One of the things I was concerned about when Vernon had that infection-interlude at St. Jude’s Hospital a week or so ago was that he lost momentum with his physical therapy and his right side, that had started showing some improvements, seized up all over again…to the point that he was convinced (when he started talking last week) that his right arm was his broken arm (that he himself had fixed, learning how “on the internet”) and anyone who tried to straighten his left arm or leg was “CRUEL!” Oh the power of words…and imagination!
His voice has come back, but his muscles still need a lot of work. Especially if he wants me to take him away with me…which he keeps talking about when its time to leave. He hasn’t shaken the idea of shoes yet, apparently.
Have I mentioned that I LOVE the approach of the staff at Kindred. They are so flexible and progressive, apparently ready for any new curve ball, because they see the patients so individually. Jaime, the physical therapist, after struggling to stretch out his stiff left leg straight, decided it was time for Vernon to get on the tilt table and try some weight-bearing on his legs. Jaime, in trying to explain it to me, called it “a Frankenstein Table.” A little ghoulish, but I understood immediately.
Here he is at about 60 degrees. Vernon was still chatty, answering and asking questions. He was uncomfortable, but he seemed to understand that it was important to work through the pain. He tends to complain a lot more lying in his bed than in his physical therapy sessions. Jaime would keep him ‘standing” at various degrees for a few minutes each time.
He was getting closer to 90 degrees, taller and straighter than he has been in months. His ankles/achilles tendons are so tight (despite the range-of motion exercises we have done over the past five months) due to disuse. But Jaime managed to get him pretty tall. After this, he tried to straighten him a little bit more, but Vernon couldn’t take it. He’d been so talkative all morning, but suddenly his head fell forward as if going to sleep. The flow of blood must have been too much at that angle and he must have just fainted.
I know if I’ve been sitting too long in one place then get up fast, I can feel a little dizzy. I am guessing this was Vernon’s version of that, stretched out and in slow motion.
It took him a little while to come back to our world after that. I wheeled him around the grounds for awhile, but he just needed to sleep. It is always surprising to find out where his physical-mental limits are. They just suddenly occur and then we know…usually without any warning.
I’m posting this picture of him upright because to me he looks like some epic hero, handsome and brave, willing to take on the worst because its the only way. A martyr perhaps? Or Maybe his just ready for take-off into the Unknown Next. It’s also the last picture of that 2.5 week beard, until he tells someone he prefers it. I think he looks great either way.
Because St. Jude’s is not a long-term care hospital, the staff there didn’t shave their patients. At least that is what we were told on our ward when we mentioned his growing stubble. And by the time we got back to Kindred, no one wanted to touch his full beard with a plastic razor from the hospital supply closet.
So I stopped by our local Target last weekend to pick up a new electric razor. I was totally overwhelmed by the selection at the store, not knowing what to chose for Vernon, what could work around his trach, which ones were totally overpriced or a waste of money… I admit, though it sounds kind of sexy, I’ve never shaved my husband’s face. And I really didn’t want to start now when I could potentially maim him in his most vulnerable moments.
Angels are everywhere, it’s true. We just don’t notice them till we need them. Here is my proof: as I entered the store, I heard someone behind me call my name, some tall man with a bunch of kids. I didn’t recognize him at first, but it was THAD, Vernon’s main trauma-nurse in the early days at Mission Hospital. Chris had already called him at work last week to tell him the good news of Vernon’s waking, as Thad was such a pillar of strength and care to us in the hardest days of May and June. So whether he remembers us, we will always remember him. Thad used to shave Vernon in the SICU (as well as many other patients, no doubt) so he was just the person to help me shop for the right razor. What timing! As I gushed over the moment, I saw the looks on his children’s faces, and I guessed this probably wasn’t the first time their dad’s job had crossed over into their world. I expect they know he is a kind of hero when he goes to work. It was nice to have the chance to remind them.
Veronica, Vernon’s lovely Occupational Therapist (OT) volunteered for the job of shaving Vernon’s beard. He seemed so happy to receive the care, you would have thought it was a massage. And so when you see him next…he will be back to his fresh, cleaned up face.
And his hairdresser is paying a visit tomorrow. Stay tuned.