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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hospital Beds

I've seen more Hospital Beds in the past few months than I ever dreamed I would see in my life. I don't remember waking up after the accident; I merely swum in a morphine haze. Slowly it dawned on me what was going on: I wasn't just injured in a temporary sense, I couldn't move my legs at all! Still it didn't really hit. It was too early, there was too much still going on, and everyone talked about the healing effects of time. This may be true but it means very little for someone in that situation. It didn't really sink in for some time.

I was in University of Maryland Shock-Trauma for about a week. They put plates in both my arms, my left forearm and my right bicep, fixing the break in place so that soon I'd be able to bear weight on my arms and use them in physical therapy. My back had a rod and several pins to stabilize my spine. I was all set for a stay in a rehab hospital. They picked me up off the hospital bed and drove me in an ambulance to the my next destination, Kernan Rehab Hospital. They wheeled me in and I found myself in another bed, different but very much the same.

Kernan Hospital is an extensive rehab hospital with an extensive spinal cord rehab floor. It had two beds to a room, so for the first time I had a roommate. He was about my age and had ended up worse than myself by wrestling around with a friend, when suddenly he had a break in his neck. He had been there some time and had gone from virtually nothing to moving his arms and legs a fair bit. I was already ahead of him as far as movement in my upper body since my injury was much lower on my spine. I began to use my arms for pulling myself around, using the rails on either side of the bed, helping with the few tasks that I could. I was at the point where I needed help with every aspect of my care. Your pride and modesty has to be put aside when someone is looking at your bare ass 10 times a day. When there is so little in your control, being able to roll was a small trophy of power.

Rehab at Kernan pushed me, forced me exert myself harder than I had in years. They're team of PT and OT therapists who try and keep their patients motivated which they were mildly successful at. Though they tried their best, they were limited by the fact that they only saw us 3 hours a day (I heard someone saw this was an insurance thing). I spent a lot of my day in my bed, simply because it was far more comfortable than my wheelchair. The chair was a high quality chair but if you can barely move, any chair feels terribly after not too long.

Sooner than I expected I got my arms back. I was cleared to use them to put weight on, which you need to do any real function movement. I began wheeling myself around and I learned to start transferring out of my bed with the aid of a transfer board (nothing more than a plank to help me slide from one to the other) and a nurses aid or two. I was beginning to see a possible future with my arms. My legs still hadn't done anything but through various struggles I saw that I could have a life using my arms. Then I broke my right arm again.

Strictly speaking I rolled on my arm. I had just learned how to roll again and was told to roll on my stomach in PT one of my first weekends. I didn't move my arm out of the way of my roll fast enough, getting caught underneath my body. I immediately went from a 1 to a 6 on my pain scale (to anyone who hasn't spent significant time in a hospital, everybody measures pain on a scale from 1 to 10). Therapy got stopped because I'd injured myself and I was moved back to my bed. I have a lot of memories that involve sitting in bed in pain and staring up at the ceiling. I nursed my injured arm, which hurt like hell. It was the next Monday morning I lifted my arm to see how much my arm and shoulder had healed over the weekend. It was then I heard a loud SNAP and my pain was now an 8.

When they eventually did an X-ray, they found that they screws holding the plate onto the bone had snapped; the screws were most likely in too tight, which caused the heads of the screws to pop off. The snap that I heard was the last screw popping off.

More surgery, more hospital beds. Better yet, when I got back to Kernan with a newly fixed arm they started using a lift to get me out of bed. Not only had I lost my arm but I had lost the limited mobility. Best yet, they were getting rid of me! Having decided that I was now pretty much useless for a while, they stuck decided I was better suited to being in a nursing home while my arm healed.

That's how I ended up in a nursing home bed, this one looking over a courtyard; but the name change didn't help make a bed any less confining. Fate seems to play with me and my mobility. They managed to find me a power chair so I could wheel myself around, though it still took two people to get me out of bed every morning. I won't dwell on my experience there in this post (it was alright, but it was a trying time). I'll simply say I improved and I finally got weight bearing on my arms back. Due largely to the suggestions of my parents, I didn't go back to Kernan. I instead went to Kennedy Krieger, rehab/research hospital connected with John's Hopkins. Though they were primarily a pediatric hospital, they had one of the best spinal cord programs in the country.

Now this is what I mean by fate playing with my mobility. When I arrived at Kennedy Krieger, they put me on a motorized air mattress. This type of mattress is meant for those with severe movement impairments; the air stops patients from developing bed sores. It is only after this dire omen that my story starts turning positive. I starting moving and working from the moment I got there. The therapists wanted me out of bed and active as much as possible. Now in an environment that pushes me and strives to make me mobile and independent, I'm thriving.

This is where I am today. I am in my final weeks here as inpatient, already biting at the bit to get to my aunt and uncle's, where I will be staying for my outpatient work. My mom is looking around for a twin bed, the bed that will hopefully be my last for a while. But that bed will be different; whereas many of the beds I have been in have been meant to live in, a temporary resting place, this one will at last only be for sleep.

1 comment:

  1. Peter, I am so proud of all the work you have done to get as far as you have. There are many people out there that would have given up on life and waste away their years, time, and sanity. You are already more than half-way there, no not like the song.