I had my full activity session at Physical Therapy today. I did my stretches, got strapped into the gait belt, and did a series of single leg stability exercises under the supervision of the computer’s measurements.
Then we headed to the zero-G treadmill. I was advised to make my feet and pants have contrast. So, I wore my bright green shoes, my purple polka-dot knee socks, and my black-and-white cat leggings from Purr Haus in Emmaus.
He chuckled while remarking that I certainly followed directions.
The Zero-G treadmill required some rubbery pants surrounded by what resembles a surgical/Elizabethan collar (cone of shame) that get zipped into a treadmill pretty much encased in plastic. When it filled with air, it reduced my body weight. I was able to walk the treadmill at 50% of my body weight.
The reason for contrast is that the treadmill offers an image of your feet. Three views on a monitor: front, side and back. So I was able to watch my feet, move my legs, angle my feet and reinforce the improved gait pattern by watching it as I walked.
I was only on the treadmill for 15 minutes, but it that time I discovered what part of my foot I normally don’t use. It was exhausting– and exhilarating– and so fun to show the Teenager the results when I got home.
But before I got home though I had an appointment to have my stitches out and on my goodness did I have the most personable and confident resident yet. I only had three stitches but that last one gave her a terrible time. It took her thirty minutes to get all of them out. I had her laughing and she was very patient and determined, and so afraid she was going to hurt me because “if it were me I’d be jumping out of my seat!”
She said I was the best patient ever, that I sat so still and I must have a high pain tolerance.
Between the two appointments, I stopped at Dunkin for a decaf coffee and saw they had a new “egg taco.” I read the nutritional info and with 500 mg of sodium, 180 calories and 8 grams protein, it had less salt and more protein and less calories than the avocado toast. I am so sad they no longer have the hummus.
When I got home, I did some little things and ate the homemade chicken and dumplings my Pennsylvania Dutch mother-in-law is known to deliver when people in the family are sick. And then I tried to take a nap, but a little birdie was guarding me.
Here I am, looking less exhausted and beaten. My scabs were flaking off and healing nicely but some of them cracked today (vigorous chewing? It happened at lunch time) and started bleeding. I’m still impressed at how quickly the body can heal, but these stitches feel like flies on my face.
I left the house early today to visit Koch 33 Collision. In early February, a work colleague’s car happened to give mine a love bite on the entrance ramp of 22– this was early on in the days of my unknown cardiac troubles when the symptoms were starting to show. I remember not because my heart had anything to do with that situation but because I joked about minor car accidents just adding more stress to my life. The estimate will cost less than $1500, hopefully the insurance companies can agree to that.
When I came home, I made myself my first cup of coffee for the day. I have slowly been changing my morning coffee habit into a morning water habit, unless my blood pressure is low, then I go ahead and make the coffee (which my occupational therapist at hand rehab thought was hysterical).
“What?” I said. “This is my first week on this medication and my blood pressure has been low when I have to take it. They don’t know what caused my a-fib, so I can’t skip the dose, but I also can’t take a beta blocker with a blood pressure of 97/56.”
Today my blood pressure was perfect so no coffee.
The neurologist’s office called and moved my appointment up a week from 4/4 to 3/30. I mentioned the report from the physical therapist should be in my chart, and that the news looked good, and that my body had adjusted to the beta blocker so my blood pressure and my blood sugar seemed to be stabilizing.
Gayle had promised me a new graphic every week I made it without a fall. Unfortunately, I was on day seven when the last fall occurred so I never earned it. But today is day eight. So I definitely made it seven days. And I display my new badge proudly.
I worked on Larry Sceurman’s short story “The Vanity Demon” for his upcoming anthology, Coffee in the Morning. I’ve reached the point in the editing schedule where I should edit one story a day to kick back to Larry for final tweaks before sending to Gayle for layout.
Speaking of stories and Larry Sceurman, Gayle, Nan and I spoke to the Apex Writers Group last night on Zoom, about 21 people attended our presentation. The participants seemed most interested in book construction, so Larry’s book, The Death of Big Butch, allowed us to show how we used text and book design to reinforce the nostalgic feel of the 1970s.
I also received my latest copy of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group newsletter, which included my first official “Podcasts for Writers” column. If you’d like to read all of it, it appears here. More of these lists will be printed and organized in my paid Substack archives.
The Teenager came home from work and we had to run some errands. Somehow, we ended up at my hand rehab appointment more than an hour early. We visited Josh Early Candies, which killed some time. But with our meager budgets we could not afford fancy chocolates.
We ended up at Grocery Outlet, but not our local store, one on the other end of the Lehigh Valley. And we hadn’t made it 20 feet into the store when I spotted Silk Very Vanilla Soy Milk in juice boxes. Now this is The Teenager’s favorite milk for drinking.
She almost bought a pop-top can of artichoke hearts to eat in the car but proclaimed that would be a new low, even by her standards. I bought myself a pack of Maple Donuts because it was time for my afternoon snack, and I seem to do better if I save a carb-y item for around 2 p.m.
The Teenager then made a noise and I wasn’t sure what was wrong and she said it was sad how happy we were wandering around a discount grocery store. I lamented that it was a shame Nan could not be with us. And I didn’t know if that would be a good time to also mention that Gayle and I had exchanged emails with a ridiculous amount of excitement about customized packing tape from Sticker Mule.
Gayle had said she had to check out the template because it was something the business should do when we had more money and I quickly said that despite the fact that we recently printed a new book, this was something we obviously needed. And then she totally outdid herself on the design, so if Sticker Mule delivers a good products, it’s going to be so amazing that you will have to order books just so you can receive a package from us.I pack a good looking parcel to start with, so this will up our game.
When I showed Gayle’s proposed design to The Teenager, the Teenager also got excited and I bet her father would, too, because he did spent most of her life to date as a shipper-receiver so our whole family has an acute appreciation and enthusiasm for packing tape.
But this is taking up way to much space– The Saga of Angel and Gayle and their Polka Dot Packing Tape.
The Teenager and I sat in the parking lot eating Maple Donuts. Maple Donuts are always delicious, but they are not maple flavored. These donuts had a sell by date of March 27 and it’s only March 21 so I knew they would be melt-in-your-mouth soft. And they had cinnamon sugar. I LOVE A GOOD CINNAMON DOUGHNUT.
I ate two cinnamon. They glided down my gullet and I couldn’t help myself from also having a plain cake doughnut. I have no self-control.
The Teenager whipped out a Silk soy milk.
“Are you going to drink that warm?” I asked.
“Room temperature,” she answered. “Do you think I ever drank these cold? How do you think they came out of my lunch box?”
Hearing her reminisce about having these in her lunch box reminded me of how many times I worked hard to find sales and coupons and deals to buy them for her because I knew she loved them– and other than that she only got Juicy Juice or Adam and Eve juices because I was very strict on what I fed her and Silk in juice boxes was so expensive compared to the half gallons. And sometimes I worked hard to save money on all the other groceries so I had the $10 extra to buy her favorite milk for her lunch.
And they are delicious.
The half gallons supposedly are only sold at Dollar General these days but we still haven’t found one in our area that sells them.
Once we headed to The Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation, we had our cravings satisfied.
The Hand Report
When I arrived at therapy, they wrapped my hand in a moist heated pack for twenty minutes and it’s the best twenty minutes of my life. My therapist heard my tale of falling down the stairs and landing in the hospital in the hours after my previous visit, and he said I win for the most interesting story of the day.
Then, he proceeded to talk with me about things I could do at home to prevent future falls and make my life safer– because he is, at the end of the day, at occupational therapist. It was a great talk. It was an even better conversation because he gave me a hand massage during it.
My mobility has improved greatly, and even though it is still swollen, I can make a fist! I did several exercises there. My therapist mentioned that next time we will focus on strength, because he believes he can trust my previous experiences to make sure I follow through with a home rehab plan, he wants to be sure I have full hand strength so that I can fully grip the banister.
“Not that I’m picking on you,” he added.
I did four sets of exercises. First I picked up handfuls of these six-sided dice and dropped them all so that the six was facing up. Then I held the big ball in my hand and drew the alphabet in the air with only my hand and my wrist, not my arm. Then I squeezed the red ball. For the final exercise, I had two balls the size of a golf ball but a tad lighter. I rolled them across my fingers and then tried to reverse the order on the way back.
A brief summary for anyone new here: I am getting closer to 48-years-old every day. I have spastic diplegia cerebral palsy which is a bunch of fancy words that mean my leg muscles don’t relax, my brain and my lower body don’t communicate well, and my hips, knees and ankles don’t work efficiently or even have a normal constitution.
I walk funny— I have an abnormal gait where my leg scissors and I toe walk. Decades of walking funny can cause wear-and-tear on the body.
But the last six weeks have thrown some new challenges at me: high blood pressure, unusual falls and now atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response.
Last night I got a massive splinter deep in my foot, in a place so deep that we couldn’t dig it out without really tearing a hole in my foot. So I asked the Teenager to slap a raisin on it and she did.
This did draw the splinter to the surface more but I haven’t removed it yet. The start of my last raisin-splinter journey happened a little more than a year ago. Read about that here. Especially if you want to hear how my splinter improved my gait and my hip pain and how the raisin and my cockatoo got the splinter out.
I visited Nicole Jensen of Back in Line Chiropractor and Wellness Center today— where she commented how loose everything was and how my body parts were all facing the right directions.
She got me ready for physical therapy where I’d be the youngest person in balance therapy today.
Physical therapy for balance and fall prevention
I have spent a lot of time in physical therapy — about every two years I turn up for few weeks with a physical therapist because even though a lot of it tends to be a repeat and I know what to do, it’s important to have an outside professional evaluate my status so I know I am doing the right thing for the problem.
In this case, we discovered:
The physical therapist approved of some of Nicole’s phrases for things— like “make my feet do feet things.”
My fitness coach Andrew and I are doing all the right things at Apex Training, using my sense of my body and Nicole’s insights on what my innards are doing.
The physical therapist is also impressed at my capacity to manage to take what could be catastrophic falls with relative ease. The Teenager says it’s because I “puddle,” relinquishing myself to the process instead of fighting it and tending up.
My static balance is impressive, but my dynamic balance “throws everything off,” meaning standing still I’m good, but moving or on an unstable surface, the issues can occur.
We will be working on exercises that open the hips and rotate the knees outward. And doing some gait work with a zero-gravity treadmill.
The physical therapist was also impressed with my ability to self-correct my gait, but I don’t know if he picked up on how much focus and energy that requires.
TRIGGER WARNING: This blog posts contains descriptions of a fall and medical treatment.
Listen, this one is going to be long. I spent almost a day in the hospital under observation on the general med-surg floor without my laptop or my phone charger. And the special type of not knowing in the hospital means you can’t trust them when they say you’re going home until they pull the IV out of your arm.
I’m going to use subheadings and break it up with photos. Gayle says I need to start writing a television sit-com. I would– but I’m not a screenwriter. Maybe I’ll change this into a play at some point.
The Unexpected End to the Evening of 3/13/23 (the fall)
It had been a busy day– maybe too busy: work, hand occupational therapy, a killer chest workout at the gym– but it was a good balance day. I could stand on one foot, I felt myself, and I was jovial. The only weird thing was on the 13th rep of every set of barbell bench presses, my right pinky would tingle. I even mentioned it to Andrew, and in the back of my mind, I was concerned because when my blood pressure spiked in early February, my right hand tingled.
I got home, had a lovely dinner with my daughter that included a massive bowl of brussel sprouts (which are one of my favorite things in the whole wide world) and made a cup of valerian tea to take to my room because I felt a little hyped up and it was almost bedtime.
I had the tea cup in my left hand, and my buddy straps for my sprained pinky on my right, and I was probably using the banister with my right hand. Three-quarters of the way up the steps, probably where the banister ends, I felt myself falling backwards. Just like a tree swaying in a storm (which considering the weather we’ve had recently sounds like the right metaphor). My normal falls start from my lower body. This did not.
I made a sound and started dropping f-bombs as I cascaded, according to the Teenager, sideways then straight out and dropped at a ninety degree angle onto the air conditioner. The Teenager ran to me. The air conditioner knocked the wind out of me, seriously knocked the wind out of me and now judging the bruise on my back it might have been a kidney punch from the stairs. I slowly rose and sat on the bottom step.
As I did so, I saw a frightening look on The Teenager’s face.
“I’m fine,” I assured her.
“No, Mom,” she said. “You’re not.”
Later she explained to me that blood was “pouring from my mouth” and she worried that I knocked teeth out. Honestly, from the pain in that moment, I feared I had broken my jaw (in part because in my chin-meets-sidewalk accident of spring 2010, the ER staff and the dentist marveled that I had taken enough impact to spit out teeth but had not broken my jaw).
The metal frame that holds the air conditioner in the window had sliced open my face under my lip. The tea cup had ended up between my breasts and smashed into pieces. I looked at my hands. They were covered in blood. And the floor. And the wall.
My pajamas were wet. And most of me had driblets of blood here and there. The Teenager got me a rag and a bag of frozen peas and we sat on the stairs for a minute and tried to stop the bleeding. The lightheadedness, feverishness and sweating started. I handed The Teenager my phone and told her to call Sassy, because she witnessed the last fall and this felt identical. I also checked my blood pressure: 106/81.
Sassy answered despite being at a restaurant with her family. It passed and I promised to keep an eye on myself and call my doctor in the morning. But when I looked in the mirror, I knew what my daughter described as a cut was a gash and it needed stitches.
I peeled off my pajama top. Blood streamed across my chest, perhaps from the tiny pricks made by the broken ceramic but more than likely from my face. I left on my fuzzy Cat-in-the-Hat pajama pants, threw on a tiny yoga tank and a Stitch Fix t-shirt and zipper hoodie and headed out the door in dirty slip-on sneakers and no socks.
In the Emergency Room: When the doctor listens and the patient acts responsibly
My daughter took my car and drives me to the hospital literally 600 steps away. She didn’t trust me to walk. It’s literally half way between our house and her high school, but she doesn’t know how to drive there so we wiggled around the neighborhood. We wandered in, registered, and were taken right back. 8:20 p.m.
The Teenager did have time to buy refreshments from the vending machine.
Once we got into our room, we saw nurses and a doctor very quickly. Our Emergency Room physician was amazing. I explained what happened, including my description of how my falls have not been normal, and he gave me three options.
He could stitch me up and send me home and I could be home by 9 p.m.
He could order bloodwork, fluids and an EKG, but then I would be there an hour or two.
He could go all out and order CT scans and all the things, but then I’d be there for hours.
I chose option 2. I already felt something was off, and I thought bloodwork would give us a starting point without going crazy like some sort of hypochondriac. (Speaking of hypochondriac, my current favorite podcast is Hypochondriactor with Sean Hayes and Dr. Prianka Wally.)
They even allowed me to throw out my rag and get a big old pack of gauze.
The nurse hooked me up to an IV of fluids just in case the incident was amplified by dehydration. Here is the first mistake we made, not putting on the hospital gown until after my IV was installed. So when they came in for my first EKG, I had to shimmy my shirt and tank down the IV line to the bed.
The poor technician with the EKG machine had a terrible time getting it to work and she was so close to the end of her shift and tired. The Teenager had her intrigued that she had found a half-iced tea, half-lemonade Monster in the vending machine. The technician ended up getting a second EKG machine and the doctor came in to do the stitches but decided to come back later.
That’s about when The Teenager almost sent Sobaka’s mom a text that I was in hospice, thanks to auto-correct.
And the blood pressure and heart rate go crazy
You know that look you never want to see? The one where the doctor almost gets an “oh shit” expression? Now remember– I came to the hospital for stitches. And I’ve been monitoring my blood pressure for six weeks. And maybe it had been a day or two since I checked it, because we went to Waffle House, had margaritas and ordered Dominos in the same weekend.
I was informed that my blood pressure was high and they were going to administer a beta blocker through my IV line. After it kicked in, I looked at the monitor and it said 150-something over 90-something. I’m glad they had it turned away from me before giving me the medicine.
The second EKG revealed I was in atrial fibrillation. And as my blood work started rolling in, it should my white blood count and TSH was high.
Meanwhile, I am texting my travel companion M, because he’s a medical technologist by trade and loves numbers.
They also asked when my last tetanus shot was, to which I responded, “two weeks ago.”
When the doctor came in to do my stitches, I asked if he could unhook me from the IV so I could use the restroom first. Because I don’t know about you, but I find it horribly difficult to handle pain when I need to pee.
The doctor finally had his chance to shoot up my face with lidocaine (that second shot was a bitch) and sew up my lip. We irrigated the wound by me holding a basin under my face and him pouring the solution over my face so I ended up with quite a bit of liquid and a little bit of blood on my gown and down my chest.
I got three stitches, and he did a nice job. Not that I have a whole lot of experience. I’ve only had stitches once before.
And then I got a third EKG from a new technician also about to end his shift.
That’s when the doctor said I was still in A-fib and he’d like to admit me for observation. If that was okay with me. And if the hospital administration would allow it. Which probably means if the insurance company would allow it.
At 11 p.m., I was wheeled into some narrow elevators and transferred to room 353, which had to have made M happy. All prime numbers. I was admitted to the med-surg floor and I think I might have been the youngest person in the hospital. As we rolled along, I noticed they have a whole lounge of the chair I love that the dog ate!
The nurse had some situation going on so it took us until 1:30 a.m. to finish my admission survey. I had fun with some of the questions: “Are you safe at home? Do you face any physical or verbal abuse?”
“Only from my cockatoo,” I replied.
They had to take photos of my bruises, too, and take my cardiac enzymes, blood work and vitals every few hours. And the floor seemed to be crazy until 2 a.m.– and remember, I had gotten up for work at 4 a.m. I managed to take two naps each about 45 minutes.
I thought I had turned off my work alarm, but I had not, so it went off at 4 a.m. and then the nurse started her rounds at 4:45 and my work friends started texting at 5. So I was up for the day, with no phone charger and a book by Katherine Ramsland as my entertainment. I read 150 pages.
I was delivered the most boring, high carbohydrate breakfast I have ever seen.
And the staff kept offering to bring me water, and when I said yes, they would disappear forever.
I met with the cardiologist, the occupational therapist, the physical therapist, and the hospitalist (who needs a caretaker for her beagle when she visits India for a month this summer).
By morning I was allowed to move independently, which meant I could use the bathroom without someone watching me walk. The staff quickly learned that although I have cerebral palsy, I am adequately mobile.
The cardiologist explained that we would start a beta blocker, as that is the easiest form of management, and based on the echocardiogram and the information from the heart monitor I will be soon wearing, we can determine if different or more aggressive treatment is needed.
Often, A-fib raises risk of stroke so patients often take blood thinners. My cardiologist and I agree that will my tendency to fall, those medications would do more harm than good.
Echocardiogram and therapists
The echocardiogram was fascinating. To see an ultrasound of my heart in motion was truly an amazing reminder of what a complex and marvelous machine the human body is. My mitral valve regurgitation did show up on the test, but even with that my heart function was normal. That was great to hear, because lord only knows I didn’t want to hear that the mitral valve was failing and confusing the rest of my heart. I have never had medical surgery and would like to keep it that way.
The occupational therapist I met asked me what my everyday challenges were. I answered that my biggest challenge was dealing with my socks and shoes. She showed me an extended shoe horn and a sock aid. The sock aid is basically a big piece of plastic pipe with a jump rope attached to it. You put the sock on the end of the pipe, stick your foot it and pull the tube away from the sock with the rope.
I think you probably kill the life span of your socks by stretching them out, but if it means you can put them on, that’s cool to know.
And the physical therapist okayed my gait and my walking, especially knowing that I was already scheduled to start fall prevention therapy on Monday.
I was able to order my own lunch, but even though I ordered the entree salad, I got something much blander. But compared to breakfast it was delicious.
The Teenager came around one, because the hospitalist said I would soon be discharged. The hospitalist had declared the fall was mechanical, even despite my protests it was not. She told me to follow up on that with my neurologist. And I plan to. The poor neurologist has been getting so many portal-based text messages from me.
The head nurse came in and gave me a gift blanket— that would have been nice to have the night before.
The nurse removed my IV and 2:30 and we left the hospital about 3:30. I filed my short term disability claim, made an appointment with my primary care physician and took my first set of meds. The Teenager made dinner and I was in bed, asleep by 5:30.
My bruises hurt. My lips are dry and sore but finally the cuts are healing enough that food doesn’t burn them.
I have proposed to my employer, and plan to bring paperwork to my doctor tomorrow, to leave me out of work for at least three weeks. I have six weeks of leave left. The three weeks would give me time to see if the medicine is working, finish hand rehab, participate in fall prevention, wear the heart monitor and take ALL that information to my neurologist.
Because no one wants me having another episode at the warehouse.
The cardiologist assures me that I can’t blame this on Waffle House, margaritas and Dominos, but how can we know that when the last fall down the stairs happened after Little Caesars, Taco Bell and Diet Coke. Coincidence? Do my overbooked days add to the triggers? The risk factors for A-fib include anxiety, being overweight, alcohol and caffeine. That’s my life in a nutshell.
I’m going to see Nicole today, not sure I need a chiropractor right now, but I had the appointment already and I like the idea of her checking my post-fall body.
I returned to work today– after missing a couple hours Friday and all of Monday and Tuesday. I was nervous about undertaking the day with my strapped up tender fingers and sore body. But, to make the transition easier, today was the weekly safety team meeting and we had a special electricity training.
As one colleague said, the gist of it was, don’t touch an exposed live wire, don’t touch an exposed live wire in a puddle, and do not touch a person touching an exposed life wire.
It was a nice way to spend 25 minutes at 7 a.m.
Then at safety team I had the pleasure of hearing about the two incidents this week in the building, one paper cut at women’s outbound stylecarding and a “first aid incident” where an associate lost her balance and fell down the stairs. Yes, that would be me.
After that meeting, the safety manager who administered first aid on the day of the incident asked me how my finger was doing and I explained what the ortho had said, and that it wasn’t broken even though it looked broken on the x-ray… and he looked rather horrified.
“I had no idea,” he said. “I thought it was just a little cut.”
So did I, I replied, until I worked all day and it swelled to twice its size and turned really purple.
The warehouse supervisor who used to oversee our evening shift (the one present on the day of my fall who looked a tad panicked when she saw me after the fall) asked if she could speak with me after my meeting about my incident and the questions it raised for everyone.
Apparently, there has been some discussion among the management team about whether or not my employer should force me to file a workmen’s comp claim regarding the injury. In the end, they decided to leave the matter to me, assuring me their support regardless of my decision.
Technically, because it happened on their property as part of the work day, they bear responsibility, but because the fall stemmed from my pre-existing condition that also caused two more falls since then, no one on the management team wanted to make that decision for me. Because if I file a workmen’s comp claim, the company then controls the treatment of my injury and, in this case, this would mean my finger. But, because the injury is part of a larger whole, that would mean ignoring my balance and recent pain issues.
“You seem to have a really good relationship with your providers,” she said, “so we didn’t want to interfere with the care you receive from your primary care provider.”
Speaking of my primary care provider, I will be speaking to them tomorrow. And I’m assured that any time I miss due to appointments for this incident will not be included as part of my attendance record, even if that means I need physical therapy or hand rehab. Speaking of hand rehab, they have not returned my call.
All in all, it was a good day. I think I did 102%. But I have been encouraged to take advantage of more FMLA intermittent leave. And they are curious to see what legal will say about a service dog, as to their knowledge, no one in a warehouse has brought up the issue of a service dog.
I am so sick of disability-related posts. My goal today is to start the March newsletter for Parisian Phoenix, which I will be distributing via Substack. Yesterday felt like a beautiful spring day and today, today there is two inches of snow on the ground.
I’m tired. And sore. And stiff. I called out from work today, although I’m fairly certain I have no paid time off for it. The Teenager and I have major bills do this week, and they scare me, but I have (and she has) placed every spare penny we have into paying them. And they will be paid.
So, before I back up, and explain exactly what happened since I closed my computer yesterday afternoon, let me say that my plan has been to take better care of myself. To stop pushing myself to keep up with the people who don’t have the same issues that I have. To ask for help. To be honest– not only with others, but with myself.
I have planned to organize regular long weekends every three-to-four months to give my body time to recuperate from the stresses of being on my feet folding clothes all day, and to give myself time to finish larger projects for Parisian Phoenix Publishing. That hasn’t happened, in part because I’ve spent so much time sorting myself out with medical appointments, and also because November through February incorporates a lot of paid holiday time.
I closed my computer yesterday afternoon and The Teenager asked if I wanted to take the dog for a walk.
Now, let’s think about the conditions yesterday:
It was a beautiful pre-Spring day and the sun made everything alive.
I woke by alarm at 6 a.m. to meet Southern Candy at the diner, where I ate salty food and drank three cups of coffee so my blood pressure was creeping up.
I went to the orthopedist, but was unable to get an appointment with the hand rehab people.
I was going to the chiropractor in about an hour, for the appointment last week that I had to reschedule because of my fall.
I have not gone to the gym in a week because of the fall.
My legs are covered in painful bruises.
I was a little hungry.
I had taken Baclofen* in the morning, but not since.
Interesting side note: CVS ordered my baclofen refill last week, as they did not have it in stock, and I haven’t heard from them since.
I felt good. Nothing hurt. I hadn’t noticed any balance issues. So, although I felt a little wiped out, a short walk sounded good.
The Teenager suited up the dog and put her cat in the cat-backpack and we headed up the street. We made it halfway up the block, cat screaming in fear, when the dog noticed other dogs and got nervous. And I had what The Teenager called “a three-point fall.” I immediately assumed it was a basketball reference but she explained. I stumbled, froze in the air for a second, and then fall. I believe the fall at work was a three-point fall as well. That frozen time she witnessed was me actually making a decision what to do next. That is the second where I have to decide whether to fight the fall and try to regain my balance or use that second to frame the fall and try to control the impact.
In this case, I opted to throw the fall to the left to protect my already injured right hand.
The sidewalk and the meat of my palm met as I aimed for the grass, now a barely visible scrape. The Teenager declared we would turn around. I told her I could turn around and she could keep going, but she promptly declared this was a less-than-ideal experience for everybody.
Now, at this point, I have a new short-term disability claim open with Matrix, waiting to hear when and how often the hand rehab people want to see me. With past experience, I’m fairly certain it will be once a week. But, before committing to returning to work, I would prefer to talk to them and was hoping they would call back and see me today, and then, if necessary, I could email or hand-carry paperwork to my PCP to decide whether we would pursue the new STD claim for my hand or amend my intermittent leave parameters that cover my cerebral palsy.
My claims examiner is confused, and since I have not received all the information I need to make a decision, my answers are rather wishy-washy.
Also, the weather is calling for snow. And I have this nightmare of me leaving my house in a snowstorm when I already have mobility and hand issues.
I head to my beloved chiropractor, ready for her insight and her physical therapy knowledge. Meanwhile, my neurologist/physiatrist who I had had a brief texting conversation earlier in the day, texted and asked if anything else could be happening in my body to cause these issues. I’m typing the list of answers: lack of chiropractic care, lack of gym, lack of Baclofen, bruises on my legs, high blood pressure. I am scheduled to see her in early April.
And meanwhile– we still don’t have an answer for why my quads were burning a couple weeks ago and why my “normal” issues in my hip joints seem to be moving into my sacrum.
So when Nicole the Chiropractor gets her hands on me she declares that my hips and my sacrum are all locked up and my lower body is stiff. She gets everything moving and pushes everything around. And I stand up feeling like a jelly fish, so loose it takes me a while to remember how to walk.
I haven’t heard from the hand rehab people. The neurologist has probably finished her day. My right side is starting to ache a bit. I drive The Teenager to the post office and we stand in line behind a Karen who criticizes every customer in front of her for not using the post office correctly, gets to the counter, and very promptly gives my favorite postal clerk a hard time when she discovers that Priority Mail box she has packed her materials in is a Priority Mail box and will cost $17.10 to mail. Even before she hears this news, she badgers the postal clerk about how much it will be, and he’s confused because it’s a medium flat rate box so it’s $17.10. And she then snapped that she had to text the person receiving the package because that person will have to pay her back. The postal clerk suggests maybe she buy a different box from the postal supplies station in the lobby and then he could mail it for $10. But she grumpily agrees to pay the flat box rate.
We return from the post office– having mailed cookies to a friend of The Teenager who has joined the service– and I head into the house and realize I left my glasses in the car as my prescription sunglasses are on my face. I head back out to the garage and walk down the narrow cement steps to the car bay. Half way down, my ankle gives out, twists underneath me, and I somehow manage to lower myself to the ground without falling down the stairs.
I pick myself up. Everything feels solid. I text the neurologist. I return to the house. The Teenager expresses concern as I took too long to walk to the garage and back. I explain what happened.
She orders me out of the kitchen and she says she is going to make dinner and I am going to sit. I use the time to email my supervisors and call out for today, because I think it would be best if my body had some rest. I email my claim examiner and tell her to cancel my hand-related claim, because this whole incident is definitely something we have to deal with as a cerebral palsy issue. And I tell her if I need to contact my primary care doctor and have my intermittent leave parameters amended I will.
I ate a pile of peppermint kisses, a moon pie, and a rice krispie treat after dinner and washed it down with Diet Coke. Despite that, my weight is down more than two pounds this morning and my blood pressure is fine. My lower back and right side of my lower body hurts, but I’m hoping my morning dose of Baclofen will reduce the stress on my joints. My arm still hurts from my Tdap booster.
I can’t believe what a magnificent, crisp and sunny March morning today has become. I spent the weekend working on the final tidbits of Thurston Gill’s devotional coming out this month at Parisian Phoenix Publishing, visiting the Lafayette College Store to purchase Echo City Caper books for an upcoming meeting, delivering marketing materials to author Larry Sceurman and his wife Barbara, writing how-to instructions on how to leave book reviews online (do you need instructions like that? If so, read them here.), and proofreading the latest anthology from self-published author, R. (Rachel) C. Thom(pson). In between these activities, I did laundry, vacuumed my room, continued a book rearranging project, and stripped/remade my bed.
All with my pinky in a cumbersome splint.
Southern Candy came to visit yesterday afternoon. We played three wicked games of Uno with the Teenager. I won two and The Teenager won one. It felt good to laugh.
Southern Candy and I both had doctor appointments today that kept us out of work, so we met at Bethlehem Diner for breakfast before I headed to OAA Orthopedic Specialists on Centronia Road, behind Josh Early Candies, on Hamilton Street in what I think is South Whitehall Township with an Allentown mailing address. [Note on the diner: speaking of Rachel, I’ve dined with her at that restaurant before she moved to Florida and looking at the dessert case, I must go back for coffee and baked goods.]
The finger is looking and feeling much better. Discoloration and swelling has greatly reduced. The bruises on my leg look worse than and feel worse than my finger.
I saw a new doctor today. While waiting in one of the exam rooms at OAA– the same practice that treated my mallet finger last spring– I noticed a framed newspaper article on the wall by someone I know. So I texted her. We had a brief exchange and that was a wonderful reminder of how small the Lehigh Valley can be.
My new doctor informed me that the OAA offices recently had a ransomware virus and they traced it to a fake xray disc, so now they have to be very carefully how they look at images. It makes me wonder if soon we will be going back to the days of oversized manila envelopes and transporting films.
He then very kindly and patiently described my injury in a way that I wished I remembered better. He believes I almost dislocated this pinky, and probably bent my ringfinger back. The momentum probably caused ligaments to pull, and dislodged a scrap of bone like a piece of dirt clinging to the roots of a weed when you’re cleaning the garden. That’s the exact description he used. It looks like a fracture of the phalanx but it’s more like a chip off the bone where the ligament was holding on. So it’s a sprain.
He saw the mallet finger in my file from last year, and we talked about the folks at the Institute for Hand and Upper Extremity rehab, because he wants to refer me there and follow up in two months. He ditched the splint from urgent care, and said all that will do is make my finger stiff and increase the chances that my knuckle will get swollen and bulbous.
Instead, he wrapped my ringfinger and pinky snugly together with some velcro so my ring finger can be the new splint. “Wherever the ringfinger goes, the pinky tags along,” he said.
I told him the hand rehab people did a fantastic job overseeing my recovery from mallet finger so I am happy to visit them again. He pointed out that people often underestimate the importance of the pinky, and don’t realize it’s role in overall grip strength. And that injuries like the mallet finger and the one I have now have much better outcomes with swift and proper treatment, but too often people let them go a week or two before seeking care.
That made me feel a lot better, because I felt a little silly seeing a fancy hand specialist for a pinky. But, as I told him, as someone with cerebral palsy, I’m a little too aware of how quickly one injury can spiral into different complications.
It recently came to my attention that March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, in addition to Women’s History Month. So as a tribute, I fell down the stairs leaving work on March 1. Seven cement stairs.
I have a massive bruise on my thigh, a knot of a bruise on my left calf, a swollen pinky that looks like a dog bit it, and wounded pride. As many injuries do, my finger throbbed and ached most of the night.
At work, I was frustrated, cranky and tired and moving so slow. By my calculations, I did 110% on Wednesday and now 88% on Thursday. WTF? I asked myself. Meanwhile I hear my blind friend Nancy Scott’s voice in my head, “Angel, you did too much.”
Several managers came over to ask how I was, I said I was okay but my finger was swollen and would not bend. They all mentioned I might see the safety manager later in the day. I didn’t. The person checking in on me most was my process lead, who also has a disability, and I told him I knew I wouldn’t finish at 100%. But apparently he didn’t know I had thrown myself down the steps.
The conversation went something like this:
“What happened? Did you miss a step?”
“I was on the landing and I lost my footing, and I had that split second to regain my footing but there wasn’t enough room on the landing so I thought I could gain my balance by kind of trotting down the steps but I missed the first step.”
“So where did you end up?”
“At the bottom.”
“So you fell down ALL the steps.”
I think I had 24 boxes of refix yesterday so that meant I dealt with a lot of carts, which slowed me down further. And my neurologist warned me that any injury might short circuit the relationship between my mind and my body. My brain and my legs don’t have many communication skills as it is and anything going on with another part of my body will muddy up the whole situation.
My leader assured me that we could come up with a plan, but that still frustrated me, because I’m already on a probation of sorts (which stemmed from a work-related cerebral palsy “flare-up”) and I see this as an endless cycle of me doing my job and then falling behind and getting in trouble. And the more they push me, the more rapidly the situation will repeat. Another friend who used to work for a big local employer in administration said she’s glad this happened because it might make my disability more real for them.
But anyway, after work, I had a lovely conversation with Thurston, our Parisian Phoenix author who has a devotional coming out this month when a certain publisher gets herself sorted, about his book and the future.
When I got home, I removed my final band-aid of the day and had a weird gut feeling something was wrong. Like this needs a doctor wrong. So, bribing The Teenager with a pizza from one of our favorite pizza places that she forgot existed, we went to Urgent Care. Between her ear infections and my injuries, we spent a lot of time there.
The doctor seemed a little perplexed that I broke my “middle phalanx” of my pinky falling down seven cement steps. They expected more damage. What can I say? I have skills. And that friend I mentioned above? She broke several ribs falling down the stairs in her house and ended up as an inpatient in the hospital so she’s jealous right now.
So, once I get a tetanus shot and a splint, we head out. We stopped at Antonios Pizza and Ice Cream at the 25th Street Shopping Center and order a pesto pizza. We haven’t been there in 2-3 years because… Covid… life crazy… lazy… Dominos is cheap and easy and there is an app.
They recognized us! They recognized us, our order, and to prove it they pointed to the booth we used to sit in as a family.
And they love Stitch Fix! The Teenager opened the box and ate a slice in the pizzeria while we pointed out what Stitch Fix clothes we had on our body. And then I had to show off and fold my sweater into a 9×9 square.
It was the kind of small town encounter I love about our urban corner of the universe.
When I worked at the Lehigh Valley News Group and The Teenager was a tot of two-years-old we referred to as “the wee one,” I stumbled over the cart return at Wegmans after doing some grocery shopping on the way home from the office. The Wee One was with me, as she attended day care literally next door to my office. I would appear in the doorway after nap time, have snack with the kids, and return with her to my office around 3:15 where she would play on the floor beside my desk for about an hour before we went home.
I clearly remember I paid $770 a month for her to attend daycare, where I dropped her off around 7:45 and, as I mentioned, picked her up at 3.
In the Wegmans parking lot, I had removed the Wee One from the cart in the cart return and turned to return to my car– my only new car I’ve ever had a 2000 Saturn SL2. I had wanted a Saturn since they came out, and I was very pleased to finally have one after my series of mid-1980-something Ford Escorts.
I had tripped over the metal rail that supports the cart return and banged up my elbow pretty badly. (My elbows sustain a lot of damage in my falls.) I put the Wee One in the back of the car in her seat, and got into the drivers seat, and turned on the car and the air conditioning. That’s when I started to pass out.
With black spots before my eyes, I dug frantically into my purse. I couldn’t see, so I was merely feeling around for my phone. It was my Nokia flip-phone in the pre-iPhone days. I found it, but couldn’t dial. I hit the recent calls menu and dialed the first number on the list.
It was my friend, Gayle. She called the store, and I still remember the flood of cart attendants and managers that stormed into the parking lot looking for the woman and the toddler in the running car. I stumbled out. They took me, the Wee One, and the groceries into the store and called my in-laws to drive me home. The manager asked if I needed anything and without missing a beat, the Wee One said, “Ice cream.” They didn’t hear her, and she got very annoyed that she didn’t get ice cream.
That was circa-2006.
I tell that story because that was the scariest fall I ever had. The second scariest was when I broke my ankle outside the old Maier’s bread factory and almost passed out sitting on a fire hydrant waiting for my husband to arrive with the car. I was going to say today was the third scariest, but then I remembered the time when The Teenager was in kindergarten and I fell on a bad patch of sidewalk and spit out a tooth.
The most exotic fall I ever had was in Yemen.
The most embarrassing was when I fell in the middle of the Halloween parade in front of the whole damn town. That was a year ago.
But today was another first. My first official fall at Stitch Fix. If you are a regular reader, you already know I’ve been struggling with pain recently. I woke up feeling pretty mobile today, and I was even able to touch my toes at 4 a.m. so I skipped my morning dose of baclofen. I was instructed by the neurologist to take the medicine as needed, and when I saw her last, she encouraged me to take it more. I found myself wondering if the baclofen might be somehow connected to the muscle pain I’ve had.
I had a great day at work. I had another observation with my direct supervisor, which came in at 104%. I laughed loudly with my friends at breaks. I brought Thurston a hard copy proof of his book launching in a couple weeks. I may have eaten too many honey roasted pistachios, but pistachios are delicious. I finished the day at something around 110%.
I gathered my possessions, grabbed my coffee cup, and slung my purse over my shoulder. I trotted toward the door, eager to see my chiropractor at 3:45 pm and hear all about her trip to Vegas for a work-related convention. I stepped out the door, said goodbye to the security guard and took another step across the landing. I stumbled forward. I didn’t have enough space on the landing between me and the stairs– the concrete stairs– to regain my footing. The situation swirled for a minute and I tried to use the momentum to trot down the stairs and regain footing that way.
I failed. I dove down the stairs. Thank goodness my possessions broke my fall. Everyone rushed to my aid. Someone offered me a hand. Someone gathered my metal coffee mug which had rolled away. I reorganized my purse and asked everyone to give me a minute before I stood up, that I was fairly certain I was fine, but I wanted to catch my breath before getting up.
People starting asking the why and how of my fall. I assured them nothing but me made me fall. This is life with cerebral palsy.
My friend Sassy, the same friend who accompanied our colleague who had a heart attack to the hospital, was suddenly there. I notice blood. Sassy helps me find it on my pinky. Our safety manager goes to get me a band-aid. Another leader forces me into the building to file an incident report. I’m annoyed because… well, I was hoping my chiropractor Nicole Jensen could help me figure out my random intense muscle pain.
I sit down. Sassy is with me. One of our managers from second shift is there and looks concerned when she sees it’s me. The safety manager stays. My supervisor comes in. I start to get sweaty and lightheaded. This freaks me out because I’m barely hurt. I try to text my daughter to have her call the chiropractor and I can’t. My former second shift manager does it and we just end up calling The Teenager.
Sassy fans me and brings me a cone of water, but I’m too shaky to hold it. She brings me a water bottle and fans me as I joke and the safety manager delicately cleans my finger and puts on a bandaid. My supervisor starts the incident report. Thurston comes and takes my blood pressure. I’m feeling myself.
They offer to arrange an Uber for me, and to send an Uber for me in the morning.
“I’m okay,” I tell them. And I thank them for bringing me back into the building, because otherwise, who knows what might have happened on the road.
I left with the nurseline phone number. I promise to email my boss and text Sassy when I get home. Once I arrive, I shower. Luckily, no more blood. But there’s a chunk out of my finger and I think my thigh will have a massive bruise tomorrow.
It’s been eight weeks since my last fall. I had falls in November, December and January, so making it eight weeks is good. But I have no idea why it happened.
You know those workplace counters that say things like “X days since our last injury”?
I keep one of those in my head.
My last fall was November 3, 2022. The post-cortisone face plant. That was my last fall, until yesterday. Update counter. It had been two months since our last fall. The stumbles have been happening for about a week. I’ve noticed that’s how they “start.” I start to trip more. But I stay on my feet and I credit my workouts and my improved mobility and balance.
And then I fall.
Maybe the workouts, the chiropractor, and healthy eating do nothing to improve my odds. Maybe I would be a complete disaster without them. I don’t know. I’ve been taking my new medicine, even taking my vitamins (and I got battery-operated toothbrushes, testing the idea of getting a real electric toothbrush).
Yesterday, after a poor night’s sleep and a hard, stressful day at work (those details are recorded in an email to myself at work that I will not send unless the person who did not follow my accommodations says anything to anybody about me alerting my supervisor to her behavior), I came out of my garage, tripped over the stepping stone on the walk and landed after a corkscrew roll in the mud and concrete.
Watch the opening sequence of Netflix’s Special with Ryan O’Connell (season one, episode one) and you will get the idea.
I’m 47-years-old. I don’t like being face down on the concrete with my body in mud. And yes, my first thought was, “Damn, my sweatshirt is dirty now.”
I’m covered in minor scrapes. My hands. My right elbow (which still hasn’t fully recovered from the fall in November). My shoulder (though I can’t see to tell). My right hip. One of my left knee. Two on my right.
It shakes my spirit.
I also stepped on the scale for the first time since before Christmas. I had lost five pounds. I’ve gained those back plus two more. I keep thinking if I can get my weight down, my body might struggle less.
But then emotional eating sets in.
And so I ordered Wing Zone. Boneless wings and a BIG order of fries.