Re-Balancing My Life

June 18, 2013

I tried to post this a few days ago and couldn’t get it to format properly. I hope this works better. If you’ve seen this already, please forgive me. 

Several Years Ago

Photoof mare and foalI was living Canada and breeding sport horses. I adored having the foals around frolicking in the fields. It’s like living the Hollywood dream, you know the one… house in the country, ten acres, a big, bright barn, a couple of barn cats and a devoted dog, a front porch with a view of deer grazing in the field across the road, nearest neighbor almost visible through the trees and barely close enough to shout to.

Life Was Beautiful and Perfect

My husband and I both had our own successful small businesses. He was a radio engineer, working under contract to maintain the student radio station, CKCU, at Carleton University, and taking in contracts from CBC TV and other local radio and Yoyotelevisions stations. I was an office maintenance specialist working for several real estate companies and small businesses setting up and maintaining internal systems as well as training new staff and designing custom forms and flow charts.

In the evening I fed horses and played with foals, training them to lead, pick feet up, stand quietly for bathing, load into a trailer, and all the other things foals need to know. On weekends I would load a few of them into my horse trailer and travel off to a show, always bringing home a box full of ribbons.

Then Disaster Struck

Ted in HospitalOut of the blue, at our anniversary dinner, my husband of 30 years started having trouble swallowing. Within 6 months the once strong and vital man of my life had been through chemo, radiation, and 11.5 hours of surgery to remove his esophagus and redesign is stomach to compensate. Everything he ate caused intense pain and various stomach problems, he passed out if he stood up too fast, and my life changed from ‘happy-go-lucky’ to full time nurse and caretaker.

We expected this to be a temporary situation. We expected him to recover, adjust, regain his strength, and for our lives to gradually revert to our earlier status–with, of course, some necessary adjustments in dietary habits. It would just be a matter of time.

In the meantime, the cancer clinic and all the doctors were following the recovery process and there were many follow-up appointments. Each one showed improvements and our emotional roller-coaster ride seemed to be levelling off.

Then Came A Spot

About a year after the initial surgery, at one of the routine check-ups, the x-ray came back showing a little spot almost off the edge of the screen, so a second x-ray was scheduled. The regular x-rays had been taken of the area where the cancer was originally concentrated. The new spot was much higher but, because it had been missed on all the other scans, had grown to significant size.

We checked all avenues.

Photo of TedHis body was maxed out on chemo and, once chemo was used and didn’t kill everything, the cancer typically developed an immunity to it. In his weakened state chemo was not an option. Radiation used in the area was already at maximum. More radiation would dissolve all tissue and kill him. Surgeons had already removed everything they possibly could from the area. Surgery was not an option.

Our Only Option

There was no way out. Esophageal cancer is very aggressive and spreads throughout the body quickly. It was already in his lymphatic system, which means it was taking the fast track, the body’s express lane. It was now about 22 months since the original sign and diagnosis.

What could we do? I had already dropped my most demanding client, and before the surgery he had found a competent engineer to subcontract his business to. I started bringing all my work home rather than doing it in the offices. I tried to stay out of the way and let him do as much as he was comfortable with, while at the same time being there if he needed me.

Gradually it became more and more difficult for him to breathe until one afternoon he asked me to take him to the cancer clinic. At the clinic they discovered that his lungs were filling with fluid and they took him to a room. An hour later he was connected to feeding tubes and tubes to remove the fluid from his lungs…more incisions. They also put him on monitored pain meds and gave him an ‘on demand’ pain button, which he rarely used.

The Big Decision

Our home was in the country about an hour from the center of Ottawa. Ted was in the hospital for three weeks on the opposite side of the city.

By this time it was past the middle of winter and just over two years after his initial diagnosis. I was keeping up as best I could with the small contracts I still had, but was spending as much time as possible in the hospital.

Photo of living room fireplaceWe talked about many things during that time, and one of those things was his desire to go home. He didn’t want to die in the hospital with strangers, he wanted to be home, propped up in front of the fireplace and watching the snow fall through huge windows behind a bank of house plants.

The hospital staff, and especially his surgeon, let us know that moving him home was impossible unless I could get help and, miraculously, my parents arrived within hours on a surprise flight from Florida. I met them at the airport and we went straight to the hospital to get the process started for moving him home.

A Death Sentence?

For over a month Ted had been unable to eat. He was being fed through a special IV that was provided every day. The content was determined by blood tests taken each evening. He was also receiving transfusions every two days because he was losing blood internally. We were told that both of these support systems would end if he went home. This meant that he would live less than 10 days after leaving the hospital. However, even if he stayed in the hospital his life expectancy was no more than two weeks. For him the decision was easy.

The next two days saw deliveries of special equipment to the house that was designed to make his last days as comfortable as possible. A hospital-style bed arrived with a special mattress to prevent bedsores. Soon there was an oxygen machine, numerous attachments to the hospital bed, boxes of pain medications, and all the paraphernalia that accompanies them from needles and syringes to special hazardous material disposal boxes, cotton, bandages, soaps, saline solution, ….. Our living room began to look like a hospital room, but more friendly.

The bed was set up in front of the fireplace so all we had to do was tilt the header and he had a view of both the fireplace and out the front window. The armchair stayed and more chairs and small tables were moved in, but the dining room table was moved to the porch. I think the day he arrived home from the hospital in the ambulance was one of the happiest days of his life.

The Last Days

Ted's last dayFor the next 10 days I slept on the love seat in the corner of the room so I could hear him if he needed anything. There was a small clock that chimed softly when it was time for his pain meds, and the IV unit chimed when it got low. I learned to give him all his meds and to change the IV and during that time rarely slept more than an hour or so at a time.

Gradually, the little strength he had when he arrived at home decreased and his color went from pink (they gave him blood just before he left the hospital) to pale white. Sometimes my parents and I would be sitting near the bed talking and he would be laying in bed with his eyes closed. Out of the blue he would surprise us by interjecting a comment into the conversation. Instead of sleeping, he was laying quietly and listening while conserving his energy.

Then, one afternoon, he took a deep breath and didn’t breathe again for what seemed minutes. This went on for several minutes, not like he was in distress, but like he just no longer needed that much oxygen. I held his hand until I realized that it had been almost half an hour since his last breath, and his hand was getting cold.

And Now?

That was the tail of winter five years ago. Many people have rudely and unthinkingly told me that I should ‘get on with my life’. At first I was shocked by these statements. For a tine I went through a stage when I was guilty that I couldn’t move on. Then I realized that those who say such things have never lost anyone really close to them. One day they will suffer a loss and they will never make such a statement again. For the last year or so I’ve been saying ‘yes, I know’, and letting the comments slide off my shoulders.

ThePastSo…what AM I doing now? Now, finally, I’m washing the walls in my mind and clearing the past. The memories are being carefully wrapped in tissue paper and stored in special boxes in my head where I can take them out and smile nostalgically as I look them over and reminisce. It was a very special time and I never want to forget, but I don’t want to live there for the rest of my life.

The physical items from the past that I surrounded myself with for their comfort value are beginning to look old and out of place. I think the time has come to turn my head away from the past and look forward into a bright new future. A future where the people are alive and new memories can be made. A future filled with possibilities. A future without the strings of the past holding me back and slowing my steps.

Oddly enough, now that I’ve made this decision I feel very calm and relieved.

I’m taking a giant step of faith in the future. Have you made a decision lately or in the past about your future? Have you knowingly stepped onto a new path rather than following the road of least resistance? Tell me about it in the comments below, I would love to hear your story!

Woo Hoo again!!

Ok, this is the Real McCoy, the full glass, the Pot of Gold at the end of the Rainbow…. This was my first REAL doctor’s appointment and I was REALLY going to see the surgeon and he was REALLY going to look and my knee and tell me if everything was OK.

But, before I get into that, there’s a whole five days worth of updating to do….

Mark talking to me

And remember….Smiling makes you feel better!

Poor Mark was stuck with me, complete with my depression and letdown after the last appointment fiasco, but he is nothing if not positive and his upbeat attitude, like a gold nugget on the other side of the balance scale and kept my side from dipping into depression and feeling sorry for myself. I really think this third week would have been a major disaster if not for Mark. On Monday, the day before he was heading back to Canada, Mark finally got a break from nursemaiding me with the arrival of an invitation for an afternoon visit to a friend who lived in a nearby town. So, off he went with my blessings and the sincere hope that he would have a good time.Meanwhile, Doug had arrived back in Florida and was planning a visit that afternoon. The plan was for Doug to arrive in the afternoon and the three of us to have supper together, but I’m sure you have all read the book about plans and mice and men. Seems they never work out as they should.Anyway, Mark’s visit lasted much longer than expected. This turned out to be a fortunate turn of events because it gave Doug and me a chance to catch up on news from Connecticut and the events of the past few weeks here. But the day started to get late and Doug lives two hours to the south so finally he decided to head for home and Mark was still not back.

Photo of me recording introsWe put our heads together

and, since Mark’s plane was leaving late the following day, Doug made plans to return just after noon so we could all have time for a chat and dinner together. Since I was still not cleared for driving, Doug would drive Mark and me to the airport after dinner, then he would stay the night and drive me to my doctor’s appointment the next day.

The next day Doug and I headed off for the REAL doctor’s appointment and once more my nerves were at cracking point.

Have you ever felt like you were stuck in an Abbot and Costello movie?

Once more the GPS took us in the totally wrong direction. ARGH!! Can’t someone do something about that?? This time we had two GPS’s and BOTH of them took us to the wrong location…on opposite sides of town!


Oh well, we finally made it to the correct location and I had a new x-ray and saw the REAL doctor. He spent several minutes pulling and twisting my leg, checking flexion, tightness of the joint, and the ability to straighten the leg then, wonder of wonders and miracle of miracles, he told me that every thing felt great, wrote me a script for six weeks of physio, and sent me on my way with a new appointment in 6 weeks.

OH! And did I mention that he said I should start using only one crutch and wean myself off them completely within a week? After holding my foot off the ground completely for almost three weeks I could finally start at least THINKING about walking again.

Doug and I stopped on the way home to have breakfast and celebrate my new ambulatory status, and I felt as if a 100 pound weight had been lifted from my mind and chest. Until that moment I had not realized how concerned I was about the possible repercussions of the fall. But suddenly the world was a brighter place and, once more, the future was filled with endless possibilities.

This experience is not over, but already it has been a turning point in my life. If you’ve had a turning point in your life, I hope you will leave me a note about it in the comments section and tell me how it turned out. Thanks for sticking with me through this story, it has meant a lot to me.

Woo Hoo!!

The day of my very first post-op doctor’s appointment arrived and I carefully showered, chose a good walking shoe and hobbled out to the car for the drive to the surgeon’s office. Mark was my chauffeur and away we went in a swirl of dust and flying stones…. OK, so we really drove very sedately out of the driveway to prevent my knee getting banged on anything. After laying in bed for two weeks, it seemed like we were going at a pretty good clip.

We arrived slightly late because my GPS wanted us to go to a different area and I didn’t clue in to that fact until we were well into the wrong area. What is it with GPS equipment anyway?? This mixup in directions seems to happen fairly regularly, and NO I did not put the wrong address into the darn thing!

Me on crutches

Off to see the doctor

So…we sat around for a few minutes waiting for my name to be called and finally it happens: “Mrs. Kayuk, can you follow me please?” After several attempted gitty-ups I finally made it up out of the chair and carefully maneuvered myself down the wide hallway behind her. My anxiety level was off the scale. What if my fall the first night had torn everything loose? What if my kneecap had been fractured? What if I had to have surgery again???

When we arrived in the designated room, she bent over, looked at my knee and said brightly, “So…what seems to be the problem?”

OK, I might not be the brightest light on the planet, but I think that even without the crutches and obvious swelling and incisions on my knee I would be pretty sure that knee had recently had surgery.

Since Mark had already been with me for a few days and I had caught up on some much-needed rest and a few meals I was feeling a wee bit better than a cretin, so I answered her equally perky, “Oh, this is my first exam after the surgery.”

She looked at me like I was from another planet and asked to see my appointment sheet. I handed the sheet to her and she scanned to the current appointment, handed it back to me, and said, “You’re here to have your stitches removed!” Then she bounced out of the room for someone else.

I sat there for a moment with my brain digesting this information and trying to correlate it with the obvious lack of any sign of stitches in my incision. Then I bent down for a closer look at my knee…… Nope, definitely no stitches.

About that time she flounced back into the room with another seeming teenager who had a closer look at my knee, pressed in all the sore spots, and said, “Looks good, you can go now. The doctor will see you on Friday.” And she turned to leave.

“Wait!” I croaked. “That’s it? I had an appointment for removal of stitches that aren’t even there?”

“Yes, that sometimes happens. We book all the appointments at the time of booking the surgery so we know your appointments will be in a timely sequence and you don’t get bumped. We don’t know at the time of booking if the doctor will be able to do plastic surgery or if he will need to use stitches. If you don’t need stitches removed you can call and cancel that appointment. (I’m supposed to know that??)

So… a lunch bag letdown of an appointment and I was chauffeured back home in my air-conditionerless Neon on the hottest day so far this year… I’ve rarely been so disappointed, or so happy to crawl back into bed.

Day (461) – You vs.

June 12, 2013

Wish I had posted this myself, but my thanks go to The Better Man Project for it

The Better Man Project ™

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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

It’s you vs. you.

Don’t be mistaken.

It’s not you vs. anyone else.

Anything else.

Something else.

It may appear to be that way.

But it really isn’t.

It’s you vs. you.

The fight is within.

The exterior is just the playing field.

You make yourself the best you can.

Take it to the limits.

Break barriers.

Jump over obstacles.

Defy your previous handicaps.

It’s you vs. you.

It’s all in your head.

Now go win.

– E.

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Several years ago

I had already moved from Canada to Florida, but my sister-in-law, who was in her 70’s still lived in Canada. She was the last of my husband’s family, other than a cousin who was just a few years younger than her. The last year she was alive she was getting senile, but still lived alone and had a series of falls. The calls would go something like this:

‘Hello, is this Mrs. Kayuk? Mrs. Kayuk, your sister-in-law has had a bad fall and is in the hospital. I understand you are the next of kin. She’s not in a state of mind to make decisions at this time, what should we do with her?’

I would do what I could over the phone, find people to look after my horses, book a flight to Canada for the next day, and go sit with her in the hospital, trying to point out to the medical staff that this had already happened several times and perhaps it was time to move her to a nursing home.

The hospital would keep her for several weeks, and release her back to her own home, then I would set up Meals on Wheels and rides for her doctors appointments and when she was back at home I would stay with her for a few days to settle her in, then fly back to Florida. This was an almost monthly occurrence for most of an entire year before she finally agreed to move into a place where they could regulate her medications. She had been pouring them all into a bowl on the table and having one whenever she walked by. This was a colorful bowl of warfarin, diabetes medications, mood enhancers, stool softeners and an assortment of vitamines prescribed by the doctor. She also was a chain smoker and had burn holes in her sheets and her mattress. I have never been so relieved as when she moved into the home.

Flash forward to last month when I had knee surgery.

Sick bed office

Sick bed office

I’ve been a very healthy person all my life. Until my knee started to bother me I had not seen a doctor for over 5 years. I think, for an active person, being forced into inactivity is the equivalent of being locked in a coffin sized box for the duration. For some reason, I felt that others would see this forced inactivity in the same horrible hellacious light that I saw it…that they would understand my feelings of inadequacy and helplessness and be there for me, as I would for them in the same circumstances. Instead, I made the discovery that everyone else has a life of their own to live.

Chair and walker

My new reality

I had my surgery, was dropped off at my apartment, and the world continued to roll along on its pre-determined course while I sat in bed with my leg wrapped in ice and  thoughts of abandonment by family, friends and boyfriend swirling around in my head.

Now that the worst is over and I’m walking again, albeit slowly, I can look at everything with a bit clearer head. Yes, I had surgery. No, it wasn’t life threatening. Yes, I fell and I was frightened and the extremity of my helplessness was brought home to me. No, I didn’t die from it, it didn’t even cause any problems other than my fear of the possible repercussions.

So….Why Did I Feel So Let Down by the Experience?

This is a tougher question than what it appears on the surface. You see, I have never really lived alone.

When I was barely 16 years old I eloped and married my first husband. I lived with him for almost 7 years and when I divorced him I was remarried within two weeks to my second husband. That marriage lasted for 32 years.

During all those years of my life, I had back-up. Not just any kind of back-up, but LIVE-IN back-up. When you live with someone they are always there. OK, not during the day when they’re working, but every evening they are with you–week days, weekends, holidays–they don’t get a vacation, and neither do you. On the other hand, if something goes wrong they are always there with support and assistance, and so are you. Or at least they are there to pick you up if you fall.

Then I Was Alone.

After the loss of my second husband I learned to make my own decisions without bouncing everything off someone else for their ideas and feedback. I learned that if I wanted something I went and got it myself and didn’t depend on someone else to be my support system.

The problem was, I was used to a partnership in times of sickness and trouble. I wasn’t used to being alone and having to care for myself when I was sick or incapacitated. I had expectations that somehow that gap would be bridged and I discovered instead that, when the lights went out and the darkest part of the night came, I was alone.

To my shame, looking back, I didn’t handle this very well. To all of you who were victims of my bitchiness, whining, and general childishness in the first week, I sincerely apologize. I could use the excuse of pain, but to be honest, there was very little pain and a lot of fear. Fear that I would fall again; fear that damage had been caused by the first fall and that I would need to have the surgery again; fear that my knee would never heal properly and that I would be unable to walk properly ever again… But, as you already know, I am superwoman so I couldn’t possibly admit any of these fears. Instead, I internalized them all and became super-bitch.

In my mind, because I was alone in the apartment in bed for 24 hours a day, the time flowed slowly. For hours no one called, therefore no one cared. I was sorry for myself, frustrated by the simplest of chores, afraid to even have a bath without someone else in the house.

Mark2And What REALLY Happened…

How do you thank someone who kept you sane for a week, who travelled thousands of miles and–instead of enjoying Disney World and having a vacation–fed your horses, cooked, let the dog in and out, chatted and just generally kept your butt in bed and did all the work. AND taught you  more than the basics of audio production AND produced a radio show for you?

Mark’s original plan was to have a nice, relaxing trip to Florida, take in some Disney World, collect some sound clips, have a visit, and fly back to Canada. When he found out I was laid up and needed nursing and 24 hour dog service, he never even considered backing out of the trip. Through the whole time he was here, through extreme bitchiness and lack of sleep, he never once complained and always showed a smile and concern.

Cal and Me

Cal and Me

Well, I thanked Mark by taking him out to dinner and inviting him to come back for a more ‘fun’ time when we can walk around and enjoy Disney World together, after all, Disney World is not a place where you want to walk around by yourself!  Thank you Mark, my friend, for being here when I needed a hand (and a maid and a cook) and someone to talk to and feed my horses.

How do you thank your chiropractor for making a house call at no charge, and your blog partner for putting her own physical obstacles aside to travel an hour, one way, to visit?

How do you thank almost total strangers who dropped off ice, delivered bags of fruit, fed your horses, and checked on you when you were alone, unable to walk, with only your dog and your thoughts for company? Without the guys from around the barn I don’t think I would have been able to make it through the first week.

Ernesto and Me

Ernesto and Me

Cal, the stable manager, dropped off bags of fruit and was always ready with a smile and a chat whenever I was able to stand at the door for a few minutes.

I was going through two bags of ice a day and Martine brought me bags every afternoon when he came to the barn to feed his horses. He even came in, refilled my Ice Man, chatted for a while, and made sure I didn’t need other odds and ends from the store.

Vickie fed my horses for the first week and stopped in to see if I was ok or needed anything, and when she left at the end of the first week to run her horses at the racetrack in Virginia, Ernesto took over and fed my horses and cats until Mark arrived.

DadCarolyn

Dad and Carolyn spent almost the entire day of surgery with me at the hospital, delivered me safely to my apartment, and came back later in the week with groceries, home-made chicken soup, and best of all, a chair that would fit in the bathtub. Then they stayed while I had my first post-op shower so I wouldn’t have to face the scary, slippery bath alone for the first time.

My sister texted me off and on every day, and even ‘face-timed’ with me from her work a few times. She also sent me this video to make me laugh when all the antibiotics had my stomach in turmoil…because she loves me….really. And I’m including it because she’s just so darn cute and I love her, too.

My boyfriend hung in there, calling several times a day from California and later from Connecticut, in spite of my moodiness. (Leaping onto a shiny white steed and racing to the rescue of the damsel in distress really only happens in the movies and cartoons) He even answered my calls when he was pretty sure I was going to be a bitch. And many times I was a true bitch. I know it’s no excuse, but forced idleness does not suit my personality. Thanks, Doug, for sticking with me through it all.

Meantime, there were friends from all over who were wishing me well on both WordPress and Facebook. Each and every one of you made my day with every single note.

To all of you I say: THANK YOU!

You can find the original episodes at:

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 1)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 2)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 3)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 4)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 5)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 6)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses, Part 7

Before I had knee surgery I had worked my way down to only two horses left for me, personally, to look after, although I still owned seven in total. Two mares were at the farm where I lived (I looked after these), two were in training across town, Olivia was leased for breeding and living in Virginia, Radar was out on trial, and Candy was leased for riding in Ocala.

The day before my surgerygray horse with riderI recieved a message from the breeder that the farm where Olivia was staying had been sold and she had to ship Olivia back ASAP–at least until she could find a new farm. In a panic, I called her, explained my situation, and asked her to please hold on to Olivia for a few weeks until I could walk again. What a nice lady! Even though she had only 30 days to find homes for all her horses, her boarder’s horses, and Olivia, she graciously agreed to keep her as long as she could, and I determined to get back on my feet as soon as possible.

Then I fell after surgery and realized that I might not be able to take over my responsibilities as quickly or as easily as I had originally thought and planned.

So, I pulled the thinking cap out of the closet and started to brainstormWhat action did I have to take in order to permanently cut down on my upcoming and ongoing responsibilities requiring mobility, and how could it be done as fast as possible? The list I came up with was fairly short, and at the top was “find new homes for some of the horses”. To that end I made the following list:

  1. Ask my trainer to search for a buyer for Zena, the very talented but green 14.3 hand jumper he was working with. She is small but jumps like a cricket and loves it. Also, she rides much larger than she is due to her big barrel and matching stride.
  2. Remind him of the 16.3 hand green mare I have here at the farm with the beautiful floating stride and mellow temperament.
  3. Let him know that Olivia, who is now officially not rideable but would be an awesome broodmare, is coming back in a few weeks.

bay horse being ledDuring the course of our conversation I found out that, the mare who was out on trial had been deliberately scaring her young rider and they were sending her back. Can things continue to get any worse???

I continued to brainstorm and decided that the best thing was for Olivia to stay in Virginia. How could I make this happen? I put together a proposal, called the breeder who was leasing Olivia, and made her an offer that she couldn’t refuse. I knew she was infatuated with Olivia and that Olivia loved being on her farm. Two days later I got a response that a check was in the mail. Woo Hoo!! One down, five to go!

computer screenMeantime, Monday finally came and I reached the surgeon’s office. The receptionist took my ‘I fell on my bad knee and finally got back up’ story, commiserated, and told me that she would ask the doctor about it before he started with his next patient, then call me back.

It wasn’t long before the phone rang and I was told that the only way the doctor would be able to tell if things were damaged inside the knee was to wait and do an exam in two weeks when the knee had time to heal a bit. He would also take an x-ray at that time and, if necessary, send me for another MRI.So….I sat propped up in my bed Monday evening and thought about the events of the weekend. In the end I decided that everything had pretty much balanced out:

  • I fell on my injured knee, but the nerve block prevented me from feeling any pain or tensing the muscles and probably causing major damage;
  • I had to wait another two weeks to find out if there was damage to the freshly repaired ACL, but there was almost no pain, which indicated to the doctor that there was little to no damage, and in any case we wouldn’t have known if the surgery was a success until that time;
  • one horse that had been out on trial was being shipped back in disgrace, but another that had been merely leased was now permanently sold.
  • I had surgery on Friday, it was now Monday. The last of the drugs were beginning to wear out of my system. I was not in any real pain.

The only thing that was beginning to be something of a concern was ….. how was I going to get into my raised bath tub for a shower??

To be continued…

You can find the original episodes at:

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 1)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 2)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 3)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 4)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses (Part 5)

Of Dogs, Knee Surgery, and Large Horses, Part 6

My eyes slowly opened and I lay still for a moment wondering why I felt so heavy, then I realized that I had bandages on my knee…oh yes, knee surgery….oh crapp! I fell.

Now fully awake, though a long way from feeling it, I scooted to a sitting position and removed the bubble-wrap ice-pack extension from my knee. Under that was more wrap, and the instructions were to leave that on for 36 hours. Even the wrap felt hot, and I had to go to the bathroom, so I decided to put new ice in the machine on my way back to bed.

I flipped the light switch on, swung my legs over the side of the bed and glared at the crutches, still wary of using them and feeling more than just a little woozy after my traumatic night. I didn’t realize just how ‘woozy’ I was until I tried to stand up and flopped in an uncontrolled ‘whump’ back onto the bed.

OK…now I was frightened in a different way. It was no longer the crutches I feared, it was my own balance. So…I carefully stood again, took up the crutches, and concentrated my way through the apartment to the bathroom. I sat down (do you know how hard it is to sit down when your knee doesn’t bend?) and wondered how to change the ice in the Ice Man.

Gathering my resolve, I crutch-hopped back to the bedroom, stopping at the freezer on the way to pick up the small bag of ice. Once leaning on the side of the bed, I bent over and removed the top from the machine. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but an almost-overflowing reservoir of warm water was not it. Now what? I couldn’t carry it, or drag it over the lip of the door, or pick it up even if I got it there. Back to the kitchen I went for a large, deep plastic or metal bowl and a cup. For the next 10 days the procedure for emptying the Ice Man was to scoop water out of the machine until the bowl was about half full and sit the bowl on the bedside table. I would move to the doorway, pick up the bowl and shift it to table at the end of the sofa, move a few steps into the kitchen area, and move the bowl to the work table, move a few steps and transfer the bowl to the sink, follow the reverse track back to the bedroom, refill the bowl and do the whole thing again.

By the time the third trip was completed, the ice man was back in working order and velcroed to my knee, and I was propped up on pillows in bed I was ready to go back to sleep… and Rally barked at the door. Fortunately, there was a plug between the Ice Man and my knee so I could disconnect it without completely removing it. This was the last time I got up for a bathroom trip without waking her to go out at the same time, and it was the last time I got all the way back to bed without making sure she was back inside first.

Refilling the Ice Man took three round trips the first day, then I remembered the walker Dad had loaned me. It was still sitting at the front door. On my next bathroom trip I made a detour and traded the crutches for the walker. This gave me a lot more stability, and after that first night and the fall I never took another pain pill, but even so I was shaky for another few days as the drugs worked their way out of my system and my muscles grew accustomed to my new mode of mobility. At first it took three trips to get enough water out of the machine, but later I became an expert bowl shifter and I managed to get it done in two trips.

I checked the clock…7:00 am. Is the doctor’s office open that early? No answer. The next time I woke it was 8:30 am so I tried the doctor’s office again. No answer, but this time I listened for the message to end so I could leave a message and discovered that there was an emergency number. Awesome! I left my name, phone number and a brief message about what happened, then went back to sleep.

When I woke later the sun was up and my clock told me it was 9:45 am. Still no message from either the doctor or his emergency number, so I called again. No answer. That’s when I remembered that it was Saturday. Still, someone should be checking the emergency messages. I left another message and spent the rest of the day propped up in bed drifting in and out of sleep and waiting for a return call that never came. I was up and down several times through the day changing water in the Ice Man, pretending to work on my blog, and telling parents, family and boyfriend about my fall, making light of it, and worrying myself sick.

Through this time the Ice Man used more ice than my freezer could produce, so when one of the horse owners I usually chat with knocked on the door to see how I was getting along, I asked if he could bring me some ice later in the day. Fifteen minutes later I had two large bags of ice and he even emptied and refilled the Ice Man for me. Martin continued to check with me each day for the next two weeks to make sure I had ice. I hope he knows how much that meant to me at the time, and how grateful I am to him for his concern.

Another who checked on me several times and brought a bag of bananas, oranges and apples when he heard I was eating cookies for most meals was Cal, the gregarious farm manager. Usually seen in the driver’s seat of truck, tractor or ATV, he always has time to stop in for a chat, normally with a son, nephew or grandson in tow.

Vickie, another boarder and registered TB trainer fed my horses for the first week, after which she followed the racing season to Virginia with her 7 horses. At that time Ernesto, another TB owner, graciously took over the feeding of the horses and, by that time, I was able to take over the feeding of the cats.

Five days after the initial surgery Dad and Carolyn returned with bags of groceries, including a roasted chicken, some microwaveable foods which turned out to be my main source of food for the next week. However, the best gift they brought was a plastic chair that would fit into the bath tub so (with a plastic bag taped around my leg) I could take a shower. What bliss!

Looking back, I don’t think I would have made it without all my friends at the barn.

To Be Continued….

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