Showing posts from May, 2006

A Day With Drew

Drew is one of my oldest friends, and as he was in town giving a paper at a conference, I was delighted to get together with him. Robb was having a very low-energy day, which I tend to attribute to the fact that he has been pushing himself so hard. He has been trying to go four hours a day without his brace. Of course he sleeps without the "turtle shell" as well, so his "free" time is actually longer. Because of Robb's energy level, Drew and I spent part of our time out without Robb. I still feel like a horrible person for doing this, but I suspect that Robb appreciates the quiet time. Drew was staying in Lafayette, so it seemed natural to take a trip up Mount Diablo. As we were walking, we got to talking about Drew's recovery from bone cancer, and how until fairly recently he might not have been able to picture himself tromping up a mountain in California. Right now, it is hard to imagine that Robb and I will be hiking together any time soon, but I know tha

Out With The Letterboxers

Blog readers have been hearing a lot about letterboxing, an activity that Robb and I were very involved with prior to his accident. For those who don't know about letterboxing, suffice it to say that it combines some of our favorite things -- printmaking, hiking, mental puzzles, and thing-making. And of course, getting to meet cool like-minded people! This weekend, a letterboxer I know online was visiting San Fancisco with her family, and so we gathered up some of the local 'boxers and all got togehter for a great Thai dinner. Nanci, our visitor was more of a host than a guest. She had all sorts of goodies for us, including some that she had the staff of the restaurant deliver. Here are Audrey and Emily, opening a dish of what they thoughts was going to be dessert, but what turned out to be a letterbox. Nanci is the woman I mentioned previously who also had a big spine injury. She's great. And in addition to letterboxing, she's an avid rider. She even rides sidesaddle.

Out Without Robb....

We had a long glorious weekend, and while Robb was resting, I took the opportunity to go hiking. I still feel terribly guilty about going out and having fun while Robb is home recovering from a spinal cord injury. I also know that if I stayed home and sat by the side of the bed, staring at him as he napped, it would make him horribly nervous. He doesn't need me sitting vigil. We've agreed that at least one of us should get out of the house, but it really does feel weird. Anyway, here are some photos of the little hike I did at Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve. Maybe going hiking alone is a good thing, I take so many photos of wildflowers that I'm the biggest slowpoke I know. Very boring for the people I go hiking with... I had a great time, and came home with chunks of nature in my hair. I had to lie down on the path to get the photo of the columbine. And for all you folks on the East Coast, here is a close-up portrait of the famous Banana Slug. This guy was about five

trying to get organized

Now that it seems we've finally settled into a routine at home, we're trying to slog through all the stuff that piled up in the corners of our apartment since Robb's accident. These are the pants that Robb was wearing the day of the accident. He got a huge laugh from the paramedics as they were cutting them off him because he was lamenting the fact that he had just bought these particular pants the day before. Goodness knows why we saved these. Any quilt I made out of the scraps of fabric would have such creepy energy that I would never want to sleep under it. Away with these pants!

the blog bogs down

We've been having some computer problems, so I haven't been able to write much lately. (Does anyone have the disk for the system software for OSX Panther or Tiger? We can't find ours....) Anyway, this is going to be a weekend of socializing with friends (new and old) who have gone through huge recoveries. On Sunday, a bunch of the Northern California letterboxers are getting together with Nanci (Bandaid) who is visiting from out of town. She was one of the many people from the national letterboxing community who wrote us with an inspiring story of her own recovery. All I can say is DANG! This woman is tough. After breaking her spine, she drove HERSELF to the hospital. And on Monday, we're getting together with Drew, who beat bone cancer a few years back. I have the strongest memory of going out to dinner at the Helmand in Baltimore (owned by the brother of the president of Afghanistan, don'tcha know...) with Robb, Erin, Drew and Barbara. Drew was on crutches from hi


Robb has been working at a physical therapy gym called Flex . He takes the bus (by himself!) to get there, and I pick him up on my way home from work. The gym is Pilates-based, which seems to be working out well for him. A walk down the hill to the bus stop, a bus ride, a walk to the gym, and forty five minutes of exercise may not sound like much, but Robb finds this totally exhausting. Less than four months ago, Robb was flat on his back, in tons of pain and unable to move his feet. I consider his recovery nothing short of miraculous. His actor training seems to be a great boon in his therapy, as he tends to have very good "body awareness" and learns his exercises very quickly. Up and Down The Stairs I never fully appreciated how much of a team Robb and I were in terms of all those daily tasks that you take for granted. In fact, I will sheepishly admit that Robb was a much better house keeper than I'll ever be. Now that he cannot carry anything up or down our infamous fo

a dance

Yesterday, Christine (she of the fantastic pies) came over, and brought her friend Nadia along to meet us. Nadia is a dancer and choreographer. She lives in Madrid with her husband, and is briefly in the United States rehearsing a dance piece. (Christine tells me that she has danced with Baryshnikov.) As a surprise, her husband had arranged a sky diving jump for her, and Christine went along for the ride (her husband is in Spain). The jumped from an altitude of two and a half miles, jumping tandem with instructors. Clearly, Nadia is a woman who embraces life. Nadia is also a woman who, sixteen years ago, suffered a spinal cord injury at the same location as Robb. She was told she would never walk again. I guess she proved them wrong.

Still Shedding...

Okay, so this has nothing in particular to do with a certain theater artist's recovery from a spinal cord injury, but it is so amusing/appalling that it is worth sharing. You thought the photo of our kitty Niobe's shedding was a one-time thing? You were mistaken. This is three days after the previous brushing. (I will admit to having created a wee bald spot between Niobe's shoulder blades. She loves to be brushed, and apparently she and I don't know when to stop.)


One of the things that has been so moving for me and Robb has been the astonishing kindness and generosity of our friends. Of course, I knew we had wonderful friends, but I guess I never fully appreciated how wonderful! This week, my sister Martha sent a beautiful package of hand-knitted love. Robb continues to be very cold in the evenings, and so Martha knit him a delightful pair of socks. Very clever construction on those heels, Martha!!! She also made me the most beautiful, delicate, elegant knitted lace shawl. This is the sweetest long-distance embrace I have ever received. I'll have to figure out how to get a picture of this that does justice to Martha's gorgeous creation. Robb's mother sends us all sorts of wonderful goodies, for which we are so very thankful. Folks continue to send kind cards, which bring a lot of happiness to Robb's day. He's stuck at home, with nobody but the cats for company, so cards, messages, and phone calls are very appreciated.

Movin' On

I forgot to write that last Friday was Robb's final session with Rehab Without Walls. During this session, Robb did part of his therapy without his full-torso brace. Check out Robb in his t-shirt and no brace! Pretty cool, huh? We're so thankful to Doreen (behind Robb) and Marcella (up front) for everything they have done with Robb. We hope the wine we bought them wasn't stinky, and that Doreen enjoys her two week trip to China. Thanks ladies! You both brought a lot of sunshine into our lives! Today's new adventure was Outpatient Physical Therapy at a facility called Flex in Oakland. As planned, Robb rode the bus to therapy, and went through the session with Linda, his nurse case manager. As planned, I left work early to pick him up and drive him home. But somehow, he forgot that and took off on his own. Oh well... Anyway, it is spring, and the cats are shedding. We get some completely demented glee at tossing these huge fluffy chunks of cat hair out the apar

That Sinking Feeling

When I look back on this year, the word I'm likely to use to sum it up is "challenging." (Well, that's the word I'll be able to use in polite company...) The scene shop for the Berkeley Repertory Theatre where both Robb and I worked burned to the ground this past summer... Robb's accident... And then, last night, a water main burst and a sink hole opened up under the Berkeley Repertory Theatre's new shop. That muddy area is the paint shop, which was undermined by the sink hole. The East Bay Municipal Utilities District will pay to have this repaired, but -- eeesh --what a setback and what a mess! (At least I'll be getting a new carpet for my office...) I'm halfway expecting either an earthquake or a plague of locusts, next. Later... I just got back from touring the shop (we're not actually working there, yet) and EBMUD has been working like crazy all day. The bulk of the water has been squeegee'd out, and the circa 1939 water main was shut

An attempt at hiking

I would like to claim that Robb and I start every Saturday at our local farmers' market, but sometimes we just don't get out the door in time. Today, however, we had our act together. Robb had made apple cranberry walnut muffins for breakfast. I slept late. Things were off to a good start. I still haven't figured out the California growing season, so I'm often surprised by what's at the market. The onions didn't surprise me, but they certainly were pretty! After a quick lunch, we decided to head out to Mount Diablo, enjoy the tail-end of the spring wildflowers, the glorious sunshine, and try our luck at finding some letterboxes . We saw a coyote as we were parking, which was pretty exciting. He was calmly surveying the parking lot, and then just disappeared when a noisy group of schoolkids came down the path. We also saw a few of my favorite birdies, the Stellar's jay and some California quails . The Stellar's jay is the Punk of the bird world.

Freedom is Exhausting

We have learned to take great joy in little steps forward. Lately, we have been able to celebrate larger improvements. Robb is slowly learning to work with is full-torso brace off. He worked with his physical therapist Doreen, sans brace, for an hour this Wednesday. He says that he feels very fragile when the brace is off. He's got a lot of work to do to rebuild the muscles of his torso that have essentially been on a three month vacation. He's learning that an intermediate step between wearing the brace and taking it off is loosening the velcro straps, so that he is semi-supported. Today, Robb had to pick up a prescription at the pharmacist. He had no therapists scheduled, and I was at work. So, for the first time ever, he walked down our hill to the shops, unaccompanied. Of course, getting a call from the pharmacy saying that the prescription is ready does not mean that Robb was able to leave the store with the pills. No. That would make far too much sense. It turne


I'm so happy! Robb hit a huge milestone today, and I want to jump around and celebrate!!! During physical therapy today, Robb had his back brace off for thirty-five minutes. Since getting the go-ahead from his surgeon on Friday, Robb has had his brace off long enough to take x-rays, and for about two minutes on Saturday. Today, Robb took his brace off and did exercises with Doreen. Then we walked with the walker. And then, and most excitingly, he walked laps around the apartment with just the cane. In the past three months, Robb has never stood up without his brace. He has taken the brace off to sleep and to dry off after showers, but that's it. He has been a turtle. Not surprisingly, he was pretty exhausted when I got home. We had a nice dinner and an otherwise quiet evening. I caught up with Gina in Baltimore, and made plans to get together with Ellen and Kara tomorrow. Ashley had hoped to come over tonight, but Robb was just too tired for company. Hopefully, we'll be abl
How's Kara? We take a break from reporting on Robb today, and talk about Kara. I met Kara when she came to work at the Glimmerglass Opera. When she decided to take a job at the San Francisco Opera, Robb and I were thrilled to have her so nearby. It seems like just last week that we hosted her at our house as she apartment hunted (which was the same weekend we went on this wildflower hike). And didn't we unload her moving van just the other day? Kara was riding her Vespa a two weeks ago, when a parked car opened their door into her. She had a terrible hand injury as a result of this, but at least she was wearing her helmet. The friend she was driving to play tennis with got caught up in the traffic jam that her accident caused, and managed to get the keys to her Vespa, and parked it in the garage of the woman whose house the accident was in front of. Kara spent two days at San Francisco General Hosiptal, came home, and then went back into the hospital for nine days with a


The reader may remember that the last time our hero was due to meet with his surgeon, he had his xrays, but no doctors ventured into their offices that day. Our hero and his merry band were almost thwarted again, when they journeyed to the hospital and were told that they were not on the schedule for appointments. Fortunately, our hero's nurse case manager spoke the magic words, and all were admitted to the sacred lair of the neurosurgeon. (This included the nurse case manager's adorable grandson, Kyle, who played happily with his toys on the floors of many, many waiting rooms.) Okay. Enough of that. We met with Dr Castro-Maure who answered many questions about the surgery, drew a lot of pictures to explain what exactly he had done to reconstruct Robb's injured bone. (They crunched up part of his bone, and used a kind of biological cement to glue it back together so that it would grow anew. Wild.) He seemed very hopeful, and said that there was no reason to think that

Thinking Good Thoughts

I feel compelled to sing the praises of the nurse case workers who have been guiding us through all of this. When the accident happened, I steeled myself, figuring that I would have a lot of fighting ahead of me. Robb would need an advocate, and I would be as tough as he needed me to be. I figured I would be spending vast periods of time on the phone, battling with the insurance company. But I was pleasantly surprised by how utterly wonderful our insurance case workers have been. These women are sweet as angels, as compassionate as saints, and as tenacious as pit bull terriers. I adore our two case workers, and feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to have them working on Robb's behalf. Plus which, they're totally cool ladies and I like them both very much! Hurray for our nurse case workers! Keep your fingers crossed! Tomorrow we have a much-anticipated follow up visit with Robb's neurosurgery team. The reader may remember that we had scheduled a previous visit, but for

cat tongues

We have one cat, Linguine, who earned her name* because she forgets to put her tongue back in her mouth. I don't know how this little cat isn't dehydrated all of the time. I'm compelled to take photos of her when she's got her tongue lolling out, and doubly compelled to post those silly photos on the blog. But darn it, I can't take credit for this photograph. I found it while prowling around on Flickr . As you may have gathered, there's not much to report today regarding Robb's condition. Or, more accurately, there's nothing I care to write about. Really. You don't want to read about a visit to the urologist and I don't choose to write about it. Nothing dire happened. The waiting room was hushed and a bit tense, and Robb is probably the only one there who didn't come away with a prescription for Viagra. * Linguine, of course, means "little tongues."

Those Forty-Four Steps

A huge therapy day for Robb, starting in the morning with Marcella with whom he mostly worked on balance issues. Then, as they had previously planned, Robb walked -- unassisted -- down our stairs, out the door of the apartment, crossed the street, walked a steep block down the hill, turned and walked two more blocks to the gas station, where he met Doreen, his physical therapist. This is the first time he has left the apartment by himself, and the first time he has walked stairs without supervision. They walked to the shops nearby and picked up some strawberries and prescriptions. Robb was supposed to carry his purchases back up the hill in a backpack, but he the waist strap on his backpack was broken, and the shoulder straps were compressing his spine and causing back pain. Doreen carried his pack. They'll try this again later in the week. Telling me about this afterwards, Robb said that he felt safe, but also naughty. He couldn't shake the feeling that someone was going

Three Month Retrospective

It has been three months since Robb's accident. I took this opportunity to re-read the blog and write up a boiled down account of the progress that Robb has made in this time. Week One Robb breaks his back, and has emergency surgery on January 31. Robb spends a night in the Recovery Room, a few days in the Transitional Care Unit, and is ultimately transferred to “the floor.” Robb cannot feel his feet, or much of his legs or his pelvic region. He cannot feel the area of his back where his surgery incision was made. He can barely move his feet. At first, Robb is unable to sit up, and is in great pain. Movement is excruciating. Robb is fitted for a custom full-torso brace that will support him as he hels from the injury and the surgery. He begins work with a physical therapist, and by the end of the week, he is – with the guidance of his physical therapist – able to sit up in a chair and shave himself. Robb has to learn to roll over in bed, to avoid getting pressure sores (bed sores).