Sunday, September 16, 2007

Recovery - Week 3

Week 3 was quite a bit different than my previous weeks in the hospital.

First, the rehab floor had a dining room. It was pretty common for folks to head down to the dining room for meals. Conveniently, the dining room was also right next door to my room, so I didn't have too far to go. I'm not the biggest morning person, so I didn't always make it down there for breakfast, but I was there for lunch and dinner most days. Getting up, into my wheelchair and out to eat meant that I spent a little more time sitting up and gave me the chance to be a little more active.

Second, as previously mentioned, the rehab floor has a dedicated staff of occupational and physio therapists.

In the beginning my sessions focussed mainly on trying to get some basic strength and motion back into my non-injured leg and upper body. Having been in bed for so long, I had a lot of stiff under-used muscles. As the days progressed, we began to focus a lot more on the range of motion in my knee. I had orders from my knee surgeon that would allow me to bend my knee up to 40 degrees.

When we first started working on range in my knee I was able to bend it about 10 degrees. Over the course of the week, we eventually got up to 40 degrees. If you haven't ever had a joint injury where you've had reduced range of motion, trying to get it back is pretty tough. In my knee, all my leg muscles were tight, tense and stopping my knee from bending. There was also a lot of scar tissue that had grabbed onto my knee cap, and that needed to be worked loose. One of the ways that I worked on getting motion back into my knee was via a CPM (continuous passive motion) machine. The machine I had in the rehab unit was mounted to my bed, so it was really easy to get on when I had time. I was supposed to put in 6 hours per day and go up by 5 degrees per day.

Basically you strap your leg in to the machine, set the speed and angle of motion, and it then slowly bends your knee up and down for you. If I did a good job of staying on task I could get 2 hours in before breakfast, 2 hours after lunch and 2 hours before bed. Pretty darn boring, but certainly no more boring that laying there like a lump as I'd done the first 2 weeks in the hospital.

Towards the middle of the week I began spending a lot more time taking walks on my crutches as opposed to my walker. At first it's a little intimidating going from the stability of the walker to crutches (especially when you're already a little tipsy from all the drugs you're on), but once I got going on the crutches I was able to quickly improve my balance.

By the end of the week I was able to make the entire loop of the 11th floor on my crutches (over 200 feet) and bend my knee up to 40 degrees. These were all conditions of me getting myself the hell out of the hospital, so things were looking up. The last thing I needed to work on with the physios was getting up stairs and into a car. Luckily for me, Carol has a pretty accessible Sante Fe. As long as I fixed my knee brace at 40 degrees, I was able to sit at the edge of the passenger seat, pull by hips inside, and swing my leg around into the interior. As for stairs, those were pretty easy to master. I learned that if I went up backwards with my crutches in my left hand and my right hand on a banister, I could make my way up and down stairs pretty safely.

Come Friday I was finally allowed to get the heck out of the hospital. I can't possibly express to you how good it felt to get out of the hospital, away from the crazy nurses, and into a nice comfortable home/bed.

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