A week ago last Sunday, Odel and I took a walk along the levee of the American River, knowing it was our last walk together for several weeks. A week ago today (Monday, though I probably won’t get this posted until Tuesday), he had his surgery. Today, the home health nurse arrived to draw blood and remove the staples from the incision. In 24 hours, Odel will have his first shower since the surgery. Whoopee!
Once again, I’m posting photos of the incision in a smaller format so those of you who are more squeamish can avoid the full force of the pictures! Click on any picture if this seems tame compared to what you see on TV.
The staple remover.
Incision with staples.
Staples are gone.
Clean, new Steri-strips
We made great progress this week. Strength is returning to Odel’s leg, noticeable when we work on his rehab exercises and even more noticeable in day-to-day changes. When he came home on Wednesday afternoon (two days after his surgery), he was completely dependent on his caregiver – me – to lift his leg on to the bed and onto the pillow pyramid. He couldn’t put on a sock or put his foot/leg into his pants. There was a total disconnect between his upper and lower leg… and his thigh didn’t want to do what his brain ordered.
This morning (Tuesday), eight days after his surgery, he can use his own leg muscles to lift his leg onto the bed or a footstool, and can put on his own pants (I don’t think he could do a sock yet). He moves freely – slowly, but freely - around the motorhome with the aid of the cane-stool (and of course is trying to do way too much around the house).
During the first few days of caregiving, we had a couple of issues. The first was that we didn’t have a good handle on a schedule. Particularly at night, we forgot (or slept through) the regularly scheduled (every four hours) dosages of pain pills. We needed to remember to do the exercises about a hour after a dose of medication – which needed to mesh with a reasonable meal schedule (recovering from surgery, patients should have another 500 calories worth of protein per day, AND we need to be vigilant about fiber, fighting the ongoing constipating effects of the pain medication). And then the home health people pop in for a couple of hours – the nurse on Thursday, the PT on Friday… After three days, I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.
The other problem was keeping track of all the little things Odel needs to have nearby to be happy and stay on track: cell phone, glasses, medications, water, pen, paper. When he was in the bedroom, his phone would ring in the living room. When he was in the living room, his reading glasses were on the bedside table. When the PT called to let him know when she would arrive, he didn’t have anything to write with or on. Though it was a short distance for me to get whatever he needed, I knew I could find a better solution for that problem.
So we wouldn’t forget the pain pills, we began to set our timer to go off every four hours, day and night. That created a little problem of its own – I needed my timer for other uses (like keeping track of the 15 minute interval for icing his knee). Odel now has a new timer of his own, with a memory. When it goes off, pushing the memory button resets it for 4 more hours. Cool. Problem solved.
At the same time I bought the new timer, I picked up a “picnic organizer”. Instead of silverware, napkins, and squeeze bottles of condiments, his organizer holds a water bottle, meds, a small flashlight (for nighttime medicating), pen, pad of paper, cellphone, and a printed weekly calendar of each day’s activities: drugs, exercise, meals and visits from the nurse and physical therapist.
Sometimes Odel will carry his organizer from place to place, but usually I move it from room to room when we resettle him – so I am moving everything he needs at once. He can answer his own phone, schedule his appointments, renew his prescription, take and track his own meds – as long as his organizer is with him. The printed schedule is a big help to me, making it easier to find blocks of time when I can take a walk, go to the grocery store, or pick up prescriptions or whatever (it is incredible how much “whatever” we have needed!) at the drug store.
So, at the end of our first week, we’re on a good track. Odel can do more things for himself, and is showing noticeable improvement from his laser focus on rehab: exercises, elevation, and icing. I have a couple periods of downtime each day, and I’m starting to remember the things that aren’t normally part of my routine – take a bag of trash EVERY TIME I leave the motorhome, for instance! Yesterday, for the first time ever, I put a bag of trash in the car with me, planning to drop it off at the dumpster on my way to the grocery store. It went to the store with me and sat ripening in the sunshine while I shopped. I did manage to remember to toss it in the dumpster – 100 steps from our front door – before I parked, and we have only the slightest lingering scent of banana peel in the Jeep. :)