Sunday, February 15, 2015

Returning Balance

You know that sometimes life just gets turned upside down and you can spend a long time trying to right it. Mike broke his leg on January 30th and today is February 15th. It has taken this long for things to settle down and for me to recover to the point where I feel fairly normal. Of course, those of you who know me well know that I'm not even close to normal on a good day but that's another post.

Last night I sat down and finished one of my crochet projects that I've worked on for a few weeks. I used a left over skein of yarn that I used to make Sarah a shrug. I've wanted to try this project for a while but just put it off. In January I decided to try it. 

You've probably seen versions of this here and there in a solid color. I like this variegated yarn by Caron Simply Soft. I use a lot of Caron because it just feels good to touch. It is lighter than most yarns and I've made some nice shrugs with it for Sarah. She even has a dress made with a different variegated color, which you can see on my Ravelry page.

The button on the "clamp" is one I've had in my jewelry box for over a decade. Yes, at least that. I bought it originally to make a choker but never got around to it and I'm glad now I didn't. I do think I should have used a dark solid color to bring out that button and will probably make a second band and transfer it to that. I can get another button for this one that will show up  much better. I will also make that "clamp" portion a bit smaller to give a more gathered look to the band. It stretches and flattens out and I didn't want that. 

If you've read about any of my crochet at all you know I go patternless most of the time, preferring to experiment with my skills. I'm not a master, I'm a creative. I didn't have a pattern for this. I just saw a photo and decided to try it my way. 

I made my band in short rows of single crochet, whereas the photo I saw made their band in the round and I believe they used double crochet. After making this one, I think I'd like to try doing one that way but who knows. I suspect it controls the stretch a bit more. I've made a headband before with a flower. Sarah has since lost both of them. Very annoying. I loved them. I may try this with an even smaller weight yarn. 

I must say it is very warm on my ears and since I'm losing hair along the top of my head due to the RA medicines they're giving me, this may be a viable option to the bald look I shall eventually be sporting. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Cleaning out the Stalls

You may have gathered by now that I'm taking care of my son, Mike, after he broke his leg on January 30. You know the details, if you read anything on Facebook or this blog. If you don't, you must be lost. Go back one week and turn left.

For those who are current, if you have never taken care of someone incapacitated, you have no clue how exhausting it is nor how frustrating. The patient is not actually to blame for this, although the fact that they are the source would make it seem logical to do so. You have to step back and constantly remind yourself that the patient is just as frustrated and exhausted as you are, for the same reason. They are injured and can't fend for themselves. It isn't their fault, unless they deliberately stepped in front of that bus.

If you think caring for someone who can't actually get up without your help is no big deal, you have surprises coming. I sure in some minds there is the thought that since they can't mess up the house and are controlled by the caretaker, you should have no trouble and plenty of time to do what you want. You can just step away anytime you like and take a break, go out. You'd be wrong.

I am caring for my grown son the way I cared for him when he was one. Don't look like that. It is true. He can't get up and down without help. So how bad can a broken leg really be?

Pretty bad. He has a titanium rod in his leg, screwed in below his knee. The boot they have on him feels as if it weights about 15-20 lbs with the leg inside it. When sitting, I have to help him lift and lower this boot because it is so heavy he has trouble lifting it and he is not allowed to put any weight on it at all.

The bandage you see is over his knee, where there is a six inch incision is where they put the screws into the bone. Today Mike got a look at the portion of his leg that probably smacked the pavement when he crashed and that he can't normally see. It shook him up. That is a bruise. We suspect the bruising around the knee, it extends around the back of the knee to the inside part of his leg, is caused by the surgery.

When he has to move from one room to the next, he has to hop, using a walker, on his good leg, inch the walker forward, and drag the good foot along. This is a very dangerous and tricky process in a small house.

My job is to stabilize the walker if needed and if he falls, guess who has to break that fall? He is nearly 6 ft tall and weighs over 200 lbs. I'm 5 ft, 5 in... sure, just fall on me. There is no way he is leaving this house until the 13th for his doctor's appointment. God help us when it comes time to go down the steps with that walker. No, there's no one to help us.

Then, there is the job of getting him in and out of clean clothes. It is one thing to dress him when he was one year old. It is entirely something else to have to dress a grown child, male or female. And have I mentioned baths? No? Well, let me just tell you, that's a bigger job than building the Eiffel Tower.

I rigged a way for him to get a shower without getting the leg wet and everything else in my 6 ft sq bathroom. But again, I have to help him undress, get in the shower, arrange the curtains and leg. I have to hold the leg to keep it stable while he bathes. I help him redress and get back to his chair. He got to shave last night. By the time this is all done, I'm exhausted. So is he. He is only allowed to do this twice a week. Did I mention my doorway into the bath is only two feet wide. The walker is three ft wide. Yeah. Think about that.

Next is the service component. Being an invalid is a lot like five star hotel living without the pool. Your bed is made. Your meals are prepared, served and your dishes washed. If you don't like something, they take it back and bring you something else. Although, in this establishment, that rarely happens because adding additional bodily harm is not something the guest actually wants. Besides, Mike eats pretty much anything. He never complains about the food.

If you want water, you call for it. If you need a pillow adjusted, you call for it. If you are cold, you ask for a blanket. If you need your urinal emptied, you call for it. If the remote doesn't work, you ask for technical assistance. If your computer won't reach, you ask for help. If you foot slips, you ask for assistance.

Night duty is a bit more strenuous. Imagine waking up every 4 hours from a dead sleep, getting up, changing the ice packs out, adjusting the 20 lb boot so it isn't hurting, emptying that urinal, and insuring pain pills are on time. Last night was a bit less. Mike seemed to have a better night and didn't require as much help. He's moving a lot better today but just moving is quite painful on one leg while holding the other off the floor. Remember the weight of that lifted leg.

I've discovered that television and pain pills are pretty cool things. Used appropriately, they do bring a few hours respite at random times of the day. One can't, however, rely on this all the time. Mike doesn't complain a lot but when he's uncomfortable, it gets tedious. We've spent the better part of seven days trying to build better mouse traps... things to keep that leg comfortable.

Now, if you're relatively healthy, this whole process will be manageable but you're going to be tired. You might get a bit crabby unless you have a sweet disposition ... like me. However, add all this to the fact that the caretaker suffers from an autoimmune disease causing severe pain that is worsened by lack of rest and who's own mobility is affected by that. Imagine lifting that boot with hands that hurt to hold a coffee cup that day. Yeah. Nice.

I learned at a very young age that life dishes out crap most of the time and how you shovel the crap is often going to determine if you sleep in a clean stall that night. I've shoveled so much crap in my life that I've gotten pretty good at it. I rarely sleep in a dirty stall. It helps if you don't blame the crappers for doing what comes naturally. Often they're busy shoveling, too, and some of them don't shovel as well as you. You do what you gotta do and you do it with no expectation of help.

This is how the first half of the today went

At 8:33 my feet hit the floor.
Made a quick potty break.
Assisted Mike to the living room.
Got his foot supported in a chair on 4 pillows.
Made pot of coffee and shared a cup with Sarah (the caramel smell enticed her).
Started a second pot of coffee (tiny coffee pot< LOL)
Cooked 3 breakfasts --
--ready made pancakes for Sarah.
--Made 2 sausage biscuits for Mike.
--Made one sausage/jelly biscuit for me.
Cut up and served pancakes with syrup to Sarah.
Served Mike breakfast with a glass of milk.
Asked if I could sit down and eat my breakfast.
Permission granted.
Looked at clock: 9:33 a.m.
Fixed Sarah's hair. (Bless her, she got her own clothes out and dressed.)
Removed Mike's things from the dryer.
Put laundry washed last night in dryer.
Put on next load of laundry.
Redressed Sarah because Mom wanted different clothes for day trip.
Dressed 1 Doll named Isabella
Made Sarah's bed and straightened her room (with her help)
Sorted laundry washed last week (while Mike in hospital) on Sarah's bed
Stripped my bed
Got myself dressed. Note to self: remember to do my own hair.
Emptied all trash cans with Sarah's help and she took out the trash.
Sat down with Sarah for a Coffee break
Looked at clock: 11 a.m.
Noon: made two lunches and helped Mike get up and move around a bit.
Spent time writing this blog between noon and 2:29 p.m.
Looked at clock. 2:30 p.m.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Beauty and Benefits of Epsom Salt

Photo by Cynthia Maddox

Sarah was complaining for several months of leg pains. Of course, this is a fairly common complaint for children. Old folks called it growing pains. My Mama did and if you're from any where south of the Mason-Dixon your's did, too. The doctor explained it as expansion of the growth plates in the leg. Whatever the reasons, I vaguely recall the pain from my own past.

I remembered the remedy that Mama and all my great aunts suggested and bought a very large bag of Epsom Salts. I put about two cups in a tub of hot water and popped her into it. We did two baths a week and the pain disappeared. Once I stopped using the salt, the pain came back but not very quickly and when it did, we just did another bath and it left again. In the last three months the pains have all but disappeared. 

Long ago, Epsom Salts was virtually a cure-all and if you looked at some of the material on its uses, it would appear that it still is a miracle working substance. The high content of magnesium is the reason it works. Sitting in a tub of Epsom salt is like soaking in a magnesium bath that you absorb by osmosis - through your skin. It feels wonderful. The water has an interesting feel once the salt is dissolved and you're skin feels different afterward. There are other nutrients in the salt as well. 

My own doctor suggested Epsom salt baths for my fibromyalgia/RA pain. When I use it, I have less pain in my feet and legs. If I had a big enough tub, I'd soak up to my chin in it. My children think I need a hot tub but January soaks in the back yard are not appealing to me.  Still, I dream of a sauna with a hot tub. 

When looking for information about how much Epsom salts to use in a bath I ran across a website that seems to have all you need to know about it. Epsom Salt Uses & Benefits There are others but I just wanted the short version. Of course, they're selling their brand of salt but frankly, you can buy it at Walmart in large bags. I now have about an 8 lb bag under the sink. 

The site includes suggestions for use. I suspect you could create salt scrubs with Epsom salt. The large crystals are pretty and glitter in the light but they are fairly hard so you'd need a mortar and pestle to grind them into smaller pieces for scrubs. The benefits would be worth the extra work. 

Do remember not to use soap in the salt bath. The information I read indicates soap interferes with the action of the salt. This makes sense since soap leaves a residue on the body that would prevent absorption. I don't like tub baths so I usually just soak in the salt bath and get out. 

Sarah actually likes the salt baths now and ask for them. You should try it if you have any kind of muscle pain. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How Life on the Ledge Works

Courtsey of khunaspix at
When I say my life is on the ledge, I'm not joking.

I had to stop work on my novel last week due to computer problems. I intended to reset it on Saturday since on weekends I don't generally work on writing. That was the plan.

On Friday I went to lunch with a writer friend, Robin. I really enjoyed it. We were at the "sit back and chat" phase when I got a call from a stranger saying my son, Mike, was injured in an accident. Mike drives a scooter and so, my mind immediately went into overdrive on what may have transpired.

The caller, another motorist, assured me that no cars were involved but that he'd "dumped" his scooter. The location was just down the road a couple of miles from where I was and not far from his home.

I saw the light first and it freaked me out. EMT vehicle, techs, 2 police cars and police and I think a couple of motorist who had stopped. As they said no cars involved but he had to be taken to the hospital to have his leg checked.

Mike says he thought he hit his brake too hard and the wheel wobbled. I suspect he over compensated. He had not driven the thing in a couple of months due to weather and Friday he was just returning movies to the library and going for a pizza.

In the ER they informed us he had broken the tibia about 4 inches above his ankle and the fibulia just below his knee. He required surgery to fix them. They scheduled it for the next day. He had a rough night. On Saturday they put a rod in the leg from just above his ankle, screwed it into the tibia just below his knee. This would hold the tibia in place and the fibulia would be pulled into alignment and heal normally on its own. Saturday night was even rougher than Friday. They had him on a pain pump with Dilaudid. That's the good stuff. It took hours to get his pain stabilized and even then sleep was difficult. I came home around nine since I was no help.

Saturday night I started the computer reset and with all the back and forth to the hospital Saturday, I was able to do the updates and get it running again. Still no writing, despite my best intentions but at least the problem I'd been having seemed to be solved.

They kept him Sunday and Monday to keep a check on the leg. Sunday I worried because the swelling was terrible and his leg was red. Swelling had to be monitored to watch for compartment syndrome. This is where swelling cuts off the circulation and can cause the muscle to die, thus crippling him. Also, they had to watch for blisters. I think this is to prevent infection. They lanced one that had formed and drained it.

On Tuesday, they cut him loose and we brought him home. For the most part things are settled down. He is having to use a walker to get around and he can't put that foot on the floor at all. So, he isn't getting up except to go from the bed to the recliner. The boot they have him in is very heavy. I can hardly lift the thing. And getting clothes over it is nearly impossible.

I spent the afternoon trying to scrape up money to get his pain meds. I was astounded at the cost for Percocets. Walgreen's was $200. CVS was $184 but they were out. Walmart was $186. We opted for Walmart because I thought they might have a discount for people who had no money. However, when we got the meds they told us he actually had a prescription discount card on file and we ended up paying $86! It knocked off $100. I'm so thankful for that. I had to use my charge card but still it was a lot less than I would have paid. The prescription drug card is one that came in the mail to me a few years ago and it was free. At the time I didn't need it so I gave one to him and one to David. I never figured it was much use anyway but apparently I was wrong.

Last night I was able to rig things up for him to get a shower yesterday but he won't do that often. It is too difficult to secure the leg and insure he won't fall in the shower. We used a kitchen stool I have that has a back and is the height of a bar stool. Bad leg was propped securely outside the shower and shower curtain draped around him to prevent water from getting down the leg. It worked great but the set up is tedious and difficult. I was really nervous that the leg would fall off the support.

Last night was an up and down night. I was up every 4 hours to change his ice pack, readjust the leg on pillows, give him pain meds, and help him with bathroom breaks. Still, I'm not as tired as I would have been, thanks to my taking one of my meds. I take Doxepin here and there for pain and to help me sleep. I didn't intend to take it last night but forgot and did anyway. It was a good accident. When I was asleep, I slept better. So, today I'm not as bad as I could have been.

Today, for the first time in a week, I'm able to sit at the computer to work. I stopped long enough to do this post and now, time for real work.

And that is  how Life on the Ledge works....

I so need chocolate.