Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back At It

It has been a long time since I blogged, but with most of the recovery from my broken ankle behind me, I believe it is time to write again. When I signed off, I said I would be working on a book. But I didn't. There were lots of reasons why I didn't; for example, drinking coffee until 11:00 am each morning is a lot less stressful than writing a book. In fact I did very little, except have fun during my break. Despite my infirmity, I did lots of traveling in a wheel chair, cookie baking, and grand parenting. But now, with the new year well underway, I want to again address my goal of running a mile. And, I might just write a book too.

I am returning to my exercise plan of four blocks of exercise per day, five days per week. Saturday and Sunday are reserved for watching sports on TV and general lallygagging. (For those of you who don't remember a block in my system is twenty minutes of any kind of continuous movement.) ( For those of you who are too young to remember the word "lallygagging" it means messing around.) Right now I am at two blocks per day. I am working gradually up to an ideal schedule that would be something like this:

Monday: 2 blocks Stretch Class/ 2 blocks treadmill Tuesday: 2 blocks lap swimming, 1 block water walking,1 block deep water cycling Wednesday: 2 blocks Tai Chi/ 2 blocks tread mill
Thursday: same as Tuesday
Friday: 2 blocks Zumba/ 2 blocks treadmill

I have joined the local Senior Citizens Center, so the classes are inexpensive, and access to the treadmill is free. This is one reason I love living in Montgomery County, Maryland -- we invest in social capital..... but that is a topic for a whole other blog. In any case, I enjoy going to the Center because it makes me feel young and healthy. Most everyone else there seems to be suffering from a disease that makes them shake or be rigid. I know is not nice to make myself feel better by comparing myself to older, sick folks, but I can't help it. Besides, I like many of these shaky or stiff people. They are funny and lively. And the gentlemen notice that I paint my toe nails.

Today is Wednesday so I went to a drop-in, free Tai Chi class. This is the first time I have tried Tai Chi and the continuous slow movement is more difficult than it looks. My instructor is Lennie, a spry guy who moves without any hitches. My favorite parts of the class are the moves during which you kick or punch. I guess I must have a lot of pent up aggression. I also like the terms that Lennie uses, for example: "address the monkey" and "salute the lady at the bus stop." I signed up for an hour class, but I can only count it as 2 blocks because we took a ten minute break in the middle and Lennie likes to visit with his students; however, I did break a sweat and feel like I have done something with my body, so I am happy.

So, there you have it. I am back working toward my goal of running a mile and writing about it. I can't wait until Spring so I can get back on the track.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Taking a Break

I am taking a break from blogging because I am starting to write a book. I should return in mid June. Hope you will check out this site then. M.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Joy of Seeing My Leg

Last Friday I went to a new orthopedist and he took off my old cast and gave me a new removable cast. He also said that I could now put weight on my ankle as long as I use the walker. It is great to be able to walk again. Every thing seems to work better -- digestion, circulation, and mind-- just because I can remain in an upright position for part of the day. I can also go up the two stairs to the kitchen, which means I won't starve to death if left alone for several hours.

But the best part of this transformation is getting reacquainted with my left leg. I missed seeing it. When the removable cast is taken off, there it is, like a long lost friend. My foot skin is pealing, but my incisions are closed and there is only a minor atrophy of the calf muscles. I am due to start physical therapy soon, but in the meantime, I love letting the sun shine on my leg and wiggling my toes. My ankle is really stiff and painful to move or rotate, but at least it is attached to my foot at a normal angle again, and I am hopeful that one day I will be on the track again without Comet II.

The happiness of seeing my leg has led me to consider, that for a fat person, I quite like my body. First of all, on a practical level, it seems to work. I have borne children, breast fed them, carried them on my back for long distances, and, more recently, camped and swam in ice cold rivers with my grandchildren. On the aesthetic level, I have pretty feet, fairly unwrinkled decolletage for a sixty year old, and thick wavy hair that shines in the sun. I don't sunburn. My skin turns a toasty warm color in the summer. I could list all the negative things about me, but I won't. I think that fat people, like all people, should be happy with the good physical attributes they are fortunate enough to receive.

But being in a wheelchair and now a walker is not as positive an experience. I have adapted reasonably well to the physical limitations ( I attribute this to an innate ability to spend hours on the couch engrossed in house shows and sports on the tube). But the emotional side has been tough. At first I tried being stoic and cheerful, but this lead to my family assuming I could be left alone for hours on end. Eventually feelings of not being able to express feelings overwhelmed me and I had a cry day. This alerted my family that I needed more TLC. Hence, I have a rotating schedule of family care with breaks filled in by a wonderful neighbor of Rose and Mario, who visits frequently bringing a burst of energy and optimism with her. She is someone who has overcome obstacles through perseverance, courage, and super organizational skills. Her personality is just what the doctor ordered.

So now I am off to the shower where I will wash my leg and rinse it for a long time with a stream of hot water. I never realized what joy a limb could bring.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Recovering at Home

I am recovering at home after spending about 2 weeks in hotels so that our downstairs bathroom could be remodeled into a full bath that is handicapped accessible. Mario, my son-in-law, rounded up a crew of his friends from the construction industry, and produced a little jewel. It must be the world's most elegant small, handicapped bathroom. In my wheel chair, which I have named Comet II, in honor of my favorite childhood horse, I can roll right in and use the facilities without assistance, which is great, since I am dependent on others for just about everything else.

After my surgery, I was told to stay off my ankle for six weeks. Since I am too old and heavy to use crutches, I can choose between using a walker with which I can hop on my good leg about 15 feet before resting, or Comet II, in which I can, glide nimbly around the lower level of my house including the new bathroom. You can see why I am fond of Comet II.

For the first few days at home I slept on the couch in the family room, which was very comfortable, but a little lonely at night, with Joe snoring loudly in the comfort of our king size bed upstairs. Then the Contour Bed arrived. Purchased for small fortune, it is a king size marvel with two extra long twin mattresses on the bottom. Each mattress has a separate control which can lift electrically the head or foot, and give a very ineffective vibrating massage. So now Joe is downstairs with me. I have my feet elevated above my heart (to reduce swelling), and my head raised slightly to reduce acid reflux. The sixties are obviously a decade of multiple health problems for me.

Being in a wheel chair with a broken ankle is a very interesting experience. I am able to cope with the pain with deep breathing, relaxation, and, truth be told, the occasional percocet. But what really bugs me is the loss of privacy. Between Mario's crew, visiting well-wishers, the kids and grand kids, and Allyson and Joe, I am surrounded by people during my waking hours. This is very difficult because I usually spend part of each day alone, thinking and daydreaming.

The other upsetting issue is coping with loosing the fitness I have fought so hard to gain. For the first few weeks after the accident, I had trouble eating, but now my appetite, especially for sweets, has returned with full force and I am fighting to control it. My upper body is getting pretty strong from lifting my weight around, but my core and butt muscles are deteriorating. Tomorrow, if the weather is nice, I am hoping to take Comet II to the track and do some cardio work. In the meantime, I must go lie on the couch with my leg above my heart and watch HDTV.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Broken Ankle in Orlando

This time I have a really good excuse for not blogging. On Friday, in Orlando Fl., I slipped on a non moving outdoor escalator while it was raining and landed in a hurdle position. My right leg went to the front and was fine, but the foot on the back, left leg was turned at an unnatural angle and the ankle immediately swelled to twice its normal size. I managed to get both legs pointing forward and worked my way down each step on my butt until I sat at the bottom. There, several passerbys helped me to a patio chair while Joe got ice and Allyson stood at the top of the escalator so no one would start down and fall on top of me.

We called 911 and two very friendly paramedics arrived and took me by ambulance to Dr. Phillip's hospital. Dr. Phillips was not a MD, but rather an agronomist who owned huge orange groves, which he had the foresight to sell to local developers before the Florida citrus industry was destroyed by citrus greening and citrus rust. He donated quite a lot of money to build a very pretty modern, private hospital, which seemed extremely clean and quiet compared to those in the DC area. Everything was done efficiently. Miraculously, M.D.s appeared as soon as I asked for them, and mobile X-ray and ultrasound equipment came and went on a moment's notice.

In the emergency room, the hospital orthopedist appeared quickly to examine my X-rays and tell me that on a scale of to 1-1o, my ankjle injury was a 12. He said I would probably suffer complications including blood clots and infections and would need mulitple surgeries to correct the multiple breaks, and broken ligaments. I would never be the same again because arthritis would set in.

He asked me if I would like a pain shot which I gladly accepted, hoping it would help me deal with Dr. Optimism. I asked him a few questions, saying that I generally healed well and was sure I would be able to sustain, at least a diminished life style after many months of painful healing. I asked him if he was a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon. He said I was asking the wrong quesions, but replied that he was, and produced a card that said he specialized on the knee. I joked between holding back sobs that I hoped he could extend his expertise a little lower on the body. By this time, Joe was furious and wanted to punch him for making me cry. I composed myself enought to ask about the timing of the surgery. He said this was a much better question and that the next day would be best. With this I signed the surgical conset form and and the upbeat bone man left the room.

Various technicans and a charming cardiologist then appeared to asses if my general health was good enough for surgery. I haven't had time to blog about it, but I had my annual physical last week. All the results were good. My coleseterol was down to 200 and my fasting blood sugar was 98. I had lost, according to the Dr.'s records, lost 10 libs in the last five months. So, fortunately, my general health is good. Several of the technicians and nurses who were coming in and out asked how I was doing, and I replied not bad considering the terrible prognosis I just received from the orthopedist. The EKG technician replied "Oh, he was probably just in a bad mood. Sometimes we think he is bipolar."

I was admitted to the hospital and after a sleepless night, prepped for surgery the next afternoon. Looking back on this, I wonder why I trusted Dr. Positive with my life and limb. The best I can explain is that something in his demeanor made me like him. Intuitively, I thought he was a nice guy, who just wanted to make sure I didn't go through life blaming HIM for my bum ankle. Or at the very worst he was trying to paint a bleak picture so I wouldn't be surprised with a bad result from surgery and and sue him. In short, I thought he was sensitive to criticism.

My surgery went well and Dr. Death was in a much better mood when I awoke. I only needed one plate and a few screws, and may not require another surgery he opined. I had a much better outcome than he had originally thought possible.

While I was leaving the hospital on Sunday night he dropped by to sign my discharge papers. "So, what do you think ?" I asked. "Will it be three or six months until I am more or less recovered? "

"I tell good looking patients like you three months," he replied with a twinkle in his eye.

"Oh," I said grabbing his hand, "aren't you quite the charmer. Thank you so much for being such a good doctor and putting me back together."

"Well, you were a wonderful patient," he murmured as he waved and disappeared out the hospital room door.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Snow Ball Effect

It has been a long time since I have written and I blame the snow. Since I returned from Miami we have had two gigantic snow storms and several mild ones. This is the snowiest winter in Washington DC history, and even now, several weeks after the last big storm, huge piles of dirty, plowed snow line the streets and hamper walking. All the high school jogging tracks are still covered. I guess clearing them is the last thing the beleaguered school system is concerned about.

My reaction to being snowed- in was normal. At first I enjoyed the snugly log cabin feeling of a roaring fire, and the camaraderie with Joe and Allyson, since none of us could leave the house. We never lost electric power, but Rose and her family, and Tami (Joe's sister) and her family took refuge with us when their power went out. We have a four wheel drive, so we were able to pick them up even though Tami and her family had to wade through waist deep snow to a main road since their street was impassable. It was great to have a full house. We all baked. Allyson made lemon meringue pie, Rose made her famous mince pie, and I made chocolate chip cookies "for the kids."

The snowed clear a bit. Rose's and Tami's power went back on, and they went home. We made a grocery store run, and then the second storm struck. It was a real blizzard with howling wind and blowing drifts. We dug out again. The second time it was a lot less fun. Thankfully it turns out that Allyson and Joe are both quite efficient with a snow shovel. I did a minimal amount of shoveling and made my self useful by scraping off the car and pouring warm water on the windows to help defrost them. Aside from this activity, I did absolutely no exercise during the storms and continued to eat whatever I felt like eating. As the second storm lingered, I began to feel lethargic and penned-in. Finally, when the main roads were opened, I took the grandchildren skiing, two hours from here in southern Pennsylvania. There, I walked around the snowy resort and got my first fresh air in days. It improved my mood, but not my eating habits. Since I no longer ski, I made myself comfortable in the lodge's Starbucks and sipped endless hot chocolates with whipped cream and non-fat lattes while eating cinnamon rolls and brownies. (Don't ask me why I even bothered with the nonfat part of the lattes.)

Since I staked out a table with a couch in Starbucks for the most of the day, a steady stream of strangers, who were taking a break from skiing, asked me if they could share my table. They all seemed eager to talk. I guess big snow storms make people feel sociable. My first table mate was Steve, a friendly computer guy, who's wife was on bed rest expecting their second child. I heard the very sad tale of how they had lost their first son because he was born extremely prematurely. We bonded over tales of bed rest and anxiety, as I told him about the troubles my daughters had had with their pregnancies. Steve was very happy to meet Kenny and Lawrence who came bounding in periodically for snack money, all pink cheeked and the picture of health. I think their presence helped Steve believe a little bit more that all might end well with his wife's second pregnancy. We are in e-mail contact and I am eagerly awaiting for news of the birth of their daughter, whom they plan to name Sophia.

Steve went back out for a few runs and my conversation with my next table mate seemed normal enough until she blithely told me, " I have a dead dog in my car." My eyes shot up from the book I was trying to read and I was all ears. It seems her beloved, huge (part Great Dane) mutt had had a seizure the night before and had died before they could get him to the vet. She and her husband struggled to get the 100 plus pound seizing beast into the back of their station wagon, when he expired. She called her vet and asked if they could bring the dog's body in to have him cremated, but the vet 's office was closed for a few days due to the snow storm. After discussing the pros and cons of removing the dog's body, they decided it would be OK to leave it in the car since it was so cold outside. That morning her husband was able to dig out and go to work in their other car. She was overcome with sadness and decided to cheer herself up by going skiing. So she drove the station wagon with the dog's stiff, straight-legged body to the ski resort and parked it in the parking lot.

My immediate reaction was to be concerned that a parking lot attendant might spot the body and assume that some negligent pet owner had left a live animal in the car and it had frozen to death. But she assured me that she had covered him with his favorite blanket. After skiing she planned to drive over to an open space near Gettysburg, so he could visit, one last time, the field where he loved to run.

After the ski adventures, things have gradually started to return to normal. The kids are finally back in school and both Allyson and Joe have returned to work. But, my eating habits have not changed, and I have consumed a whole box of Girl Scout thin mints, purchased from Gabriela, and a half of a very good carrot cake, purchased from Kenny's school fund raiser. Fortunately, the school misplaced the banana cream pie I also ordered. (If it is in the school building, I assume they will find it when it starts to smell.)

I have, however, returned to exercise, even though it means walking up and down hills in my neighborhood on the street because lots of the side walks are still not cleared. I am stretching to get the kinks out from the hours I have spent on the couch watching the Olympics. It is great to be retired since I can stay up watching until after midnight every night and then sleep in each morning. During previous Olympics, I had to call in sick some days due to sleep deprivation.

So now, like most Washingtonians, I can't wait for Spring. I want to start jogging again, and hope my healthy eating habits will fall back into place too. It is about time for my annual physical, the first since my retirement, and I am hoping that, despite my many setbacks, I am healthier than last year. I certainly feel a lot better.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Swimming and Yoga

I have just returned from a mini holiday in Miami with Joe. We stayed in the Eden Roc hotel. I would recommend this hotel to anyone, but be sure to ask for a room in the new Ocean Tower, where every room faces the incredible ocean. I love Miami Beach primarily because of the color of the water. It is light turquoise and really feels like you are in the Caribbean. Even a few miles north in Fort Lauderdale, the water begins to turn blue gray, foreshadowing the blah color it will be when it reaches the shores of Maryland or points further north. The Eden Roc has four swimming polls that are kept at 88 degrees. I can imagine that in the summer months this might seem a bit warm, but in January it is heavenly.

In Maryland, we are having an unusually snowy winter. My wonderful daughter Rose agreed to house sit and care for our dogs, while we were gone. (Allyson was at her daughter's house because her granddaughter, Genevieve, was having a successful tonsillectomy). Joe kept taking photos from our balcony and e-mailing them home, until we got a message from the snowed-in Rose, "DO NOT SEND ANY MORE PHOTOS." Poor Rose suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so the photos of sunshine and water were just too much for her.

I made full use of all the warm water the hotel could offer. Each day I spent at least two hours submerged, swimming, and doing water walking forward, sideways, and backward. I stretched in the water and was incredibly limber because my joints were toasty warm. The odd thing for me is that when I am exercising in warm water, I totally loose track of time. Every other type of exercise makes me count the seconds until I can stop, but in the pool hours pass without me noticing. I think I enter a meditative-type state in which a lot of the conscious functions of my brain, including anxiety and the Executive Center function, finally shut off. It feels so good to be without thoughts, and only feel the water pressure against my body. I need to go to hot places frequently so I can enter this state of mind regularly.

When we got home there were several inches of new snow on the ground. I tired to go to the track with the boys before taking them to swim practice, but it had not been cleared and was covered with snow and ice. At home, Allyson suggested that we try yoga. Molly, Allyson's daughter, gave me a beginning yoga CD for Christmas. After struggling with three remote controls ( how I hate electronics), we managed to get it going. We selected the first section, "Poses." Although the two people on the CD were moving very slowly and calmly explaining the common mistakes people make in the beginning poses, I had a hard time doing the standing positions. My feet cramped and my legs shook, and I had to take frequent breaks. It is not only my weight that makes standing poses difficult, it is because my legs and feet naturally "turn-out" from the hip down and form a perfect first position for ballet class. I think they must have been molded in this position from all the horseback riding and ballet I did as a kid. So it is extremely uncomfortable for me to stand with my feet facing forward in a parallel position.

I did the best that I could, while complaining loudly to Allyson who ignored me, as she followed along with the CD with relative ease. Fortunately, the teacher on the CD began to show floor positions, and with gravity on my side, I did much better. I have a very straight back when I sit in on the floor and I can do most of the bending with ease. I did notice the right side of my spine, where I have osteo-arthritis is less flexible than my left, but other than that I did quite well. The CD ended with the teachers guiding us through several relaxation poses and guided breathing exercises. The room was quiet and the light was dim, and I found these very restful. When the CD ended, Allyson and I looked at each other and smiled. It had been a really good experience for both of us and we felt accomplished, relaxed and a little tingly in a good way. So now I am not only a jogger, I can also do yoga. Who knows what I will learn next?