Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Balance Guy as Guru

My Balance Guy asked, “What’s new in your life?”

“TSA molested me at the airport.”

“That’s good,” he said.

I looked at him as if something in his face might tell me if he had correctly understood what I’d said.  I couldn’t think of anything good about it.

He continued. “The problem is coming from outside instead of inside.  That’s good.”

I had to smile. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Taking My New Hip for a Bike Ride

Last week I took my new hip for a quick bike ride to the gym. That’s only half a mile from my house. No biggie. Biking was less work than walking there.

Yesterday I decided to take the hip for a real ride – one of the reasons I got it – a ride to the grocery store. The grocery is about a mile and a half from my house, or 3 miles round trip, plus walking around the store to pick up my groceries.  I hate thinking like that.  I used to put the saddle bags on the bike, wheel it down my front steps and zoom off to the grocery, or anywhere else, without a second thought.

I’ve been practicing. I’ve been riding the stationary bike at the gym every day for 3 weeks. I bike 4 miles in 20 minutes.  I’m not tired at 20 minutes. The gym bikes have timers. You have to get off after 20 minutes so somebody else can have a turn.

I asked my PT – “Is biking 4 miles on a stationery bike anything like biking 4 miles on the road?”
He said, “It’s much harder. You have to balance. It’s like the difference between doing leg lifts on a chair and doing leg lifts on a balance ball.”  He suggested I not bike more than 7 or 8 minutes, take a rest, and then go home.

I told him there aren’t stop signs to deal with on the gym bike.  He agreed I could have a few more minutes.  I pushed it.  It takes about 10 minutes to bike to the grocery store, when traffic is light. 15 minutes in normal traffic. And I’m not as fast as I used to be.  That 4 miles in 20 minutes works out to only 12 miles an hour. That’s a leisurely ride on normal legs – but I do not yet have normal legs.

I live in a neighborly neighborhood.  Everybody knows I have a new hip. Everybody knows I’m in rehab.  And everybody knows I’m an exercise junky.  No sooner had I wheeled my bike down the stairs than a neighbor came up to me. “Does your doctor know you’re doing this?”
“My doctor told me I can ride my bike, go swimming, and use the eliptical at the gym.”
“Can’t you do something else?”
“I could ride the stationary bike at the gym, but that wouldn’t bring groceries home.”

“The gym bike is boring,” said my neighbor.  I totally agree with her.  The neighborhood gym does not have the dragon chasing program like my old gym.  All I get to look at are miles per hour, revolutions per minute, difficulty level, and estimates as to how many calories I’ve burned.
Finally my neighbor agreed that it was okay for me to get groceries.  Now the only remaining approval I needed was from my new hip and the accompanying leg muscles.

Gentle hills fill the distance between my home and the grocery store.  I’ve been setting the stationary bike on the hills program, level 8.  The hills were not difficult. Until I got to the 21st street underpass.  I LOVE that underpass.  I love zooming down it. I love feeling my muscles work as I pedal up it.  But my legs were already tired. If I zoomed down, I would be dismounting and walking up. Not what I wanted. And it could be avoided. 

I made a right turn and went the long way around, adding about a quarter mile to my route.  All the easy parking spaces for bikes were taken – the ones at the ends of the racks.  I had to lift my bike into one of the middle spaces.  Again, this is balance work! I unhitched the saddle bags, carried them to a cart and hoisted my bike onto the rack. Then I locked it in place.

In the store, I was grateful for that cart. It works like a walker and takes the weight off my hips.  I got the groceries. I unlocked my bike and lifted it out of the rack. I rehitched the saddle bags.  Then I had to bike home.  It is slightly more uphill to go home than to go downtown.  Normally, this is no big deal, but my legs were already tired.  Both of them.  Neither has had to ride a bike to the grocery for 2 months.  You’d think I’d told them they could retire to pasture.  They made me crank the bike down to its easiest gear. They grouched. But they kept on pedaling.

The only major complaint they made was carrying my bike up my 3 front stairs to my livingroom.  I took the saddle bags off before lifting the bike. I made 2 separate trips to bring the saddle bags inside.  I put the frozen stuff in the freezer, and the stuff, like juice, that must be kept cool, in the fridge. And I left the rest of it. I went upstairs and took a nap.

Yes, riding a bike for 3 real miles is harder than riding a stationary bike for 4 miles.  Just to be sure, I went to the gym this morning and rode the stationary bike for 20 minutes. I wasn’t tired. It wasn’t difficult. My hip did not grouch. Neither did my leg muscles.  Now to get them strong enough for the real world.  That’s the real reason I got the new hip.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Learning to Climb Stairs with my New Hip

It’s been months, maybe a year, since I’ve climbed stairs like a normal person. I’ve been doing what my PT calls “step to.”  I step up one step with my strong leg, bring my weak leg to the same step, and repeat.  For going down, I step down with my weak leg, bring my strong leg to the same step and repeat. I hold the banister both ways.

Now I have a new hip. I want to climb and descend steps like a normal person. My weak leg ouches and grouches and balks.   I talked about this recalcitrant leg with Balance Guy.  BG suggested that I pretend I’m going to teach an actor to climb stairs the way I do. Pay close attention to exactly what I’m doing as my leg does its uncooperative movements.  He promised that by paying close attention to the weakness and wobbliness that I’d learn how to correct it. 

He was right.  Today I went to the shallow set of steps (much shorter than my home stairs) near the Ma and Pa grocery store three blocks from where I live.  I walked there without my cane. I was able to climb up the steps without holding the banister, and without using “step to.”  I needed the banister going down, but again, I did not need to “step to.”

I marvel at how weak this leg has become, but in one day, I’ve made progress.

The goal remains – go up and down my home steps like a normal person, not holding the banister.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Molesting Women for Uncle Sam

A month ago, right after I had my hip replaced, I called TSA both in Washington DC and in Philadelphia to find out what to expect when I went through security, now that I have a piece of metal in my body large enough to trigger alarms.  Both TSA representatives explained that I would need to be patted down. Both representatives assured me that the pat-down agents would be gentle. They warned me that the pat-down agents would touch me where the thigh meets the torso.  I was okay with that.

When I arrived at the Philadelphia airport screening area, I was ordered to place my cane in the scanner.  I complied.  But then they refused to give it back. The TSA representatives ordered me to walk through the metal detector without my cane.  I told them I have a hip implant and that the metal detector would sound the alarm.  They said I had to walk through anyway, without my cane.  When I was through, they still refused to give me my cane. 

They said I had to be patted down. The ordered me into a clear plastic box. They ordered me to put my feet on painted footprints that were several feet apart.  I told the pat-down representative that I’m still sore from surgery 4 weeks ago.  She said, “‘I’ll be extra rough there.”  I told her that was not a good joke.  She patted my thighs, as the TSA agents had explained.

Then she ran her fingers down my crotch, poking them into my vagina and touching my clitoris through my underpants.  I was so shocked that I screamed.  She tried to shame me for screaming.  “Really?”  I said, “Yes, really! There was no need to touch me there!”  She said, “I have to check there.”  I said, “No, you don’t.”  At this point she looked like she wanted to make me miss my plane, so I didn’t say anything more.  She wiped her gloves with a cloth and handed the cloth to someone outside the box.  After a few moments the person who took the cloth waved me on through and someone gave back my cane.

For the rest of Saturday and into Sunday morning, I kept thinking there has to be a way to avoid being molested again.  Finally I decided to use my meditation techniques and remind myself – I’m all right, right now.  When I got to the part of the airport scanning process, for my return flight, where I had to put my cane into the scanner, I stood beside the scanner. I asked for my cane back. Three agents debated whether I could have it back. One asked, “Can you walk without your cane?”  I answered, “I want my cane.”  Finally a man gave it back to me. A woman agent told me I should buy a fiberglass cane.  I don’t see the point when my artificial hip is going to set off the alarm.  

The man led me to a scanning machine.  Again I had to put my feet on painted footprints about 2 feet apart, and raise my hands into the air. I had to give the man my cane.  A panel slid around me, and they let me go. But they didn’t give my cane back.  It was in another scanning machine. Eventually, I got it back and I was given directions to where my husband was waiting for me.

The only thing I didn’t have to do was take that ziplock baggie with my 100 ml liquids out of my backpack.  Nobody was being asked to do that anymore.  Nobody was having fingernail clippers stolen any more.  Now they are sexually molesting people who have medical implants.

When I got home, I called the local TSA and told the woman I’d spoken with before the flight that the TSA pat-down agent had sexually molested me.  She said, “I told you they would touch you where your thigh meets the torso.  I said I know where that is and I’m okay with that. I’m not okay with having the agent poke her fingers into my genitals and touch my clitoris.  I gave her the time and date and location in the airport where this had occurred.  I described what I was wearing so she could spot me on the video. 

She said she’d have her supervisor call and explain things to me.  I told her there is nothing to explain. The only thing I want to hear is that all TSA agents will be instructed NEVER to touch a passenger’s genitals. The agent told me that when her supervisor calls, I can explain what I want to her.  I also left a note on the website, but they have not yet posted it (if their moderator ever intends to post it.)

I will be sending copies of this blog to my congressional representatives.  I’m feeling helpless. I want to fly. I do not want to be molested. Not all airports have scanning machines.  I do not know what my options are, so long as Uncle Sam thinks molesting women is the latest safety fad.   

Friday, April 15, 2011

More Stuff I Learned This Week

1) is a good website for learning about how to give your online materials to your heirs.  Yes, they have a book, too.

2) Speaking of books, the 39 Clues series that Scholastic invented to try to duplicate the Harry Potter income stream, is more of a story version of Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?  On that level it is fun to talk about with children or grandchildren. And, as a bonus, it helps cheer up my husband, the alien, who has been in a gloom.  He loves reading the different voices out loud.

3) My surgeon cleared me for riding my bike, swimming and using the eliptical at the gym. I rode my bike to the gym today and managed 4 minutes on the eliptical before the pain kicked in.  Tomorrow I’m going to swim.

4) I thought the meeting with my surgeon was going really well until he said that my right hip, the good one, the one that was not hit by the car, is probably going to need to be replaced in about 10 years.   NOOOOO!  I don’t want to go through this again!  Right now, that hip is causing me no problems.  If there is anything I can do to keep my original equipment, I’m going to do it.

5) CVS Pharmacy has a good deal if you like to re-use your own cloth bags.  They’ll sell you a tag for $1 that you can put on your bag. Every time you use your bag, you swipe that tag and your Red CVS card on the self-service check-out scanner, along with your items.  Every 4 times you do this, you get a coupon for $1 good on your next purchase an CVS.  I never win anything at Trader Joe’s where I fill out silly tickets for bringing my own bag. This is a winner every time.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What I Learned This Week

1) If a doctor says he’ll see you when you are in the hospital, it means he’ll listen to your heart and send you a bill.

2) When you go to PT after getting hip replacement surgery, the wimpiest exercises are hard and they hurt.

3) The exercise bike at the gym isn’t much harder when you put it up a level, but the dials all look more impressive - more miles per hour, more distance traveled.

4) A body scan meditation reduces pain more than a pain pill, but it takes 45 minutes of total concentration.

5) I can get a lot more reading done if I don’t work so many hours. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hip Replacement Rehab Day 21

As you can see by the photo – the incision for my hip replacement isn’t even 4" long.  I have no idea what they did with all my leg muscles, but the surgeon assures me that none of them were cut.  He cut off the head of my femur. He drilled a hole in it. He hammered a metal rod into it.  I heard all this going on. The main painkiller was a spinal.  They also had me on an IV with what they called twilight, and they had me under a blue piece of paper so I couldn’t see what was going on.

But I know what saws and drills and hammers sound like.  

They also taped my arms down.  I have no idea what that was for, but it became inconvenient when I got an itch and couldn’t scratch it, and couldn’t figure out how to get the attention of anybody on the other side of the blue paper.  Good thing I know how to meditate.  Focus on the itch. Exactly where is it? What exactly does it feel like? Ask these questions over and over. The itch moves. It changes character. Eventually it quits

At the hospital, the evening after the surgery, they got me up with a walker and let me walk to the toilet, which was about 10 feet from my bed.  Not a big adventure, but better than staying in bed.
The next day I was pushed in a wheelchair to one session of Physical Therapy.  They gave me a walker and had me run a gauntlet – go up and down stairs, into and out of a car. They were about to have me do the paperwork to take the walker home when I asked if I could try a cane.  The therapist looked at me as if I was crazy, so I demonstrated that I could go up and down stairs with my hands on the banister. She let me try the cane.  Getting into and out of the car wasn’t easy. But it wasn’t easy with the walker, either.  She gave me the paperwork for the cane.

Then she taught me 6 exercises.  Only one – sit on the edge of a bed, straighten your operated on leg parallel to the ground, hold it there for 5 seconds, repeat 30 times, was hard.  The others, like slide your foot back and forth, lock your knees, wiggle your feet at the ankles, were easy. The therapist put a discharged sticker on my folder and I was wheeled back to my room.

My case worker asked me if I was going to be homebound.  I told her I had no intention of being homebound. The bus comes within half a block of my house. I have work to do.  My case worker told me I couldn’t have home physical therapy visits unless I was homebound.  I asked for outpatient physical therapy.  Nothing happened.

When I went home that afternoon, I called my surgeon’s nurse. She said she’d mail me a prescription for 6 weeks of physical therapy.  A week went by. No prescription arrived.  I called again and asked her to fax the prescription to my favorite PT center.  I called the PT center the next day. They didn’t have it.  I called the nurse again. She faxed again. She called me to let me know she got a receipt for her fax.  I called the center again. They had it, but they didn’t have the April schedules in the computer yet, and March was all booked.  I called again the next day.  My first appointment is tomorrow.  Yay!

Meanwhile, my surgeon had told me I should start the stationery bike at the gym 2 weeks after the surgery.  The first time I went to the gym, it was exhausting just to walk there with my cane.
The second time, I went in and pedaled the bike for 10 minutes on the easiest level.  I rode 1 mile. The gym is about half a mile from my house, so I also walked one mile.  Each day I have increased my workout.  Today, my 5th day at the gym, I put the bike on level 5 and biked for 20 minutes.  According to the bike’s odometer, I went 3.5 miles, at a little over 10 miles per hour.  That’s nothing compared to my usual day, but it’s progress.

When neighbors see me walking around the neighborhood with my cane, they ask, “Did you exercise too hard? Why do you have a cane?”  When I tell them I had my hip replaced, they’re amazed.  They all seem to know somebody who was homebound for 3 months or even 6 months after this surgery.  

For the first time in my life I have had a good experience with a doctor.  This one recognized that I’m thin and active. He did a minimally damaging surgery.  I still don’t know what range of motion I’ll get, or what kind of endurance, but my old hip was worn out and I could no longer ride my bike or go for long walks.  I’m still on tylenol. One pill every 3 or 4 hours. I still need a cane.  This is progress.