My ability to heal hinged on the faith and kindness of many, many people. Lula, Lynn and Cheryl, "the vision in fuchsia" were my primary nurses at HealthSouth. Lula is a strong woman who in spite of my tears pushed me to succeed in my therapy by ensuring that I got my pills and icky shot (in the stomach). Her no-nonsense attitude gave me strength and comforted me when I hit rock bottom after painful therapy sessions.
Lynn’s sweet South Carolina voice and kind pats on the back were very soothing. She’d checked on me often and when I was tired, encouraged me to persevere.
Cheryl would glide into the ward at 7 p.m. A tall, very distinguished black woman, she almost always wore fuchsia or dark pink, hence, she became "the vision in fuchsia." She smile little, but you could tell that she had a heart of gold. I always breathed a sign of relief when "the vision of fuchsia" came into my room late at night or early in the morning.
Rene is a nursing assistant that works at night. He visited me several times the night that I arrived and was so gentle when my psyche was so fragile. One night, I slept horribly and was in terrible pain. Even though another nursing assistant had been assigned to me, Rene was the one who responded to my beeper. My heart glowed when I opened my eyes and saw him walk into the room. My pain immediately eased.
Susana was the nursing assistant during the day. I adored Susana. Throughout the day, as I wheeled through the floors to relive my pain, I’d see Susana. She always put a smile on my face and made me feel warm inside.
Brianna, also a nursing assistant, is a beautiful woman inside-and-out. She was always very happy and accommodating.
All of the nurses and nursing assistants worked very long hours… often five days a week, twelve hours a day. While these long hours must have been horrendous on their personal lives, it was nice (selfishly) to be able to see the same nurse and assistant everyday, twelve hours a day!
Nathan was my patient physical therapist. He dealt with me on my level, which wasn’t easy. I refused to do what he told me unless he provided an explanation and elaborated on which muscles were working. I wanted to understand what muscles I needed to concentrate on to lift or bend my leg. With his assistance, I could make a full circle around half the wing using a walker. I didn’t want to disappoint him so I pushed through the pain and discomfort.
Michael was another physical therapist. The first time I met him, I was lying on a large mat crying and unable to articulate my pain. I had to wait 20 minutes or so for my pain medicine to kick in. While waiting, he talked to me, explaining that he’d sustained various injuries playing football, basketball, etc. He never pushed me to do anything. Nothing. But he made me determined to tackle each new exercise – at my own pace. Soon, I was doing many of the exercises on my own and showing him that my tears lead to success.
While I didn’t interact with Freddy very much, his perpetual upbeat personality and smiles was a joy while in the gym. He tends to work with people with paralysis or an inability to control their lower extremities. One day, before my mat class, he lay beside me and answered my endless questions about injuries and various treatments. The world needs more Freddy’s.
Kim was my occupational therapist. I intensely disliked what she made me do because it seemed so simple, yet so exhausting. She’d have me pedal a machine with my hands for up to 15 minutes. Pure agony after 5 minutes. I wish her luck in joining her husband in New Mexico and enjoying life on their ranch with their Thoroughbred and Painted horses.
Equally important in my recovery were the other patients. Remember, I’m an extreme introvert and would have been happy to hang out in my room, reading and lamenting my misfortune. However, I quickly realized that talking to other people distracted me from the pain and speed up the time between therapy and the haven of my bed.
Fay is a very gregarious woman who lived by herself in Smithville. She’s a wonderful conversationalist, optimist and one of my biggest cheerleaders. I deeply appreciated her friendship and wish her a rapid recovery from knee surgery.
From Tennessee, Ann bubbled with Southern cheer. The last few days of my rehabilitation – before she went home – she talked to me for hours about her real estate business, life in Texas and Tennessee, and many other topics that made the time pass. A strong woman, I have no doubt that she’ll lights up the life of everyone she meets.
Tiny with beautiful, gray hair Evelyn spoke little, but when she did, everyone listened. I loved her smile and cherub face. I hope she’s back on her feet quickly after hip surgery.
Walter has been a carpenter of houses and buildings all of his life. As a result of his hard work, he wore out his shoulders, hips and now knee. While his body and face was completed wrinkled and worn, his eyes were like those of a child – two clear, light blue sapphires. Everyone liked Walter. He was witty, determined and very much alive.
Sue left the day before me. A trim and regal woman who read the newspaper throughout the day, Sue, endured her pain quietly. My heart lit up to see her trailing behind her son in her wheelchair as he pushed a cart full of her stuff out of HealthSouth, the first step in going home.
Most of the people I met were recovering from hip or knee surgery where the expectation was to start walking as soon as possible. Mary, like me, however wasn’t supposed to put any weight on her leg for six to eight weeks. She had her ankle rebuilt with pins and plates. Ouch. She’d moved several years ago from Southern California to Austin to spend time with her grandson. Hopefully, she’ll be up on her feet in a couple of month and walking along side her grandson.
A few days after I arrived, Viola became my roommate. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this stately, wise and gutsy woman who kept my mind off the pain and also provided advice about life and my condition. A week before, a car had backed into her then drove off after checking to make sure she was okay.
She wasn’t okay and had to have hip surgery. After a day of getting to SouthHealth, she was walking with a walker and could effortlessly stand on two feet while she sifted through the clothing her husband brought her, brush her teeth, etc. She claimed that she wasn’t in pain. I think she was extraordinarily strong and didn’t let pain bother her!
Viola’s husband is a retired radiologist who enjoys taking digital photographs. He brought me a CD full of wildflowers picture he’d taken around Austin and his property in Bastrop. I cherish the CD for his thoughtfulness and as a great memory of Texas’ wonderful wildflowers.
During my last night at HealthSouth, I had a nightmare in which I was yelling out loud. Viola knew that I was taking OxyContin (synthetic codeine) so had very vivid dreams. In my dream, I could hear the frightened voice of the nursing assistant ask if I was okay. Viola reassured her that I was okay. Half of my "head" was laughing, hearing Viola calming the nurse. The other half was recovering from the silly nightmare. I wish Viola and her family a healthy life full of warm memories.
Finally, my doctor at HealthSouth, Nancy Gonzales, played a huge role in my recovery. She visited daily and spent more time giving me pats on the back and hugs then actually listening to my whining. She’s a wise doctor who knows that kindness and the human touch is the best medicine.
The day after my accident, Drake S. Borer, skeletal trauma (orthopedic) surgeon, paid Rich and I a visit to chat about my two recovery options: Drill a massive pin into my entire pelvis and hopefully miss important nerves and my spine cord or go through rehabilitation and allow my bones to naturally knit back together. Such a joker. He gave me two days to prove that I could tolerate the pain.
If one were to choose a surgeon, it definitely would be Dr. Borer (what a great name for someone who relishes boring pins into people’s bones). He’s drop-dead handsome with a great bedside manner and enough confidence for half a dozen surgeons. But, "no thanks" to a pin that might cause scar tissue or have to be removed one day.
More importantly, I’m not having someone operate on me with a Mexican Day of the Dead image on his business card – a skeleton in cowboy boots and hat reclining on a longhorn. I will have to see Dr. Borer in a few weeks for an x-ray and evaluation. I hope nothing has slipped!