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Monday, March 29, 2010

my computer was unplugged

This morning I’m thinking about how difficult life must be for the handicapped. I am somewhat handicapped because my knees simply don’t work. I talk about them all the time because they so limit my world. I often wonder exactly what is wrong with them. I’ve never been able to afford an x-ray or CAT-scan or MRI or any of those diagnostic things.

I hurt each of them in falls. The left one I hurt when I stepped off the wrong side of a step stool while painting our 10 foot kitchen ceiling. The doctor said I ‘hyper-extended’ it. Translation: I bent it backwards. He wanted x-rays but that wasn’t something I could in anyway afford at the time. So his second option was to tell me to stay off of it for a couple weeks. Well, yeah. That was gonna happen. I had two kids and a huge old house. We slept upstairs and did laundry in the basement. I did use a cane or crutches as much as possible, but you have trouble fixing a meal on crutches so I compromised and hobbled around holding on to the counters. As soon as it stopped hurting except for ‘just a little’ I abandoned the crutches and cane completely and just walked anyway. It hurt but not more than I could live with.

The second knee I did a few weeks later. I was going out the back door with a pan full of cat food in my hand. If you’ve ever fed cats, you know how anxious they are when there is the remotest possibility that you might give the food to someone else! They were all twisting around my feet and in an attempt to avoid stepping on a cat, I danced right off the side of the back stoop. It wasn’t very high, maybe six inches, but the leg I stepped off on was my bad one, so I did a little jig and landed on my right leg, consequently doing exactly the same thing to my right knee. I’m not sure I even went to the doctor for the second one. It was a long time ago.

I believe I tore the tendons in both knees. At any rate, my knees pretty much bend whichever way they want. It is a weird sensation to have a two year old grab you around the legs and feel a knee bend backwards or to have a big dog squeeze between your crutch and your leg and feel one bend sideways. It doesn’t even hurt exactly, just a clicking or snapping feeling. I always worry it won’t go back where it belongs, but so far, thank the Lord, it always has.

The situation has been further complicated because I’ve not been able to hike and walk and do the things I did before I hurt my knees. The lack of exercise has prompted a weight gain which has contributed to arthritis in my knees and, I’m sure, an extensive erosion of the cartilage.

I don’t know what the x-rays must have looked like when the Social Security office required that I be examined by their doctors for my Disability application. It must have been shocking because my application was approved the very first time. That is unheard of in the annals of Social Security bureaucracy.

So, I’m ‘disabled,’ but not to the extent that many are. This morning it came home to me what their lives must be like.

I’m forced to keep my knees and feet elevated most of the time with pillows supporting my knees and lower legs. Propping my feet on a foot stool or hassock for any length of time doesn’t work because it allows my knees to flex backwards. After a while that becomes extremely painful and I have trouble bending or straightening my legs. Standing is difficult and yeah, that hurts, too. Walking is nearly impossible until I have allowed my knees to adjust to just plain standing. Sitting with them bent in a normal position results in the same kind of problem but with added swelling in my knees and subsequent circulation difficulty in my feet.

Anyway. I finished my trekking around with the dogs and my breakfast and my clean up and so forth this morning and finally I sat down in ‘my’ recliner. (It’s not really my recliner, but Notah’s family didn’t have a recliner until I came to visit. Then he made it a point to get one. While I’m here it’s ‘mine’ because it is the only place I can sit comfortably. ) I got myself set down and settled with my pillows in place and my laptop propped up in front of me. When I reached for the cord I discovered it was unplugged! How much trouble is that for you? You twist around and plug it in, or if you can’t reach you jump up, turn around duck down, stretch back and stick it in the wall. It takes what? Two minutes, maybe?

For me it was a major undertaking. First I had to maneuver my recliner to the upright position. The handle doesn’t work to lower the foot rest. It is designed to just go down with lower leg pressure. Well, I can’t apply lower leg pressure. My knees have no strength in them to press my calves onto the foot rest. So I have to lean forward and pull with my hands on the armrests until I can shift my body weight forward enough to counterbalance the foot rest, which then goes down. I remove the two pillows I use to support my knees and put them to the side. I reach for my crutches, always propped within arm’s reach. My knees won’t just ‘stand me up’ like a normal person’s do. Standing up is again a process of counterbalancing my weight over my knees. I can’t describe how I do it—just a way I’ve developed to continue leading a semi normal life. It isn’t graceful, I guarantee.

Once I’m standing I use the crutches to maneuver the couple of steps around the arm of the chair and back in the space between the chair the window and the wall. Then I put the crutches behind me against the window frame and hold to the chair and the wall while I stretch back, keeping my knees straight, barely able to reach the plug. A normal person would stoop down and lean back and plug it in.

Getting up and turned around again is another studied procedure. I used my hands and arms to ‘walk’ along the chair arm until I am upright. Again I reach for my crutches and duck-walk with them in the little semi-circle until I’m again in front of my chair. Sitting down is easy. Leaning back in the chair is easy. Situating the pillows under my knees and lower legs is a bit of a hassle, but once it is done my knees stop hurting.

I lean back, put the blanket over them (if there is any draft across them, they ache) and pick up my computer. I prop it on a long tubular foam pillow and plug the power cord to it. I’m ready to go. A two minute process takes me at least eight or ten.

Wild isn’t it. But I didn’t write this to make anyone feel sorry for me. I do just fine. My kids love me and help me constantly. My daughter-in-law loves me enough to come 1800 miles to get me in the spring and my daughter loves me enough to come and get me on her vacation in the summer or fall. I’m good. BUT, the next time you see someone on crutches or in a wheel chair remember this little discourse. Think how the simple process of plugging in a computer takes me longer than it has probably taken for you to read this. Think how involved such a simple action is for me and imagine how vastly more difficult it must be for someone who doesn’t have a loving family to support them and is even more handicapped than I am.

I'm blessed.

1 comment:

  1. I loved "meeting" you! My legs often don't work too well either, though for a different reason. I have spino-cerebellar ataxia. You can google it or read about it on my blog, but basically it means I have poor coordination/ballance because of degenerative, untreatable, genetic condition, & if I over-do, I have jelly legs. :o) Like you, I am also an object of God's grace & love!