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.
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).
Robb is on a huge amount of medications, and doesn’t remember much of this week. As I write this retrospective, I cannot believe that all this took place in one week. This is, without a doubt, the longest week of my life.
I spend every moment I can at the hospital. Our amazing friends spring into action, and take so much pressure off us by providing delicious meals, visiting, and sending kind wishes. The cats go feral in my absence from the house.
With the assistance of our case worker from the insurance company, I begin the process of selecting a rehabilitation center for Robb.
I select a rehabilitation center, California Pacific Medical Center. There is much conflict regarding Robb’s release from Highland Hospital. Highland Hospital needs to free up beds, and are practically shoving us out the door. Robb transfers to CPMC, to begin rehabilitation. From this point on, he will receive three hours of physical and occupational therapy a day. He also gets recreational therapy and animal assisted therapy, which means cuddlignwith a big lazy pooch. I get permission to bring our cat Linguine for a vist.
Robb is in pain, but he is also more lucid. CPMC changes the medications that he is on, which helps. Robb has issues with dropping blood pressure, and blacking out when he sits up or stands.
We are told that Robb will be discharged when he can walk the forty-four stairs to our apartment. The next day, with the help of his physical therapists, Robb uses a walker and takes his first steps.
Robb’s parents and brother arrive for a visit. We have a non-stop parade of visiting friends.
We are having glorious weather, and Robb gets to walk outside for the first time. Robb is fitted for ankle braces, which offer support when he walks.
Robb takes one hundred steps for the first time. He begins re-learning how to walk stairs. He works on mats and ramps in the therapy gym. He works on the transition from sitting to standing. As CPMC is a has a teaching hospital for Chinese medicine, Robb also gets acupuncture treatments.
He has the staples taken out of his back, and gets to take his first shower. Robb wears his brace in the shower, and showers sitting down.
For the first time, Robb eats sitting up at a table in the dining room. His tolerance for sitting or standing is very limited. He spends most of his non-therapy time in bed, resting. When he sleeps, be wears special boots, because his feet have a tendency to fall into an unhealthy pigeon toed position. He never wears the brace while sleeping, but leaves the brace on during daytime non-sleeping bed rest time. Robb sits on a couch for the first time. Up until this point, he has only sat on the bed, or in a wheelchair
Robb’s brother returns to New York, and his parents spend the time that Robb is in therapy being tourists in San Francisco.
I bring Linguine to visit Robb on Valentine’s Day. She charms everyone.
Robb’s parents return to Long Island. Many, many people visit or send kind wishes. Erica comes out to visit, as she had planned to, prior to the accident. Rob continues with his therapy schedule. He participates in physical therapy, occupational therapy, acupuncture, massage, and guided imagery. He takes his first outings. One day he goes to the Rainbow Co-op and another day he goes on a trip to the arboretum at Golden Gate Park. He realizes that he’s not fast enough to cross the street before the light changes.
Robb is no longer in constant pain. He is slowly, slowly regaining mobility. He can get out of bed and into a wheelchair without assistance. He can stand for limited periods of time. Wearing the brace is no longer excruciating, nor is lying on his back. He can laugh a little bit. Big laughs are still too painful.
He can feel more sensation in his feet and his pelvic area. He can wiggle his toes a little bit, and is beginning to be able to press down with his feet.
Robb starts walking with a four-pronged cane in his therapy sessions. He works on balance exercises. By the end of the week, he is using a single-point cane.
He struggles with some of his medications, but also has his dosages lowered on his pain killers. He is only permitted to sit up for an hour at a time.
As a preparation for Rob’s return home, I participate in a twenty-four hour independence trial, where I stay in Robb’s hospital room, and we fend for ourselves. This is jokingly referred to as the Slumber Party. The next day, Robb’s physical and occupational therapists, Robb and I drive to Oakland for a Home Evaluation Visit. Robb walks up our forty-four steps for the first time since the accident. We take the therapists out to lunch.
Robb has another outing, this time to a taqueria in the Castro.
I try to prepare our house for his return. I buy a new, larger bed, although it is a few days before I manage to purchase a new mattress. Ashley helps me assemble our new bed. I start to realize how much Robb and I took care of the household tasks together.
The nurses and therapists at CPMC throw Robb a surprise going away party. I bring Robb home from the hospital. Our apartment fills up with medical equipment. Chaos briefly ensues.
Robb is able to wiggle the outer toes on both feet. He now eats all meals, sitting up at our dining room table. He takes his first shower at home, wearing the brace, and using a shower chair.
Robb begins working with the therapists from Rehab Without Walls. On Friday, Robb and I and his occupational therapist Marcella go grocery shopping. The grocery cart is as stable as his walker, and Robb has about forty-five minutes of standing tolerance. On longer shopping trips we use the wheelchair, which I find difficult to maneuver in and out of the car.
We try to adjust to life at home. Robb works with his therapists. He goes on outings with his occupational therapist. He cooks some of our meals.
We get handicapped parking tags for the car. Robb gets his first haircut since the accident. Even with the handicapped tags, we don’t always find easy parking, and he sometimes has to walk distances that seem short, but that are difficult to manage, particularly as he is using the walker on uneven sidewalks.
We have dinner with our friend and neighbor Dominique, and also go for a very short walk at Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland. Robb graduates to walking outside with a cane.
Robb has some continued difficulty with his medications. We are unable to find a urologist who will accept Worker’s Compensation Insurance. There is also difficulty in finding a primary care doctor for his case, now that he has left CPMC. We have a follow-up visit with a nurse practitioner at CPMC, and after that go back to visit the nurses nd therapists and bring them flowers.
We have a few mini-outings. We visit my co-workers at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, but Robb is so tired that this becomes a curbside visit, with Robb staying in the car. We go for a tiny stroll at Berkeley’s Aquatic Park. We go to a few stores. We go for another walk along Oakland’s shoreline. We walk very slowly.
I get a cold, and Robb gets to be care taker for a few days.
Other than Ashley and Dominique and James, visits pretty much stop happening. Our theater friends are extremely busy with work.
I return to work. Things get very busy very quickly. When Robb is home alone, he uses the walker, but at other times, he uses the cane. He wears the back brace all day, and the ankle braces for walking. Robb does a bit of the housework.
We have a visit from the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to gather information on Robb’s accident.
Robb and his physical therapist have been driving down to Lake Merritt and walking along the lake, but for the first time, they walk all the way to the lake and back to our apartment. This takes about an hour.
We are scheduled for a follow up visit with the neurologists at Highland Hospital. We go in for X Rays, but none of the neurologists are at work the day of our appointment. This is very disappointing.
For the first time since the accident, Robb is able to have a long deep laugh without causing back spasms. He is finally experiencing the correct room temperature.
We attend a pot luck dinner at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.
Robb walks a mile.
His sister and his niece arrive for a visit. We spend the weekend playing tourist, despite rotten weather.
Robb meets with a doctor of rehabilitation.
He is now able to be out of bed for the bulk of the day. I feel confident leaving him alone during the day.
He continues work with his therapists. His balance is vastly improved, as is his stamina.
We go for a walk at the Oakland Rose Garden. We also go to San Francisco and walk out to the Wave Organ.
Robb walks on the beach for the first time. We go on an outing with a group of people with disabilities. We meet friends for a drink after work on Friday (we don’t drink). We take the wheelchair and go on a short hike at Coyote Hills.
In the company of his occupational therapist, Robb rides the bus for the first time, as well as the subway, and an escalator.
The amount of weight he is allowed to lift is increased from five pounds to twenty. This makes cooking much easier.
Robb has an electromyogram test that indicates that none of the nerve bundles in his legs are dead, even if the messages that they are sending the muscles are not being properly interpreted. He and his physical therapist start working with an electro-stimulator machine.
We socialize with our friends from work, and go on another wheelchair hike.
My whole sense of time has been completely shattered by this experience. These past three months have been the longest I can imagine, and yet I cannot believe the advances that Robb has made in this time.