Friday, April 12, 2013

New Normal / Disabilities

This is a rather long post, yet it's a post I really feel I want to share. Feel too that I must share.
But I do not want one word of sympathy. I've overcome and so can anyone.

From somewhere around 1976 until 1999 my back was in deterioration. The pain started getting bad in 1980. I found though that when the pain got real bad I could visit a chiropractor and he could get that back straightened up enough that I could carry on day to day.

That was an honest chiropractor. He told me the truth. I was a construction worker and I farmed. Both were very hard on the back with all the lifting and carrying of things by one person that really should be done by two or more. Also the nature of that work was hard on the back, twisting and turning into positions that are not normal which cause injury to the back.
So life went on. I adapted to what I could and learned to accept the pain. I also began taking mild pain killers when needed.

Add to that choice of work the wild things I did for entertainment when younger and through those years it all caused more injury to my body and back.
I kept working at both construction and farming and the back kept getting worse. Kept doing things and daring myself to do things to push any fears I might have felt aside which kept pushing the body.

Then in the beginning of 2000 a series of events happened.

First I'll say I'm a man. Limits? BS I have no limits.
There was this very long drive. A twenty hour drive. Two twenty hour drives in a week. Sleep? Who needs sleep? I'm a man...
Yah, and those straight through drives led to deep vein thrombosis. Never even saw it coming of felt it. Until... the blood clot in my calves began breaking up and small clots got caught near my lungs!

All I felt was tremendous back pain. Now I had lived with back pain, gotten used to severe back pain. Even pain that cause difficulty breathing.
So I found myself not able to lay down to sleep. I spent a week and a half sleeping in a recliner just barely leaning back which was the only position that eased the pain a little. Thinking in my man mind that it would soon let up. Wrong! It didn't.

Finally called a friend (an uncle actually who is more of a friend) and asked him to run me to a hospital. I told them of my back problems. Maybe a mistake...
They ex rayed and checked me out. Came to me later and said they found nothing serious but yes my spine was a mess and sent me on my way with some really powerful pain meds.
My expressing the major back problems and how I thought I had messed my back up once again did something to cause the pain had them looking only at my spine.

Well back to my chair. Popped the pills and they never began to touch the pain.
Another week and a half sitting in that chair. Not breathing, but panting. Couldn't take a deep breath because of the pain. Couldn't really sleep either. Just nodding off and my head would fall to my chest for a few minutes at most. Twenty four hours a day of that. Yes, three weeks of that. Couldn't take the pain any longer. Called for a ride once again because there was no way I could sit to drive. This time to my usual doctor.

When he saw me attempting to lay on his exam table he immediately backed off. Asked me if I had a way besides driving myself to the hospital. I did, the same ride who took me there. He said I was to go straight to the hospital NOW.
Hmm, OK. I did what he said and was in too much pain to ask why or fight.
This was now three weeks of this pain and very very little actual sleep. I had no fight left in me whatsoever.

By the time I got to the hospital emergency room the doctor had called and they were waiting. Scared? No. I was too out of it to feel fear. I just wanted any relief possible. For god's sake, ease this pain or kill me now!
Well, this time they knew what they were looking for and it was not my back. But a tiny little blood clot in my lungs. They gave me an injection of who the heck cared at the time and kept me in that emergency room for darned near ever!

Well they had given me something to begin dissolving that clot and wanted me near an operating room just in case. But I didn't find that out until the next day when I was in a room as a highly charged guest and was bitching and moaning about that. Man I had nurses and doctors checking in on me so often I wanted to scream at them to get the heck away from me and leave me alone in my agony.

It was a very old doctor who came in with a young intern who finally explained what was going on in a way I could understand. See if that thing decides to start moving it could move towards the brain and cause a stroke. OR it could move to the heart and cause a heart attack. Either way you lose. He might as well have added dumbass. Cause that is exactly how I felt...

So another week and a half there which! Included one night of me and a very high fever. One that made them pack me in ice. All I can remember of that is my brain told me I was cold. That is when I complained to a nurse and she pulled out her thermometer and shoved it in my mouth. Next thing I knew people were scurrying everywhere around me. Don't even really remember them packing me in ice. All I remember was feeling warm. Next day a nurse said I was cute when they packed me in ice and I said how nice and warm it felt before I passed out. The mind does some really strange things...

Well at the end of that week and a half I was beginning to feel like myself once again. They really were not ready for me to leave but yup, had my fight back. I told that old doc. I go peacefully or someone gets their uhh, butt kicked and I may well take someone out when I'm walking out.
He came around to my way of thinking. Made me promise if I had even the slightest pain or problem to get back there fast. But he saw I was not the type to stay laying there any longer.

Well, I guess from all the head dropping I did for the first three weeks two disks in my neck decided to do a complete rupture. Now not only could I not breathe worth a crap, I had no feeling in my right hand and lots of numbness in my entire right side.
Over the following several weeks they poked and prodded almost every inch of my body and x rayed and MRI'd and all other kids of nasty expensive tests. One doctor even hooked me up to some electronics and started checking the connection between my brain and my hand.
Well after being sure I hadn't had a stroke they finally settled on those ruptured disks pressing on a bundle of nerves which ran the right side of my body.

Nothing but surgery would help. And that was only a 50/50 chance. 50 that I would walk out a few days later. 50 that I'd be wheeled out. Now I have no luck with gambling. So I asked. I understand that I could end up in a wheelchair, but what if I allow the surgery then? The doctor looked me straight in the eye and said, 50/50.
Well I may not be in good shape, but I'll see ya then.

Now mind you, over this time I still never really listened to those dumb a-- doctors. I'm not the type to sit around taking it easy. Just can't do that.
I started tearing my old porch apart to rebuild it finally. Well what I once did in a seven hour day, now disgustingly took me seven days...

It got worse from there.
Every thing I did took me much longer than it had in the past. There were also many things I simply could no longer do. Returning to my construction business was one of them.

My lungs were a mess and I could only barely breathe. My right arm, hand and leg were very weak and numb which cause them to be close to useless. I couldn't work at my job even though I had a lot of work already lined up for the spring. I couldn't do many of the work and chores I normally did here on the farm. Heck I couldn't even go fishing by myself!

In all honesty, over the next several years I secretly hoped to die. I was useless, couldn't even have fun as I knew it and there was no purpose to go on.
Except... I had a daughter and son who were still in school. Still to young to fend for theirselves. Their mother who had left when they were very young had passed away. They really had no one but me.
I couldn't hardly leave them on their own.

For the next few years I just woke up, did what I had to do and could do and went to bed. Feeling useless and not a man at all. Just carrying on being the best parent I could.

Very, very slowly I began to find ways to do many of the gardening tasks I did before. Even tying a rope to a bale of hay and tying the other end around my waist so I could drag it to the cows. Loading that hay in the fields and then stacking that hay was now a job my son had to do or I had to pay someone else to do. Loading and unloading sacks of feed was something someone else had to do.

Many of the lawn and garden chores I once took for granted I had to find other ways to do. I couldn't handle a wheelbarrow because they tip. But I bought a four wheeled wagon I could toss stuff in and then pull to where it needed unloaded.

Even household chores I had to find new ways to do. Picking up a laundry basket full of clothes was out of the question. I needed my good hand for the cane to balance myself and the weak had wouldn't support much weight at all. Laundry baskets had to be drug along to the washer. Across the floors and down the steps. Drug to the clothesline so the wet laundry could be hung to dry.

Everything I had to do I had to find ways to do them. Many times I'd lose my balance and fall when trying to do things I once did without a thought. Even fishing was a mess. I now had to learn to walk around many obstacles instead of going over them. Had to learn to walk down banks by walking along them instead of straight down them or I'd fall. Had to learn to sit on steeper banks and slowly lower myself down them instead of just jumping down. Had to learn first to look for ways to get myself back up steep banks before going down them and getting stuck there waiting for help to wander by.

I won't say I'm totally satisfied with my life today. Yet I've found ways to make it bearable and ways to once again enjoy the life I have.
It's thirteen years now of living and learning this new life. Thirteen long, long lonely years. Years of doing everything at a snails pace. Years of still not feeling like a real man. Years of holding off interested women at a distance because of not feeling like a man.
Will that ever change? Only time will answer that question. I've grown comfortable being alone.

For now I've found my new normal.
Every day I have reasons to smile.
Every day is a new adventure whether it's work or play.

Sometimes I overdo it one day and spend the next three or four days in pain. But that is still the learning curve and I will continue learning and smiling at my sometimes stupidity.

The point I'm making here though is never give up!
I easily could have, except for those two little ones I had at the time. Even later after they were grown I could have.

But day after day I learned my new normal. Learned to accept my new normal. Even learned how to laugh and smile again.
And ya know what?
Life isn't half bad.

If you or anyone you know is in a nasty position of having to find a way to rebuild a life after losing the life they once knew, find a way to be as supportive as possible. Don't waste a lot of time feeling sorry or sad for them.

Help them find new ways to create their new normal.
Look and help them find simple ways things can be adapted so they can do. Look and help them find different ways they can do what they did before.

Be patient! Very, very patient.
Impatience can lead them to pull even further into their sadness. It did me and I'm positive it will anyone else. Heck it still sometimes does.
If one day they don't want to do something don't get upset. They may be in pain and only want to rest until the pain eases. They may just be having a sad day and need to deal with that.

Help them find their reason to smile at the asinine things that life has thrown in their path.
I find myself now laughing about what happened and what I go through on a daily basis. Heck it's not a disability, it's an adventure! Some of the dumb stuff I have to do to complete even simple tasks makes me laugh like a fool!
Even having forgetful days or dumb days and ending up in pain that takes me out for a few days makes me smile now.

Always remember,

Anything the mind can conceive and believe in, can be achieved.”

Life can be good, and can be full, once you find your smile.

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