Showing posts from June, 2006

Off Topic

I spent a bit too much time reflecting on My Own Bad Situation this morning. However, I got a healthy dose of It Could be Worse. I overheard the following today in a conversation between two skanky looking guys sitting on a stoop, right next to the bail bondsman's office: "....and then, I kicked her in the kidneys." About twenty minutes later, I was part of the following conversation. First Gentleman: "Can I have a quarter? I need to call my parole officer." Lisa: *keeps walking and cracks up* Second Gentleman: "Dude! You shouldn't have told her that ." We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Patience is a Virtue

What did Robb and I (and our lovely nurse case manager Linda) do this morning, you ask? We spent FIVE HOURS hanging around Highland Hospital. Five hours. Count 'em. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. FIVE HOURS at the hospital, for a scheduled appointment. We arrived at seven-fifteen for a seven-thirty CT scan, but nobody was in the radiology office. When someone finally did show up, nobody on staff could find the keys to let themselves into the office or open the waiting room door. This set a nice, tense mood for everyone. It seems that we didn't actually have an appointment, rather we were penciled into the "overflow slot," in the emergency room. Robb got his scan after two hours of waiting. For the first time, I was excluded from the room, and when Robb emerged from his scan, they sent him off to a waiting room other than the one they sent me to. When the radiology staff summoned the next patient, they realized that I was still waiting for Robb, which set me on a roaming

The Bad Luck Can End Now, Please

It has been exactly one year since Berkeley Repertory Theatre's scene shop (where I am in charge of painted scenery, and Robb often worked) burned to the ground. For so many people, this has been a year of difficulty and sadness. This run of bad fortune can end. Now. In Other News Robb has an early morning CT scan and a visit with his neurosurgeon tomorrow. He's actually pretty excited about this. The last CT scan he had was the day after the surgery. Robb was in a lot of pain, and every movement hurt terribly. The hospital transport staff was having a very bad time with is bed, and kept running Robb into doorways or getting his IV stand caught on things. I was running along beside his bed, trying to make his ride as smooth as possible. I even took over the guidance of his IV. Once we were at the radiology department, the move from the hospital bed to the scanning table was excruciating. Robb is looking forward to this visit, as he will be able to gt up on the table und

The Second Opinion

When I first started writing this blog, I would write it after I got home from being with Robb in the hospital. I would be exhausted, and generally would have only the vaguest idea of what I was going to say. I would purge the experiences of the day, and then go to bed. Then later, I had more time to reflect on what I was going to say. Some entries were the product of a lot of reflection. Some were more off the cuff. Today, I'm at a bit of a loss for what to write. It turns out that Highland Hospital, where Robb spent the first week, and where he visits his neurosurgeon, has not sent any of the records of Robb's follow-up care to the insurance company. Nothing from a doctor's visit, none of the xrays. (They have, however, continued to send bills to my HMO, and I get no fewer than three letters about that every week.) So, because the insurance company is missing documentation of this aspect of Robb progress, they sent us to another physician for a second opinion. In

Acute Paraplegia

I think it is worth clarifying what I wrote a few days back about Robb's diagnosis of acute paraplegia. Acute is defined as, "having a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course" and is the opposite of chronic, "marked by long duration or frequent recurrence : not acute." So, I understand that the doctors may be saying that Robb's paraplegia may be a temporary situation. Actually, what I really think this means is that the doctors are in agreement that Robb is A Cute Paraplegic.

A Second Opinion

The company that has been administering Robb's Worker's Compensation insurance has scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, to see if there is anything else that can be done to help Robb's recovery. I'll report more about this appointment later today. But until then, here is a plum that Robb picked for me. They are growing on trees on our block. The leaves of the tree are a dark purple color, so the fruits are almost invisible, unless you are walking ver-r-r-r-ry slowly, like Robb.

A Day in Nature

Today was another glorious California day. Robb and I went up to Redwood Regional Park for a lazy afternoon in nature. We hung out and watched the birds swooping around, talked and generally enjoyed ourselves. As has become our routine, Robb went to lay down in the car, and I crawled around in the underbrush with my camera. Robb and I found a few ripe blackberries. He dove right into the bushes to pick them, and laughed at me when I said they tasted like summer. There were an awful lot of flowers that I couldn't identify... Thistles Verbena? This is Quaking Grass. And this, is something that our East Coast friends may not recognize. We'll give you a hint, it is the other "leaves of three, leave it be" plant. Poison Oak. A Night at the Theater We have not been to see any theater or films because Robb has not been able to sit for long periods of time. This has been improving lately, so we decided to see The Miser at Berkeley Rep. We had a great time, but as it t

random observations

Robb has been pushing himself a little harder in terms of stamina. He still doesn't have loads of energy but things are much improved from where they were a month or two ago. A couple of days ago he walked down to the lake and walked around looking for an un-occupied shady bench. He was out for a couple of hours and probably walked a mile and a quarter. We are fortunate to be living where we do. We have shops, grocery stores, our bank, the post office, the pharmacy, restaurants, and an artisanal bakery within walking distance for Robb. He can't carry anything more than fits in his backpack, but it is nice to think that if Robb needs something, he doesn't have to wait for me to get home from work. Robb has reached a point where he is more comfortable out of his brace than in it. He goes brace-less around the house, but does wear it whenever he goes out. He still has many spinal precautions that limit his rage of activity, but being without the brace must be very libe

Thinking About Paralysis

I'm ashamed to admit that, prior to Robb's accident, most of what I knew about paralysis came from watching movies and television. I never really reflected on the mechanics of paralysis. A character would be described as being "paralyzed from the waist down," and I would have some nebulous idea of a distinct horizontal line bisecting the body, below which the person had no use of their limbs. I just accepted that phrase, without giving it much thought. Robb and I were talking about this last night, on the way to dinner with our inlaws-in-law, Barbara and Arnold. Robb said that when he thought about paralysis -- if he thought about it at all -- he had a mental picture of a clean boundary between paralyzed and mobile, which was a permanent state of being. We both have come to realize how overly simplified this image is. According to the diagnosis of Robb's physiatrist, Robb has "accute paraplegia." When I initally read the doctor's report, I must h


One of the many things we will never again take for granted is walking. I just returned from doing a few errands (I almost wrote "running" errands.) I walked a bit over a mile and it took a bit over one exhausting hour to do it. The street crossing is especially tricky but I'm learning which pedestrian signals give me enough time and which don't. (I find myself apologizing under my breath to the waiting drivers, "I'm sorry but I only have one speed–– it's called 'IN-YOUR-WAY.'") What exactly is the problem, you may be wondering. In a word, it's weakness. The nerves which tell the muscles in my lower legs and feet what to do are sending through very weak signals. The result is extreme weakness in my calves and ankles. Also, it feels as if the balls of my feet don't exist. You can try this out yourself. Stand up and shift all your weight to your heels. Now, try to balance. Now walk. Now take a shower, get dressed, make

The Nicest Day We Could Imagine!

This past week, our friend James called us up and asked if we wanted to go to Point Reyes with him. We weren't certain that Robb had the stamina for the ride, much less any walking around in the park itself. But James assured us that if this was too much for us, we could just turn back. The drive was great (and I didn't have to drive -- yippee I even got to do some sewing in the back seat) It was a glorious day. Perfect cloudless sky, brisk wind....lovely. The former hotdog joint as Drakes Beach has transformed into an organic and locally grown lunch spot. We had a delicious lunch, including stinging nettles. How are stinging nettles? Exceptionally tasty! Walking on the beach was challenging. The wind was incredibly strong and we were getting sand in our faces. We drove on to Chimney Point, and Robb took a little rest in the car while James and I walked to the end of the point. I got talking with a couple of bird-watchers, who pointed out two juvenile peregrine falcons which we

Our Blog Spawned a Blog!

I'm sure there is a word for when I blog inspires someone to create a blog, but as I really dislike most bloggy slang (blogosphere? oh, please...spare me), I'm not going to put much effort into finding out. What I'm trying to say, in my not-yet-caffeinated manner is that our friend Terry has started an urban nature journal, The Black Squirrel Diaries. Her first entry includes some brilliant non-traditional nature identification. Or perhaps she's a whiz of an urban naturalist, and I'm not familiar with the sub-species endemic to Central Park in NYC... Click here to read all about it!

Robb's Back...

Robb is beginning to regain sensation around the site of his surgical incision. It seems that whenever he starts to get feeling back in a part, there is a period where his body is experiences slightly "scrambled" signals. Lately, he says that when he has his brace off, that part of his back feels larger or fuller than he thinks it should, and his mind is telling him that he is able to feel all the metal structures that have been installed in his spine. Although there is a fairly significant amount of what they call "instrumentation" in his back, it is highly unlikely that he is able to feel any of it. If anything, Robb's back may be slightly less curved than it used to be. But I'm not sure if this is true, either. Robb's xrays show a spine that curves in a smooth, uninterupted manner. For the first few days after Robb's accident, Robb's body was telling him that his toes were tied in knots, which they weren't. He would ask me to touch hi


Not that we're in the market for a new car...but this caught my eye today. A single passenger car for wheelchair users. It drives with a joystick, and the operator enters through a hatchback door in the rear of the car. Technically, this is a four-wheel motorcycle. Neat, huh? Here's a link for more information. Robb is a long way from returning to the driver's seat. His feet lack the strength and feeling to operate the pedals, but we have casually discussed the possibilities of retrofitting our car with hand operated controls if at the end of this healing process he doesn't regain enough use of his feet to drive normally. Something like this . Did I mention that we just spent more than the Blue Book value of our car on a series of repairs? Here's a little cutie for able bodied folks who want a tiny car.

Upstairs, Downstairs

Robb has become much much better at negotiating stairs. When he first came home from the hospital, walking the stair up to our apartment took the bulk of his concentration and energy. It still isn't exactly easy, but I no longer have to shadow his every move, in case he falls. This is a good thing, as I always seem to have a lot to carry up or down the stairs. As improved as Robb is with stairs, he doesn't have the balance to carry anything other than a light backpack. On the primary election day, Robb walked down the hill from our apartment to the local library to vote. As it was the middle of the day on a low-voter-turnout election, he pretty much had the polling place to himself. (Strangely, all the other people who had signed in before him were all from our street, and on his way out he ran into one of our neighbors from the building. A voting block? Who knows...) On his way home, Robb decided to climb one of the stairways that connect the streets on our hill, instead of wa


I just got off the phone with a nurse doing a survey for CPMC where I was in the Acute Rehab program. She had questions like "Are you still using a walker? Can you climb a flight of stairs? Can you dress yourself?" and "Can you walk 150 feet with a cane?" I've moved so far beyond many of these issues, I don't even think about them any more. I was already in a reflective mood – my initial authorization for out-patient physical therapy (PT) has just run out. It will almost certainly be renewed for another 4 weeks but it makes me think about those in similar situations to mine who only get the state mandated 25 PT visits. At that rate I would have run out within two or three weeks of the accident. I'm very lucky to be working with an insurance company committed to my case. As it happened, I had 4 weeks of therapy in acute rehab, 9 weeks of in-home therapy and another 4 weeks of out-patient for a total of about 230 visits. And it has paid off. Much to my t

Funny How Little Things Become Milestones...

Today, we drove down to San Jose for a party that Rebecca's parents were throwing for the newly married pair. Other than getting to spend time with Sten and Rebecca and having the opportunity to chat with Rebecca's delightful mother, this would have been no big deal, right? Well, maybe not. Robb hadn't been on a car ride that lasted longer than half an hour. For the longest time, he did not have the "sitting tolerance" for anything longer. Sure, he had to recline his seat as if he were taking a snooze, which made for slightly...odd...navigating on his part, but, hey, a milestone is a milestone. While we were down in San Jose, we did something that I haven't done in over four months, since Robb had his accident. We washed the car. Oh, it needed it. The car was disgracefully and depressingly dirty. We have a weird clause in our lease that says we are forbidden to wash cars in front of the apartment, although I gather that I'm the only tenant who ever read th

Where Have We Been?

Don't worry, the lack of recent blogging has not been due to tragic moping on my part. Quite the contrary. We've been having what for us would qualify as a whirl-wind social life. And our computer was ill. So instead of trying to fix the computer, we were at a lovely party at Wil and Rich's house, and and then Ashley Robb and I were at dinner with the newlyweds Sten and Rebecca. Sten was the one who brought the right gizmos along so that Robb could fix the computer. Occasionally, I still feel oddly weepy (generally for no reason), but most of the time, I'm my usual crazy happy self. As evidence of this, here's a photograph of a very advanced scenic painting technique for getting ground cork to stick to glue on carved styrofoam mounds. If you ever need to simulate a giant pile of dirt or espresso, this is the way to go...

driving myself crazy...

I consider myself a fairly safe driver. I don’t behave unpredictably. I use my turn signals, and have a good mental map of all the turn-only lanes. I never talk on the phone while I’m driving. I’m good at anticipating what other drivers are about to do. I share the road with cyclists and pedestrians. I don’t run over squirrels. But put me in a parking lot, with not enough sleep and too much on my mind, and I apparently become a real danger to stationary objects. The first time I took my driving test, I flunked it because I hit a cone during the parking portion of the test. Sheila has seen me run into a building (well, a trailer, really) at zero miles an hour. When Robb’s family was visiting, right after Robb’s accident, I took them up to see the view from the Berkeley hills, and rammed the front bumper of my car into a huge log at the end of the parking lot. When Erica visited, I scraped the side of my bumper against a concrete pillar in the parking lot of the Oakland Farmer’s

another quiet weekend

When I woke up on Saturday, Robb was making biscuits. Mister Firdusi got in on the act, "making biscuits" on the sofa. But, as with most things he does, he seemed grumpy. Robb wasn't grumpy, but he did have a very low energy day. I'm encouraging him to not spend quite so much time outside of his brace, as I suspect this really wears him out. I understand his desire to be rid of the brace, but as with all things in our lives, we have to find the right balance. While Robb was resting, I ran up to Moraga, for a little letterboxing and a stroll. (I thought I was planting something that would be very easy for people to find, but the folks who went looking on Sunday read my clues as way more metaphorical than I ever intended.) This deer was munching plants along side of the path. I thought this was an amusingly undignified photo of an otherwise graceful creature. On Sunday, we returned to Moraga, because I thought Robb would enjoy the beautiful drive. There is a huge area o

small world!

Robb was on his way to a therapy appointment Thursday when he noticed a man wearing the same style brace that he wears. He tapped the man on his shoulder and the two struck up a lively sidewalk conversation. (This man had already spotted Robb. Funny the things we get tuned into.) Oddly, this man and Robb had the exact same 'burst fracture" on the L1 vertebra. However, they are not experiencing the same outcomes from the injury. Robb has more damage to the nerves that go to his legs and feet, but this gentleman has greater issues in other parts of his body. Robb gave this man his phone number and is hoping to get together with him soon. He says that within twenty seconds of knowing each other, they were discussing very particular and personal details of their conditions. Robb and I had investigated some form of "peer counseling," but couldn't find anyone whose situation was similar enough to Robb's to seem relevant. As it turns out, Robb has a peer less than a

Where things stand

I fear that I've been posting an awful lot about socializing and not much about Robb's physical condition. I suspect that we've finished the "honeymoon period" of Robb's recovery from his spinal cord injury, and that we're now in the "long haul." The first part of a recovery like this happens as the spinal cord's swelling reduces, and then there is a much more drawn-out recovery of the nerves themselves. This recovery of the nerves takes place, we are told, at at rate of one millimeter a day, or an inch a month. Considering the distance between the middle of Robb's back (the site of the injury) and the ends of his toes (which he still can't feel), there's a long way to go. While Robb isn't recovering very swiftly, he is learning how to work with what he's got. And there are small improvements. His balance seems much better. When we had the in-house therapists, Robb could only stand in one place for about thirty seconds wit