Crutches, Canes, Walkers, and Wheelchairs

Sunday, August 31, 2014

It has been a little too long since my last post, and I have been feeling rather guilty about it. A lot has happened, so I will cover a few bullet points before getting to my main topic today.
  • My husband finally made the switch away from narcotics. This is a huge step, because the side effects were becoming unbearable for both of us, and now we don't have folks breathing down our necks about dependence.  We were getting frustrated with how people perceive pain management, especially the physicians who prescribe the medications,  and overall I think everyone involved is much happier. I won't go into detail with this other than to say that narcotics usually make for unhappy relationships all around because of the stigma and stereotyping that necessarily follows it's use. 
  • I got a new job! I gave my 30-day notice to my current employer, so it is safe to post here. While I will miss my current job and working alongside my wonderful coworkers, this new position is a major step forward in my career and will ensure that I can support my husband after he takes that tenuous step back into the civilian world (whenever that times comes).
  • We nearly bought a house (we even had mutual acceptance on the offer), but we hit some snags with him still being active duty while being significantly injured when applying for the VA loan. A bit of wisdom to seekers in our same boat: make sure you can either re-enlist or have an employer lined up on the civilian side who can vouch for your income potential. Otherwise, they will consider it bad faith. I still spy on our would-be home to see if it is active, which it is, and that little twinge in my heart hasn't faded yet, but we hope to try again whenever we get word on what comes next in January.
  • Back to steps: my husband walked four feet without any support or assistive (I promise it is a word) devices this week!
On that last note, let me fill you in on what's been happening since my last post and what has changed in our household. 

My husband made the transition to walking boots some time ago, and while the rough date escapes me, I remember our awe at how technologically - advanced these things appeared at the time. They have little wells of air embedded into the structure that can be inflated for support and deflated to accommodate swelling. They consist of molded plastic,  velcro,  and heavy-duty padding. In a word, they appear stupendous. Unfortunately, much like the wheelchair fiasco we dealt with, we have encountered the same issues of breakage with these boots. We have now been through two pairs, and we are getting ready to go back for our third set.

Mind you, my husband is not purposely beating up on his supports and assistive devices, but I am beginning to notice a trend that these sorts of devices are prone to breakage or malfunction. We actually met someone yesterday who encountered the same issues with her various hand-operated wheelchairs listing heavily to the left. What gives? 

Just this week, my husband finally received a "scrip" (prescription) for forearm crutches (there is a fancy name that not even the physicians can remember - one point for the physical therapy team on this one) and a walker. On top of that, my husband had a moment of confidence to order a cane to his liking about a month ago. Can you envision now what our two bedroom apartment looks like with all of these devices taking up spare nooks and crannies? Let's count them, simply for the fact that I haven't yet and I am truly curious what sort of metal and plastic army we have brewing in our home.
  • Two regular crutches
  • Two forearm crutches
  • Wheelchair with advanced inflatable cushion
  • Walker
  • Cane
Quite a bit of assisting happening here, right? The good news about all of this assistance is that it means it is time for my husband to wean from the boots. Granted everyone keeps making a huff about how this has been too long in coming,  but I think they forget he only started walking about 3-4 months ago,  and not eight. Time does tricky things to memory and mathematical skills. 

Sorry, that was a little snarky, I admit. It's not even that our frustrations are high, so it was mostly unwarranted, too. We have truly seen a lot of improvement in his mobility, his attitude, his memory, his emotional well-being...the list really goes on. Only, I think a case of countertransference is happening with our providers. They seem frustrated even while they remind us that a dual injury takes time. 

I think my biggest takeaway today is that a) assistive devices ha
ve the propensity to be poorly made so be mindful of quality, especially if you sail the private pay boat, and b) it's good to remind yourself of the progress that has been made, rather than what's left to be made. 

Another positive moment for us last month occurred when Jeff took his first photograph standing at the Chihuly Glass Garden while his mother was out to visit. It was a very happy moment for us all, and quite a shock too! The last photo I have of him prior to his accident was at his Naval graduation two months prior to his accident.




Yuppers, that us! As you can see, after all of the appointments this weekend, we also found time to make it to PAX for a little holiday stay-cation. Many thanks to the teams that helped us obtain medical badges and provide Jeff with an opportunity for some much-needed emotional boosting. I can already see the motivation and inspiration brewing in him, and after the last few weeks of physical therapy, I think it is just the scrip he has needed.

It has been interesting, though, not to mention exhausting, navigating a 7000+ person expo with a wheelchair, but people have been accommodating for the most part. I will say that the average person is entirely unaware of their body or the space around them when they are excited, and even when they are not so excited. So if you follow along with us at all and this blog makes you ponder your own interactions with the differently abled community, take time to conduct an experiment on yourself. Try to find out how much you notice about the physical world around you and whether you notice people with disabilities before or after they have crossed your path.

We often talk about what we may have missed before our encounter with a life filled with assistive devices. Mind you, it is a necessity for us now so there is no avoiding the reality of it, but it has opened our eyes. I hope that we never forget the perspective it has granted us. For now, we simply try to make the most efficient and safe use of our time so that we can accomplish our goals and still enjoy our lives.

Thanks for following along and hip hip hop ah for two photos of him standing!  

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