Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Healer's Touch

Have you ever changed your beliefs about something? Overnight? Well, that has been my experience the last week or so.

I have always considered myself to be a scientific thinker. I look at the data. I extrapolate. I don't intuit. I don't believe without evidence. I mistrust things I cannot understand. I wonder where the trick is when something looks like magic. I am skeptical.

Case in point: I don't believe in God. I know that means I'm probably going to hell if God does exist, unless there is some special loophole for cultural Jews. Or unless I change my mind at the last minute or something. But truth be told, I just can't reconcile the concept of God with my experience of the many injustices of this world. And so I don't believe in things I can't see.


This, however, is changing.

Over the last few years, I have seen my hubby's Aunt perform what seem to be little miracles on my hubby and others. The scientific side of me attributes her healing to technique and anatomical knowledge. And that was enough to convince me to seek her help in healing from my accident.

What I didn't expect was how much I would believe in her ability to intuit my injuries and fix things with just her mind and a thoughtfully placed hand.

Over four sessions, each lasting a few hours, this special Aunt has helped my body make marked improvements in healing itself. My organs, which slammed to my left side during the accident, have been gently relocated to their proper homes. Believe it or not, but I can literally feel the difference. My womb is no longer stuck in the left side of pelvis and my lungs are no longer trapped in my rib cage but able to move freely, allowing me to take a deep, soothing breath whenever I please.

The swelling in my legs, arms, and feet has dwindled. My knee is back where it belongs after several iterations of unwinding--a strange experience consisting of my Aunt applying mild twisting force on my leg, catalyzing the muscles up and down my leg to literally unwind. The first time she did it on my left leg, I felt like it was a Barbie leg, rotating wildly in circles, while I watched it rest peacefully held in place by her strong hands. An amazing experience and so much better afterwards.

There was also work to back out the energy that had flowed up my leg as I jammed my feet into the hard dirt. And things to help improve my connection to my most injured leg, which somewhere along the way I had disowned. Plus, techniques to dissapate the shock of the accident and help my bones heal.

Before these treatments, I was a skeptic of healers and people who can "see" what is wrong just by laying their hands on you. But now I am a believer. I still want there to be science to reinforce what I've experienced, but I'm also open to the possibility that our understanding of the human body and mind is not advanced enough to explain all the things we are capable of doing.

Monday, April 28, 2014

No more sympathy, please

The worst part of having an injury is all the pity and sympathy and sad faces people make at you. I am so ready for the sympathy train to fall off its tracks. So for once and for all.... No. More. Sympathy. Please.

Yes, there are things I can't do right now, like fly my paraglider or walk up stairs or stand on my right foot.

BUT.... There is so much I can still do:

  • I can shower without help and use the loo too.
  • I can sleep at night and nap during day.
  • I can drink wine and enjoy delicious food.
  • I can watch the waves crash on the ocean.
  • I can hang out with friends.
  • I can type this blog post, play Candy Crush and obsess over Facebook.
  • I can improve my Spanish.
  • I can kayak in beautiful lakes.
  • I can watch as much tv as I want.
  • I can cuddle my sweet hubby.
  • I can travel and explore new places.

I have plenty of loved ones and enough money. I don't have to work. I can enjoy my hobbies. I am happy.


So, please, don't pity me. Save your sympathy for someone who needs it.


In the meantime, I'll take your funny jokes, enjoy your tasty cooking and bask in your delightful company. Thank you very much!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Back in the saddle... er, boat

Tuesday was a special day indeed. After being laid up and relatively inactive for more than five weeks, I got to enjoy the outdoors as an independent person! (Or almost independent -- Josh did have to help me into and out of the boat.)

One of my wonderful bro-in-laws works for the National Park Service at a beautiful lake in Northern California. So while hubby and I were in town visiting and the kids were at school, we three set off on an adventure in the park. No, we did not go hiking. I still cannot put any weigh on my right foot. Instead we went kayaking!

Beautiful Whiskeytown Lake with crystal clear water and my own sunshine yellow boat!

The best thing about having a park ranger brother is he knows all the cool spots and where the wildlife hide. We spied turtles basking in the sun on a log, an osprey's nest, a bunch of geese and ducks, and even butterflies. With paddles in hand, we made our way to the mouth of Boulder Creek.


Lots of granite boulders! (Note the fancy white trash bag I'm sporting on my broken foot.)


As we paddled back across the lake to our car, a lone goose called after us, hoping for some free food. We didn't feed it, but instead watched as it touched down on the lake, skidding to a stop like a water skier on rewind before gracefully assuming its seated position on the blue water. What an amazing sight! And a fabulous reminder that even creatures who are meant to fly can delight in paddling across a pristine lake.

What a wonderful way to spend a day!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

One month can be a long time...

It's interesting how slow or fast time can pass. Our 37 days in South Africa seemed to fly by and our 3 weeks in Thailand felt like another lifetime. But the last month since my accident has taken forever.

I think it has to do with my level of activity, the number of new experiences and the vibe of the place(s). In South Africa, we moved around a lot -- sleeping in a dozen different locations and filling each day to the brim (minus a few rainy days of hiding out). In Thailand, we spent all our nights except one in the same house, hanging out with the same group of people (for the most part) day in and day out, really getting to the know the place and feel at home.

And then without warning (or at least without noticing the warning signs), I broke my feet and embarked on a new journey, back to the States to undo the damage and heal myself. And although I'm surrounded by loving family, in a place I called home for 18 years, time has seemed to stand still. Maybe it was the pain meds. Maybe it's the yearning to continue traveling. But either way, this last month has felt like forever and I'm delighted to be ready to move onto the next phase of my recovery.

Today I had my post-op follow-up with my foot surgeon, got the ugly sutures removed from my mangled foot and am one big step closer to walking on two legs again.

When I quit my fabulous job in January, I never thought I'd be back in the States hobbling around on one (slightly less broken) foot or rolling around in a wheelchair in just four short months. But alas, that's where I'm at.

But like all of life's unexpected turns, your experience is what you make of it.

So here's a quick recap of the new and unexpected experiences I've gained in the last month courtesy of this unfortunate accident:

  • Breaking a bone all the way through
  • Learning what it means to writhe in pain
  • Experiencing high-quality affordable health care in Thailand
  • Flying first class
  • Using a walker
  • Being evacuated in an armored vehicle
  • Getting an MRI, a CT and countless X-Rays
  • Navigating a public restroom in a wheelchair
  • Seeing the Georgia O'Keefe exhibit at the de Young Museum
  • Spending loads of time with my parents and grandma
  • Telling other people how I hurt myself and seeing them think, "Well, that's what you get for doing that extreme sport" -- while others remarked, "Wow! I've always wanted to go paragliding."
  • Getting tickled by a nurse pre-op
  • Having metal staples (sutures) removed from my foot without anesthetic
  • Learning I'm allergic to Percocet
  • Finding out how many people care about my well-being
  • Getting quality time with my old very fat, super fluffy kitty
  • Seeing just how fabulous my hubby can be!
  • Learning that I am calm and clear-headed in crises

As my friend Matt says, everything works out perfectly -- or at least you can choose to live your life that way. And for now, I do.


Thanks for continuing to join me on this adventure.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

No More Narcotics

It's been three days since my last dose and I've decided that means I am really done with the narcotics.

No I'm not a druggie.

But nearly 4 weeks of constant pain relief via narcotics was starting to make me nervous. And the internet doesn't help.

The more I searched for specifics about chemical dependency, addiction to pain pills and withdrawal symptoms, the vaguer the info I found. "People who take opiates for pain after a surgery can find themselves dependent on narcotics if they take them long enough" -- I read over and over, in different words and on a multitude of websites. But not a single one could pinpoint how long was "long enough" and how much was "too much," leaving me with two options: 1. Ask my doctor or 2. Decide it was time to stop.

So, of course, I decided to stop taking the narcotics. That's when I found myself absorbed in articles and opinions by random people (on the web, mind you) about how to wean oneself off pain meds. I'll just summarize by saying: the results of my research where inconclusive. In other words, no one online knows what they're taking about. So again, I decided to just make it up, as that's what it seems like everyone else is doing.

After a couple days of taking one less, then two less, then three less pills, I found myself at the point of taking of zero narcotics.


Or not?

I don't know if I'm actually in withdrawal or just feeling crappy but so far I have difficulty getting to sleep at night, night sweats (multiple times each night), and weird tingling/burning/stabing feelings in my feet. I literally feel like someone has put something poky and fat (like a marble or a rock) between by fourth and pinky toe on my most damaged foot. No matter how many times I check it out, there is still nothing there. I also sometimes feel like something is stabing me in the bottom of my bad foot -- inside the cast mind you, so I cannot confirm that I'm delusional. It's terrific. Oh, and to top it off I've been exhausted.

So basically, I'm tired, but can't sleep, and when I do get to sleep I wake up wet with sweat and feeling like imaginary monsters are poking my feet. It's a laugh a minute. But this too shall pass... someday... sometime between a week and year from now according to the interwebs.

For now I will just enjoy the outdoors, good friends, delicious food and a glass of sparkly wine.

My reward: lunch with my mom and grandma in beautiful Kenwood. Best ribs ever.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

WOW, Part two

So in my last post, I promised you more insights into my world in a wheelchair. Well, for your reading pleasure, a little more about this new world I'm learning to navigate.

Okay, so the setting for this story is the de Young Museum. Specifically, the loo. Like any lady, I had to go several times while I was there, so I have three stories to share about the horribly crappy design of stalls for wheelchair users at this particularly great museum.

1. The first restroom I used was overrun by small, wild children. Normally, I adore little ones. They make me laugh. But when you're in a wheelchair, they have no idea how much space you need or that you cannot go around them as they run in crazy zigzags down the narrow hallway leading to the bathroom. But kids aside, the restroom was designed by someone begging for a lawsuit. The only large stall in this bathroom was immediately behind the entry door that pushed in on the bathroom. At first I thought, "How convenient! I don't have to go far." But then I realized that I faced the threat of being smacked by the heavy door as I tried to navigate my way into the stall. And oh, did I mention the stall door swings out? Generally this is ideal, but when you have two doors that swing towards each other, and your wheelchair is positioned between them, things get dicey. Luckily, my mom had my back.

In the stall, things got even more frustrating. There was a changing table for babies. Well, the last user had left the changing table down. Now, I understand things are tough when you have small kids, especially if they are crying and you are tired and all that stuff. But it really sucks when you are in a wheelchair and there is a huge, heavy changing table at eye-height (yes, I'm still short) that is open and blocking a quarter of the stall. Fortunately, my mom took care of it. Had I been on my own, that would have been enough to make me want to find another restroom. (And being 33 and needing your mom's help in the loo is not my idea of a good time.)

Once all those issues were resolved, I was feeling good. The stall looked massive by non-wheelchair standards. Maybe 4'x6'. But my wheelchair's turning radius is crap and it took me about 8 points to do a do a three-point turn into the stall. Maybe this is the point where I should mention that no one ever taught me how to properly transfer from a wheelchair to the toilet. Yeah, I'm sure I'm doing it all wrong. But hell, I'm doing my best and it seems to work, eventually.

Finally, I get the stall door closed, back up my wheelchair so its parked next to the toilet and then carefully hop around my chair's legs to seat myself on the throne -- ever so thankful for my less broken foot which can bear weight, my decent balance and the handrails which keep me from wiping out in the loo. Relief, at last!

2. The second bathroom at the musuem seems like an improvement right off the bat. The entry door doesn't bash into any of the stall doors! I spot the stall with the large door, which to me says "hey, I'm wheelchair accessible!" I open the door, which swings outward, like it should. And then I stop in my tracks. The stall is small, regular size. With no room to turn around or park next to the loo. So I think, maybe I'm supposed to pull in facing the loo and then spin on my less bad foot and sit down on the throne. So, I pull in until my knees are almost touching the toilet. Gross! And still, I cannot close the stall door behind me; the stall's not deep enough. Crap! Now I must find another place to take a leak.

3. After wasting precious time on a worthless stall with an extra wide door, I spot another stall with a large door at the end of the row of stalls. I wheel down there only to feel like a fool as I try repeatedly to open the stall door towards me. As I'm already very short, I peek under the door. No feet. The stall is not occupied. As a last ditch effort, I push the door in. It swings open. What?! I thought the doors of wheelchair stalls were always supposed to swing out. Something about not getting trapped in case of an emergency? Okay, so maybe I made that up. But really, since when have these doors been permitted to swing in? And with all the room available for that door to swing out, why would anyone make it swing in? Just another hassle I have to deal with as I silently imagine myself doing the pee-pee dance (which I can't do because I'm seated in a wheelchair).

Once in the stall, I'm delighted to see how much space there is. It's massive! I can twirl in circles all day. However, the "parking space" next the loo is on the opposite side as the last stall. So now I get to hop in the other direction and try not to biff as I use my other, weaker arm, to hold on the rails and navigate the stall. Really, is there no consistency between stall designs, even at the same musuem?


Well, just in case anyone who has any say in designing public restrooms is reading this, here are three designs that should be chucked (or in the case of #3, just modified so the door swings out by golly)!

1. Door crushing, changing table open, too narrow nightmare. 2. Extra wide door hides too short stall.

3. So close. If only the door swang out, instead of fooling us into thinking it was occupied!


So there you have, the world of wheelchairs, part two. I'm not saying there will be a third one. But any thing is possible.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

World of Wheelchairs (WOW), Part One

With two broken feet, I'm finding it easiest to get around by wheelchair. I also getting to experience the world in an entirely different way.

For one thing, I'm much shorter than I usual, which isn't that tall to begin with. When standing I'm 5'3". In the wheelchair, I'm under 4". What I can see at that height is quite limited. Yesterday, my mom and I visited the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the de Young Museum. One of my favorite things about art museums is the gift shop. But from the wheelchair, I couldn't see many of the cool things displayed on the tables. They were too high (or I was too short). Similarly, when I go to visit the doctor, I can barely see over the front counter to talk to the receptionist. You'd think they'd have designed their front desk a little better, seeing as they are orthopedists and quite a few of their patients are in wheelchairs while waiting for their bones to heal -- like me. But apparently no one thought of that.

Another difference is that my reach is severely limited. I was looking at kids books (for my niece and nephew) at the museum gift shop, and I couldn't reach the books on the third shelf... the ones meant for 8-10 year olds. Apparently I am shorter than the average 8 year old in this wheelchair. How disappointing. I also can't reach the cups or plates in the cupboards at home. And in public bathrooms, I can barely reach the soap dispenser.

I am also quite wide in the wheelchair. I can't fit through normal doorways, including the door to my parents' hall bathroom. I also am very aware of how wide I am and that I cannot just squeeze through. I am literally as stiff as metal and do not give, no matter how much I hold my breath. Often, I find that other people don't give me as much space as I want, and they expect that I'll be able to squeeze by without hitting them. Wrong. If my wheelchair is 30" wide, I need at least 40" of space to be fairly certain I won't hit something to the side of me -- more if I'm on a slope, feeling tired or being pushed by someone whose never been in a wheelchair.

And last, but not least, I have awful turning radius. As much as I would like, I cannot spin in place. I need tons of room just to make a tight u-turn. Even more space if I'm going to do a three-point turn. Really, it's shocking how much space I need. This I found out the hard (not to mention incredibly frustrating) way when I had to use the loo at the de Young Museum.

More about that in part two of this new delightful series.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Quite the Pre-Op Distraction

Yesterday I had foot surgery -- my first real surgery other than getting my wisdom teeth out as a teen. And let's just say, I was a tad nervous. I mean, I'm no wuss. But when someone says there's a chance your foot could turn necrotic, it's had not to imagine yourself as a peg-leg pirate -- not a look I'd like to sport.

Well, as luck (bad luck?) would have it, Tuesday night I was awakened to quite a distraction.

More than a distraction, really.

A once in a lifetime (or maybe once in a thousand lifetimes) experience.

So, from the top.

I'm deep asleep, which is rare these days, when I hear a loud rumbling outside. Not an earthquake. That was in Chile. Of course, Josh goes to "check it out" because he's manly like that. I meanwhile, pull the covers up and snuggle in, hoping to fall back asleep. But that was not in the cards.

Instead, about ten minutes later Josh appears in the doorway and says that sherrif is here and we might need to leave, so I should probably get dressed. Really? I grumble. I mean I have two broken feet, I'm on pain meds that mostly, but not completely, do the trick, and it's the fricken middle of the night. What could possibly be such a big deal that we'd need to leave the house?

Well, I'll tell you what... An armed felon with a warrant for this arrest who for some unknown reason is holed up the trailer one of our family friends has been living in on my parents property, and oh, he's decided his girlfriend is a hostage. Not at all what I was expecting.

So I get dressed; strap on a dorky black orthotic sandal-shoe on my less broken foot and a non-matching, monstrous nearly-knee-high Velcro boot on my seriously broken other foot; pack my pain meds, my iPad and iPhone (of course!), my down jacket and a blanket; grab my walker and head to the front of house at snail speed, after a pit stop in the loo. (My momma raised me right -- never leave the house without going to the bathroom first or without a warm jacket.)

At the front of the house, I find my parents and my hubby all ready to go. My dad is on the phone with someone who I guess to be the sherrif, sighing and saying we're ready to be evacuated.

Normally, I exit the house via the front door, in a wheelchair pushed by my hubby, down a ramp. But tonight that's not possible. We must go out the garage door, which means navigating a staircase. Did I mention I have two broken feet? Thankfully, I married smart -- my hubby is tall and strong and very loving. So he whisks me off my feet and carries me down the stairs.

Mind you, this is after the SWAT team tells us to put our hands up. I'm guessing to show we have no guns, but which is awfully tricky when you are standing on one broken foot while grasping a walker. Thankfully, the SWAT guy laughs at my attempt to show my hands and lets us proceed without making me demonstrate my ability to stand on one leg (or lack thereof).

In the garage, I spy the vehicle we will be leaving the house in... An armored truck, complete with SWAT team in full body armor, helmets, and assault rifles, and with a rooftop hatch for shooting bad guys. Of course we are to load in the back of the truck and of course it is high off the ground, so Josh must lift me into the vehicle all the while not bashing his head into the top of the metal truck. Woohoo! He does it without hurting either of us. And yes, if you are wondering, this whole thing seemed to happen really slowly although it's clear the SWAT guys are a little freaked out and wanting us to go faster, but really how fast can we move in the middle of the night with my junky foot.

They drive us down the street, out towards the highway and make us unload in the middle of the road. Also a treacherous affair for me as I still have only one good foot and the truck is about 2 feet off the ground and of course my dumb orthotic shoe gets stuck on the grate step. Fortunately Josh is there to retrieve me. Manly man to the rescue again.

Then the waiting begins. First with me trying to find a flat spot in the crap pavement that is my parents road, full of potholes and layers of asphalt that look like a pile of nachos haphazardly balanced atop each other. Suffice to say, it is not an ideal surface to navigate with a walker. And my foot is throbbing and it's late and I'm tired and cold and probably whiny. (Well, what do you expect. I am a Jewish princess.)

Finally one of the SWAT guys suggests we sit in his truck. Hooray! I can put my foot up! And I can also start asking my 101 questions about what exactly is going on and where is our friend who lives in the trailer and did they evacuate him yet and how long will it be until we can go back home to our warm beds. All the while, the SWAT guys keep asking us our names and phone numbers and birth dates, and then the next guy has to write it down too, so we have to repeat this a half dozen times. But at least I'm warm in a car with my leg elevated and finally my dad's friend appears -- barefoot with just a pair of sweatpants and a tank top on freezing his butt off, but safe and sound. Josh of course has his down jacket, which he lends to our friend.

Eventually the SWAT team decides it's gonna be awhile and takes us to the local fire depot, where most of the boys I grew up volunteered in their youth and a couple still do. We cozy up in the lounge with the lights on full blast, a Sonoma Sherrifs Officer babysitting us, the radio blaring at full volume, and attempt to get some sleep. Every time I come to, I look at the clock: 1:30am, 2:45 am, 3:30am, 5am -- thinking to myself, they must have arrested the guy by now, right? But no.

Although it is the middle of the night and I'm hobbling around with a walker, I make Josh take a picture of me with the fire truck. I just couldn't help myself! (Check out that bed head!)


At 6am, they kick us out of the fire depot and take us to my grandma's house. I get to ride in the front of the cop car on account of my broken feet, but everyone else has to ride in the back, which apparently is an unpleasant way to travel. In one of the few humorous moments of this whole distraction, the sherrif instructs me to let the boys out of the back of the car as they cannot open the car door from the inside. To which I respond, I can't get out without my walker which is the backseat. So he opens the door, like a good civil servant and my hubby heroically carries me up the stairs to my grandmas house, amid praise from the cops.

Then we spend all of Wednesday at my grandma's house. Somewhere in there, I remember that I need to get a wheelchair with elevated leg rests for post-surgery and after multiple phone calls to the insurance company and the wheelchair people, I finally get word that my chair is ready for pickup. Whoopie! Across town we go in a borrowed vehicle (all of my parents' multitude of vehicles are off-limits as they are trapped at the house which we can't go back to nor get anything brought to us from -- meds and dog included.)

We fetch the wheelchair, hit up Kmart (ugh!) for new bandages for my foot -- must shower night before and morning of surgery) -- and some rice to round out dinner and return to grandmas. Still no word about when we go home. Thursday comes and it's time for my surgery. With everything that's been going on I haven't had time to freak out about my foot dying, which I am very thankful for.

The surgery goes well, we return to my grandmas house, have Chinese takeout (what else is a Jewish family to do?) and then prepare for another night there. Around 8pm we get word that we can return home and so we do.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

Well, almost.

The bad guy is dead.

The trailer is burnt up and taken by the cops as evidence, as are two of our cars which have bullet wounds.

All of our friend's belongings are gone (either burnt to a crisp or taken as evidence), including his glasses, meds, cell phone, shoes, jacket and cash savings.

And my dad's beloved HO and Lionel train layout which covers some 200 sqft (or so) is damaged beyond repair by the SWAT guys who used the second floor of the barn (my dad's workshop) as a sniper location. Apparently, even though no shots were fired for some 19 hours, they were in a huge rush to get into position, trampling his precisely placed train tracks, squashing vintage train cars and basically destroying hours of hard work and love in meer minutes.

But at least my foot is fixed, my family is alive and we have an unusual story to share.