Friday, November 4, 2011

Rehab is My New Exercise Program

(This blog pertains to experiences that happened in July/August 2005.) 
I spent two full months in the rehab center, watching most people who arrived after me, leave before me. Those with knee or hip replacements were long gone before me. Apparently, as I would discover, insurance carriers have their own idea of how long rehab takes. That is, if a patient has undergone knee replacement surgery, Medicare allows three weeks of in-house rehab. After that, the patient goes home. As someone with a broken femur, I was in a class by myself. There was no time line for recovery and rehab. The staff at Terra Vista needed to make sure I could fully function on my own before they set me free. I had to be able to walk to the bathroom on my own, with a walker. I also had to be able feed to go to the kitchen and prepare a basic meal and take it to the table to eat on my own. Since I could not count on someone always being at home with me, they had to be sure I was self sufficient before sending me home. That took extra time and work. But it was worth it, even if it did mean more time away from home and family. There were moments I did become depressed by the long time away from home. This was far from an easy experience. 
When I finally left, I was given a script for a home health aide and eventually outpatient therapy. All part of the process to my getting better. Each step had challenges. But, again, I was determined to reach every new goal I put before myself. Once home, I wanted to get around better, so I did my PT with gusto. When I graduated to outpatient PT, I had other goals. To drive again. To walk stairs. To move faster and steadier. All within reason. Every goal attainable, with practice. Tiny, baby steps. I took one and moved forward.
When I finally was sent home, I was now living in a small two bedroom apartment in Sanford, FL. It was on the first floor so fortunately, I had no steps to deal with. The home health aide came several times a week, helping me with bathing and other personal hygiene activities. My physical therapist worked with me on a regular basis as well, either in my bedroom (doing a variety of exercises and movements to strengthen my legs) or taking me outside for walks once I was able to move about better and was more confident with my walker.  The whole idea was to get me out of the house and eventually, onto outpatient physical therapy. It was a long road -- with many twists and turns.
Damn. Nearly a year after I broke my right femur, I was still having physical challenges. I could hardly walk steps, and if I wanted to get myself back to where I was before, I needed to do be able to walk stairs. So, with a script from my doctor, I entered back into physical therapy where the emphasis was on learning to climb steps and simply increase my overall strength. I did a great deal of work on the stationary bike and lucky for me, the PT center I chose had a water rehab program. I was able to begin water therapy. Being inside this unit, where water temperatures were 98 degrees (body temp) meant an environment that was safe, comfortable and easy for me to handle. I enjoyed my sessions and began feeling better and stronger almost immediately. My therapist was pleased with my progress and suggested I look into other options, since my time with her would be limited.
Directly across the street from the PT office was the Oviedo YMCA.  I had known about this facility for a long time. I had watched it being built and knew of it when it first opened as a private health and wellness center. The indoor pool was one of its finest features -- heated and available for use year-round. I took myself across the street to check it out. That meant, walking over with my walker. I was using a Hugo walker - one with four wheels and a seat, if needed. Taking my time, I made my way over to the Y. 
Fortunately for me, they offered a great deal. At the time, I had an insurance program that would allow me to join a Y. So, I signed up for membership, and after my PT ended, I began water fitness classes. Trust me, as much as I enjoyed being in the water, it was not easy. Those first few sessions were tough. Just getting myself in and out of the pool was an endeavor, but actually working out. Exhausting. The classes were 60 minutes and I could barely make it, but I knew that I needed this type of exercise if I was to get back the use of my legs. Being in the water made certain exercises much easier -- and the stress on my hips, knees, etc... so much less than being on dry land. 
Yes, the water therapy was good for me and I knew it. I just had to be persistent and keep attending classes. So, I set a goal of going twice weekly. Those sessions were long and difficult at first. I really felt weak. There I was, in my mid-50s and I was the baby of the classes. Most of the men and women in the water fitness program were 20 to 30 years older. But, they quickly became my friends and my greatest supporters. They were there to cheer me on, one small step at a time. And, when the time came, I was able to cheer others on who found themselves in similar situations. Water therapy is often prescribed for patients after knee or hip surgery, so the classes were often a haven for individuals just out of surgery, recent outpatient therapy and who were now ready for the next step. 
Personally, I was ready to make “giant” steps into the future. 

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