Sunday, March 1, 2015

Working Towards Homecoming

I got the walkway down to pavement today.  The trek into the house is what worries me the most and that meant I had to break through a lot of ice.  Home Depot was out of ice melt and the greeter cheerily told me "hope for spring!"  Idiot.  It's not something you go out to buy on a lark.  Luckily I was able to get a 25 pound bag at Tops.  I went in there to get whole grain frozen waffles.  They are my comfort food.  There have been plenty of nights in the past week where I got home exhausted and had no time for a real meal and had to just get stuff done and get to bed.  Waffles to the rescue.  If I feel I am in a low-sugar grump, I eat them with almonds, chia seeds, butter and maple syrup.  For breakfast, it's been with blueberries and vanilla yogurt.

Today I was able to make a fresh fruit salad for TBG along with a liverwurst and cheese sandwich.  The food at the facility is almost uneatable.  He is working hard and I want him to eat healthy fresh food.

Many have been after me to get a seat for the bathroom and I hesitated because our tub is so small.  I found this one at Goodwill for seven bucks.  It probably is too big but I'll see if TBG can use it.  For that price, it's not such a big deal if it doesn't work out.

Poor guy is gunning to be home and wants so much to be released tomorrow but I think he needs at least another day.  His roommate is a challenge.  Either he's moaning and whining all night that he's dying, or his friends are visiting and they are all laughing and carrying on.  On Friday, one woman mentioned how she'd been really sick and in the bathroom the day and night before.  Great, bringing germs in.  And they bough in a big greasy pizza.  The pizza apparently gave roommate explosive results and it soiled the bathroom.  This kept TBG up all night as the guy was also moaning that he was in horrible pain.  Nobody cleaned up the bathroom until the morning.

I am taking on all personal cleaning responsibilities for my husband because no one on staff has time to do it.  Granted, this is also part of his OT therapy, but he can't clean himself up completely and there is no help for him but me.

His roommate (who had been in the room already when TBG was admitted) has a broken foot and a couple of pins and doesn't seem to be able to do anything unassisted -- so he calls for help constantly and then complains when it takes time.  Tommy is getting up and taking himself to the bathroom and making sure to keep up with that so he can do it himself at home.  He still has to take a wheel chair to rehab and can't walk freely.

Our new neighbor stopped me today to give me his phone number and told me I should call if I need help. His fiance lives in the house too and she is studying to be a nurse.  While the PT is good at this place, I'm afraid if Tommy stays there much longer, he will get sick.

Once he is home I am writing the Catholic Health Care system to complain.  I do not blame the staff because they are trying very hard but there just is not enough of them.   At this point, it is not worth it to get a transfer.  I wanted to do that the first day but we couldn't even imagine where to begin to get that cleared with insurance and how much extra authorizations, etc., would be involved.  One lesson we learned is never agree to use a facility until you have visited it.  Hopefully, we will not be in this spot again for a very long time!


Saturday, February 28, 2015

One of the Knees

I took a picture of TBGs right knee.  I hope this doesn't gross anyone out -- but I think it looks good.  The right knee was in the worst condition.  The nurse changing his bandages today told me that the smaller staples are from where they put a scope in.

It's nice to be able to visit on a weekend day because I got in first thing and helped him get cleaned up.  Tonight I helped him in the bathroom again.  The nurses told me he is doing great and he's their hottest patient -- well, OK, he's the youngest too so maybe that has something to do with it.  I have been told that for a person with a double replacement, that he's doing very well.  PT has helped and he can handle stairs.  That was the most important part of him being able to come home.

I went to CVS today and picked up more bandages and tape.  Being as frugal as I am, it was nice to find that there was a sale for BO-1/2 off.  With a $10 off $40 and $4 of Extra Care bucks, the sale helped me a lot.  My discount Mojo had to be working pretty good because I was also able to get five trays of marked down chicken backs for the pup.

A friend gave me a walker and then remembered his mother had a second one.  That's great because I wanted one for upstairs and downstairs.  The health aids I ordered on-line through Walmart should be here soon too.  I went to Amvet's to see if I could find a shower seat but had no luck.  I actually think he will be fine with the suction grab bar I ordered.  I am glad I ordered the small peddling device.  He has used one for his arms in PT and that knocked him out the first time (at six minutes) and he did more today (12 minutes) plus they have him on a bike.  So that will get some good use once he's at home.   He also gets to keep the cold water/ice compression pumps.  His sister sent him two big wrap around ice packs and a book to read.

I am now quite encouraged about how things are going.  He has worked hard and never complains about his condition.  The transfer to rehab was very hard on him but the work his PT has done with him has made so much of a difference that we both know we are on the way up.

I brought him coffee from Tim Horton's this morning and will do the same tomorrow -- it's his favorite coffee.  I'm also going to bring him lunch.  I think that will be a liverwurst sammich and potato salad.  Of all the meals he gets, breakfast is the least offensive.  I am lucky to have so many people who read the blog that keep my spirits up.  His family is great too.  His next oldest sister calls and sends him stuff and wants to know everything.  His honorary "Little Sister" -- his bike buddy, calls him and makes him laugh.  Our friends in town have been great -- especially our buddy who has the walkers for us.  We are just very lucky people and having a caring support network both on-line, on the phone, and in town means we never have to feel we are alone.

This surgery was tough but I am so glad we did it.  I see much more progress occurring at a fast pace and am looking forward to seeing my bionic husband in action soon!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Rehab is Working...

Well, TBG's facility might be rough around the edges and severely understaffed, but he's got a good PT and made great progress today.   Also, since our Primary Care medical practice has privileges at the affiliated hospital and are a few blocks away, one of the physicians checked on him today. It was nice to actually have a doctor familiar with his medical history check on him. 

His wound looks good.  It seems he raises a fever every night and they need to remember to keep him on Tylenol for that.  It would seem he might be home Monday or Tuesday if he can achieve a 90 degree bend of both knees.  In order to obtain a full and healthy way of walking, he has to remaster the entire task.  The PT doesn't think he's actually straightened or locked his knees for a very long time and with his new set, that is something he has to learn to do.

I helped him hobble to the bathroom and it was hard work.  He had two PT sessions today and one OT session and they worked him hard.  This was something he did not mind and I could see a real turn-around in his spirits and his ability to move.  Mentally, the place is tough.  He calls his room "My Own Private Idaho," as his roommate is somewhat strange old guy who normally lives in a group home (probably has most of his adult life) and has a lot of his group home friends over to visit. When his friends aren't there, he talks almost non-stop.  TBG's television is broken and no one seems to remember to deal with that.  David has his set on all day and I think Tommy has had his fill of "Judge Judy" and "Wheel of Fortune."  But then again, that is a tolerance level easy to exceed.

The thing is, this is the reality of skilled care -- with the lack of funding and facilities and the low wages paid to workers, this rough around the edges facility is going to be the norm, not an oddity in the next decade or so as more people age into their population.  With more people becoming insured, providing better quality health care will hopefully be possible because less patients will default on their bills -- but it won't be enough if young people are not encouraged to pursue health related jobs. However, if those jobs don't pay well and the required schooling becomes prohibitively expensive, not much is going to improve.  The PT TBG has is in his 40's, well skilled and doing a good job. Even if his facility is short on everything, this is a person who has a skill, trade, talent and ability and is helping people while providing a living for him.  Health care professions, IMO, can help the dwindling number of people considered "middle class" in this country and they can also provide a good educational pathway for those who are just starting out.  I really hope that something is done so that the health facilities people in my age group will have to rely are staffed and maintained at a higher level. 

The people taking care of Tommy are very nice and working very hard.  It's too bad there aren't more of them and they aren't higher paid.  But at least he is getting better!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rehab

TBG made it to rehab having gotten there by a local transport van service.  He is running a slight fever but ate dinner and resigned himself to being in a "facility."  I would love to report he is happy there but he can't wait to get out because he is about 30 years younger than everyone else and it isn't the most modern building.  He chose it for my convenience and that was nice of him, so he'll just have to over look the less than luxurious amenities.  As long as they have therapists who can work him, that will be fine.  I can also spend a lot of time with him this weekend.  If his first meal was any indication, I'll need to bring him a few extra meals or snacks to keep his spirits and energy level up.

As for his doctor's questions after surgery, he was wondering if TBG was ever diagnosed with gout as that can make arthritis worse.  I guess he was wondering because his knees were so bad.  That was never mentioned to him at all and he didn't have any of the typical symptoms for it.  I just think he had cruddy knees and having a blue collar job beat them up all the more.  We'll find out more when he goes back to have the staples out.  Apparently, he has many nasty scars and lots of staples to remove.

Again, I want to say that the kinds words of encouragement and thoughtful comments from everyone have made a difference.  I am optimistic that he will heal well but it won't be a snap.  As long as I have a way to get him upstairs when he gets home, that will be a good start.  We don't have a bathroom on the first floor so I hope I can let him stay upstairs with a cooler of food and other supplies.  Going in, his doctor made it sound a lot simpler and we wanted to think of it in a positive light.  Now we just have to keep that up even though we are at the tough part.  I have to admit that the worst part about it was that when I got to the facility, I thought of it being just the type of place my mom used to stay in.  One medicare, I expected her facilities to be a little less than lush, but I guess that is the way a lot of rehab facilities are.  We did not plan ahead and so there was no shopping around.  My main job now is to keep his spirits up.   Besides, the type of person you are is not best judged when everything is going well, it's the type of person you are when things are tough.  This is a tough spot for him but he'll get through it and be better for it too.

A couple of months from now, I plan to take a really long nap!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Rehab Bound...

I am so fortunate to have so many people willing to give me the support and advice I need -- I appreciate all of the comments!

TBG came to to conclusion that he needs rehab.  His doctor is against it, saying that our area sends more patients to rehab than any other region in the country and he doesn't like that.  That is all well and good, but that does not mean Tommy is in the percentage who go and don't need it.  He really feels he does not have the strength and mobility he needs to be safe at home.  Unlike many patients, he doesn't have a wife at home to help during the day.  His wife is also terrified to help him walk into the house over ice and snow with the lack of stability he has at this point.  So this is a relief all of the way around -- but it is good that he made the decision on his own.  His PTs thought he needed it too.

One really good thing is that the PT facility is only a couple of blocks from the house.  It will not be as much of a struggle for me to get there every night.  He has been booked for 5 - 7 days.  This will be a better choice than in-home therapy because we don't have a bathroom on the main floor and the one we do have is too small for him to get in and out of with a walker or crutches.  That would mean that I'd be on commode duty (heh, that is a pun...).

Regardless of what is ahead of him now, two serious problems are now behind him.  His surgeon said that what he saw when he opened him up was pretty bad and there are a few things he wants to follow up on going forward to be sure there is not some underlying cause that led to such a severe condition.  So, even if he's got a dictatorial bedside manner, he knows his stuff.  The nurses and PT people have been great too.  We are so glad we did both at once because neither one of us would want to go through this again.

As a result, I'm going to work tomorrow and he'd be transported to the facility.  I'll visit him after work and then take a day off next week to bring him home.  He also has an appointment next week to have his staples removed.  While I have not seen them for myself, I've been told that there is a one foot scar down the front of both his knees so he's going to have quite a road map on his body if you combine these with the scars from previous scopes and his hernia.  Luckily we have lots of Bio-Oil on hand!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Day Two

It was so nice to get so many positive comments yesterday!  I apologize for not being able to respond but I am swamped and now looking forward to bed.

TBG walked around a bit today.  He has toyed with the idea of rehab but I think it's because the first day is so tough.  If he wants to go I am fine with that. The weather this week is supposed to be bad and that will make it scary getting him into the house.

I realize when he's laid up how much I depend on him.  He pays the bills and mails everything.  Nothing is convenient to me now that I am a rail commuter.  I'd gotten home from seeing him and made some dinner only to realize the weather was beginning to look nasty out and I had bills to mail but no stamps.  Not figuring I'd have extra time tomorrow if I had to do any snow removal, I got in the car, got stamps at CVS and dropped the envelopes into the mailbox outside the post office (inconveniently closed at 9PM).  One of the envelopes was the disability paperwork his doctor's office must complete.  That is as important (if not more so) than any bill!

After cleaning up, making lunch for tomorrow, snacking the pup, combing her and washing up, I am ready for bed.  My guess is I'll have to shovel in the morning but I am hoping not!  I've also got a busy day at work tomorrow. 

I am hoping Tommy is more  mobile and feeling better about things.  Having had the surgery, he is super glad he chose to do both at the same time.  It has made him feel less mobile, but I think he'll do well regardless.  It sure is hard not having him around to take care of business -- and it's only been two days!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Knees are In...

TBG had his surgery and it went well.  It was a long day!

He was admitted at 5:30, in surgery at 7:30, into Recovery at 12:30 and in a room around 2:30.  They are keeping him medicated once he starts feeling pain but everything went really well.

The plan was for him to get out of bed and sit for an hour at 4PM.  He got out with the help of two nurses and did very well as far as movement goes.  The problem was that he still had so much anesthesia in him that his blood pressure plummeted and he had to get back into bed.

The nurses have already told him he's their best knee replacement patient yet -- and that's a feat since he had a double done.  Of course it's because he is calm and polite.  I married a nice boy who never gets grumpy with anyone.

Just because I keep getting told by friends and family that nobody with a bi-lateral replacement ever goes right home, I asked his doctor who told me to stop listening to anyone but him.  I'm fine with that!  If TBG does what he's supposed to (and he always does), there should be no problem with going straight home on Thursday.  Once at home, if he does well, he won't have to sign up for out-patient rehab.  With his motivation, exercise knowledge and access to a fitness facility, I think we'll be fine at home.  I can take him to the gym with me a couple of nights a week after work and he can do gentle cycling and pool walking. He can do walking and easy leg exercises at home on his own.  He doesn't plan to sit on his butt and eat bon-bons.

Well, I have had a long day and my neglected pup wants some love. I'll have a few puppy cuddles and hit the sack.  Thanks to all for the well wishes and prayers -- it all helps!