After three and a half weeks in the hospital the idea of going home was very attractive but also very scary. I had little idea of what sort of therapy would be offered, only that it came from the Visiting Nurses Group at Sutter. Beyond that I knew nothing.
Recall where I was in recovery. I had taken a few steps with a walker and a therapist holding on. One finger was moving on my otherwise paralyzed right hand and the motion in that arm was very restricted. I could transfer from my wheelchair to a chair or a toilet with help and do a modest number of other things including eating.
That was a major set of achievements given such a short time in recovery from the stroke. But it was a long way from recovery that I could really use, and I wanted to get there fast. It also meant that I was wholly dependent on my wife Nancy, and whatever I needed she had to provide.
Being wheelchair-bound redefined home. I had to announce my bathroom needs and ask for help – there was of course no privacy. My showers were done with Nancy’s help, and getting into bed, dressing, and so on were impossible to do by myself. And cooking (which I love to do) was out of the question.
We hired Visiting Angels to provide home help to offload Nancy. Christina was our assigned helper, and she is here four hours a day to provide my shower and generally help around the house which allows Nancy to return to her work.
I like to do things for myself, so I hate the whole thing and that’s without mentioning the wheelchair itself. Not only is a wheelchair generally uncomfortable, mine has to be narrow in order to fit through our 32” doorways. That meant it had to be shorter too and I’m about 6’ tall so it is overall too small for me. It is always uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous – and I was to spend most of my waking hours in that chair!
Meanwhile, I was afraid I would lose the momentum built at the Dominican Acute Rehabilitation Unit. So, when I didn’t hear from anyone after a few days, I took the initiative and called Sutter VNA. They said someone would call, and in the meanwhile I did the few exercises the folks at the rehab had given me.
Finally, a man named Christoph called. He is a physical therapist who did an evaluation and determined that, although I could not stand up without help, walking would be the priority. When he proposed two visits a week, I asked for three, he agreed because he saw that I would work as much as needed.
Then man named Peter called. He is an occupational therapist who did an evaluation and determined that the hand and arm would be a challenge but that we would work toward eating as the focus of our work. It would be slow work because the hand is quite complicated, and it had been completely paralyzed. Then there was the shoulder, elbow, and wrist to deal with.
Because this was to be at home the house was important. Our house had been built for aging in place and while not perfect it was very adequate. The living room is large and flexible, so it became something of a gymnasium. It has a 30-foot aisleway which became a handy measuring device. And the dining table is perfect for hand and arm exercises.
The bathrooms were a bit too small, and the doors were a bit too narrow with troublesome thresholds. Nothing could be done about those things except to get a wheelchair that fit the doors and struggle with the thresholds. There were a few things that could be done that Nancy took care of while I was in the hospital.
Anything else like that had to be put aside for now because there was important work to do!