Slam Dunk! Two Points for the Rats!!!!

26 May

If your city or state has a science museum, take a day or maybe a slow weekend and visit. You won’t be at all disappointed, you’ll have fun and you will learn something, whether you want to or not. Walking through the museum, when you’re least expecting it, the knowledge just seeps in by osmosis.

State or local facility, science museums are just cool places. We’ve been twice as a club to the Science Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke but we wanted to go back to the larger museum in Richmond because we hadn’t been as a club since 1991. I imagine some of you reading this weren’t even born when we took that first trip.

For at least a year we have been attempting to find the best time to visit our state science museum in Richmond. As with any large group, trying to find a perfect date for everyone who wants to go is nearly impossible. So we’ve struggled for a while trying to fit everyone in and work around multiple schedules. Our trip coordinator finally threw up her hands, discussed it with me and we decided to just pick a date and hope it was agreeable with the majority, even if it meant more schedule juggling while attempting to get group admission rates.

This past Saturday we finally got it all pulled together and a bunch of us made the two-plus hour drive … caravanning and carpooling … to Richmond and the Science Museum of Virginia.

The building, an ages-old converted railway station, is massive with columns and fountains out front and remnants of tracks and ticket areas throughout. There’s quite a bit of nostalgia mixed in with the exhibits, which adds to the enjoyment of the day.

We arrived and paid for our admission, which included all the exhibits PLUS one of the Dome shows.

The massive Dome theater has the largest screen in the state of Virginia and is such a treat. Most of us chose to see Imagine the Moon, a 45 minute tour of the moon, the cosmos, surrounding space bodies and a brief history of that orb while images swirled around and above our heads. Lying back in comfortable theater seats to accommodate looking up without neck damage, the show was awesome.

The first thing that greets you in the lobby of the museum, as well as volunteers and employees is a huge Foucault Pendulum. A heavy brass pendulum is suspended from the very high ceiling and moves back and forth above a flat earth globe that is inlaid into the floor. Pegs surround the globe. The movement of the pendulum is constant and not controlled by electronics of any kind. Its movement is a direct result of the rotation of the Earth and the pegs are knocked down periodically by the pendulum. It’s all very scientific AND fascinating although it would take too long to explain it (even if I could). Suffice it to say the pendulum is fascinating and one of my favorite features at the museum.

During the day we visited as many exhibits as we could. We went to a live show about the planets, presented by a meteorologist that was beautiful and interesting. We saw space suits, astronauts, moon rocks and learned all about relativity. Our friend, Tim explained it simply. He said if we don’t want to age so fast, just take a little jaunt into space where the aging process is slowed down … relatively. That’s good enough for me.

There are live science labs set up so children and adults can have “hands-on” time with an active bee hive, architecture, weather, plants and pollinators, magnets and genes, to mention a few.

We saw lizards, snakes, bees, and Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. I found the snakes more pleasing than over-sized roaches and we moved on to more hands-on experiments (I loved the Quacker Smacker). We had our pictures taken with Curious George and pretended to book a flight on a rocket ship aimed towards space. (We should NEVER be too old to pretend.)

Even before we had paid our admission and decided on a Dome show, my husband and several others of us decided, while looking over the offerings of the day, that they wanted to attend a presentation called RAT BASKETBALL. Well, really … who wouldn’t? So I went along because I just wanted to see what that was.

We went to an auditorium where a museum volunteer was setting up a very tiny basketball court with hoops and basketballs. The next thing he did was remove a white rat and a spotted rat from little sawdust-filled carriers and placed them on the court. He told us about the rats, how they are very intelligent creatures that are easy to train and work with, who don’t present a problem with rabies and, apparently, they just enjoy basketball. With that, he gave a nod and the two rats began playing the game with what appeared to be enthusiasm. REALLY …

The presenter asked how many in the theater were afraid of rats and a number of hands went up. My thought on the whole thing, from the perspective of the glass half full or half empty was that they were super cool playing basketball but seeing one in my kitchen in the middle of the night changed the whole dynamic for me. I DID appreciate the fact that a recently added brown rat had just slam-dunked the ball on the far court and racked up another two points, headed for the win. The little thing had a lilt to its gate that just screamed of having a really good time. I was hooked … sort of.

People in our party were taking pictures and several made videos of that fast and furious basketball game. The “handler” or coach or whatever he REALLY was rewarded each rat with a Grape Nuts nugget after each successful turn at the hoop. (I wondered if a Grape Nuts nugget or two would make Steph Currie’s performance even better but kept that question to myself. I’ll have plenty of time to ask it later when my club members and I eventually discuss, in depth, the merits of Rat Basketball).

After we got home, I put an album of the pictures from our science museum trip on Facebook. I just wanted to share the fun we had with those who hadn’t been able to make the trip. As an afterthought I shared the video our friend, Tim made of a small segment of the RAT BASKETBALL game. I decided mentioning it or adding a “still” photo of that unusual and exciting athletic event just wasn’t enough. People really had to SEE it to believe it, so the video went on my Timeline.

The first response I got to the Rat Basketball video was from my friend, Chris. He wrote, “Just when I thought I’d seen everything there was to see, along comes THIS…” My response was, “Me, too, Chris. They were pretty AMAZING. I’ve decided to respectfully call them the ‘Sewer Trotters’.”  

To me, in their own way and in their own space, those rats were every bit as good as the Globe Trotters EVER were.

SLAM-DUNK! Two Points for the Rats!!!!!!!!!!!!



April and the Slide Show

28 Apr

April is my favorite month. Everything is new and fresh. The budding trees and new flowers are a promise of better things to come.

This spring / April have been especially lovely with the exception of several unpleasant storms and tornado watches and warnings that never use to be so prevalent in our area, but are now. It’s still been a lovely spring and still my most favorite month.

This April has been full and busy and every time I thought I’d have a minute to write a blog entry, I didn’t. I haven’t been lacking for blog subjects … just time. I wanted to write about our cat, Phoebe’s newest enjoyment, entertainment and toy that has been instrumental in chasing away her “cat boredom” but haven’t had a minute to get that done.

Mainly I wanted to write about our club’s 35th. Anniversary Party that 53 people attended, the majority of which were dressed like their favorite singers (dead or alive). Willy and I dressed as Lady Gaga and Elvis (I was Gaga in case there’s any confusion). I won’t go into detail about either of those topics because there’s still a chance that I may find time to write about them. Unfortunately, that won’t be today. I simply don’t have time.

As so often happens, I got the inspiration for this entry this morning in church. We’re Methodists (well, Baptists turned Methodist, which is a story in itself) and Methodist folks seem to move their ministers around a lot, so we’ve had a few since Willy and I “converted” and went over to the “Methodist side.” My feeling about denominations, though, is that as long as you are IN church, it hardly makes a difference which one it is. Some would disagree but I think being faithful and WANTING to be in church far outweighs the WHICH church. Anyway …

Our current minister is young, very enthusiastic and excited with his appointment. He is Korean and a very interesting person. His wife is also Korean and it is simply impossible not to succumb to their friendliness and be infected by the joy in life they so obviously feel. His commitment to his faith and his profession shines around him with a pure light.

This morning his sermon was about last week’s Earth Day and what it all means. In order not to have been swept along in his explanation of how we are stewards of the Earth and keepers of God’s world, one would have had to have been deeply asleep or perhaps comatose. We enjoyed every word.

Our minister always picks up his guitar close to the end of the service, his wife takes her seat at the piano and they send us all home on the good feelings, rhythm and words of a special song. It is always a lovely moment.

Today as Yosep and Christina were singing, I thought to myself how their songs and that special part of the service would be among the things I remember most about them and their time with us; that and their obvious joy at being a part of the faith that so obviously wraps them in its warmth and urges us all to be a part of that special cocoon.

And while the music played and drifted off a bit, I drifted off a bit to a unique place in my mind. I thought about the special moments I remembered about previous ministers. The music and the atmosphere were a perfect setting for me to have an almost “Academy Award” flashback … a slide show of happy memories of people and moments brought freshly into my mind for a quick “revisit” on a warm, spring morning in that special place.

I remembered Pastor Sandra, our first female minister and the person who married us, looking down at Willy and me and then to the congregation, saying, “I’d like to present to you Mr. and Mrs. Willy Smith.”

I have a perfect visual memory of Pastor Bob on his motorcycle and Pastor George on “Holy Humor Sunday;” an annual event he brought to our church that most of us enjoyed.

Pastor George encouraged us all to dress in funny outfits and to laugh, which we did. If you do a Google Search of ‘images of Holy Humor Sunday,’ there among the pictures and cartoons you will find a photo of Willy and me at church dressed as Homer and Marge Simpson on Holy Humor Sunday. George and his wife, Rebecca dressed as clowns and instilled in us the thought that God has a sense of humor.  On the pulpit there was an artist’s rendering of Jesus laughing. The idea that God has a sense of humor is something that I will always associate with Pastor George. That first Sunday that we had Holy Humor Sunday and George asked that question, “Does God have a sense of humor?” I remember smiling and answering to myself, “Of course He does …”

Pastor Josh, young and freshly out of school, came to us with so much hope and promise. We immediately loved him and he loved us back. We invested in his future because he clearly was invested in ours.

My most immediate and clearly etched visual of Josh was at our church’s Homecoming … the 110th. Anniversary when, at the end of that day of service, fellowship, entertainment, good food and excitement he took off his jacket and proceeded to dig up, in his pastor’s shirt and collar, the time capsule previously planted on/in the church lawn 30 years before. Josh and some of the men of the church were able to drag that concrete capsule out of the ground and Josh reverently opened it. What was inside wasn’t important. What is … in my “Academy Award” slide show in my mind is the look of pure joy on our pastor’s face as he worked to unearth that capsule containing relics from the history of our church. I am blessed to have that memory.

Our aging church “family” has begun to leave more and more pews unfilled as some become residents of nursing homes and spend more time away due to illness, but the faces and memories of time spent with those caring people are also a huge part of my “slide show.”

As the service came to a close, Pastor Yosep and Christina made their way to the narthex where they left us with a hug, a personal word, a smile and the promise of future frames in my “slide show.”

It was an unexpected delight to have a moment of unfiltered good memories this morning as Pastor Yosep and his wife surrounded us with lovely music and the stuff that Academy Award slide shows are made of.

I’m glad I was able this afternoon to write about this morning and the special memories I revisited. I’m glad I took the time ….



WE Are America!

27 Mar

Watching the noon news while eating my lunch, I was so touched and so impassioned by a news story that I felt compelled to write this. Not only did I leave my dirty lunch dishes unwashed, I left the table chewing my last bite and came to my office and computer.

The story was about a man … a farmer … who felt an overwhelming personal need to help those farmers in Wisconsin so recently devastated by floods. He began loading 2 trucks with huge rolls of hay and animal and horse feed to take to farmers in Wisconsin that had lost everything and were unable to feed their stock. He mentioned what he was doing on Facebook and immediately began receiving donations from his Facebook FRIENDS. What began as 2 large flatbed trucks filled with animal feed has turned into 7 trucks filled with similar donations plus personal care and hygiene products. They are headed for Wisconsin.

What this pointed out to me … actually “brought home” so immediately to me is that, we, as Americans take care of our own. We witness our brothers and sisters in times of extreme loss and need and don’t hesitate to realize that “there but by the grace of God go I.”  We roll up our sleeves, dig deeply into our pockets and do what we can to help our brothers and sisters regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, status in life or political leaning. We are joined and bonded because we are, above all else, Americans.

As president of a small local club I am so aware of the good a small club or even one person can do within a community or nation. We work all year long on one fundraiser that not only sends local kids to NASA’S Space Camp but supplies gifts for senior citizens and kids at Christmas plus donating a large food collection to the Salvation Army Food Pantry AND a sizable monetary donation. Through our donations to the Free Clinic we pay for the medical needs of one person for an entire year. In the grand scheme of things that seems very small but to that one needy person who has health care for a year, it means everything and perhaps a longer life.

Because of the hard work our club members do we have been able to donate an additional sum of money to the victims of a hurricane right here at home last spring and another donation to the NC and SC victims of last year’s floods. It is, again, small in the grand scheme of things, but as club members and Americans it is what we are blessed to be able to do to assist in taking care of our own. What we can’t do individually, we have been able to do as a club. There is power in numbers.

In the midst of all that is bad that we see nightly on the News, the majority of us are caring people who reach out to our brothers and sisters in need. We take care of our own knowing that, if our positions were reversed, they would reach out with truckloads of animal feed and supplies, food, water and personal hygiene products and a warm hand to grasp offered to us in our own time of need.

We are not just people helping people. We are Americans who have never stopped being great and caring people … caring for each other.

WE are America and my heart swells with pride at being a part of that.

The Clock

24 Mar

It was just a clock; no precision Swiss movement, hands not carved by an artisan, no decorative scrolling on its body. It wasn’t anyone’s grandfather. It was just a clock.

Bought many years ago at a Walmart or perhaps even a K-Mart it retailed for under $10. It was a little electric machine that took up just the right amount of space on the bedside table and functioned exactly as the description on the box suggested. I’d had it for so many years that I can’t remember when I bought it but it woke me up for what may have been decades … on time for work without a hitch. It was dependable. It continued functioning at its highest level during many a thunderstorm and power outage because it had a battery back-up.

That little, no frills clock made sure I was at work on time, at church on time and up bright and early to leave for much anticipated vacations. In my retirement, when we both finally had a chance to rest, I thought it would be around forever.

But like everything that lives and has a soul, my parts started wearing out. My husband and I have a total of 4 knee replacements between us and a few gnarled fingers and toes each. It’s part of life and even though we may plan for it and think we know what’s coming, we never do until we’re faced with knees that simply don’t work so well in rainy weather and fingers that are stiff first thing in the morning. But that dependable little clock … that was just a clock, if you’ll remember … just kept on ticking (pardon the pun) and religiously woke me up for more doctor’s appointments than I can remember after retirement. I believe I mentioned I thought it would be around forever.

And then one night … in the middle of the night … that dependable little clock alarmed at 3:30 a.m. I hadn’t set it so it seemed possible that a tiny interruption in our power may have caused it … or … like me, as it had gotten older it was just getting cranky. I dismissed it … until it happened again … at 4:37 a.m. when it jarred me out of a deep sleep (which I seldom had). It was, (pun again) alarming.

As these aberrant alarm episodes became more frequent I had to face the realization that my dependable electric clock was no longer dependable. It kept great time but the alarm issue was becoming more frequent and increasingly annoying. Somewhere in my mind I knew I had to get a new clock or expire from exhaustion, but like an elderly parent who continues to function but keeps flushing their false teeth down the toilet, the clock became a liability. And like that parent with the teeth issue, I’d developed a bond with that little clock, it had served me well for what seemed like centuries and I was reluctant to kick it to the curb.

My husband, glancing at the deepening circles under my eyes, suggested gently that I had to be brutal, buy a new clock and get rid of the old one.  I knew he was right and struck out to Walmart to buy a replacement.

In the decades since I’d purchased my clock the same model had gotten smaller, the glowing red numerals were clearer on the display window and still had a battery back-up. With the years and new technology the price had increased by two bucks.

I made the purchase.

Back home I replaced my clock on the bedside table with the new one. Although it took up less space and the red, numeric display could be more easily seen and read … by our neighbors two doors down if they were standing at their window … I felt like a traitor  replacing something that essentially still worked and gave me perfect time. Had it not been for that ever-increasing annoyance of alarming at any hour in the night and early morning, it would have occupied its special place on my bedside table for several more decades.

I removed the back-up battery from the old clock, wound the cord carefully around its body and put it in the closet. I wasn’t ready to add it to the trash.

It’s not that I’m a hoarder. I just can’t stand to toss out stuff that still works. I’ve been known to retrieve my husband’s toss-away socks and t-shirts from waste baskets and give them to Good Will or, heaven forbid, wear them myself. So I put my disabled old clock in the closet beside numerous pairs of my husband’s wasted socks and message Ts.

That was several months ago. Last week I decided to be brutal, as my husband suggested. I saw the clock in the closet and tossed it in the bathroom wastebasket along with 2 pairs of worn out men’s socks. In some sort of perverse way, it was liberating.

Our garbage leaves the house and makes its way to the street in the large can, furnished to us by the garbage collection company, on Wednesday night. Pick-up is around 5:30 a.m. on Thursday morning. Every time I walk past the bathroom waste basket I catch a glimpse of my old clock’s cord or the now unseeing, unblinking eye of its display window. I’m fighting the urge to take it out and put it back in the closet.

Only time will tell if that clock makes it to the landfill. I just can’t imagine it there.

As with life, all things end and that little clock had a good run. It was probably never manufactured to last so long but it was just too cheap to have repaired. Maybe its increasing chiming at all hours during the night was its attempt to tell me it was winding down, had finally reached the finish line and was ready to cross over with grace and dignity. Thinking about it in those terms, I will probably just let it go. After all … it’s time.

Endings and Beginnings

14 Feb

Today is Valentine’s Day, 2019. It’s significant for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it’s our wedding anniversary … Willy’s & mine. Today we’ve been married 22 years & I wonder where 22 years have gone as we step forward into beginning our 23rd. year.

When we started this journey together, Willy chose our wedding day. He chose Valentine’s Day because, he said, if he forgot our anniversary he certainly wouldn’t forget Valentine’s Day & DEFINITELY wouldn’t forget them both. And as he predicted, he hasn’t.

I measure our years together by the fun things we’ve done & the good things, but mostly by the difficulties we’ve faced & come out the other side, stronger for the experience TOGETHER.

Today is significant not only because it’s Valentine’s Day & our wedding anniversary, but because, after nearly 4 months following knee replacement surgery, today was my final day of physical therapy.

It was a difficult three & a half months.

Following the knee surgery I discovered that I cannot take pain medications. It’s a quirky thing. For the last several years almost every new medication I’ve taken has caused an adverse reaction. Following the knee surgery the end of October & a reaction to that post-op narcotic I was faced with the realization that I was going to have to have several months of extensive, very painful physical therapy taking nothing but Tylenol, which was grossly inadequate for that type of pain. No matter how many times I re-read the small print on the Tylenol bottle, NOWHERE was I able to see it written that Tylenol is the preferred pain medication for immediate post-operative knee replacement physical therapy. As a nurse & someone who had the other knee replaced years ago, I knew I was in trouble …

While this blog entry is in recognition of Valentine’s Day & my wedding anniversary, the number one reason for writing it today is to recognize my therapists at Rehab Associates of Central Virginia in Amherst, VA.

From my first appointment with Rehab Associates just 3 days following knee replacement surgery, I entered a world of pain & joy & very special people.

When I called Ryan, my therapist & explained that my surgeon was attempting to find a pain medication that I could take without a reaction, he told me to come to the scheduled appointment anyway & we’d begin slowly because immediate therapy was necessary in order to get knee patients up & walking. As it turned out, there was NO pain medication I could take without a reaction & Tylenol became my new best friend.

I cried that first rehab day when I met with Ryan & told him I would go into therapy remembering what I tell people at seminars about breast cancer … We never know what we can do until we try and we don’t know how strong we are until we HAVE to be. At that moment I decided I had to follow my own advice if I was going to be able to make it through rehab.

This morning I had my final physical therapy session. When I drove away from the facility & on my way home I cried. I cried not entirely because it was the END of something I’d been doing twice a week for nearly 4 months but because I was leaving people who had grown to feel more like friends than therapists. It’s difficult to explain but I want to try.

Skill, Talent, Patience, Gentleness & Kindness … those are the words that come first to my mind when I think of my therapist, Ryan. Soft spoken & understanding, he gently pushed me through the worst of that first painful 2 months. He guided me along a path to recovery that, of necessity, took somewhat longer without pain medication. He worked out a plan that both helped & encouraged me. When I became discouraged, he reassured me. Nowhere is there a more well trained or compassionate therapist. He made it possible for me to not only move forward but to be an active & willing participant in my rehab. I worked as hard as I possibly could at home, continuing my exercises as I did them at my therapy sessions. And even though the therapy was painful, sometimes more so than others, he made me believe I could eventually WALK out the other end of that tunnel on my own 2 feet … on 2 straight legs. Today I DID that. Thank you so much, Ryan.

In addition to Ryan, Stephanie also took part in my rehab although not as often as Ryan. While her style was different from Ryan’s, it also incorporated skill, talent, patience & kindness. Somewhere along the way she’d earned the nickname, Sarge. I believe she likes that because it indicates that she is tough as nails … & she is, but she also was extremely caring & brought a feminine element to my rehab. She is excellent at her job & I will be forever grateful that she pushed me to “be the best that I could be,” not to accept just what I could do but to go that extra several degrees that would make me better. It was refreshing that we shared the same taste in shoes.

Both Michael & Kenny took part in assisting me through those many months of staggering progress. They brought their personal kind of expertise & caring to my appointments.  Lindsey stayed with me & talked to me … attempting to distract me … during a very painful exercise.

On my second day of rehab … while I was attempting to do the best I could with no pain medication, Kenny whispered to me, “You’re a tough lady.” As I left this morning, I told Kenny I would never forget his special encouragement & told him to never stop saying things like that to patients who needed it. I told him I would never forget it. What I didn’t tell him was that his one whispered “You’re a tough lady” gave me encouragement on many, many days to keep going … to work through the pain … to be that “tough lady.” At the end of it all, I am proud of myself for getting through these months … just me & my Tylenol … & finding out I really AM “a tough lady.” Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Kenny.

And THANK YOU to Delphina for working with me to schedule my appointments at times that worked best for me.

This morning I hugged everyone when I left. They gave me a Rehab Associates t-shirt & took my picture with Ryan & Stephanie to use on the Rehab Associates Facebook page.

I cried walking to my car in the parking lot & driving home this morning not because I will miss the regular appointments, the sometimes painful sessions, the machines or seeing the slow but obvious progress I’ve made, although all those elements are part of it. Mainly I cried because I will miss the PEOPLE … those skilled, exceedingly well trained people who began a journey with me months ago & became an important part of my life until I exited that tunnel earlier this morning. They made a painful experience tolerable, they made it possible for me to be up walking again & they will forever hold a special place in my memory & in my heart.

In nearly 4 months of rehab, what more could anyone ask for?????





27 Jan

Our orthopedic surgeon says when you have knee & hip replacement surgery it helps if you have THE VERY BEST SURGEON ON THE PLANET, but it’s your physical therapist that gets you walking again. Since Willy & I both had knee replacements last year & each of us has a total of two knee replacements (I am VERY thankful that we have no more knees to fix), we can attest to what Dr. Andrews says.

The actual surgery is mostly a walk in the park compared to those several months afterward spending no less than two days a week in physical therapy. As painful as that is, our physical therapists are, indeed, responsible for getting us up, walking again & back into the mainstream of society … or at the very least, back strolling the aisles of our local Walmart.

For the most part, PT hurts. Parts of you that just had surgery & parts of you that haven’t moved properly for quite a while are manipulated, twisted & whipped into shape that naturally causes discomfort … or downright pain to the point of almost needing an “emotional support animal.”

There’s a man who comes to PT when I do who is handed a towel on arrival. There’s no discussion or conversation. He takes the towel, his session starts & as it becomes painful, he slides the towel between his teeth & bites down. It’s a different take on “biting the bullet.” After being in therapy for a while I’ve come to realize that you do whatever works for you.

I haven’t ventured into the “towel biting” arena & I haven’t screamed but I HAVE made noises & on a couple of occasions been reduced to begging my therapist to STOP. It seldom works, but on the off chance that it might, I haven’t minded doing what I’ve hoped was “persuasive begging” & to heck with my dignity.

My husband & I just saw the movie, A Quiet Place with a bunch of our friends. The premise of the film is that an alien invasion has taken place & a huge number of the population of Earth is gone … eaten by the grotesque invaders. While the aliens have appetites the size of Cleveland, they are also mostly blind. They are the proficient, human-hunting, human-eating machines that they are because of a highly developed sense of hearing. A sneeze or a rattle from a broken toy invites certain death as the aliens, following the simplest sound, swoop down & carry off the offending, noisy prey (it wasn’t a pretty sight). This leads to the movie’s characters seldom speaking, if at all, during the film & the entire almost two hours offering only 50 lines of dialogue & a bunch of sub-titles.

The movie is a “seat gripper.”

After watching A Quiet Place, & since Willy & I have both gone the PT route quite recently, we decided that the alien invasion of Earth more than likely started at a physical therapy rehab facility. The teeth-grinding, towel biting, audible groans, begging & possibly screams from those undergoing PT were most likely what LED those visibly challenged aliens with highly developed senses of hearing to this planet. They were hovering just above the Earth on a routine mission when they heard the sounds escaping from a PT facility & realized they had stumbled upon an unimaginable wealth & source of food.

I think about A Quiet Place now & then when my therapist bends my knee into all manner of impossible contortions or slingshots me with a bungee out a window into the midst of traffic on Route 29 & I try to avoid screaming by simply begging. On the other hand, I’m guessing the patient that keeps a towel between his teeth during his PT sessions may have also seen A Quiet Place & just isn’t taking any chances. Sometimes muffled is more effective than screaming on a number of levels.

For whatever reason, Dr. Andrews is right. Our therapists DO get us moving & they ARE responsible for us walking again. And if you’ve seen A Quiet Place you stay as quiet as possible to avoid being lunch for a grotesque creature that is blind as a bat but can hear a gnat sneeze & just might be hovering above Earth at the time of your session. It’s one heck of an incentive to ask for a towel …


Mr. Murphy & Me: Knee Replacement Surgery

29 Dec

My husband & I never planned to both have knee replacement surgery in the same year, but that’s what happened to us in 2018 & is the only reason I never got a blog post written in November.

Knee replacement is major surgery & has a long recovery period. Post-op most patients are in physical therapy for 2 to 3 months, which is grueling. The UP side of the surgery is that at the end of the line … when you can FINALLY see the light at the end of the tunnel (usually a season or two later … or it SEEMS that long) all the time & discomfort are worth it. Bone on bone pain, which is most likely what the patient has prior to surgery, is VERY uncomfortable & to finally be rid of that pain, have a straight leg again & generally get the active side of your life back is a blessing.

My husband had his surgery scheduled for mid-June & that went off without a hitch. It was his second knee replacement. Since he is still working he got to “go first.”

My second knee had been bad for a number of years but as long as it wasn’t debilitating & I could wear the majority of drop dead gorgeous shoes I wanted to wear & still walk, I would have put off surgery indefinitely & almost did. Having had one knee done years before AND having been an OR nurse for more than half my life assisting with knee replacements, just seemed to take the “glow” off the prospect of having knee #2 done. I was content to take care of Willy after his trips into that unpleasant knee replacement venue. It worked for us for quite a while.

As I said, knee replacement has a long & difficult recovery period … not only for the patient but for the caregiver. Somewhere during July while filling our Polar Ice Machine with ice that was in the freezer in our basement & ferrying it to the upper level of our house where the bedrooms are AND where Willy was & needed it for his knee recovery, my own knee started giving me a lot of trouble. By the time he went back to work in September, my knee was getting “hung up” while I was walking & I found myself, on far too many occasions, unable to move or bear weight. Even though it wasn’t in our plan, we knew it was time for me to bite the bullet & have my OWN knee replacement.

I made the arrangements with our orthopedic surgeon & was posted for surgery October 29. As we got closer to that date I started looking forward to getting it done & getting my “walking life” back.

My surgeon advised me that I would be able to drive in 2 weeks if I had a different car with an automatic transmission. Not wanting to be dependent on anyone to take me to therapy any longer than necessary, I bought a very nice used car … automatic transmission. My Celica will be 25 years old in February 2019 so we needed a more dependable car anyway, but I’ve kept the Celica because I have an emotional attachment to that “almost antique” car. If nothing else … I was PROACTIVE & the new little used car has already paid for itself.

Now just how is Mr. Murphy involved in this story & who the heck is he anyway, you may be thinking??? I’m not certain anyone has actually SEEN him but most of us know him or know OF him because of his dumb little law … MURPHY’S LAW … that says, “whatever CAN go wrong … will.”

And it kind of did.

My surgery went very well & in the Recovery Room I was glad I’d made the decision to do it & had it behind me, even though the recovery & physical therapy loomed out in front of me like a path filled with rotten persimmons that had fallen from an orchard of persimmon trees. Remember … I’d hobbled this path before.

Following surgery there was some concern that my blood pressure was running low but the nurses were keeping an eye on it.

That night the cleaning staff chose the hours between 12:40 a.m. & 3:30 a.m. to strip & wax the hallway on the orthopedic wing. I’m a light sleeper so that completely destroyed any chance I might have had to get any sleep but the nurses were coming in every 2 hours to check my low blood pressure so I really didn’t stand a chance.

At 4:30 a.m. a Certified Nursing Assistant came in, took my vital signs & asked if my BP was always so low? She said it was 88/44. Even though I was alert & talking with her, she left the room in a hurry & went to get an RN. When they returned, the RN checked the BP machine & she & the CNA quickly lowered the head of my bed, each grabbed me under an arm & snatched me up in bed as far as the bed board … (just in case, I’m sure, they had to do CPR). After that maneuver the RN took my BP & announced that it was now a healthy 113/70. My response to her was, “That’s because you scared the CRAP out of me.”

Next morning they gave me only 1/3 of my regular BP medicine & instructed me to see my medical doctor about it after being discharged … which I did.

The next morning at 8 a.m. the medication nurse gave me my first dose of pain medicine in preparation for my first Physical Therapy session. All went well.

At 12 noon I was given my second dose of pain medication in preparation for my second encounter with PT. By then I was so sleepy I had a hard time paying attention to what the therapist was telling me … BUT … I wasn’t having any pain even though I went to sleep during her instruction.

Believing that being so sleepy & eventually feeling like I had cotton stuffed in both ears was the result of having no sleep the night before, Willy took us home after I was discharged. Foggy as hell & starting to shake the rest of the day & all night long, I called my doctor the following morning. He instructed me to stop taking the pain meds since I was obviously having an adverse reaction to it. He said he would find something else to send me.

I felt the bad effects of the pain medication reaction for 2 days.

On day two I was scheduled to go to PT for the very first time after being discharged from the hospital. Since I still didn’t have any pain meds & I knew taking pain meds prior to the very painful PT was imperative, I called my doctor again. Speaking with a Physician’s Assistant I learned that since I have had reactions to so many medicines & due to the most recent one, I was pretty certain NOT to be able to take ANY narcotics. At that point I got the devastating news that I would either have to try a smaller dose of the medicine that I had the very bad reaction to or go it alone at PT with only Tylenol. Neither option had much appeal but rather than risk an even worse opioid reaction (may cause cessation of breathing & lead to death) I chose Door #2 & decided to attempt to develop a partnership with Tylenol. Even though we had a prescription for Narcan that reverses the effects of opioids if I stopped breathing, I decided to just do it with that old stand-by from “over-the-counter” & avoid any further drama.

Pointing out here that the pain following having parts of 2 of your leg bones amputated & replaced with metal & plastic components is NOT the kind of pain you want to use only Tylenol to control. But I did because my choices were limited.

So with Willy helping me, we went to my first physical therapy appointment.

One of the physical therapists told me, with awe in his voice, “You’re one tough lady.” Willy said he thought that HE was the “poster child” for knee replacement surgery until he saw me grit my teeth & have PT with only Tylenol.

Later & somewhere along the line I had a reaction to the Aspirin I was taking for avoiding blood clot formation & had to take a lower dose. And even later I couldn’t get warm & was sleeping in a sweat suit, robe, under 5 blankets & began losing hair. SIGH …. I went back to my medical doctor. Blood work showed my thyroid levels were low.

All this sounds like a nightmare & it actually has been. I wouldn’t recommend inviting Mr. Murphy to join you for ANY major thing in your life. Leave him off your invitation list AND your dance card. After my knee experience I know there’s just no place for him.

I’m usually a very positive person so I’ve taken a look back at the past 9 weeks & somehow I’ve been able to regain that positive attitude …. thankfully.

Even with the things that have gone wrong, I am still totally blessed. My knee is healing very well & except for a small problem bending it, I’m pleased with my recovery. My glass is definitely half full.

So many truly awful things could have happened that didn’t. The BP & thyroid problems are being handled by tweaking my medication. And through it all I’ve had Willy, without whom I couldn’t have done this at all. And I’ve had the very best, most patient, gentle & caring physical therapist that God has graced this world with.

I HAVE learned a few things following this knee replacement that I didn’t with the first one, which seems to be so long ago now. Most of it is related to going through PT following major (& very painful) surgery only taking Tylenol.

  • Just like I tell people who attend my breast cancer seminars:

We never know what we can do until we try & we never know how strong we are until we HAVE to be. I’ve approached physical therapy … me & my Tylenol … with that forever at the front of my mind. I’ve learned a lot by taking my own advice.

  • I’ve realized that if I didn’t go to physical therapy twice a week I’d have NO social life at all.
  • I just feel better being as much like my REAL self as possible. I shaved my legs with my electric razor about a week ago because I just couldn’t stand not doing it any longer. Had I waited another day I would have had a healthy donation to Locks of Love.
  • I’ve learned that I really AM one tough lady… and I LIKE that.
  • Mostly I’ve learned that with a lot of patience & practice you can learn to dress yourself with the twist of a wrist & a determined aim. I can perfectly lasso my foot with my underpants now & pull them up, which isn’t all that easy with a stiff knee but has been imperative to getting dressed without assistance.

Mostly I am forever grateful to Willy for making this journey with me; as he has in the past. I couldn’t have done this without him. He & his helping me is a testimony to the real & enduring meaning of marriage. Anyone can get through the good stuff but it takes someone & something special to get through the difficult parts. He’s seen me at my very lowest this time around.  He’s held me when I looked my worst & let me lean my head on his shoulder when I didn’t know anything else to do. I hope I’ve been there for him in the same way when he’s needed me.

No matter how long or difficult or challenging our paths become, we learn something from every difficult stroll we take down one of them.