insurance – and I’ll need a face-to-face visit with my doctor within 30 days of the application. Telehealth visits are much easier but I can make it work. I’ll check with the DME company about next steps and then make an appointment for early January.

I’m not completely sure how you actually get ON a power chair but someone will explain it and show me. I can transfer to chairs and the NuStep and a car, so I’m sure it’s not hard once I figure it out. There are more scooters here which look like fun for those who can use them, with cute little baskets in the front to carry stuff. People who use them can walk from where they park over to their table or wherever they’re going. A power chair is a wheelchair with nothing in front of you, powered by a joystick. You need a walker, cane, or manual wheelchair to get to and from the power chair. I’m not at all sure how you carry things except the ways I do now, sometimes in a Trader Joe’s bag with the handles in my teeth. Not very sanitary but it’s effective.

January 2022 brought me my NuStep. Now, a year later, I’m ready for a power chair, something I never thought I’d want or use but now am looking forward to helping me get around more easily. I’ll use my study to park and charge it out of the way of the manual chair or my rollator. No matter where it goes, I’m sure the cats will decorate it with fur in no time.

More PT Ahead

My right shoulder has been killing me. Isn’t it odd that all of the aches and pains and sprains and tingling – even the blood clot – are happening on the right side? Very lopsided. In any case, the physical therapist was here this morning to do an assessment of the shoulder/arm in response to a PT order from my doctor. He also assessed the ankle; the order for that came through when I sprained it, but was postponed when they found the blood clot. It’s been unstable so it got assessed and I get more PT.

There seems to be a nerve impingement as well as super tight muscles. Right side testing was considerably shortened from the normal left side, so PT will help. I got three stretching exercises to do in the morning and will go to PT twice a week for some indefinite time, because we’re also going to add in some work with the legs and walking. Chris was impressed with how much walking I’m doing on my own, so that feels good and as though I’m not slacking off somewhere. Pain needs to be heeded, and pushing the shoulder pain could result in other problems for me.

Also got instructions on how to shrink my giant abdominal hematomas and clarification of why I’m not to wear AFO’s on the NuStep. Wearing them supports the ankle but it can disguise any rubbing of the foot in the brace/shoe that could cause more problems. No one explained that before, or at least I don’t remember it, just that they didn’t want me wearing AFO’s on the machine. Got it. I think I need to reverse my shoe plans so the AFO’s go on first whether I think I’m walking or not, since they support the ankle. Mid-afternoon I’ll take them off and put on the zipper shoes to do the NuStep. Or not, if it’s not a NuStep day. I’ve been doing that backwards and I’m more likely to make myself go walking if the AFO’s are already on.

I’m not reluctant to walk. The problem is the cats, who want to go out in the hall with me when I go. I’m slower than someone not using a walker (or wheelchair), and they could easily get past me into the hall. So I try to plan my walks when they are flaked out asleep on the porch or in their boxes or other sleeping places. If they don’t cooperate, it makes things harder, and that’s when I wait and sometimes the walk just doesn’t happen. Life is like that.

Walking again

Emma on the porch

I went walking today in therapy for the first time in almost a month. They had me stop to give my sore upper arm/shoulder a chance to heal, which has been moderately successful. It’s still sore, but I was surprised and happy to see that I could just go walking without messing me up too much. I only walked about 250 feet but still, for the first time in a month, it’s not bad. And I did notice that I wasn’t holding on to the walker with a death grip until the end of the walk. That’s a good sign I think. Next week I’ll go back to walking here in the hallways with some help, and with any luck, I’ll be able to go out on the porch with my kitties sometime soon. Yayyy!

I don’t know how many therapy appointments I have left before they need to be renewed, and at some point, Medicare will decide they’re not going to pay for more. Something to verify tomorrow.

Elevator drama

My wheelchair got caught in the elevator on the way back from PT today. The door opening was a little uneven, and the left front castor wheel turned and got stuck between the car door and the floor opening. It lurched me forward a little and I couldn’t move the chair in any direction – and I was afraid I was going to fall out on the floor.

I live in a senior building and no one is particularly strong or muscular, but one of the housekeeping staff got in the elevator with me. Someone else held my hand while another went for help. But by the time maintenance got to me, no more than 10 minutes (I think), another housekeeping staff member lifted the chair and me back into the elevator car and all was well. Scary, but well. My right shoulder is now killing me, the chair is okay, and I’m just shaky.

I had visions of an incident when I worked in Boston, when a wheel from a booktruck came off and fell down the elevator shaft, leaving us with a heavy truck with only three wheels. Would my chair wheel go down the shaft? What would happen to me if I fell?

I’m getting myself a big glass of wine and some chocolate.

Report from today’s doctor visit

I saw my primary care doctor today for the first time since mid-December to discuss bilateral upper arm/shoulder pain. As expected, I couldn’t get on the scale since there was nothing to hold on to, but that wasn’t a problem. Blood pressure was excellent (112/60) with slightly elevated temp. She concurred with my self-diagnosis of biceps tendonitis from overuse. Pain started after I got my new AFO’s which I put on every day with lots more walking, which puts extra pressure on the arms using the walker. I’m already taking a strong anti-inflammatory for arthritis which she wants me to continue, adding Flexoril to help relax the muscles, and she put through orders for additional therapy for the shoulders.

My earache is because of fluid on the ear but it’s not infected. It’s bad allergy season for me right now, which isn’t helping since I’m allergic to all the flowering things. I’m to make sure I take Flonase every day which I’ve been doing but not very regularly. The cough will also benefit from Flonase and a return to the hated Netipot.

I’ve also been prescribed Cymbalta as an anti-depressant, which I think is needed. This has been a very long eight months and I’ve had a harder and harder time staying positive and motivated. The medicine will help me get to a better place after I give it time to get in the system. I’m starting with the “old person” dose but it can titrate up if needed.

We also discussed a conversation I need to have with therapy about walking on my own in the apartment with a walker. I wasn’t allowed to do this before, but at some point, I need to be able to do it, so what needs to happen to make that possible? Feeding the cats and cleaning up their litterbox (and cat vomit) are best done from a chair to minimize fall risk, but walking to the kitchen or out to the porch shouldn’t be hard to do. I haven’t been close to falling and have been more worried about just being tired and needing to sit down. This shouldn’t be a problem in the apartment, unlike the hallway that has no chairs. Something for me to bring up with PT tomorrow.