Monday, February 20, 2012

Getting by with a little help from our friends

2/15/12 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Getting by with a little help from our friends

As I recounted in my last column, I was home alone on Jan. 16, enjoying the aftermath of Cottage Grove’s first snowstorm of 2012 when…I slipped and fell on the ice while taking photos of the winter wonderland I was admiring.

Eventually, I managed to drive myself to CG Hospital where a young man helped me into a wheelchair and into the ER. I was told that there were no broken bones and sent home to ‘take it easy,’ expect pain and take appropriate medications.

Days later, the pain was so overwhelming that ‘taking it easy’ was not an option. It was mandatory. The pain meds weren’t working and neither was I. Two doctor visits and one CT Lumbar Spine Scan later revealed a vertebral compression fracture of T12 and a posterior displacement. Whatever that means.

The word ‘fracture’ sent chills down my spine, but it was also strangely reassuring. I was beginning to think that I was the pain wimp of all time. Now I knew the cause was greater than bruises.

So I called my daughter Kathy to help cheer me up. She and I share the same wicked sense of humor and I thought she would put a positive but humorous spin on things. I tensely shared that I had a compression fracture and needed to see a specialist to determine if surgery was needed. Her response was priceless.

“Wow, I’m so sorry,” she said sympathetically. “I don’t know what to say except…the seventies sure haven’t been kind to you and dad!” And then she giggled, breaking the tension. In return I suggested that since she’s only 20 years behind me, I should be writing a book on “what to expect at 70.” Then we both had a good laugh.

Laughter is a great tension reliever but pain has been a big wake up call for this senior citizen. I tend to think that I’m the Energizer Bunny and never going to wear out. Relentless pain has convinced me otherwise. I am now painfully aware that I am oh, so very human and my batteries are losing their charge.

The ramifications of my fall on the ice have also changed my current lifestyle. Normally, I’m an active person. I have things to do, people to see and columns to write. I have no time or desire to be idle. Unfortunately, the kind of healing I need takes down time and my projected 4-6 weeks of recovery has been expanded to 12 weeks.

Between doctor and physical therapy visits, I have been practicing ‘taking it easy.’ Believe me, there’s nothing ‘easy’ about taking it easy! First I had to work through the pain, fear and humiliation of the fall. Then came frustration at not being able to be active. Slowly, acceptance of the situation settled in and last week I had a surprising victory—contentment.

I was settled down on a heating pad napping on my favorite sofa with a cat and dog. Gracie (the cat) was softly purring on my lap and Sadie (the dog) was cuddled up to both of us as close as she could get. It was quiet. No TV was on. No phones were ringing. There was nothing I had to do. I was content to be healing.

Over the past four weeks, I’ve been forced to do nothing for hours on end. Pain sets in and I’m worn out after standing for more than 45 minutes. So I’ve followed doctor’s orders—I do a little and rest a lot. I put in a load of wash and go sit on the heating pad for a while. I do the dishes or tidy up and repeat the heating pad scenario.

In the process, I’ve learned to change agitation into an attitude of gratitude. The past three months, during my husband’s hospitalizations and my accident, my lifestyle revolved around life and death issues—a helpless feeling. Gratitude has come in looking back and realizing that every need was met. God provided. I didn’t even have to ask. At every corner a friend was there to meet the need.

Over the holidays, when Chuck was in RiverBend Hospital fighting for his life, I left home early and came home late every day. One of our neighbors graciously took over the task of caring for our cats and dogs. On nights when I was very late she would come down twice to feed them and later put them to bed by the heater.

Later, when Chuck came home from the hospital, her husband kept our woodbin full with firewood and kindling split and ready to start a fire. One night when an ambulance took Chuck to Eugene, I was too overwhelmed to follow in my car. Friends drove down from Creswell, drove me to Eugene, back to Cottage Grove and then asked if they could do it again the next day!

Dozens of family, friends and a wonderful church family rallied round to encourage us in every way possible. They called, emailed, sent notes and cards. They offered prayers and put Chuck on prayer chains around the country. From those chains came notes from people we didn’t even know.

Our minister was at the hospital or on the phone daily. Others visited, brought meals, ran errands, and worked in the yard. There were so many offers of help that I couldn’t answer all of them.

My cup continues to overflow with gratitude. Prayers were answered. Healing began. Needs were taken care of. How can I complain over this latest bump in the road? I can’t. Now is the time to be grateful for blessings received.

The psalmist said: “Oh, give thanks to the Lord for He is good!”

Chuck and I also thank each of you who reflected that goodness.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

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