Crappy Way to End the Week

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything.  You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.” – Michael Crichton

Happy Easter or whatever celebration you celebrate at this time of the year.  My Easter morning experience involved extricating myself from between the wall and the toilet in my bathroom.  Using the potty can be a delicate discussion and usually involves just as delicate an action but I’m going to throw this out there.

Made a poor judgement on momentum this morning so between the landing and a very lose screw (one of two that hold the seat steady) I overshot the landing zone taking time for a face to face with my toilet plunger.

It seemed like a good time for a mental distraction as I wiggled physically to regain a vertical rather than horizontal perspective of the room.  That distraction turned into an epiphany involving physics.

I’ve broken my fair share of toilets in my life but baste on what I hear (or don’t hear) I don’t think it is an occurrence for most people. Getting myself dislodged gave me some time to reflect on it.

toiletThis is the bathroom in my “wheelchair” apartment.  There is no way a wheelchair is getting in beside that but whatever code interpreter was issuing the permit seemed to think this would work.  What the hell, I’ve been here almost three years and made it work.  So please don’t start on me about accommodation.  I’ve done my fair share.

I’ll bet you have never thought of this but the next time you go to sit on the toilet pay attention to how important knee motion is to lightly sit on the commode.  That knee movement allows for a much more controlled PSI landing.  It’s nice equal weight distribution which is what a good toilet is designed for. Continue reading “Crappy Way to End the Week”

Taking Responsibility

“The life history of the individual is first and foremost an accommodation to the patterns and standards traditionally handed down in his community” – Ruth Benedict

It has been raining off and on for most of the day.  I knew it was coming so took advantage of the sun yesterday and went out to restock.  Pantry is now ready for at least a four day siege.  Glad I did, good exercise and I quite enjoyed the sunshine.  Now, gazing out my window, there’s a mist in the air creating a grey tone appearance to my surroundings.  It makes me wonder if this is how someone with cataracts views a changing world.  At the same time I feel like I’m experiencing a “mental cataract” when it comes to putting thoughts to paper.

As I said it is a dismal day outside so I am trying to avoid thinking dismal things, however that is a blockage for someone who likes to be expressive with words.  So I am gazing out the window, partly because of the new two story multi-unit development going on across the street (starting at 7am) and partly to see if I could land on a topic that piqued my creative juices.  Sitting here wanting to write but lacking an emotive topic and the phone rings.  Now this is cool because I didn’t know it could be done but my computer rings the minute my phone rang with a little phone icon in the upper right hand corner, so I answered with the computer.

It’s a buddy of mine from Alberta (we were neighbours 30 years ago and been tight ever since).  He was on his way to Camrose and had been listening to CBC Manitoba in his truck.  I know nothing says wake up like listening to CBC talk radio right.

March of Dimes Poster Child
From a Winnipeg newspaper, 5 years old and March of Dimes Timmy

We do share some of the same values and interest so he suggested I check out a CBC Manitoba report on the issues being faced by the polio/post-polio community.  I have a history with Manitoba and he is aware of that.  The subject is one I am personally very passionate about and have written often about.  The story hit very close to home based on current experience with a community health system (all well meaning) that is so out of touch with the reality of what’s happening in the community.  BC already has a seniors care crisis lets not complicate things by forgetting our history.  There are 15 to 20 thousand polio survivors hitting retirement and entering a system that can hardly manage the current crisis.  This should actually be an election issue here in BC!

Boy the rain is coming down but so is my mood.  As some of you are aware I am currently “playing the game” so I have a “care worker” come by every morning, usually around 10 to meet the stated needs the current health policy dictates.  Usually by the time they get here I’ll be working away on my computer.  I always leave a few dishes in the sink so they have something to do but inevitably the conversation comes around to my wheelchair.  That way we have both met the needs of community health. Continue reading “Taking Responsibility”

I’m Coming Back…

“As you remove toxic people from your life, you free up space and emotional energy for positive, healthy relationships” – John Mark Green

I thought I was done and was packing up the keyboard.  I was just going to shut the site down, rearrange my life and keep my opinions to myself.  I was feeling increasingly like “white noise” and I thought it would be easier just to shut down.  Two months of biting my tongue has shown me it is to difficult to blindly accept the level of societal negativity going on around me and be quiet about it.  It is increasingly difficult to maintain a stiff upper lip while the chasm between right and left ideology continued to deepen.  I am not so sure now is the time to shut down.

I have reread my last article a number of times now and have had time to reflect on where that anger was coming from.  I don’t like anger if for no other reason than it fucks with my feng shui.  During this period of reflection I came to the realization that I owned some of the responsibility for this anger.  I had started personalizing issues and that traditionally leads to lost of control.

I usually pride myself on my ability not to personalize issues, comments or give up control of my emotions but I slipped.  It wasn’t any one event, it was information overload, too much negative news and complicated by social isolation.  And as a political junkie, it’s difficult not to be a little negative these days so it just seemed easier to shut her down.  When you don’t golf, hike, cycle or take long walks on the beach you don’t have a lot of venting space so shutting it all down seemed like the path of least resistance.

ThoughtsThe last two month has been spend reflecting going through my year end activities.  Things like shredding old pay/staff records.  Seven years and this is the last year of records I have to shred.  Getting my own taxes done, working some policy issues through with the local health authority, trying to stay on top of access problems in my own town and the list goes on.  All of this has given me time to reflect on a wide variety of issues and things keep coming back to government policies.  It’s not that they are not there, it’s just that they are not policed.  We defend rights by speaking up for them, not adjusting them on the fly.

Reflection also gives you time to recharge and I did need that.  During this period of reflection I kept receiving my news alerts and they were screaming for a comment.  When someone can lecture a young lady who has been on crutches all of her life about the dangers of using stairs people have to speak out.  Up until the late 70’s persons with disabilities could be refused rent on anything above the second floor and I do not want to go back to those days.  The bigger issue here is why that particular night spot didn’t have an accessible bathroom…  Continue reading “I’m Coming Back…”

Fear and Loathing…

“Fear is the mind killer…” Frank Herbert (Dune)

I came into the new year feeling a bit more rejuvenated having made the decision to look at the opportunities of “assisted living“.  It wasn’t an easy decision but the reality is I will be 67 this year and, like it or not, I’m a senior.  Accepting my age while recognizing the speed with which decrepitude is lapping over my body means I may have to give up a bit of independence but hell life is a trade off right.

That decrepitude I can handle but the slow erosion of confidence was harder to deal with.  That transfer into my car or the jump momentum from the ground to my wheelchair is becoming more difficult and that erodes the confidence level.  Those same issues are the high risk times for falls.  In my desire to think proactively and avoid potential hospitalization moments I would feel safer knowing there were some supports close by.  I am probably even more tuned into this at this particular moment having watched an ambulance just haul one of my neighbours off to the hospital.

thoughtsI spend last week putting some deep thought (and research) into assisted living apartments.  I quickly discovered that the private sector was out of my price range.  At the risk of repeating myself, $3000 a month seemed to be the average cost out there but that covered almost everything, meals, house cleaning, close emergency medical backup, some laundry service for my bedding plus the suite.  The suite has a kitchenette but not a full oven, no big deal to me but again $3000 is beyond my budget.  That appears to be the starting point for private services.

The buildings with subsidize suites directed any interested parties to the Island Health “Assisted Living” website.  As a life-time “professional patient” I know some of these things take time so I had to set some wheels in motion.  It took me 54 weeks to access the promised government assistance to cover half the cost of a $6500 wheelchair so I understand the need for perseverance.

I met all of the criteria (I thought), had identified a potential facility in Duncan and made the call to the 1-877 line.  I received an amazingly quick response from caller number one who took some basic information from me before telling me she would put caller 2 in touch with me.  Three days later I received a call from the Occupational Therapist (caller number 2) who wanted to book some time for a home assessment.  Fine, moving much faster than I thought it would.  She came by that afternoon.

Pleasant enough lady.  Semi-retired Occupational Therapist who does the occasional assessment for Island Health.  After a quick assessment, pretty straight forward.  I gave her a quick demonstration of how I transfer in and out of my chair.  Showed her I get in and out of the shower, again explaining how all of these things contribute to a “falling” risk and part of my rational for assisted living was risk mitigation. Continue reading “Fear and Loathing…”

Starting the Story Anew…

“Until you make the subconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Carl G. Jung

The snow has just started so the earlier week stocking up proved valuable.  However on the positive side, snow on Vancouver Island generally means it will warm up and I have had my fill of the cold weather.  My obsession with having the news on in the background paid off so I made sure to stock up after seeing the 7 day forecast.  I don’t go out when it snows so this type of weather provides me with the time to reflect on my own thoughts.  So the more it snows the more time I have to return to the substance of the opening Carl Jung quote.

I entered this new year with two main goals.  One, find some form of assisted living arrangement and two, do something about my low grade depression that doesn’t involve more prescriptions.  I figured I’ve been dragging this depression around for almost 30 years so why start more pills.  Both of these goals are important and both will need careful planning but moving is external so I will focus on a place to live first.

Dealing with depression is internal so I can do some self assessments while I’m organizing a move.  I worked in psychiatry for twenty years so I think I know how to work through that.  Unfortunately I was in a situation for many, many years where “psycho-babble” was frowned upon and any discussion regarding feelings was considered bunk so when I left the profession I left emotional expression.

For me independence is almost a religious experience and to surrender any of it is like a Catholic giving up confession but I recognize the necessity.  Acceptance of moving into an assisted living environment was a big step for me.  That acceptance has economic, physical and emotional impacts so I need to set the ground work myself.  One of the contributing factors to this decision was my recent hospitalization.  If living in an apartment community where there are supports will keep me out of hospital, all the better.  So imagine my disappointment when the feds/provinces failed to reach a new health agreement last month.

Provincial governments across the country lost out on an additional $11.5 billion meant to target mental health and homecare (much neglected areas) but the provinces didn’t like having terms dictated.  I don’t know about you but I was raised in a world where if your bargaining with someone then everybody has input until a compromise is reached.  Instead we seem to be drifting further apart.  Whatever happened to the centrist nature of Canada? Continue reading “Starting the Story Anew…”

Living with the Results

“Wisdom is the reward for surviving our own stupidity” – Brian Rathbone

A simple torn toe nail four days before Christmas has forced me to accept something I’ve been putting off for some time now, the reality of assisted living.  The ripple effect of such a nondescript activity can put in motion a tsunami of events.  I may be a little punchy over my recent hospitalization but there are certain realities we are all forced to face at some point.  The first ripple was the frightening idea that a simple torn toenail could put me back in the hospital.  It was on my left foot and I can’t reach my left foot due to my fused hip.

Hip Pin
This was screwed to my femur to fuse my left hip in a 3 degree fixed position

What is a “fused hip”?  Well it is no longer a hip with a flexible joint.  The hip doesn’t really bend.  It was a surgical technique used in the early day of orthopaedic surgery with polio kids.  It wasn’t exclusive to polio but we were good candidates for the trial and it fit my agenda.  After all there was nothing I wanted more as a fifteen year old in the 60’s than the ability to get rid of the last of my leg braces and wear tight jeans.  The crutches didn’t matter, to me the tight jeans were the epitome of normalcy.

The process was basic physics but I had cut so many physics classes I didn’t realize that.  It wasn’t until much later in life that I recognized the irony of cutting so many classes in a science that would play such a big part of my life, physics.

The pin to the left was put in my left hip in 1964.  You can see where the screw holes are and those were screwed into my femur.  The pin extending the other direction could be set at a variety of degrees by tightening the connecting screw (my doctor choose a 3 degree bend).  They then lace a thin metal wire to the femoral head to plot their next move.  After x-raying it to make sure they have the right angle they line up that extension bar and with a mallet they insert it.  Once that is done they shave bone chips off which they then transfer to the head of the hip joint and use that bone like a mortar that will graft onto the rest of the hip filling the joint area.

Six months in a cast from my chest to my toes and the hip is fused.  They also fused my left angle and now, based on the laws of physics, I would be able to weight bare on my left leg with out the aid of braces.  The combination of the two fusions would lock my knee in place.  Problem solve bring on the Levi’s. Continue reading “Living with the Results”

2017 – Better or Bitter

“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.” – Rita Mae Brown

Happy New Year and am I ever glad 2016 is finally in my rearview mirror.  I have some friends who had an exceptional 2016, Eugene Stickland for example, congrats buddy.  When I knew Eugene a few years back in Calgary it was in the context of a Cheers style “hanging on the bar stools” after work for a casual drink.  Usually a handful of regulars from around the neighbourhood would congregate between 4:30 to 6:30 then everyone was off with their life’s.  From what I’m hearing from others 2016 wasn’t as fruitful.

For me 2016 ranks right up there as my second worst year to date with 2015 having been the worst from a psychological point of view.  So 2017 isn’t about just turning the page, it’s about starting a new book.  There have been damages done in 2016 that are basically irreconcilable.  Those are damages that occurred as a process for change established back in January of 2016.  My commitment for 2016 was to be sure conditions were in place to make 2017 a better and not a bitter year.

Due, in part, to inadequate access I was becoming increasingly socially isolated in 2015.  I felt that taking a heavier than usual emotional tole on me.  For the first time in my life I sought out a therapist I was feeling that bad and for somebody who values independence to a fault this was a big step.  I should have done this twenty years ago.

I’ve noticed a pattern in my life where every fifteen to twenty years some major event comes along which offers me different pathways.  Which path I take can make a world of difference.  I have just past a twenty year cycle where I ignored so many of the important things.  The signs were there but I ignored while becoming increasingly depressed, a low grade depression (I told myself) that I just kept to myself.  I say low grade since recent studies have shown many people who grew up in institutional setting are likely to experience PTSD symptoms very young and grew up thinking certain feelings are natural, like depression.  We know what the residential schools did to the First Nations.  Kids that grew up in hospitals had a different type of trauma to deal with but it was trauma none the less.  In a hospital you become very good at being who we needed to be for those people around us. Continue reading “2017 – Better or Bitter”