Home at Last

This is the 15th in a series of articles about my recent trip to the emergency room, my intestinal surgery, and my recovery afterwards. Here is an index to all of the articles in this series.

The next morning Dr. Davis was in very early in pronounced me fit to go home. He told me to call and make an appointment in his office in about a week. Dr. Swinney had also asked me to make a follow-up appointment.

The next question was how to get home. I had only been sitting up in my wheelchair one time and that was not a very good experience. My back brace had not fit properly and I had had overnight pain were the brace rubbed me. I was worried if I sat up in the wheelchair and tried to go home in our van that I would have some problem halfway home and be in real trouble.

We decided it was best if I went by ambulance. The patient liaison in the hospital may be arrangements to get Rural-Metro Ambulance to pick me up. As you’ve seen in previous installments I’m always hopeful I will hit it off with some good-looking female EMT. I ended up with a very friendly male EMT writing in the back with me and a gregarious but married female EMT driving. My mom rode along with us and dad drove the van. The only reason Mom rode along is so she could unlock the door to our house in case the ambulance got there before the van did.

I bid farewell to my friend Cory who had been my caregiver three out of four of the last days I was there as well as other nurses. I was very glad to be out of there but I was already counting the days until I would return to have the colostomy reversed.

The trip was uneventful. As they wheeled the gurney down the hallway of my house towards my bedroom the lady driver noticed all the computers in my office. She gave me her e-mail address and asked me to send her a joke. I warned her that the last time a female EMT asked me to contact her that I ended up dating her. That was when this one told me she was married and her husband frowned upon her dating patients. Oh well… maybe next time.

It was ironic that I rode home in an ambulance because I couldn’t sit up in my wheelchair in the first thing I did when I got home was to try to sit up in the wheelchair. However if I got in trouble I would be able to get back in bed immediately. The brace still didn’t fit properly but it did better than it had in my previous attempt a few days prior in the hospital.

Once sitting up, my arms were extremely stiff and I could barely move my hands. There was no way I could get my right arm into position to drive the wheelchair. Mom pushed me into the living room in front of my HDTV which never looked better. I ate lunch consisting of my usual tuna fish sandwich, potato chips and a Coke in front of the TV. I picked out a program from my DVR that I had previously recorded. I don’t remember exactly what it was that I think it was an IMAX movie converted to HDTV. I just wanted to see something big and spectacular on my 42 inch Sony. It was wonderful!

Then I had Mom push me into the office and position me in front of the computer. I have a homemade boom microphone made out of an old luxo swing arm lamp and a broken apart Plantronics headset. I never realized how critical my positioning in front of the microphone was to be able to use the voice control on my computer. When I’m driving my own wheelchair and I’m not positioned properly I just move the chair a little bit. It must be a subconscious adjustment because when it wasn’t right, I had difficulty telling Mom or Dad how to reposition the chair to get in the right place.

The first thing I did was write an e-mail to several friends telling them I was home and was doing OK. I next sent an e-mail to Father Larry and the rest of the RCIA team telling them that in all likelihood I would not be able to teach my usual lessons starting in September. At that point I was still uncertain if I could wear my brace over the colostomy bag over a long-term basis. I was facing a real possibility that over the next three months I might only be able to be out of bed for a few hours at a time. I also still had no idea why my brace was fitting so poorly and how long it might be (if ever) that I would regain use of my arm to drive my wheelchair again.

Someday I really will lose the remaining use of right arm. They make motorized wheelchairs that work with a mouth control. I’ve been reluctant to look into them because I don’t want to give up using my right arm. However the only other thing I use that arm for is typing on the computer and I’m doing less and less of that all of the time. In fact the weekend I spent the Lake just prior to my emergency trip to the hospital, I forgot to pack the little metal stand that I used to hold my laptop keyboard. I had spent the entire weekend using my laptop with nothing but voice control. I guess I was just trying to convince myself that if my arm never did recover that I would be OK.

After a couple of hours I was getting very tired and lay down again. I had a backlog of movies and TV shows on tape that I could watch in bed. The thing I did most that first day home from the hospital was I peed about a gallon throughout the day. Apparently spending a week on IV fluids had me extremely over hydrated. Later in the day when I got back up again to eat supper my brace fit a little better and my arm was more limber. I was beginning to realize that the overhydration was about 90% of my problem. It was like a brace wouldn’t fit, my arm and fingers didn’t bend and in general everything was out of whack.

I did finally get my right arm propped up into my driving position and I was able to drive my wheelchair a little bit that evening.

Over the next several days I gradually regained some strength but it took a couple of weeks to get back to normal 100%. Once I got rid of all the excess water I actually had the opposite problem in that I had lost weight and the brace was now fitting too loose rather than too tight.

We did some experimenting with trying to put some foam padding around the colostomy to protect it from too much pressure from the back brace but in the end we concluded it was not necessary it actually made me more uncomfortable.

In the next installment I leave you with a cliffhanger…

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