Harriet is fed up, she has had it. It was bad enough that she had to be put through the humiliation and degradation, not to mention the pain and agony, of the surgery and hospital stay, but now she has to deal with this Bloody Blood Clot that, uninvited, has tucked itself behind her healing self. “Is there no justice?” she cries. “Is there not a God of Left Knees Out there looking after me?” Obviously, the answer to both questions is an emphatic NO.
This all started on Wednesday when we went off to the doctor to have the staples taken out. Well, actually, it had started earlier with the painfully swelling leg and ankle that no one had caught on was a sign that this little bugger of a blood clot was finding a home. We didn’t know what was going on just that it hurt like hell. On Tuesday she and I had dutifully gone off to our rehab and did, I must say, extremely well with all of the exercises and held our own through the pain. Afterwards we had a meeting with a nurse and a social worker. I thought — Harriet always leaves these boring bits like meetings up to me — that this would be the ideal opportunity to have the nurse look at things and see if all was well south of Harriet. But, no, that didn’t happen. What did happen was an hour and a half, excruciatingly boring presentation of Power Points. I hate hate hate Power Points, especially when the facilitator not only hands out copies of said Power Points and then projects them up on the screen for all to see, but then feels the need to read each and every word out loud to us suckers who are stuck there with our sore knees. I wanted to cry but I always have to keep a strong facade for Harriet’s sake.
The nurse was a nice enough lady but, come on, couldn’t she have talked directly to us? After all, there were only three of us — well plus Harriet and the other two knees. She didn’t even bother to give us a chance to tell our names and maybe a little story of what we find the most challenging or rewarding about having our knees cut open. No, there would be no icebreaker in this workshop. She just moved into Power Point Mode. The thing was that a lot of this info was already useless to the three of us — such as which type of bandage we could expect to receive from the various hospitals. Since all of us had already had surgery and said bandages had been put on, and in some cases, already taken off, we didn’t really need to know the pros and cons of each one. And much of the other information had already been given to us in pre-admissions or in the hospital or at the surgeon’s office.
However, when she got down to the Pain Management Power Point, Harriet urged me to listen hard in case there was anything new. When it turned out to be what we already knew from before, Harriet gave me a little twitch of pain that told me to speak up she was hurting down here. I raised my hand and told the nurse about my swelling leg and if there was something that she could recommend for that, please? She suggested I take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or get a stronger prescription from my doctor. Great, I thought, I’m finally getting some practical words of advise. But that was that and we were back to the Boredom of the Power Points.
I don’t have a lot of patience in boring meetings in my healthier state, but with a very painful Harriet who insisted that I stand and stretch her every five minutes, it was too much until I finally could stand no more. With my chin practically hitting the table in the attempt to find a comfortable position to sit through the next click of the slide, I raised my hand and said to the nurse in a kind voice that as someone who has facilitated hundreds of workshops, I might suggest that if they were ever were going to revise these presentations, they might think about foregoing with the Power Points especially when they have such small audiences. I know it was rude but Harriet made me do it. The nurse looked at me and said that Power Points are very effective communication tools then hit the button for the next slide. I know Harriet appreciated my effort and I suspect the others weren’t sorry for the brief respite from Power Point Number Seventeen.
It, eventually, thankfully, ended and the nurse thanked us and then asked who wanted to see the social worker. My hand shot up immediately, as did the Guatemalan lady’s next to me. The other guy I think just wanted a quick escape — or as quick as you can be on crutches. Since the social worker wasn’t available for 20 minutes, I headed my walker down to the cafe and purchased a tea and carried it all the way back up to the meeting room without spilling a drop. I have become inordinately proud of myself for each of these small successes.
Harriet and I waited until a nice young woman came in and introduced herself as The Social Worker. I thought that finally I would get some response to my sad-but-true story of 22 stairs plus another 13 to the bathroom and, me, living alone and having to take care of everything all by myself. She started our session with these ominous words, “So, I understand you want to sign up for Wheel Trans?” Hmmm, this was not going to go well. Harriet and I had dutifully gone to our Wheel Trans interview before the surgery where we proved our worth and were signed up for this pick-up-and-delivery transit system. We had been using it quite successfully since. “No,” I said. Then why for heavens sake did I want to see a Social Worker? I asked her if I could tell her my story. Harriet decided to take a nap since she’s heard it all before and knew how ineffective I had been with the same pitch to the surgeon, the hospital nurse during pre-admission, the surgeon’s secretary and everyone else. She was not holding out any hope that this nice young social worker was going to respond any differently now.
I did a feeling and powerful narrative and ended by asking her if she could please, at least, fill out the application to get me someone to come to the house to help me with showers. (I haven’t had one in over two weeks; M swears I don’t smell but she’s extremely polite.) Also, just maybe the person who comes could also do a little laundry and sweep up cat hairs so the wheels of my walker don’t get clogged. My hope was shattered with a short, “No, I can’t do that. They don’t accept the application from social workers any more.” What then, pray tell, does a social worker do? Not much, it turns out. She could let you know about other services were out there but couldn’t provide a referral to them, could only give me their phone number. This was not good.
Meanwhile, the Guatemalan woman — who no one but me had bothered to ask if she understood English — had come back in and it was her turn. She had an even sadder story than mine with a husband who was to have cancer surgery the next week. How do people handle one partner having knee surgery and then the other getting cancer surgery? I felt a tad shamefaced for my “poor me” attitude. The social worker said she could tell this woman where her husband could get a volunteer from the Cancer Society to take him to his hospital visits. Great, I thought, it’s at least something to help these folks. But, then, when she asked what hospital he was going to, she said they wouldn’t go there. And that was that. The frustrating part of both sessions, was that neither practitioner said the words, “Well, let me see what I can do for you.”
When I got home, I did take one of those anti-inflammatory medicines that the nurse recommended and for one glorious day I felt no pain. Then Harriet and I went to the doctor the next day and found out it was a bad thing to have done. And that brings us back to Wednesday and the Bloody Blood Clot.
To be Continued