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.


  1. Yes. A valid explanation of caregiver/patient relationship. Having been in both situations, you've given a good description. It does get better. I think of all David did for me after I paid a doctor to cut my throat and fuse my neck. We were talking about that this week. He was a good example for me now that he is such an outpatient patient! Wish we were up there - we now have a good wheelchair, marvelous folding transport chair (much easier to handle!) and even a GoGo electric scooter! I know Mike appreciates all the help you've been for him, and you appreciate how Sarah is pitching in. It's a family thing, isn't it?

  2. I don't know what we'd do without it. I need to move back closer to home. I have people there who'd pitch in when needed.

    I'm hoping the healing goes well. When he broke his arm, years ago, he wasn't healing well. I went and bought calcium supplements and started giving them to him. The doctor said it wouldn't matter. However, when we went back, the arm was healing very well and he could remove the cast. So, I bought calcium supplements +D yesterday and he's taking it. I'm not taking any chances with it. He doesn't get enough sunlight and is probably deficient a bit anyway.

  3. It pains me to see how alone you are--without help. Are there any people at church that could give you a hand? Sometimes you have to ask.