Friday, September 9, 2011

Tribute to Grandpa

This is my grandfather. Today was his birthday. He would have been 102. He passed away 7 years ago this December. I was very fortunate to have him in my life as long as I did. He is the great-grandparent that my children remember the best.

His name was William E. "Pat" Boyer. He carried the mail, by foot with a big satchel, in our little town for many years. It was hard work, considering we get about 100 inches of snow annually. The children around town used to come running out of their front doors when they saw him coming up the walk with their mail.

This picture was taken on the day he started working at his dream job, Postmaster in our town. He was so proud! While he was Postmaster, he worked hard with "the Politicians" to double the size of our post office and make it accessible to all.

He was a true Renaissance man, who could do darned near anything. He rode motorcycles, and could build houses, and fix cars, and garden, and started a radio station that is still running today. He loved to go camping!! He adored babies, they always made him tear up. He remembered who built the houses in town and who lived in them after the town burned to the ground in 1918. He picked out a "Charlie Brown" Christmas tree every year, and swore it was the best tree he ever saw. He had a great appetite and believed slathering anything in butter made it twice as good. He went blind due to glaucoma when he was in his 80's, but continued to take care of himself until his death. He got books on tape and stayed current with what was happening in the world.

He was opinionated, informed, kind, loving, patient, devoted, loyal, faithful, funny, handy, a gentleman, and the kind of man you hope your daughter will find someday. We all loved him like crazy, and miss him even more.

The most important lesson I learned from my Grandpa is to treasure each and every day you have with your family and friends. He taught me that lesson by example.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mrs. Ever Forward Takes a Step Back

For those that don't know, I am "Directionally Challenged." Oh, I'm "challenged" in many ways, but my lack of a sense of direction is somewhat legendary. I tend to walk fairly quickly, and rarely am I moving in the correct direction for where I hope to go. Because of this unfortunate trait, my husband says my motto is "Ever Forward." He loves to point this out on the numerous occasions weekly when I finally come to the realization that I have no clue where I am going.

It should also come as no news flash to those who have been following my recovery from a fall down some stairs that I can be a Klutz (with a capital K.) I am not the champion Klutz in my family, that honor goes to my brother, Tom, who has had stitches in his head alone more times that you can count on two hands.

At this point, I should note that although the doctor said that my trip down the stairs resulted in a "catastrophic" injury, I have worked rather vigorously to heal myself and have made progress that has impressed the medical personnel who are caring for me. Pretty much, from the time of my injury on July 2, I have mostly made positive steps forward and surprised those who know how recovery should look. I was moving Ever Forward on a long journey to a rebuilt knee.

Yesterday, in an instant, Mrs. Ever Forward took a step back. A word of caution here, if you have problems discussing bodily functions or things done in private, STOP reading. Mrs. Ever Forward is about to share TMI.

It was a day in which I was feeling really good. The weather was beautiful. My physical therapist had given me a big two thumbs up for my performance the day before. I had pedaled the stationery bike backward and forward, and had been able to move the seat down to the same setting I had used prior to my reconstructive surgery. My extension was perfect, resting comfortably when flat on the exam table. My bend on the bike was 108 degrees out of 125 maximum for my chubby little legs. I was antsy with cabin fever. I took a stroll the 125 feet down my gravel driveway to the mailbox using only a cane. I was the cat's meow, the cock of the walk, and the belle of the ball; all rolled into one.

I was going to make supper for my husband for the first time in two weeks! I was feeling good enough that I thought I could surprise him with a home cooked meal. Before beginning my culinary adventure, I thought I should take a trip down the hall and use the restroom. You know, so I could focus my full attention on making a fabulous meal.

Now, when a person has an injury like mine, there is a bit of finesse that is required to use the facilities. It involves getting everything lined up, and making a measured descent onto the commode. As the descent begins, the offending leg must be straightened out so as not to over-stretch the newly installed ligament. It's really a blend of Highland Fling meets Swan Lake. It's a dance I've pulled off numerous times since July 2, without a hitch. Until yesterday.

I was backed in, lined up, confident in my final approach and impending descent. As I permitted gravity to take over, I started the straightening of my leg and my heel stuck on the floor and the leg stayed bent. Too far bent.

I heard myself scream, I saw black, I must have grabbed the vanity next to me. I think I moaned loudly, twice. My vision came back and the shaking started. I knew I'd done something not so good. I made it to the bed, and tried calling my husband. His phone went right to voice mail. I tried again in a couple of minutes and he picked up. I told him I'd had a little accident with the leg. He said he was 2 1/2 hours away, and what did I want him to do? I said I wanted him to come home ASAP because I was going to need a hand. I stayed put on the bed until he got there.

Today, I went back to therapy and explained my mishap to the therapist. She said she hopes I didn't tear the new graft. I had too much swelling for her to tell for sure that it is okay. She put me on the bike, three settings on the seat higher than Tuesday, and I only pedaled the bike backwards (easier, less bend) once and she took me off. She measured my bend, and I had gone from 108 to 95. The therapy plan for the day was out the window, and we went into damage control.

It was disappointing, to say the least. My weekend ahead looks a lot like my evening tonight. Sitting with the leg up, and lots and lots of ice. Limited exercise and lots of rest. Bummer. I don't think I've torn the new graft, just gave it a big stretch. I was worried about having torn the stitches putting the meniscus back together, but the therapist didn't think that was the case. She did say that it could have been much, much worse. She reminded me that I could have ended up on the floor with a break in the leg. After all, I have two fresh channels drilled all the way through both the major bones in that leg (that's how they thread the new ligament through the bone.) My goal of driving by the end of the second week (today) is not going to happen. Maybe one more week?

I am choosing to consider myself fortunate. This was a reminder that I'm not as hoity-toity as I was thinking I was. It could have been much worse, and it was a good reminder that sometimes you just have to give your body time to heal. On the positive side, my weight has remained constant in spite of having to sit a lot. My food choices have been within my target range. I am fortunate that although it is tough for me to be sitting home with cabin fever while my friends and colleagues go about their lives; I am lucky to have good health care, a good sub at school, a supportive teaching partner, and friends and family who care about me. It will be okay. Mrs. Ever Forward just doesn't like to take a step back.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Fish Boil and Some Recovery Sadness

Well, it has been just under a week since I've blogged about my progress. The truth of the matter is that it has been a kind of a rough week for me.

As I was getting up for therapy last Thursday, the phone rang. It was the therapy center calling to say that my PT was out sick on that day. Weird, I thought, as I had been up much of the night with some stomach troubles myself. I was feeling pretty rotten, and my husband called the pharmacy to find out what we should do if my narcotics were making me feel BAD. The pharmacist suggested that I take some ibuprofen for pain control. I took the ibuprofen and then my husband chatted with the nurse from the surgeon's office. She told him that I SHOULDN'T take ibuprofen. Oh. She felt that it wasn't my pain medication causing the gastrointestinal distress, since I had been tolerating it for a few days. She suggested that it must be a stomach bug. The next day, Friday, I went and saw the physician's assistant to get my stitches removed. She also felt I was struggling with a stomach bug. In the meantime, I started paying attention to when I was having trouble. Strangely, there seemed to be a pattern with the stomach acting up about two hours after I took medication. The PA had suggested that IF it was my medication, I could just take acetaminophen instead of the narcotics. So, over the weekend, I tried that. No luck, still yucky.

Now, it is enough to deal with the pain in the knee and the immobility involved with it. Add pretty severe nausea, frequent field trips down the hall (if you get my drift), trying to stretch out the time between pain pills to try to prevent the stomach stuff, and virtually no sleep due to pain and nausea; and you've got my past five days of fun. Normally, I try to keep the sunny side up, and keep things light and positive; but I am also trying to accurately chronicle my knee surgery recovery. Honestly, it has NOT been fun.

At this point today, I have not had any pain medication for 16 hours. I will be trying to go to bed and sleep after I post this. I have to get up early and go to therapy tomorrow morning. Considering the speed (or lack thereof) in which I currently move, the early morning rush hour traffic through massive road construction; I need to sleep and get going early. So, the evening debate begins. Medication or no medication??? If this goes as it has been going, I will try to sleep without, be unable to stand the pain, and then take medication, only to be up two hours later and spending time contemplating the inside of my bathroom.

In spite of all of this doom and gloom, I can tell that I am making some progress with the leg. With no pain meds on board, I was able to do my exercises, and bend the leg using the rocking chair for about 15 minutes this evening. My extension can put the leg flat, and the thigh muscle seems to be working a bit better now. My goal for therapy tomorrow is to ride the stationery bike and stretch it to the point where I can pedal without pain.

My husband went back to work today, and I made it through my first day home alone. I was able to make myself a meal without any problem. I finished knitting a baby sweater, when I haven't really felt up to knitting , reading, or much of anything since my surgery. Tomorrow, my husband is dropping me off at therapy and then going on to work. My mother will be at the fitness center doing her water aerobics, and I will catch a ride with her when she is done exercising. That is our plan for therapy days until I am able to drive myself again.

Although I felt kind of lousy yesterday, it was my in-laws annual Labor Day Fish Boil. My husband hates to miss family events, and so I had my first non-medical outing since the surgery. It was a long day. It takes us an hour to get to their house. They live on a lake. I sat in the back seat of the car, with my leg propped up on a pillow on the back seat. The family was glad that we made the trip, and they were generous with the recliner chair for me to put the leg up. I did make it out into the yard for the famous boil-over.

For those unfamiliar with a Fish Boil, here's what happens. Fish boils are common in Door County, Wisconsin and in some places in Minnesota. We started this tradition several years ago after my in-laws attended a boil in Door County. We start with a wood fire and put a large cast iron Witch's Kettle over the fire. You dump in a whole box of salt and bring the water to a good, strong, rolling boil. There are three ingredients in our traditional boil, and you have the ingredients prepared in advance. Timing is everything once you start cooking! When the water is boiling well, into the pot goes your red potatoes. They are scrubbed up, but still have the skins on them (they hold together better that way.) The potatoes boil for exactly 10 minutes. Then a large cheesecloth bag of onions go into the kettle. We chunk up a bunch of white onions. The onions and potatoes boil for exactly another 10 minutes. The last ingredient is white fish. It is gutted and cut into chunks and put into cheesecloth to keep the pieces together. The skin and fins are still on our fish, but they have no scales. Our white fish was swimming in Lake Superior on Thursday, and we were eating it on Sunday. Very fresh. The fish goes into the kettle and cooks for exactly 10 minutes. The water in the kettle is now just a couple inches under the top of the pot. Any oil contained in the fish rises to the surface of the water. At the end of the cooking time, a coffee can of diesel fuel is thrown onto the wood fire causing a tremendous flare of fire! Exciting!!!! The sudden flare of fire causes the liquid in the kettle to boil up and over the sides of the kettle, taking all the oil with it. Here's how our boil over looked yesterday.

Anyway, we serve the Fish Boil with fresh coleslaw. The traditional dessert from Door County to go with your Fish Boil is a fresh tart cherry pie. When you think about it, with the exception of the pie, it is a fairly healthy meal. Boiled fish, potatoes and onions with coleslaw isn't too bad.

Hope you all had a great holiday weekend!