Home Again

My first week back from Saint Louis was a very productive one. I had something different to do every day. After I came home from a Friday court date in Saint Paul, my friend Allene came over to spend the night. Since Mary loved Allene, I asked Allene to help me to go pick up Mary.

Although we had originally planned to get dog food first, it was a cold evening, so we went directly to north Minneapolis to get Mary. When Allene loaded Mary into her SUV, Mary climbed out of the rear and immediately into the driver’s seat. Allene came around to the driver side door and coaxed her back into her own seat. Then she drove back to my apartment.

On the way, Mary kept climbing up toward the front, trying to keep her head between the two of us. While this was normal attention seeking behavior for her, she continued being clingy after we got home. As expected, she was very affectionate towards Allene. But while I normally expect her to ignore me when other humans are in the room, Mary routinely came back to me every few seconds. Not only was she affectionate with me, she climbed up each time to nuzzle with me. I t was the first time that I felt like she really missed me while I was away.

Mary slept with Allene that night, giving me another full night of undisturbed sleep. I woke up refreshed the next morning. Knowing that Allene likes to sleep in, I went down to the basement at 9:00 am to work on my blog. Although Mary initially wanted to follow me out of the apartment, I found it much easier to leave her behind because she had someone to keep her company.

Normally it can take me a great deal of effort to get started on a blog post. But I had had such a fulfilling time with my family that it was easy to build and sustain momentum. Ordinarily I try to write around 2000 words per installment. I break those up into manageable amounts by dividing that into 1000 words per day; 500 words per sitting. After 90 minutes, I had written 800 words. I felt so charged that I decided to write another 100 words. Then I packed up my computer and went back upstairs to my apartment, where I found Allene and Mary still snuggled up in bed.

Allene and I ran a couple of errands, then went out for dinner and coffee. That evening, she packed up and left to spend the night with a different friend. I went downstairs to work on my blog some more, expecting to write until I had written about 1200 words. Momentum took over again as I relived all of the wonderful hours of my trip. Before long, it became obvious that I would be able to finish the installment for the night. I emailed the rough draft off to my editor, then I went upstairs to spend the rest of the evening snuggling with Mary.

I no longer was in physical therapy for my left leg. On the one hand this was frightening. It reminded me of the Spring of 2017, when I was released because I was not making progress. At the time, I had felt lazy and unproductive, so there probably wasn’t much of a point in working with me. At present, I was energetic and motivated. I had the ability to attempt any exercise they asked of me. Being told that I no longer required therapy could mean that I was ready to do a lot on my own. But it could also mean that they didn’t want to expend resources on someone who wasn’t expected to get much better.

As long as I was solely in charge of my recovery plan for my leg, I decided that the primary focus should be on walking without a cane by the end of the year. I already was walking around my apartment without my cane. It was still recommended that I use it outdoors or in public places. As a result, I carried it with me when I walked around the building. The easiest thing I could try doing was to walk around the building with no cane.

It might be a little nerve-wracking at first, but it was familiar terrain to me. There was less chance of me falling, because my brain wouldn’t be forced to negotiate strange rooms. And if I did fall, the people around me had come to know me over the half year that I had lived in the building. They knew my habits and medical history; they could learn my exercise goals, and they would be able to get me to my apartment if I needed to rest or retrieve my cane.

I went downstairs without my cane and walked slowly from the elevator to the community room. It was empty, so I turned on the television. Then I started walking around the tables, taking very small steps so as not to lose my balance. I had often stumbled when I tried this before. There was nothing different about the way I was walking today. The only variable that had changed was that I did not have my cane. I seemed to have gained confidence from knowing that I was no longer reliant on it.

Mastering small spaces was simple. If I stumbled, I could catch myself on a table. The real challenge would be walking across open areas without falling. So I got up and walked from the table to the door. It was only about thirty feet, and I was terrified of falling the whole time. But my foot didn’t catch, and I didn’t fall. I made it all the way to the door and back safely.

Now that I knew I could walk without much of a problem, the next thing I wanted to do was monitor and correct my gait. So I set my cellphone on a chair and took video of myself walking back and forth from the chair to the door. When I watched the video, I saw that I was leaning noticeably to my right. I was obviously worried about shifting too much weight to my weak leg. But I knew how much I was working to strengthen it. My leg was capable of a lot more than I was demanding of it outside the gym. So I set up the phone again and started walking again. This time I tried leaning more on my left leg. After I watched this video, my posture was much better. I walked a few circuits around the room to make sure that the movement habit crystalized in my brain.

I had occupational therapy on Monday. The therapist told me that he was given a list of things I needed help with. He also asked me if there was something specific I wanted to address. I told him that I needed a set of shoe buttons so I could put on and fasten one pair on by myself. He told me that Courage Kenny carried no shoe buttons. I assured him that I had gotten my last two pairs of shoe buttons there. So he went around looking and finally found a pair. We put one button on the inside of each shoe, as opposed to two in each shoe. This would make it a lot simpler to “tie” these shoes.

Next I had him help me place the electrodes for e-stim on my arm. I told him to trace the area with a permanent marker and take pictures of them. Then I could go home and practice putting them on myself. I only needed him to do this on my upper arm, because I could easily place them on my forearm already. I wasn’t getting much of a response from e-stim in my upper arm, but just going through the exercises on a daily basis would be important for making sure my muscles stayed active every day.

The last thing I asked him for was a sheet for each stretching exercise the staff needed to perform on me at home. He got a booklet of occupational therapy movements and put a mark next to each exercise he wanted me to do on a daily basis. I took them home and gave them to the assisted living staff. They scheduled the overnight staff to perform the stretches every morning when they brought my medications. This was perfect for me, because it would allow me to be limbered up to go out into the world.

I was burning with excitement to get back into the gym and start fully implementing my own rehabilitation program. There was only one thing holding me back: the company administering my CADI waiver had not been able to provide me with a Go-to card. I had been trying in vain to get an $80/month card so I wouldn’t always need to use my own money to go places. I knew that I would burn quickly through the Go-to card provided for me in about half a month, but that would still keep my personal transportation costs under $70/month. Without the card I was paying around $150/month to go everywhere I needed, or just trying to eliminate rides to save money.

Since I was making no headway resolving the issue with CADI, I decided to go directly to Hennepin County to complain. Ideally they would be able to get me a new card. At worst they would be able to communicate with the old CADI company or help me to find a new one. Knowing that I had court on Friday and occupational therapy on Monday, I set my ride to Hennepin County for Tuesday.

Tuesday turned out to be the first of three days of deadly wind chill warnings. People were advised not to leave their houses unless it was deemed absolutely necessary. I briefly considered canceling my ride, but after six months of paying for my own transportation which routinely left me broke, I felt I needed to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. February began on Friday, and I wanted to begin the second month of the year knowing that I could afford to commit to my recovery plan.

I wouldn’t have to spend more than a minute at a time in the bitter cold, so I really wasn’t risking anything. My Metro Mobility ride arrived on time, and before I knew it, I was already at Hennepin County. There was almost no one there. I didn’t have to wait in line, and soon I was in an office, telling my story to a team member.

The team member admitted that he couldn’t resolve my problem but said that he would put me in line to speak to a social worker in the building. I told him that I had nowhere to go for over two hours, so I was here to speak to whomever I needed to in order to find a solution. He handed me off to an assistant social worker, who listened to my story then escalated my issue to a regular social worker.

I told my story for the fourth time that day. The social worker listened intently and took many notes. When I finished, she asked me if I would like her to call or email the CADI case company. I advised her to do both. The phone call would likely go straight to voicemail, so this would leave two forms of notification. The social worker left a voicemail then began crafting a lengthy email. In it she detailed all of the times I had requested the cards, the fact that several had arrived without any value, and the fact that I had shown her a picture of what it looked like when the scanner indicated that there was no value.

When the social worker was finished, she programmed her number into my phone and assured me that the conundrum would be straightened out. I even told her that, now that I no longer required a PCA to dress and shower, I would be willing to use the original contractor – the one I’d used when I lived in the house in south Minneapolis. All they would need to do additionally was order a Go-to card that worked.

I wanted to be compensated for the time I had been paying for all of my transportation. I didn’t see why they could not provide me additional ride credits. Nonetheless I wasn’t going to complain as long as I received a functioning permanent Go-to card. We wrapped up about an hour before Metro Mobility arrived to pick me up. The wind was whipping, already dropping conditions below -40°. I was relaxed as I walked to the bus. It was the most secure I had felt in months.

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