Monday, April 10, 2006

It Takes a Village

Well, we’ve gone, in three weeks, from Lisa’s walking with a cane to needing a 3-sided walker to being in a wheelchair. The effects are a little like the effects of a stroke, but it came on in increments, not all at once, so, unlike most stroke patients, she (and I) aren’t learning to handle everything in the safer-feeling confines of a rehab hospital. She can stand with support, can support herself for about 15 seconds, but cannot walk at all. As I said in my previous post, the problems aren’t so much with either the motor or the sensory nerves — there is strength in her legs, and she can feel things — but in the nerves that control the brain’s ability to understand where her legs actually are.

I probably don’t need to say that this has been scary. We’ve gone from being independent adults to needing a level of help that I’ve never experienced: home health aides, visiting nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists to help us figure out how to rearrange the house, and social workers to expedite permits and all the other processes.

But what we have also had is help from our friends. I mentioned before that we needed to move the bedroom downstairs and my office upstairs. With the wheelchair in place, we also needed a ramp to the back door, a doorway widened, and a closet altered. Over the last two weeks, our friends have done it all.

First Lisa’s sister Noralie and brother Bruce came up and moved my 2000+ books from old office to old bedroom. (OK, Bruce brought his Airedale puppy, Hamish, who did chase our oldest, fattest cat — this is the cat who couldn’t move fast enough to get out of a falling window, and lost the tip of his tail. With sufficient incentive — and Hamish was good incentive — he not only made it from living room to kitchen in record time, but he got his 19+ pounds halfway up a kitchen curtain. Once we were sure he was all right, it really was pretty funny. Imagine a black cat about the size and roughly the same shape as a basketball clinging spread-eagled to a black-and-white toile shade….)

(Did you know that the Wizard Earl of Northumberland had about 2000 books in his private library back in the 1580s? Neither did I, but I bet he never had to worry about moving them.)

Then Lynne and Victoria and Amy came over and did most of the painting in the new bedroom. This was a giant help, because when I decorated my office, I painted the trim a deep rust-red. Lisa said, “You know, if you ever change your mind, that’s going to be hell to paint over.” I said, “I’m not going to change my mind.”

Let’s just say she was right.

But the room is now a creamy yellow with deep gold trim, and looks beautiful with our sage-green bedspread.

Then, over the next two days, they moved us. First they spent a day boxing and moving stuff out of both rooms so that the furniture could be exchanged. (I think Alan got the worst of it, because he arrived in time to empty my office closet. That’s the one that held all my supplies, plus 14 years of unsorted junk from the last move. I am still grateful that all he said when I apologetically opened the door was, “Oh. My.”) The next day, in five hours, they swapped the rooms completely, and altered a closet that was going to block wheelchair access. Steve and Denise and Leigh and Lynne and Melissa and Nathanial and Maura and Danny did construction, moved furniture (heavy furniture!), cut apart and rebuilt bookcases that wouldn't fit up our stairs, moved boxes, got books into shelves and files swapped from one computer to another — oh, yes, and Maura and Danny brought coffee and bagels, so there was time to eat and chat and feel less stressed. We had expected to take another day to finish, but at the end of the five hours, we had a bedroom we could sleep in.

It was an amazing, miraculous experience. We’re just so lucky to have friends like these, skilled people willing to give up a few days to help out.

Oh, and a postscript. Tuesday, while it was snowing the kind of snow that feels like thick, cold rain, Steve and Brett attached the (rented) ramp to the back door. We asked if it was possible to remove the doorjamb in the kitchen to make a little more room for the wheelchair to swing. They looked at it, pried at a couple of boards, then took down the door casing. We gained about 4 inches, which is more than enough to make the transition easy. Like I said, amazing people!


At 11:56 PM, Blogger Dharma said...

What youngerdryas said. Melissa your life has changed so drastically, I hope you are also finding ways to take care of yourself in all this.


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