(This blog covers events that took place in June 2005. I had broken my right femur and had just completed surgery and a stay at the hospital. Now, I was off to rehab. A whole new adventure awaited me. Although the "reason" is not entirely clear, it was assumed by some that the broken femur was perhaps caused by the cancer drugs I was taking. One drug was intended to strengthen the bones while another was known to weaken the bones. A real Catch 22! However, the break itself was "severe" per the surgeon. No matter what actually occurred -- and why I even broke my femur is obviously an aspect of this journey I would have preferred to never experience at all. As previously noted in my last blogs, the pain was horrific. Now that I had undergone surgery, I was finally able to see the pathway to recovery.)
Between recovering from surgery and the need to find a rehab center that could take me, my stay in the hospital was longer than anticipated. However, that day finally arrived. I would be going to a place in Orlando, very close to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando so that I could be driven, via van, to my treatments. I had already missed one cancer treatment session, so the social worker helping me to find a rehab center took that into consideration. She wanted to find a location where they not only had on site transportation for wheelchair bound patients, but I could get to treatments quickly, and with little time driving to and from. My new “home away from home” would be Terra Vista.
It was evening when I finally arrived at Terra Vista, (a combination nursing home and rehabilitation center) probably close to 7:30 p.m. I was exhausted from the experience and needless to say, it was quite a production getting me from the hospital to the rehab center. Not the actual ambulance ride -- that was okay. It was getting me from the hospital bed to the stretcher and then, from that to the rehab bed. Now that was a real production number and the medical personnel sent to assist me really had to work hard. I was terrified about getting from my bed to the stretcher that would take me to my “new temporary home” and away from the hospital that had been my home for more than a week. How in the world would they move me? I could not even imagine it.
I had been in the hospital bed for more than a week and was still in a great deal of pain. Fortunately, my nurse had given me a pain pill about 30 minutes prior to the arrival of the transport team, so it had time to kick in and begin working. At least, that was the intended plan... to hopefully minimize my pain during this move. Once I was on the stretcher and making my way from the room to the ambulance. I was finally outside for the first time since my accident and I enjoyed my quick moment in the warm, summer evening.
The ride was basically uneventful. My blood pressure was checked and I was asked if I was okay a few times. The bumpy roadway did not help much, but I managed to survive. A quick move over the railroad tracks, that just happened to be close to my new destination, proved painful but again, I survived. We were finally at the entrance to Terra Vista. My first real view of the place -- my very first vision or reaction -- “Oh my God! I’ve been sent here to die!” Why did I feel this way? After all, I knew I was on the road to recovery. I had just left the hospital and was now entering rehab, which was the next big step towards getting home. So, why my reaction? Why did I think I was dying?
The very first sighting I had from my vantage point (the stretcher) was a dark hallway, and a frail, tiny old woman slowly making her way through the corridor. I thought I was brought to a place where everyone was very old and well, perhaps, near death. Please understand, I rarely think like this. I have the greatest respect for my elders and I actually do not think of people as “old” -- it was just my state of mind. I was heavily drugged and all I could see was this little woman making her way past me holding a water bottle... she walked slowly, very slowly and was bent over so that she was looking at the floor and not where she was going. I truly thought they had made a big, huge mistake and had sent me to the wrong place. I was in an old-age home, I thought. Where was rehab?
Fortunately, getting out of the hospital was the first big step for me. The next, literally learning to walk again. Baby steps. That is how I looked at it. Each day, I would take another tiny step forward. Using the walker, and with the aide of my physical therapy team, I began taking tiny steps at each session. My first goal seemed almost impossible, but as silly as it sounds, getting out of bed (and no longer having to use a bedpan) was step number one. I hated using a bedpan, perhaps almost as much as having to lie in a bed all day long unable to move on my own. Freedom would be slow. I saw my goal. It was just inches from my bed but so far away. There stood a bedside commode. My first goal. To get out of bed and onto the commode. Okay, so it was not the actual toilet. That was much further away and to get there, I needed to be more ambulatory. But to use the commode, all I needed to do was to learn how to slowly get myself up in bed, turn to the side, reach and pull my self up with the walker, and slowly turn and pivot in the direction of the commode. A few basic moves and I would be on my newest “seat of honor.” Gravity would make this “aspect of being human” easier for me and for the staff. After all, if I were sitting on the commode, well.. you get the idea.