The Road Back to Me

 

Since I had moved into my apartment on Third Avenue, a great deal of my time had been devoted to various medical appointments. Each one brought me a step closer to recovery. In December, I had only one appointment. It was to pick up my new foot orthotic. I called my insurance provider to set up my complimentary ride to the orthotics office. The customer service representative told me that I didn’t have an active plan, so she could not book the trip. I had paid premiums through the end of January, so I knew that couldn’t be accurate.

That afternoon my CADI case worker called me. She had been trying all month to order a new Metro Go-to card for me. I had received six of them in the m miail, but whenever the Metro Mobility drivers scanned them, they always showed up as empty. I had finally left a message with the case worker’s supervisor stating that, since the only services I needed from my CADI waiver were transportation and food support, I would request to be moved to a different provider if they couldn’t figure out how to get me a Go-to card that worked.

When the case worker called me, she told me why the most recent request had not gone through: The county had not received my updated application for social services. I told her that I had submitted it on Thursday, November 29th. I had taken my paperwork to the Hennepin County Social Services building and I had sat at the window while the county worker filled out the application. It didn’t needed to be mailed in because it had been completed by a county worker. The case worker said she would place a few calls and check back with me.

After she hung up, I realized that this must also be the reason why my insurance wasn’t on file. Someone at the county had failed to process the application, despite the fact that it had been in their possession for two weeks. I called the Hennepin County Social Services automated phone line to see if I needed to resubmit anything. The automated system reported that the application had been received on December 12th. It was December 12th! So the case worker must have called Hennepin County to ask about my file. Someone realized that all they had to do was hit one button to show that the proper paperwork had been received. What had been completed thirteen days ago was processed in less than one minute.

It was after 4:00, so I called the insurance company the next day. They verified that they had me on file now, so I booked a ride for the orthotics appointment. Any lapse in insurance coverage usually means that I have a lapse in showing that I’m eligible for Silver Sneakers, so my L.A. Fitness membership wouldn’t be active. This meant that I couldn’t workout with my trainer. I decided to not bother going back until the week of Christmas, to give Silver Sneakers time to show me as active. I could still workout at Planet Fitness in the meantime.

I began throwing myself into every workout I had at Planet Fitness. My left shoulder was loosening up and becoming a lot stronger. I would do three different chest and back movements. Since I couldn’t lift shoulder weights yet, these were what I used to keep the shoulder moving. I would add at least two leg exercises to the end of the session. These would usually be squats and seated leg press. My energy, stamina, and confidence grew with every workout. I no longer worried about falling and injuring myself.

 

Soon I started working my upper body so hard that my shoulder started feeling too tight to do squats. So I switched the leg exercises to the beginning of my workout. I noticed that I was able to lift my left leg higher and squat on it more deeply because I wasn’t exhausted when I needed to use it. Putting heavy leg exercises first, I began my workouts by sweating and maintained my pump throughout the session. Not only was this contributing to my strength and balance, it would also keep my metabolic rate up, contributing to weight loss. Every time it was time to go to the gym, I did so with a smile on my face.

The flexibility and balance I was developing had immediate real-world applications. Mary had an accident one Sunday while I was downstairs. I came upstairs and felt crestfallen. I pulled up a chair and got rubber gloves and paper towels. The chair allowed me to be close enough to clean up the mess without danger of falling over. It only took me a few minutes to clean most of it up. Then I had the nursing staff bring up a mop and bucket. I was able to mop the area with one arm. I was surprised at how easy this was.

A few days later, I was at Caribou Coffee with my ILS worker. I wanted to work on my blog and just spend a couple of hours outside my apartment building. When I was finished and putting things away, I accidentally knocked over my cup. Coffee spilled all over the table and floor. This would have been a disaster a year before. Now I was able to grab a few paper towels and bend down far enough to even wipe the coffee off of the floor. I was able to fit all of the wet paper towels inside my empty cup. I was proud to gain a little more independence, no matter how trivial the task.

A few days later there was another Hennepin County job fair at the Downtown Library. I took a hot shower then and got dressed. With as much time as I spend wearing exercise clothes, I always delight in putting on business casual clothes. Over the past three years, I have been in countless hospitals and therapy rooms. Dressing in office clothes makes me feel like I’m no longer a patient. It symbolizes a return to normal human life. I savor every moment of the process of getting ready.

When Metro Mobility dropped me off, I was able to lift my left leg easily and walk around the exterior and interior the building without much care. The job fair was on the second floor. A lot of the employers represented there had also been at the previous job fair. There were also many jobs that I couldn’t yet do. It didn’t matter, though. My goal with these fairs is to practice speaking and moving around. One day I will have rehabilitated myself enough to work again; right now, maintaining contact with employers and practicing how I carry myself are extremely important.

I walked around the job fair for about an hour. My voice was completely clear and confident. I never lost my breath, sweated, or felt tired. It felt good to be getting back to the point where walking around for a few hours didn’t feel like a chore. When I was finished with the job fair, I went down to the coffee shop to relax. I looked out at the frozen world beyond the thin glass. I felt so at peace.

Two days later my CADI case worker called to give me an update on my transportation cards. All of my paperwork had been processed, and she had spoken directly to someone from the county. She proudly announced, “They are sending you a $40 Metro Mobility card and a $100 bus card.”

“Can I use the bus pass on Metro Mobility?”

“No. that’s just for the bus.”

“Then that doesn’t help me; I only use Metro Mobility.”

“Oh.”

“Can you call them back and see if they can change that?”

“Okay. Give me a few days.”

The case manager hung up and called me a few days later with a new update. This time she had gotten authorization for a $45 Go-to card.

“When do I get the permanent card?”

“That is the permanent card.”

“But I need the $70 card?”

They only had two choices –$35 or $45.”

“In the past, I’ve always gotten $70. Can you ask your supervisor how to order that? Otherwise I need to be reassigned to a CADI company who can authorize the correct amount.”

When the case worker called me back a day later, she told me that, since the fee had increased, she had to apply for an additional $35 card. However the entire $80 would be loaded on one card that would be renewed each month.

“It will probably not get until later this week.”

“Don’t worry. I have enough money on the card I paid on. As long as I receive the new card by Monday, it will work.”

It soon didn’t matter whether or not the card arrived. I woke up that Friday with congestion. By Saturday my lungs were full of mucus and I was exhausted. I felt like going to urgent care, but I didn’t want to pay for transportation. Instead, when Rob came down to walk Mary, I had him go to the store and pick up cold medicine and cough drops. I took the medicine as soon as they came back. After about an hour, I felt so much better. I was still somewhat tired and congested, but I felt amazing compared to what I had felt like before.

I had been having a lot of success in the gym lately, so I didn’t really want to miss a lot of time. But trying to work out would have suppressed my immune system. So I called Metro Mobility and cancelled my Sunday and Monday trips to the gym. I spent the next couple of days working on my blog and relaxing with Mary. It was good to have the additional downtime. I hadn’t even realized how on edge I tended to be about staying on schedule until I had no rides around which to arrange my schedules. I gave myself permission to sleep longer and several times during the day.

By Monday, I was more relaxed, but I didn’t feel much better. The stroke had robbed me of a significant amount of lung strength. This made it almost impossible to blow my nose or force myself to cough. Consequently I wasn’t able to actively drain much of the congestion from my respiratory system. So even though I was taking medicine and feeling better, I had flatlined with my health improvement. I needed help from a doctor to get better.

Then I suddenly remembered that I had a home nebulizer! I called the nursing staff and asked them to bring up some medicine for it. I had to wait a half hour before the worker walked in with the tiny plastic vial. My chest was heaving with sickness and anticipation. I put the tube up to my lips and watched her empty the medicine into the machine. She switched the machine on and I sat up straight to allow my lungs to fully expand. The machine began to chug like a tiny engine. I imagined millions of microscopic explosives breaking open hardened packets of mucus in the caverns of my chest.

It had been a month of fighting for things like transportation and medical insurance. This had caused me to have to spend a lot of my own money and contributed a great amount of anxiety. This anxiety led to a lot of sleepless nights and had probably led to my weakened immune system. Now I was able to breathe deeply. I felt the tension drain from my body as the medicine opened my lungs more and more. Everything was finally coming together thanks to a month of running around. I sat there and felt my swirling world slow to a tranquil orbit around me.

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