The Grateful Book

September 21, 2015

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For several years I was mired in grief as I struggled to come to terms with those feelings of loss we all have when someone close to us dies and we either ignored the signs or felt helpless through the process that, in many cases, lasts for years.

As my grief cycle lost some of its hold on me I started reading again in my search for stepping stones to help me rise from a serious depression to a brighter life. I also turned to friends and relatives and my new boyfriend and they have all stood by my side as I slowly beat back the viny tendrils of my own mind that were trying to hold me back.

One of the suggestions I came across was called The Grateful Book. That’s not the name of a book, but is an exercise to help turn the tables on the mind and it has been of immense help to me.

The premise is simple

  1. Buy a brand new spiral notebook and a pen that you can keep by your bed.
  2. Each day, either before turning out the light at night or before rising in the morning, write down 10 things you are truly grateful for. (For me, this usually takes up most of a page so I just use a new page for each day.)

The page of my book from this morning follows as an example. However, to give you a better understanding of WHY I write what I do let me tell you where I live and what I saw yesterday.

I live in an apartment in a barn. The apartment was converted from a farm manager office with the horse stall next to it remodelled into a bedroom and the storage room behind converted to a bath room.

There are three other 12′ x 12′ ‘apartments’ in this facility that do not have bathrooms or windows, but there is a common kitchen and a toilet in the office in the second barn. The people in the other apartments bathe late at night, with a hose, outside in the dark. There is no hot water.

In comparison, my 700 sq.ft. apartment is the Taj Mahal. I have two window air conditioners, a small window, a real stove and refrigerator, and a full bathroom with hot water as well as my bedroom.

Yesterday, the woman who lives with her husband in one of the rooms proudly showed me their home. It was spotless, smelled of cleaning products, and had a dresser, a mattress on the floor, and storage bins stacked in one corner. There was a coffee pot on the dresser and it must have been over 100 degrees in the windowless room. She had a big smile and was so happy to show it to me.

So, here is this morning’s page from my Grateful Book:

  • I am grateful every day that I have a boyfriend who is a good man and cares about me.
  • I am grateful every day that I have a kitchen with all the appliances I need and extra ones that are convenient.
  • I am grateful every day that I have running water and a functional indoor bathroom where I can privately bathe.
  • I am grateful every day that I have lots of clothes for any weather condition.
  • I am grateful every day that I have boxes and shelves of books to read about a variety of subjects from humor to self improvement and education to science fiction.
  • I am grateful every day that I wake up each morning to the sounds of life all around me.
  • I am grateful every day that I can watch the sunset from my front door.
  • I am grateful every day for the incredible beauty I see in clouds, water, trees, flowers, animals and the faces around me.
  • I am grateful every day for my functioning brain and the creative thoughts I have as well as all the memories of my life.
  • I am grateful every day for the taste of clean water, the smell of coffee, the sounds of birds, the sight of growing things and the touch of others.
  • I am grateful every day for the lifetime of hugs I have received and for each one I will get in the future.

Sometimes I have a particular person or event on my mind and what comes to mind is all the things related to that. Many themes repeat, like my boyfriend, my sister, my friends, adventures and travel I have enjoyed, moments I remember, my animals, vehicles that are old but functional, my job, educational grants I’ve recieved…

At first it was hard to think of a single good thing to be grateful for. Then, as I got into the thought patterns of actually seeing what is around me, it became easier and easier to be grateful for everything.

IMG_2056It’s hard to believe, as I sit here inside a solid building and type on my computer that is connected to the rest of the world through the internet while a cool breeze from the air conditioner wafts the warm scent of toasting cinnamon English muffin through the air and a little black and white cat stretches in contentment and companionship next to me, that there are places in the world where bombs are falling, homes are being invaded, women are not allowed education or employment. And that my very neighbors don’t have bathrooms.

How can I NOT be grateful for what I have and where I live?

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Photo of I'Candy and Brattzina

Candy and Zena

OK…as anyone who reads this blog knows, I have horses.

For the past several summers I’ve been feeding my horses at the farm where I live, then driving to my trainer/coaches barn for a lesson or to ride/video my horses there.

One Day Last Summer

I fed my horses here, had my usual rush of morning coffee and oatmeal, loaded a horse in the trailer, and made the trip to my trainer’s barn.

For the next several hours (in real time that’s translatable to ‘most of the day’), I rode a horse, videoed a few lessons, cleaned tack, discussed coming show and training schedules, told jokes, had lunch, and generally just socialized around the barn.

WOW! Was it 6:00 already??

The time really sneaks up on you when the days are so long, warm, and filled with activity. Someone mentioned getting home to feed the kids, I glanced at my phone, and realized I was late getting home to give the other horses their supper. Luckily, at some point during the day I decided to leave the horse I brought with me at the training barn and just pull the empty trailer home.

So…off I went, satisfied with my day.

Now, from my trainer’s barn to my barn is pretty much a straight shot (other than some fairly significant curves in the road). I pass a school, cross a major road at a traffic light, pass another school, pause at a 4-way stop, and take the final long leg back to my barn. The whole trip–from the middle of one nowhere to the middle of another–takes about 25 minutes, even pulling a horse trailer, and it’s mostly through rural horse and cattle country.

Well, there I was on the last leg of the trip and I hear a sharp “CRRAACK” that sounded like a close-up shot from a gun.

OH MY GOD!!!
What was that!?!

I glanced in both side mirrors to make sure my tires were OK, even though I wasn’t getting a feel that anything was wrong with the truck or trailer. All were fine so the next thought was:

OH MY GOD!!
Was someone SHOOTING AT ME?

That was when I ducked down almost below the dash and tromped on the gas. In less time than it takes to type it, I was racing along a country road with a horse trailer leaping and bounding over bumps behind me and not another car ahead or as far back as the eye could see (which was actually pretty far).

I WAS ALONE….ON A COUNTRY ROAD….IN THE MIDDLE OF TWO NOWHERES…WITH SOMEONE SHOOTING AT ME!!!

After about a century (real time 90 seconds) of a neck and neck race between my heart and the truck, I felt I was far enough from the danger zone to slow down some, then i had a secondary panic attack when I realized how fast I was going.

The rest of my trip was spent wondering if someone was hunting beside the road and just didn’t realize there was someone on the road next to them; if they DID realize there was someone there and shot as I passed as a practical joke; if there was some fluke atmospheric noise in the area; if I was imagining things and going crazy….

After what seemed an eternity

I arrived back in the safe haven of my own farm area and stopped the truck. I got out and walked all around truck and trailer searching for gunshot holes, rock dents, anything that would solve the mystery of the Big Bang, and found nothing, nada, not a darn thing.

Finally I gave up

I backed the trailer into it’s parking spot and was just about to get out of the truck to unhitch when something caught my eye. Something that just looked… wrong. It looked SO wrong that I couldn’t really place what it was so I got out of the truck and walked around to the passenger side of the trailer.

There, attached to the side of the trailer was my spare tire, and sitting on top of it was what, at first glance, looked like some kind of exotic bird. But as I approached, and my brain took in the reality of what was there, I realized that those things that looked like parts of a bird were actually parts of the tire….my brand new TIRE had EXPLODED…but WHY??

Since that time…

I’ve related this experience to many other people. Most show utter disbelief, but a few have commented that similar things have happened to them. Apparently, if you over fill your tire with air and it gets really hot it will explode. My only explanation is that I had my trailer serviced a few months before the explosion and the service person put too much air in the spare tire while the weather was cool. As the Florida temperatures soared and the sun heated the tire cover,

!!BOOM!!

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My suggestion to trailer owners is that you check the tire pressure in your spare tire regularly and perhaps keep it a little under-inflated. Better to have a tire that’s a bit soft than one that has a hole in it big enough to drive through.

In Conclusion:

I would be curious to hear if others have had similar experiences and what conclusion you came to about the cause of the disintegration of your perfectly good tire.

(Although, come to think of it, it probably wasn’t ‘perfectly good’ or it wouldn’t have blown up in the first place.)

My wish for you, my friend, and all others who take the road less traveled (or, in fact, any other road) and decide to pull a trailer:

May Your Trip Be Boring.

OldTrailerYou, Gentle Reader, may not know this, but there was a time when I didn’t own my own horse trailer. Now, that was long ago but I still remember the anxiety of scrambling around with countless other horse owners, trying to find suitable trailering for my horses in the weeks before a show.

So…I decided to buy my own trailer.

Surprisingly, this turned out to be easier said than done. For months I followed every lead in my search for a “good used horse trailer in reasonable condition”. I saw more teensie weensie trailers (obviously built for large dogs) and sagging frames (probably used to transport elephants) than I would have ever believed existed.

Finally…

With the show season breathing down my neck, I decided to buy new. Expecting to find my dream trailer waiting (probably somewhere over the rainbow) I instantly became the terror of the local trailer dealers. Until finally (in desperation I suspect) some poor salesman who had seen me once too often suggested that I custom order a trailer directly from the factory.

One of the big advantages in ordering new is that you can get EXACTLY what you want. Now I entered a whole new dimension of pickiness.

Well, dozens of long distance calls later (this was before free long distance and cell phones) (and YES, I was around before cell phones!) I decided to order from a factory in Barrie, Ontario. They explained that, no matter how much I wanted it, a trailer with a dressing room was too big for my Ranger to pull, but an extra wide two horse trailer was just fine–and they happily matched the color to my truck!

I paid a little more for an extra front door and a step-up rather than a ramp, but it was well worth the cost. Now my horse can’t pirouette off the edge of the ramp and I won’t have to fight a hay bale to get out of her way.

The disadvantages in buying new from the manufacturer are that you don’t get to see it until it’s too late to change your mind, and you have to go to the factory to pick it up.

The night before I picked up the trailer I had nightmares.

First I dreamed that my order was lost and the trailer was never built. Then I dreamed the trailer was built but it was only 18″ wide: “We thought you said Doberman, not Dapple Gray,” was the response from the girl behind the desk when I complained about the size. Needless to say, it was a bad night for me.

Monday morning arrived sunny and bright and I was at the factory at 8:30 AM to hitch up. Of course, my order was there just as I had given it. Unfortunately, they were expecting us to leave Ottawa on Monday morning, not to arrive at their doorstep at practically the crack of dawn.

Well, I almost had a heart attack when i saw my trailer for the first time – no doors, no windows, no vent, no floor–even worse than my worst nightmares! But the company owner sent me off to have breakfast nearby, but extra workers on it, and by the time my truck was wired for the brakes it was ready. Everyone at the factory was just wonderful, and they even used my truck to pull my you-can’t-get-any-newer-than-that trailer out of the factory. The color was a perfect match to my truck and there was even matching detailing on the side! Wow!

Back at the barn…

When I got back to the barn even my hard to please mare loved her new chariot. She loaded and unloaded just fine after I dropped the chest bar so I could wake through instead of ducking under. (She seems to have a phobia about people suddenly ducking right in front of her.)

In Retrospect…

I guess I’ve learned a few things from this experience.

  • first, the phrase ‘in good condition’ does not mean the same thing to a seller as it does to a buyer;
  • second, let the factory know if you plan to arrive at the crack of dawn.

My next adventure

Now the question comes up….should I take my horse in the Just Barely Has Enough Sense To Stay On Her Feet For The Whole Day’ class next week? Or do I book her into the I Don’t Have A Clue What I’m Doing Here But I Sure Can Jump Fast’ class?

What do you think?

Rally DogShe always looked as if she had just put fresh eyeliner on her golden eyes.A special Rally DogNothing bothered her and she loved wandering around the yard.Vickie's Camera 044She was always a very happy dog with a most beautiful coat.

Vickie's Camera 013In her prime she would stand guard at the top of the stairs.

MamaCatShe was happy to share her rug with a pregnant Little Mama cat.

IMG_0053And equally happy to share her carpet with Pookie, an older lady cat.

photo 100Monkey cat loved her,

photo 102And loved to rub on her

photo 103As they strolled around the farm

photo 104I think he felt he needed to keep an eye on her

photo 105to be sure she didn’t get into a paddock by mistake.

RallySince her coat was so thick and long I had to clip it for the summer.

Vickie's Camera 013 (2)But it came in handy when we lived in Canada.

Time Sneaks Up On Us All

Over the past several weeks (months really) I have watched my beloved friend deteriorate to the point where she tripped over doorsills, could not stand without trembling and shaking, and paced in pain and discomfort through the night. Finally, through my dense brain and the belief that I could ‘fix’ whatever was wrong with her, came the realization that she was not going to get better.

So….how do you say good-bye to a devoted friend that trusts you implicitly, never complains, would follow you to the ends of the earth as long as she was able to stand and breathe? How do you decide to end a life? How do you know when it’s time? Is it better to end the life while dignity remains…before incapacitation reaches a point that is embarrassing for the animal?

I hope I have made the right decision.

I hope my Rally Dog is in a good place, enjoying playtime before agility class, riding in a car with her head out the window, eating her own special cup of vanilla ice cream from a cardboard cup, chasing the end of a lead shank, bounding after a flock of turkeys that have had the dumb luck to infringe on her yard, coursing through the woods and looking forward to cookies at the split in the trail, sleeping curled up with Pookie, eating chicken and bouncing along through the tall grass with her ears flopping, dragging her favorite fuzzy toy around and making it squeak, running across a yard covered in 6″ of fresh snow and dipping her head for a mouthful every few steps just because she can, sitting on the porch fulfilling her duty by keeping an eye on the front yard–protecting us from invading squirrels.

I will always remember these things about her. And I’ll remember how she was always happy and ran around with her tongue hanging out of one side of her mouth. I can close my eyes and picture her bouncing around in excitement when I buckled the treat bag on and she knew we were going to agility class. I can feel her nose poking me right in the back of my knee at the most perfectly unexpected time.

She was the most considerate dog.

She shared her food with kittens and cats, let the older cat move into her warm spot in winter, and never got into the cookie bag even when it sat on the porch beside her food bowl.

In spite of blindness and deafness that encroached upon her senses until she traveled in a dark and silent world, she never once threatened to bite any person who surprised her with a touch either when she was awake or sound asleep, whether they were total strangers or well-known friends.

She was always gentle with children, kittens and puppies, and she often settled more aggressive dogs at agility class.

Those are memories I will hold close in my heart of a soul that was always there for me through the worst devastation of my life and through some of the happiest times of my life. A steady light that kept me going when I wanted to stop, comforted me when I felt more alone than I could handle, and looked after me without judgement or expectation and with eyes filled with trust and faith that I would always do the right thing.

Goodbye Rally Dog.

Time Passes When You’re Having Fun!

It has been several weeks since I was told by the doctor to start physiotherapy and I have to say that I have been through many emotions since it started. I’ve been like an oddly aligned pendulum, swinging back and forth, up and down between excitement that I can walk again, frustration that I can’t walk yet, annoyance that I can’t go riding, fear that I’m going to re-damage the knee, and occasional pain both just walking around and at the hands of the physiotherapists.

OK…let me start at the end of Part 9 when I received the script to start physiotherapy. It was the happiest and most exciting day since finding out I needed surgery. As Doug, my boyfriend, was driving me back to my apartment I called and booked an appointment with the physiotherapist. It was Wednesday and I was told that I couldn’t start for 10 days…TEN DAYS!!  OH, the Frustration!!

Emotional Turmoil

Emotional Turmoil

For the next ten days I practiced walking without my crutches. I went to the flea market and walked for probably a mile, I went to antique malls and walked up and down stairs, I drove my car around and went grocery shopping. I couldn’t straighten my leg all the way up, and I couldn’t bend it more than 90 degrees, and my buttocks–especially the left one–were so sore I couldn’t sleep for the first two days, BUT I was getting out of the apartment. I no longer had to wait for someone else to bring ice, I could just hop in the car and go get it myself. I had my freedom back!

Who Needs Physio?

Then I went to my first physio appointment and went through four pages of questions about my condition and what could I do and what surgery did I have and did I have other physical issues or illnesses. ARGH! It took longer to complete the form that to have the therapy!

Once the forms were complete (and my credit card information was on file) I met the physiotherapist. What a nice guy! He was super professional, knowledgeable, just a really nice guy. I’ve had friends who went through physio sessions and barely lived to tell the tale, but I had every confidence after meeting him that my physiotherapist would never hurt me. Oh how naive I was!

The first session was very gentle. He tested my flexibility over my entire body to see how much the knee was affecting me and where. He watched me walk, bend, stretch and balance and made notes about everything. Then he massaged my injured leg and loosened all the muscles that I didn’t even realize were sore until that time. OUCH! but it was a good hurt. In short order I was back in my car and wondering what I needed physio for. Except for massaging the back of my thigh and calf, I could do all those exercises myself. But I decided to keep the next appointment and see if more would be done when I wasn’t spending the first half of the appointment filling out paperwork.

The day after my first physio appointment my knee swelled so much I thought my toes were going to explode. It took two days of ice and propping my leg up to get the swelling back down. Of course, spending an entire day sitting in a restaurant with old friends, walking through department and grocery stores, and driving for two hours probably caused most of the swelling, but I really didn’t want to believe that just plain normal activities could make my leg look like I had connected an air hose to it. In fact, if you saw the Harry Potter episode when he blew up his horrible Aunt and she floated off, then you know just how my leg looked.

Decorative Knee Tape

Decorative Knee Tape

My second session started off with gentle stretching exercises, then the massage and taping my knee to help work the skin over the fascia and control the swelling. This was important because my knee wouldn’t bend if the joint was filled with fluid. At the first and second appointment my left knee was about 1.5″ bigger than my right knee. Also, this time when the measurements were taken to determine how much flexion I had my knee was forced to flex as far as it would go without pulling the ACL. OMG!!!!!! To give you an idea of how that felt, Mr. Nice Guy Physiotherapist told me to breathe like I was in Lamaze while he tried his best to pop my new ACL loose! I’ve never had a baby or been through Lamaze, but I’ve seen the movies. This was NOT a fun moment in my life. Especially when I was told that even with ‘help’ bending my knee I only had 63% flexibility.

Well, so far I’ve had about 5 weeks of physio and I’ve learned to ‘bridge’, ‘crab walk’, ‘reverse stride’, and both flex and straighten my left leg. I’m now within 1 degree of straightness and within a few degrees of matching the flexibility of my right leg. It still hurts to walk or to push the wheelbarrow, but Mr. Physio has told me that the pain will fade as my leg gains strength. When pressed for some kind of timeline, he protects his reputation by just saying that each person advances at the speed they are capable of handling and he won’t say if I’m coming along well or not. Although his assistants did tell me that few people have to be watched because they overflex the bridges or overstep the crab walk, so I guess I started out in better condition than most who have ACL replacements.

Recently I’ve been emailing a friend who had knee replacement surgery a few weeks after my ACL was replaced. Although the surgeries were both done on the knees, there is almost no other comparison between them. Her surgery was far more extensive than mine, and her scarring as well as the length of her hospital stay is proof of that. However, while I was not allowed to touch toe to the ground for almost 3 weeks, she was walking on her crutches in less time and outside working on things. Maybe I’m just a wimp, but I know for sure that I would never have been able to do that in such short time.

I would love to hear from others who have had knee surgery. What was your recovery time? How long is it REALLY before you walk without even thinking about it? Was it ACL replacement or full knee replacement, or some other knee surgery?

Am I a wimp, or am I doing OK? Enquiring minds want to know.

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.

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….

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

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning and lay there for a moment in the dark wondering where I was and what woke me up. BARK!! I had fallen asleep well before my normal bedtime, and my dog didn’t get her usual early evening constitutional so she was standing at the door. Every few minutes she would give a short, urgent bark. ARGroan!

I tried to roll out of bed to let her out and almost fell on my head. Something was wrapped around my leg! Then the events of the previous day seeped into the mush that filled my head and I remembered the surgery….and the fall. I reached down and felt around my knee to see how big it was and realized that I couldn’t find it under all the wrappings.

For some reason, as I lay there alone in my apartment with my dog barking at the door, this struck me as funny and I was overcome by hysterical laughter. Then, an intense feeling of sadness and abandonment rolled over me in a wave and before you could say ‘post traumatic stress syndrome’ the tears were rolling down my cheeks and I was sobbing as uncontrollably as I had been laughing a moment before. Fortunately, before I could get entrenched too deeply in this frame of mind, the cycle was interrupted by another bark from the direction of the door and a suddenly urgent bladder.

And the reality of my situation thundered in on me. I was afraid to try to get up. I was afraid to use the crutches. And every living creature in the apartment had to pee. Soon.

legphoto 2I’m not sure if it was the drugs or the nerve block, but I was certain that I had very little time to do SOMETHING or I would have to find someplace else to sleep. So….I sat up, got my crutches lined up, and slid my legs off the bed. OK…so far, so good. Then I very carefully bent over and disconnected myself from the now warm ice pump. I stood up on the crutches and swayed back and forth before staggering like a drunken sailor through the house, throwing open the front door and watching Rally trot out, then I turned, waited for equilization of my internal balance bubble, and hitched-slid, hitched-slid, hitched-slid my way to the bathroom. I forgot to move the crutches out of the way when I tried to sit down and nearly spun myself to the floor again, but managed to catch the edge of the door, disengage the crutches and settle onto the toilet. Aaaahhhh!!

legphoto 14I was there for quite a while. Thinking about the trip back to the bedroom. How I would place each crutch for maximum stability. I could turn the lights out on the way, and tuck myself safely back into bed. The ice water was warm now, and I could feel my leg swelling the longer I was more-or-less upright, but I couldn’t think of a solution to that at the moment, so I decided to leave it for the next time I woke up.

Finally, all my decisions made, I worked my way back to the bedroom, swung my legs back into bed, flipped the covers over myself…..and BARK!! Rally wanted in. Sigh….maybe she’ll change her mind, I thought…. BARK!! No, she wasn’t changing her mind. I sat up, swung my legs back out of bed, braced myself for the pressure under my arms and on the heels of my hands (they already felt bruised after only one trip to the bathroom) and staggered back to the door. Naturally, my blind/deaf dog was standing three feet from the door and I had to reach out and touch her with the crutch before she realized the door was open, while at the same time fending off the barn cats who were attempting to sneak into the house. I would have let one or two in to comfort me, but I didn’t think I could bend over to clean out the litter box.

Eventually Rally ended up inside, the cats remained outside, and I was ready to collapse. How do people who use crutches all the time survive it? I wondered as I sat there gathering strength for the trip back to the bedroom. I would like to say that I surged to my feet, took control of those crutches, and marched in a frog-hopping sort of way straight back to bed, but instead the trip was completed in a 100 year old geriatric shuffle, and probably took several minutes.

By the time I had reached the bed I was freezing—except my knee, which was on fire—and I could barely lift my legs far enough over the edge of the bed to be safe.

Too tired and defeated to even cry, I tucked myself in the best I could, huddled under the covers, and slipped again into a mostly drugged sleep.

To Be Continued….

You can find previous 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)

VinHospitalThe next thing I remember I was back in my room having brilliant conversations with my visitors and the nurse… one word at a time… between naps. I didn’t realize how little time I was staying awake until I asked the nurse for a muffin. Next time I opened my eyes there was a blueberry muffin sitting on the bedside table with my name on it. The nurse stepped back into the room to make sure I didn’t choke. How silly was that? I’ve been eating by myself for well over 50 years! I took a fork full of muffin and before I could finish chewing was falling asleep. I barely had time to swallow before drifting off again. So, I wolfed down about four tiny bites of that muffin… one bite at a time… between naps. Then I had to pee.

I groped around and found the call button and, like a genie from a bottle, it seemed that instantly there was a nurse with a smile awaiting my demands. “I have to pee”, I said, and the nurse disappeared to get a big, strong, handsome guy to carry me to the bathroom…or a wheelchair, I didn’t much care at this point as long as it was fast. Meantime, Dad and Carolyn mysteriously vacated the room and the nurse returned WITH A BEDPAN and sat it on the table then, began to flip up the covers in prepparation for sliding that THING under my backside.

ARP! Alternate plan! No sooner had my genie-nurse placed the bedpan on the little table than a wave of surprise nausea overwhelmed me. And, oh, the extreme gratitude of having a clean bedpan at your side when the post-anesthesia digestive rejection hits out of the blue. What a wonderful serendipity of timing! I totally understand now why they don’t want you to eat the night before surgery, and I will never complain about it again.

7photo 3Once the bedpan was cleaned and sterilized (don’t look at me, I don’t make the rules), I had the pleasure of actually using it as a bedpan. By the way, have you seen the new bedpans? They are a marvel of modern engineering! No more the big, oddly-shaped stainless steel bowls of the past that we perched on as they wobbled under us like a drunk donkey, the new ones are flat on one end so they slide under you easily. Of course, they’re also one-size-fits-all so at my size I felt like I was falling in; and it didn’t help that there was a very nice and awesomely chatty nurse keeping an eye on me the whole time. As you can imagine, it took a few minutes. Oh, and after my original use of the bedpan they made sure there was one of those little plastic kidney-shaped bowls handy at all times.

So…the hour of allotted recovery time passed and I was still asleep—more than less.   Since you can’t be hopping around on crutches dragging a leg around behind you in the dirt when you leave, the rule of knee surgery is that if you can lift your injured leg off the bed you’re ready to go home. And I was still asleep. Did I mention that I react very strongly to medications? It’s one of the big reasons that I would rather have a headache than take them.

Lifting the leg off the bed usually happens around the end of the first hour. Four hours and a nurse shift-change later, almost entirly spent in a drugged sleep, I finally managed to lift my leg off the bed….sort of. Good enough! It was declared that I could go home. WooHoo!

Now came the forty-five minutes of drive time strategically interspersed with stops to empty the little plastic kidney-shaped bowl they were kind enough to give me for the trip. After what was undoubtedly three days, we made it to my apartment.

photo 03Once there everyone hussled and bustled about, getting me in and settled, getting Rally Dog out of her stall prison, filling her water and food bowls, making sure I had water and plastic hospital bowl and crackers at bedside, and that my bubble-wrap water cooler thingy was hooked up and running, and I had taken my pain medication—as per doctor’s orders. We were all exhausted so Dad and Carolyn tucked me in and headed for home.

I was alone….the curtains blocked the late-afternoon light…it was quiet…I had just taken a Happy Pill…I drifted off into a deeply drug-induced sleep. Just for the record, I’m not a doctor person and I don’t take pills. If I have a cold, I use a box of tissues and get on with my life, if I get a cut, I put some cream and a bandage on it and get on with my life, so every pill I take has an affect almost twice as strong as anyone else the same size would get. Oh, I did mention this? Blame my repetitiveness on the drugs.

6photo 2When I woke the bedroom was dark, but the lights were on in the living room and, of course, how could I sleep with the lights on? Also, I had to pee again. So, I disentangled myself from the bed, remembered to disconnect the ice machine, grasped my crutches, slipped, and promptly fell down…Right Smack In The Middle…. of my freshly repaired knee onto the linoleum-over-concrete floor yelling, “Oh SHIT!” all the way down. I may have used the F word.

Even in a drug-induced stupor I knew nothing good was likely to come of any of this. I lay there attempting to assess the situation and the only thought that would form was, ‘How am I going to get up?’ so I rolled to the side, wondering if it mattered now whether I used that leg or not. After laying there for a few minutes and thinking (ok, not so much ‘thinking’ as rolling random thoughts around in my empty, echoing head), I grabbed the door handle and a book shelf and managed to regain my foot. As I was struggling to stand I realized that it didn’t matter if I tried to use the repaired leg or not, the nerve block was still in force and nothing this side of a cattle prod was going to get any use out of it.

Now I was afraid to trust my balance on the crutches so I re-connected the ice machine, packed myself back into bed, took another pain pill—more to kill my, ‘Will I ever walk again?’ thoughts than any imagined pain–and went back to sleep.

My thought, as I was being pulled to unconsciousness by the overload of drugs:

‘Please don’t let my kneecap be shattered!’

To be continued….

You can find the first and second episodes at:

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

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

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

Great! I was a widow living alone with six cats, a blind and deaf dog, and four horses. The aftermath of the surgery would leave me unable to touch my toe to the ground for almost two weeks. How many favors was I going to have to call in to get all this done? For a minimum of two weeks?

Vickie's Camera 006 (2)I was an active person! I rode horses, walked my dog, wandered around flea markets,  blogged (OK, so I can blog while laid up, but I only sleep about six hours a night because my back hurts if I lay in bed longer than that.) How on earth was I going to make it two whole weeks without moving faster than …….I couldn’t even think of anything slower than what I would be. AND he scheduled the surgery less than two weeks away….ARGH!!

OK….I took a deep breath, at that moment ‘Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ popped into my head, and I whispered, “Don’t panic….!”

Then I put my thinking hat on (yes I do, too, have one!): boyfriend had just flown to California and from there heading off to Connecticut for three weeks, brother was at sea for two weeks, sister was in South Carolina with too short notice for her to get time off…..I called Dad.

The invitation was from the heart, Dad and my very sweet new step-mother, Carolyn, wanted me to stay with them, but lived on a busy corner and didn’t want my deaf/blind dog (that smells like an old dog) in the house. I wasn’t willing to put the Rally Dog in a kennel because the last time I did she panicked and tried to eat her way out resulting in a broken tooth and twisted jaw.

Thinking hat on again…No one with a farm was willing to take the responsibility for having her because she couldn’t hear, could barely see, and they were afraid she would get stepped on by a horse, or run over. Some had other dogs that were territorial, some lived on busy streets and worked through the day… well, it looked like I would just have to stay home and take care of myself. What’s the big deal? After all, I AM SUPERWOMAN, damn it!

So, the race was on and I made my lists:

  • get big hay bale for field horses (so helpers will not have to take hay to them every day)

  • buy enough feed to last until I can walk (had to guess at this)

  • stock up on dog food

  • stock up on cat food

  • clean my apartment (I know it won’t last, but I really like living in a clean space)

  • set up the computer and printer in the bed

  • box of food in the bed (all the best stuff, cookies, granola bars, water, peanuts)

  • phone charger in the bed

  • (too bad I couldn’t put the toilet in the bed—more about that later)

  • clean the fridge and throw out everything that will go bad

  • buy groceries that I can prepare easily or that are ready-to-eat

  • gas up the car to drive myself to the hospital

  • make arrangements for a pick-up

Wow! So much to do, so little time, but I managed to get it all done, and off to the hospital I went.

Normal procedure is to be at the hospital two hours before surgery for all the prep work, the surgery lasts about 30 minutes, then an hour in recovery and away we go….NOT!

photo 2I was there only a few minutes late and everyone—nurses, doctors, anesthesiologist, and hospital staff—were wonderful. They were all pleasant, efficient and helpful, and I spent the extra time working on my small laptop in between interruptions for divesting street clothes and donning the excuse for a garment you wear for surgery, being stuck and fitted with a port, and meeting with surgeon, anesthesiologist and surgery nurse. Each of them checked my name on the cute bracelet they gave me, asked me which surgery I was having done and where, and what my name was. The doctor even wrote YES! in large letters on my leg just above my left knee. By the time they came with the roller bed to take me to surgery I felt pretty confident that they all knew who I was, how old I was, and that they were doing surgery on my left knee.

Since there was a surgery planned ahead of me, and day surgery started at 9:00, I did end up delayed by about 45 minutes, not too much in the general scheme of things. This actually worked well because Dad and Carolyn arrived to sit with me for a while and take me home after the surgery. I thought they would have been better arriving around 1:00 in the afternoon, but in my heart I have to admit that I was happy to see them both before going into surgery. As soon as they sat down the nurse, (how sadistic!) brought a coffee for Dad, who appeased me somewhat by making faces and telling me how bad it was as he slurpped it up. Eventually the nurse put something in the IV and the transporter came to get me. I barely remember getting rolled out the door.

To Be Continued….

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