Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Progress takes Focus and Determination

And Chico seems to have a good supply of both.

Now that I'm over the wonder of walking in water at the pool, I can see that it is very painful, hard work.  I just sit and enjoy the warmth as Chico walks or swims back and forth.  Judging by the facial expressions, the swimming is painful too.  Still, he just goes back and forth, back and forth-mostly walking.  It's impressive.  Today there were serious swimmers, other rehabbers and children! in the pool too.

Chico walked a third of a mile in the water.  Our big hope is that he'll be able to walk one lap around the track (1/4 mile) in July, unassisted.  That certainly puts new perspective on 'weight bearing in January,' doesn't it?

Monday, December 27, 2010


Snow, snow, snow and more gorgeous snow. 

We welcome our new grand niece, Grace Lee Osborne, to the world.  She was born to Heidi and Dave, Connor and Kea in Seattle.

People come and go delivering fuel, food, mail, shoveling...A trip to the bakery...Friends and familiars.  We are grateful. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.

An excerpt from "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. © Eighth Mountain Press, 1995. Thanks, Pamela.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Eve

Last night we had a fantastic time.  I want to write about it in full.  For now let me say that the best part was the love of friends and the feeling of community.  There is nothing like singing Christmas carols either.  We went to church and then to Mark, Beth and Liam's annual Christmas Eve party (We miss you IKE).  It was more galavanting than Chico has done in quite some time.  He did a little one leg-ged jig up in Lincoln.  He's holding up well today too.
Look at Beth's radiance on Christmas day.  I think Mark took the photo.


A quiet day.  Cold, crisp, beautiful. 

Pam and new dog, Digger aka Guster, came over with Finnish breakfast bread this morning while we still weren't dressed.  Big, white chunks of sugar like New York pretzel salt on top of the braided bread flavored with anise.  Wow.

Before we knew it, noon had arrived.  No time to sit around reading, my enduring, great hope.  We went around the town in the chill.  We were bundled enough to muffle sound.  "What?"  I yelled.
"I said, I guess people don't really stop by on Christmas."
"Depends on whose house."

At home there were white peanuts clinging to faux suede.  In spite of or mutual plea for no gifts, wrappings littered the floor.  As a neighbor walked by our large unadorned window, Chico leaped up and beckoned him in thus proving people (and dogs) do stop by on Christmas. 

In my family of origin, the Stewart family, there is a fondness for tartan.  As an American Scot, my father always made a big deal of this.  He loved the Ancient Hunting Stewart Tartan, Stewart of Appin, and many others.  On the other hand, it is forbidden for Stewarts to wear any tartan not bearing the name Stewart.  Anyone non Stewart shall not wear the Stewart Tartan.  I think these are ancient clan rules.  My mother, the seamstress and consummate do-it-yourselfer, nurtured his yen for the highlands with hand made garments of all types and in all Stewart tartans.  Now that my parents have passed, we siblings (6) amuse ourselves and each other with tartan tokens.  The Royal Stewart Tartan, shown here, is the most common.  Thanks, Nance.  Nice to be remembered, and nice to remember.

Now we look forward to Pam, Reinhold, Edgar and the new dog bringing over Indian.  They make great food.  They are great neighbors.

Merry Christmas.  We wish you all the joys of the season.  Twinkling lights, twinkling eyes, brimming hearts and (all the) rest.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

More Swimming

After a great evening with brother Gordon on Friday, we had some Saturday adventures.  Chico went into the pool again.  This time it looked much more like work, less like jubilation.  I guess we'll have to find that in Christmas Carols.  Increased activity brings increased pain.   I find myself stupidly asking, "What is wrong?" as Chico grimaces on his way to the loo, or just lying in bed.  Things are shifting again, like afternoon light.

Speaking of afternoon light, arriving home yesterday post swim and shop, we found a famous Bob StetZENmeyer blinking globe hanging like a plant on the porch.  Once again the generosity and benevolence of a friend welcoming us upon our return warms the cockles.  Thanks, Bobby.  Your spirit twinkles here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Rare Night Home Alone

Thanks for the comments! 

Chico made it in to real pants tonight and went out to a School Board meeting.  I stayed for a few minutes until I realized my time would be better spent at home.  Here I am.  He's gaining independence.  It's weird.  Rattling around trying to figure out how to best use the time...

The accident lent such clear, strong purpose. 

Luckily it was only a loan.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Big Day

Real Trousers,
Real Dress Shirt,
Crutches no wheelchair
and off to church he went.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Chico was itching to get to the pool at Vermont Sun in Middlebury on Saturday.  I was reluctant and cranky.  There is a lot to do these days.  Chico was determined. 

We arrived, circled around, tried to find a ramp in.  The ramp was in back at the rehab entry.  Chico insisted on using the front for a variety of reasons.  We had forgotten the crutches.  We had the walker and the wheelchair.  He walkered right over the pavement and up to the steps, held on to the banister on one side with both hands and hopped up.  Unstoppable. 

I helped him change in the Family Changing Room (bars all around) and we went to the pool.  Before I could get all my gear and chair set up to watch, he was in that lap pool and coming toward me.  When he actually got to me he was singing, "Just Walk on By" ( as sung by Dionne Warwick and written by Burt Bacharach).  It was a tearful moment before he gave a whoop and began swimming.  Next time he came by he was swimming and chanting.  Whatawonder.

Chico was in the pool for about a half hour swimming, walking and vocalizing. Again, just as I put my camera away and began to write, he was out of the pool and headed for the sauna.  Doesn't titanium conduct heat?  I dunno but I got him out of there before we could really find out.  Being with Chico these days is kind of like having a toddler.  Just when 'you' are focusing on something else, the toddler slips away.  Or just when fatigue is about to crash everyone under like a wave, a huge growth spurt occurs and everyone is renewed.  And if 'you' weren't there, 'you'da' missed it.  I don't want to miss it. 

From the fitness center we went to the Coop.  Chico cruised around with his walker.  First time walkering in public.  He did well.  He actually shopped for food which is an indicator of how comfortable he was.  He was unphased by his attire:  pajamas and unfastened sandals over socks.

Today is a little tricky-some soreness after a poor night's sleep.  He's had some great contact with community though both at church and at home. 

Life is good.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Albany Day

I'm continuing the Chornography (see Michael's Birthday) as I wait for Chico and Mark to return from Albany.  Michael is a brilliant songwriter and composer.  His album, "MOTHERTONGUE" of 2006 is a testament to the songwriting.  There are many wonders including, "nothing is pure [nothing is simple]."

Chico and I had a brief chat as they passed through Whitehall.  Apparently Dr. Hospodar approved a little weight bearing and urged SWIMMING (again).  (Suggestions for therapy pools are now being solicited.)  Sounds like things are progressing nicely by those two bites, huh?  I can't wait to hear more.  I have to get a 'handicapped' hanger - it seems we'll be having more outings!

Thanks for being with us through this.  The meals, for one thing, are more than helpful.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Well, we made it to Lake Champlain yesterday and then some!  First I took Chico to 'my' hairdresser, Andrea, (An-dray-uh) who I knew has also been in a serious car crash.  I thought it might be helpful for them to chat.  They shared stories, she marveled at his transfers and more to the point: Chico got a great haircut.  All the while huge snowflakes drifted down outside the glass in the parking lot.

We ventured to Waterfront Park on Lake Champlain.  The sky was overcast, visibility poor ("You can't even see any mountains!"), temperature low and the snowflakes were by now tiny and greyish.  They were mean looking.  Over the Lake to the north was this funnel shaped cloud-wider than a tornado, actually more like a wall of cloud, coming down  fast.  You know the look of a cloud sweep?  It was coming.  We didn't care. We were tickled to find the little hairpin ramp into the park from the street and headed for the north end.  It's always interesting to see what is accessible to the handicapped and what isn't.  We trundled over the tracks and began to notice that we were now in a freezing cold cloud of whipping wind. Snowflakes aplenty.  Our glee was only slightly dampened but I did worry that the wind would overturn Chico and his chair.  I held tightly to the handles and walked fast until we got to the photo op for "Chico and the Lake" which really doesn't do the treachery justice. 
Really, there was a sort of blizzard, you just can't see it.

Once back at the Leahy Echo Center we went to see if there was room in The Skinny Pancake for a wheelchair rider.  It looked like there wasn't as we peered inside giving way to all kinds of wind and snowflakes. As we shut the door and turned to leave this guy named Alex came out and assured us that there was room for a wheelchair.  There surely was!  Chico's first meal in a restaurant in  ninety nine or more days was a big success.  He had Eggs Benedict and a maple crepe dessert. Unusually fervant appetite.

He also managed a little time for wallet clean out. 

The weather had cleared when we left.  We went for another lap around the park and had a look out toward Juniper Island-I recently learned its name.  

When we got home we sorted out a few things and then I headed off to Michael Chorney's fiftieth birthday celebration in Montpelier.  Chico stayed home with his disappointment and stiff upper lip.  He assured me that this was an event not to be missed, and that I would hear great music.  Michael's musical genius was reviewed through a retrospective of twelve bands who came together for the event.  It was amazing.  I felt such delight listening to the music and marveling at the passage of time.  (We watched this movie about Ram Das post stroke the night before; it kind of framed my experience.)    Michael played intermittently throughout the evening.  I also saw all kinds of great people that I haven't seen in awhile.  Thank you Anais, Rob, Beth, Mark, other organizers and all you musicians.  That was an Event. 

Today Katy, our neice who lives in DC, came for a nice long visit.  She wanted to see all of Chico's progress, hear his story.  We got to learn about her life this year, her classes, the work she is doing with Globe Med (one aspect of which will take her to work in Rwanda next summer) and her plans for the next Rugby season (nationally ranked top ten team)!  She has a lot going on.  Chico, "I like how she is still herself."   She is open, intelligent, inquisitive, vivacious, sincere= lovely. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Big News

Well, it's all relative, isn't it? Chico was able to put a sock on his left foot today!  Actually, I put it on.  Chico being able to sock himself will be another step.  Although last night he accidentally did put his red no-skid (known as skidless, 'high fall risk' at Albany Med) sock on his left foot in order to walk steadily to the bathroom.  I found him in a laughing fit trying to get it off to put it on the right foot and make his way out of bed.  He must have been sleepy. 

This morning we decided to try putting a sock on the injured foot again for the outdoor excursion.  Chico definately needed assistance.  We are heading out for a walk along the lake in Burlington.  Daring.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

We are ever so thankful for the support of our friends and family, Addison County Home Health, my school support (all inclusive), our lives and Chico's positive prognosis.  Happy Thanksgiving, people.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

[Select parts of] The Week in Review

We're having a cozy evening celebrating Chester's birthday.  I found the greatest recipe for chocolate cake this time in one of Andrea Chessman's cookbooks.  The dessert followed a delicious Chinese dinner courtesy of Anna Sun.  All of this followed a day long headache, a casualty of Chico breaking his glasses by rolling over on them during his self guided PT.  Sadly, I think I threw out his spare pair in an effort to rid our house of useless accident memorabilia-Chico was wearing his shades on the sunny afternoon of the accident. Turns out that case wasn't so useless; it held the spare pair of glasses.  Oh well.  The broken glasses were nothing a little trip to Burlington didn't take care of.  Meanwhile, Chester put in some solid time in the yard raking leaves and bedding down gardens.  It looks great.   It's really nice to be home together.

Yesterday I graduated. from the Vermont School Leadership Project in the company of my 21 courageous colleagues. We've been working together for eighteen months and hope to continue our collaboration for years!  After some great sessions Friday and Saturday, we were honored by Mark Snelling and Tim Donovan, who both gave provocative speeches at the commencement.  I think it is the first of my own graduations that I have attended since high school. It was well worth the trip to Lake Morey, even under these circumstances. 

-Meanwhile, Chico spent his first night at home alone since the accident.  He's not really up to several hours in a car, followed by several hours in his wheelchair in public, and several more hours in a car-especially over two snowy gaps.  This is what his attendance would have required.  He did so well at home!  Chester arrived around lunch time Saturday and they were busy making a congratulatory meal fit for a lama (my favorite meal) when I got home. 

Further back in the week, (sorry for the delayed posting, Tom) Chico returned to the Bristol Planning Commission.  There he recieved a warm welcome in the newly renovated Town Offices.  They are gorgeous and VERY handicapped accessible.  It was a pretty interesting meeting with a guest presentation about some changes happening in downtown Bristol.  Chico's endurance was definately tested.  It was obviously difficult for him to stay for the whole meeting which ended at 9:30 PM, as usual. 

We continue to give thanks for your ongoing encouragement and interest.  We send you Thanksgiving greetings.  We hope you'll have time to enjoy whatever you like and include at least a little time for reflection.

Maybe we'll have some interesting capers to blog about this week. Chico hopes to visit Lake Champlain.  We'll see.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Encouragement Twins

Bristol is really busy outside on a sunny Sunday, let me tell you. 

Chico had two walks today.  One with a kind man named Gary who escorted him to church.  That was nice.  Chico marveled at things he had not noticed before-like the gorgeous stained glass windows in the church with the sun light of day showing them off. 

The second walk was in the afternoon.  Snow is still melting in the shady places on our east facing foundation  and side roof spots.  The warm sun can't seem to reach it.  We returned dishes to people, strolled the streets.  We enjoyed visits with many people.  Two were headed up the mountain to the ledges.  We gave them pointers about time and terrain.  They called us 'The Encouragement Twins.'  I think it was the baseball caps. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Again

How's this for a Friday night?  Close friends bring over a delicious dinner, share it with us at the table and then leave before Chico is too beat to endure any more?  Pretty good, huh?

Chico is doing great.   I believe when I came down this morning he was doing backward leg lifts while lying on his belly.  Crazy fun.  After Shower Number Three Since August 20th, he was resting on his bed in the morning sunlight when I noticed a stray staple in one of his skin grafts...ah yes.  He'd been predicting this.  A little, silver-looking tooth.  Hopefully Chico's skillful nurse will come this week and remove it painlessly as he did the last time Chico spied a staple. 

After a wicked snow and sleet storm last Monday, the weather warmed up nicely.  I played two hand touch football (I hate football) twice this week at school during recess.  It was a blast.  Pam came to get Chico out for a walk yesterday-lucky two.

We just got home from a long (hour and a half) walk around town.  Even though there are some small snow banks in our yard, it was pleasantly warm and the light was beautiful.  Chico is building up endurance.  He's been doing his exercises with weights ever since we got home. I hear puffing and the joy of accomplishment. 

Thanks for your ongoing interest and support.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Great Day

The walk around and down town was a blissful treat.  We sat in the sun outside the bakery.  We met and chatted with great folks all along the way.  FUN.

Mission Foot Soak and Mission Shower have both been completed. 

All is well.

November 7, 2010

We got all of our perscriptions refilled yesterday.  You know what that means?  Chico's been home a month, and I'm familiar with the pharmacists.  Every day brings new progress and new people into our lives it seems.

So the pins came out Thursday.  Chico learned to use crutches on Friday.  Yesterday flew by crutchlessly.  It was a chores and rest kind of day.  Chico does a lot of exercise during the day; leg stuff, arm weights and just the regular getting around the downstairs is pretty consuming.  He has long, restless nights.  Here we are on Sunday=Soak 'n Shower day.  We get to soak the pin foot (it still has blood on the bottom from August) and then try the shower.  I bet that will feel good.  The new complication is the donor site (where the skin was taken off the right leg for the grafts on the left).  It hurts and itches regularly but now it has blistered.  Not handy.  Hopefully the blisters will stay closed so that Chico actually can take a shower.  That would be GREAT.  I'll keep you posted.  I get to go work out first which is an unusual and welcome treat theese days.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 27?

Chico went to Albany to see Dr. Hospodar today.  Two pins were removed from his toes, one from the pinkie and one from the next one up.  You've seen them.  Apparently they were just pulled right out.  The first one hurt, the second one didn't.  I wasn't there; this is the home report. 

Our friends Mark and Michael took Chico down to the Medical Arts Center.  The patient said they were, "Perfect." Plain and simple but it doesn't get any better than that.  We are relieved.  Chico is sleeping.  His foot, by the way, still covered, looks increasingly like its old self.  Soak day is Sunday.

More perfection awaits us in the box of pastries Kim dropped off for in my office.  WOW.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Some post Halloween treats for us last night...It was unusual for me to lounge around and read when Chico got up, used his walker to get to the bathroom, use it and brush his teeth.  He was able to roll around in his wheelchair helping as I washed dishes too.  He could put away recycling, reach for things he's not been able to reach for thus far and so on.  More energy, increased mobility.

This morning as I began cruising around downstairs I hear 'Look!  Look!'  He was lying on his stomach!  I'd never seen it before (in this era).  I think he has only done it once before.  Exciting.  Still not much sleep for him.  I am startled by how thrilling this is.  I had to 'edit post' just to convey that.

Apparently he stood erect on two legs yesterday with weight only on one (as per doctor's orders until January) during PT.  He has an awesome therapist.

Hey, don't forget to vote today.  If we could only heal the system as determinedly as Chico has dealt with his.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Home, Day 21, Very Special

Time seems to travel faster here.  Sometimes I think to blog but often the news is banal, within the context: toes wiggle more; leg bends; foot is allowed to touch the floor without weight; can stand for longer periods of time; a stool is sometimes useful...and so on.  We are toddlers struggling to assert ourselves in ways that will be helpful to one and other.  Shooting the rapids.  No more sitting in the barka without a care in the world, other than the intense gratitude and focus on healing and comfort. 

Anyway, today was a new day.  Our friend, David called last week to inquire of me whether it would be ok to ask Chico if he would like to have a visit from Drupon Thinley Ningpo who is a Tibetan Lama.  This lama would be teaching in Bristol on October 29-31.  Chico loved the idea and set his mark on attending the Friday sessions: Illusory Body Yoga Teachings.

He anticipated three major things this week: a hospital visit in Burlington on Thursday, the teachings of Friday and a lunch with the lama today.  The highlight of the visit to Burlington was time with Deb and no serious news.  Friday's delight was first getting into a building that was not handicapped accessible (it's a whole new world) with assistance and skill and second, the teachings themselves. Helpful.  Last night Chico was so peaceful and delighted.  It was very fun to see. We were also delighted last night by a great visit with John and a yummy dinner. Today, Chico actually made lunch for Drupon Thinley Ningpo, his translator, driver and me.  It was difficult to watch, easy to support the meal making and delicious to eat.  Chester called from Chicago during this time, "Wow, what an interesting day you are having," as I stood in the rain looking at bare trees from the porch I had to agree.  After lunch we received some teachings at the kitchen table.  Then we spent some time hanging out in the living room.  We felt full.

As the lunch friends left, Pamela was walking by.  We beckoned her in even though she was eager to get home to see Miss Sophie.  Next news, Bud is at the door with a new illustrated chapbook.  FUN.  He also brought treats and good humor.  At the next knock we found Chris with a pie and a family.  It was great to have them all here.  The house swelled.  The interactions were lovely all around.  Rich, rich, rich. 

One last thing, Diane, a home health care nurse, came by and took out the picc line.  Dr.s' orders.  Really, all of them.  Hopefully the infection is gone though we won't test for two weeks.  Forty - two centimeters of very fine tubing were removed.  The nurse looked familiar.  She'd cared for my mother at home too.  They talked about horses.  We talked about our parents today, our childhoods, and the good fortune that found us there in our horsey pasts.  I like talking with people that knew my parents and visited the place where I grew up.

We have had many incredible meals cooked for us this week.  More muffins too.  And soups.  Thank you, fine people.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Welcome Surprises

You would not believe the people we have met through the mounting days of recovery.  As I yammer away on these keys, there you are thinking of Chico, thinking of us.  Forbidden bacon kicks and sputters on the griddle, Chester sleeps upstairs, Chico plays with You Tube in the living room while still in bed, and I read the latest emissary of your love and thoughts.  It's a green light on the waffle iron.

These people we have met, the ones I refer to now, were not strangers before the accident.  They were friends and family, they were all of you.  Given the opportunity the crash has brought, you have told us things we didn't know.  You have put words together in ways we didn't know you could.  You've mixed ingredients to make us unfamiliar food; you've done unexpected deeds and shared your writing.  You reveal yourselves to us.

The words this morning are most surprising.  Sometimes I don't read them, I think they are not for me. When I do though, like today Billy, I am completely hobbled.  Stopped still in my tracks around this house.  You've plunked me down to ruminate.  I want to rifle through Chico's basket of letters and revisit more of this.  I could also scroll through my inbox, or read through the comments.  The wealth of this nation, and humankind more generally, shows up in our lives.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Home, Day 14

We had an uneventful trip to Albany.  By that I mean that the pins were not removed.  Two more weeks.  I think there was a misunderstanding.  Chico thinks the doc saw something in the x-rays.  The toes were not only broken in the crash, they were dislocated.  It was the reservation of the relocation that the doctor attributed the additional time to. 

Dr. Hospodar was obviously pleased with Chico's progress.  He said the x-rays look great.  He replaced the knee immobilizer with a "0 to 90" brace which means Chico can bend his knee now. It bends with pain and difficulty.  Both Chico and the doctor were beaming yesterday.  We were in and out of the "Medical Arts Center" in an hour.

The trip down and back was great.  Our friend, Mark, drove us in his very comfy van.  Mark is an excellent conversationalist, which contributed to the ease of the trip.

My brother, Edgar, awaited us at home with oodles of fresh garlic, shrimp scampi and good cheer. He's a great cook and an excellent host-even in our home.  It was a sweet evening.  He left before we were up. 

I hope you all are well.  Thanks for keeping up with us.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Off to Albany


We are being driven to Albany by our friend Mark today.  Hopefully the toe pins will be removed. 

Also, to anyone who has callled me on my cell I am issuing one BIG FAT APOLOGY.  I thought I had it mastered but apparently not.  I found 26 hidden voicemail messages this morning dating back as far as 10/2.  I hate my own incompetence.  Anyway, if you were waiting to hear back from me...or if you referred to a message you left (Bonnie, John) and I looked blankly at you, now we know why.  It wasn't just that I can't seem to remember anything.  Anyway, I think I've figured this out now.  I was wondering why everyone had cut me off. 

OOPS!  Chico just found 14 on his phone too.  I wonder how we lost the thread of our voicemails. 

This has been a pleasant (can you believe it???) respite from the trepidation looming regarding our fast approaching day trip.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Picc is in!

We had a long but good day at the hospital today.  It was an intersting character study.  Fletcher Allen has some beautiful art work up and beautiful views - just to mention a few contrasts.  Chico didn't sleep much last night but he bore up well.  The drive in the Prius was  not exactly comfortable but it was efficient!  There was a really great valet guy there to help us disembark and reembark even though I did the parking.  Otherwise, things were pretty uneventful.  Well, not entirely uneventful; I saw a handful of people I know to varying degrees including a new and dear friend who had a heart attack last week.  She was looking fantastic. 

One commenter suggested I use the site, 'Lotsa Helping Hands' to coordinate help for us.  Thanks for the suggestion.  At the same time people keep asking who is coordinating meals.  Since I don't have email addresses of everyone that has asked or offered, I've just set joined a site that will help us coordinate meals.  I have put dates for three meals a week from now through January.  (That's when Chico will hopefully begin to bear weight.)  If that doesn't work for you and you want to make us a meal, feel free-at least you'll know the context into which you are delivering food.  We won't turn food down, and having it here has been a huge, huge help.  Thank you to those who have delivered.  Also, don't feel obligated, there is something very homey about cooking for oneself, right?  It's just a time problem at the moment.  There is a lot to do.  Here's the site:

Thank you for your support.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things are Looking Up

Chico is relatively comfortable as he pursues his probiotic regimen rather than an anti biotic one.  We are still scheduled to go to Burlington for a pic line on Monday and Albany for toe pin removal on Thursday.  This morning he did a bit of dancing.  He was pretty happy. 

Funny to think that if he'd thought to jostle himself in that way as few as three weeks ago, well, it was unthinkable.  Even as we sat on Albany beach.  Nice progress.

Clari brought by some of John's famous muffins.  Chico-"Best muffin I've every had."  They are a nice follow-up to Beth's perfectly timed apple pie.  That met an articulated craving.

Meanwhile, I found my lost watch, the lost key to an important building, lost discharge orders...just a few misplaced items outstanding...And I love a rainy, fall day. 

Thanks for all of your help!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Pernicious Nids

Whiile initially the transition was terrific we have come upon a setback.  Chico's UTI persists or recurs.  He has already had two rounds of heavy hitting antibiotics delivered intravenously while we were in the hospital.  Doctors were confident on Saturday that the infection had been taken care of.  The revelation of a positive result on the culture yesterday was just short of devastating. 

We are rebounding.  We have spent the last 36 hours weighing options.  There are somewhat conflicting reports on the best course of action.  At this point Chico is scheduled to go to Fletcher Allen in Burlington on Monday morning to have a pic line put in.  A pic line allows a person to have IV's put in over a long period of time.  It has a risk of infection in its own right but IV antibiotics may be what Chico needs to beat this infection.  (On the other hand, they haven't worked yet.)  We then plan to come home and have Home Health Care support Chico's IV regimen with Chico and I administering the antibiotic as well.  Chico is quite adament about staying out of the hosiptal.  Since the bacteria he has is hospital born, we have a strong and shared inclination to avoid another hospitalization. 

People near and far continue to be incredibly supportive.  Chico is having a little trouble getting any down time in his day...We are all adjusting.   Thank you for your continued interest, comforting words and kind gestures.  It all helps. 

Vermont outside our living room window is ablaze with color.  It is gorgeous.  I am thankful that Chico isn't missing it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tuesday Night

Well, we're settling in to this new routine.  I'm in our own version of the barka lounger, Chico's in Chester's bed which I moved downstairs and into the living room last week.  He reads the paper, he rattles around, I write and I read.  We are trying to eat our evening measl earlier than we ever normally do so that we can get ready, get set and get to sleep so I can get out early in the morning.  It does seem unkind to get Chico up at 5 or 5:30 so that I can be sure he is bathed and breakfasted before I leave.  Or is it unkind to leave him to do all this stuff alone?  These are the kinds of things we are working out. 

The easy thing about the hospital was that Chico was only responsible for getting better, monitoring his body and his care, and speaking up, at least to me, if there was a concern or something seemed off.  I was only responsible for being comforting and vigilante and kind.  Other people took care of meals, meds, cleaning and trouble shooting-calling in specialists, perscriptions,  managing our worries, and administration of all of this.  This home business is much more personally complex in terms of who does what and when.  It is nice to live without that edge of anxiety we had in the hospital about everything. It is nice to be in our home, both at once, and to know that we are moving through this crisis.  Thanks for your help on all of this.

Last night we had tofu pot pie.  That was yummy.  Tonight we had ziti.  That was great too.  Thanks for the food, friends.  Tomorrow night it's Mexican lasagna. 

Evening crashed upon us unexpectedly yesterday. 3:00 to 6 PM is a tricky time of day.  Fatigue and pain often join together in distortion of all things positive.  I was also a bit of a wreck having worked a full day and worried about Chico at home but having been unable to get home until after 6:00.  We ate, relaxed and regained some perspective. Chico said, "I want something different."  Dessert?  Bedding?  Pillow arrangement? Ramp?  Room set up?  I had no clue.  He started naming books he'd like to look at.  Chico has a large and varied book collection but most of it is upstairs and inaccessible to him without help.  I don't know his collection well so he has to be pretty specific about where books are when I go off seeking one.  This is really fun; in persuing the requested book I find all kinds of other interesting titles.  I didn't know he has Bhagavad Gita!  The Concise Ramayana was another request.  He'd been listening to Indian music on and off all day.  He then enhanced his thinking and feeling through the reading.  These studies distract him from the leg.  He's back at Ramayana.

I do want to mention Addison County Home Health and Hospice: they have been great!  So far Chico has had five nursing visits and a PT visit. Since we've only been home-this is the third full day, you can tell that things are not exactly uncomplicated but we do feel well attended.  It is a blessing to live in this community, that is certain.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Night, Day 1

Yesterday Chico was struck by the quiet at home.  There is stillness.  There is beautiful light.  I was very pleased to find Chico asleep by 10:30 PM and still asleep this morning at 7:30.  He told me he awoke several times in the night to find himself lying in comfort at home.  Nice.  Comfort is still relative at this point though.

He sheds skin like a snake.  It comes off the grafts just as he rolls around in bed.  Little patches of skin-very much like what you might have seen somewhere near a reptile. 

It was a great first day home. Pam, Reinhold and Edgar joined us for breakfast.  Like many of you, they have been so engaged in this process from afar that I forgot that they hadn't seen Chico since Day 1 at Albany Med.  Swollen hands, face, intubation, blood, wierd voice, tubes galore...After they left this morning, it was a not-quite-steady stream of drop ins.   Home Health Care Nurse stopped in to 'admit' Chico in to care.  That was a great 1 1/2 hour interview.  After that we got in a walk around the block. I knew Chico was whupped because he let me push him some of the time.

I haven't set up a roster of visits and food yet. Chico is eager to have a little time alone. I think a little dose will go a long way. There are some neighbors who are at home and on call.  We have food for a few days, thank you to the cooks who have dropped it off!  I am not turning down any help, it is just loosely set up at the moment.  We'll need help in the form of food, company and rides for about three months while Chico cannot bear weight-so if you want to help and you are feeling thwarted, do not dismay. As the third surgeon told us on the first night in Albany, "This is a marathon, not a sprint."  I think of that often.  Chico's request right now is for short visits and a little time to see what it is like to be at home alone.  I can honor that request for tomorrow and see how it goes from there.  Thanks for your patience with us as we figure out our new home life!

This has felt like my first real Sunday of this school year. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

We're home!

And it's really busy and great.  I'll write more later but for now here are some great photos of the warm welcome we recieved.  John was also here to oversee the first use of the ramp.  It worked GREAT. Pamela came by.  And there were presents, cards and treats accompanying the adornments on the ramp.  Thank you, everyone.  Things are going well, and it seems like drop ins might be fine (see photos).  I'll keep you posted.   The house is already warmer and cozier with Chico in it.

Grocery prices have really climbed in the last 50 days.  When did butter start selling for $4.99 a pound?  I got a cake to bake.

Driving Home

We're in Shoreham. The drive has been beautiful. Chico is dong great. Bonnie is also q champion. This is fun.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Last Night at Albany Med

Chico is very excited about leaving tomorrow, on his fiftieth day here, as you can see.  We have been told more than once that the drive to Bristol will take a toll on Chico. Even as he anticipates that, he is very excited by the thought of being at home.  You'd never know from this photo that his leg and foot are all smashed up, would you?  At home he will need a lot of rest.  He will also have some nursing care and PT in our home.  I've made what preparations I could think of at home, with the help and advice of generous friends.  We've lifted all the floor coverings, tried to widen all passageways, moved a lot of furniture to the barn, removed doors and such.  We'll see once he's home how it all works out and what needs to be adjusted.

Many of you have expressed happiness about Chico's discharge and an eagerness to see him.  While I appreciate all of the concern and generous offers of help, drop ins won't be helpful right away.  I am eager to develop a schedule of visitors though so that Chico will not spend days alone either.  Thanks for your cooperation on this.  Please doemail me and let me know what works for you if you want to see Chico in Bristol. We have been advised by other people convalescing as well as health care workers that this is the way to go.

Bonnie and I enjoyed a beautiful ride down.  The foliage was spectacular as the sun shown brightly.  There was a lot of traffic.  We are hoping for another scenic day in the Luxury Liner tomorrow!  It will certainly be an emotional ride. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


See what I mean?  We have really wonderful friends who also have really wonderful friends who are building us a ramp.  Thrilling to have that partially done and to enjoy the attendant visits from the friends.  I feel surrounded. 

The designer called at 6:45 AM to tell me the wood was about to arrive.  I'd forgotten what building projects are like.  YIKES.  I was in my pajamas still and actually should have been on my way to work.  From the upstairs bathroom window, I could see someone was parked in the driveway.  The wood guy.  I gotta get ready, man!  Are you going to knock on the door now?  Well, I need to be grateful.  I got dressed.  Wait a minute, Billy has a white car.  I look out...That's Billy.  I should rush out and see him.  Oh yay!  Billy to the rescue too!  Wait, he's waiting in the car so I can get ready for work.   Smart man!  Oh yikes, I'm in a frenzy.  No wonder my hairbrush is (still) in the fridge and I can't find the new microwave.

By the time I was ready to walk out, Billy was sitting on the stoop.  We had a little visit-really nothing in the way of hospitality-and I headed off.  When I got home, you can see what had been done!  Joy and jubilation!  It is amazing the many ways people can show deep and heartfelt caring.  Even love. 

 Chico was thrilled by these photos. "Much better than I imagined!"  Yeah, no real treat in imagining oneself having to enter one's home in a wheelchair.  But when you see it's your good old home, with a manageable ramp designed and built by talented men, hey!  It all looks a great deal sweeter.  I think Chico is beginning, beginning to be able to imagine he'll be home soon. 

Meanwhile my friend, the social worker in Albany, and I are striking up quite a bond.  She's been great to us from the moment we met her a week and a half ago - candid and available.  After the team meeting today, Chico is still scheduled for a Saturday discharge.  There are some things that could get in the way but she is planning to have all the apparatus I'd need to get him home delivered to our house on Thursday so we can drive down Friday and drive back on Saturday.  We are eager and hopeful.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Night

Ok, I just found my hairbrush in the refrigerator.  And I'm not the slightest bit concerned. 

It is definitely becoming increasingly difficult for Chico to stay in the hospital.  It is still an interesting place for me while he's there.  I am continuously (continually?) intrigued by the rythm of the hallways: people on the phone having just witnessed "her last breath,"  people headed in to give birth, bewildered people of all ages, children wondering, "But why is it called a 'bank'?" as they pass the blood bank, clergy looking cheerful, clergy looking severe, bewheelchaired riders headed out for a smoke, doctors in a huddle, single doctors avoiding eye contact, assorted familiar employees..."Hey, Susan."  "Where he at now?"  "Hello."  "I found Martin!  Yup!  I visited him."   

There are certain times of day when I love to walk in because staff are walking out to catch the shuttle and I see people I know from other parts of Chico's stay.  Or I may be walking out when they are coming in...Shift changes.  I see people who have been so briefly, so intimately and critically important to Chico and therefore to me.  I feel a little thrill and I want them to know they matter. We all do matter to each other.  I wish we could remember that in times without trauma.

I went to Chico's rehab session with him today.  On weekends it is only 1/2 hour per patient rather than three hours.  First I saw this woman who I have seen regularly over the past 6 weeks heading out or in on the ground floor.  She is beautiful.  She looks tough.  I always want to engage her but she always looks ahead.   Stoic.  Her therapy wrangled her.  When she got back to her chair she was exhausted, having put in a good effort.  And she could barely speak, though she tried to.  This part of her therapy involved walking a short loop.  Eventually she recovered and chatted with sparking unpredictable encouragement to the other people in the room.  She gave them energy; she was a bright light.  I'd wanted to see that all these weeks, this is the engagment I had wanted without even knowing it. 

In the gym all the patients line up in a row in their wheel chairs.  On the weekend they have some individutalized work but there is not a one to one ratio of therapists to patients.  In the room there was a strong feeling of comraderie.  I don't think the patients know anything about each other's injuries or disabilities other than what they see in the gym.  It is the only common place for them and there is no down time.  In spite of their minimal relationships there was a swelling empathy. 

Chico began with exercises in his chair.  They sound easy.  Try lifting your leg with the quads thirty times.  It's harder than just sitting there.  Then imagine doing it with a broken femer that has perforated the quad.  Try thirty butt squeezes five seconds each.  Not that easy.  I found exercising along was a good use of time and muscle.  As Chico completed his hopping lap with his walker, his therapist, IV stand and I were trailing behind, he reentered the room like a super star.  They guy with the oversized red glasses who couldn't seem to lift his head smiled, the guy in a matching green tee and shorts set, and a neck brace (who is working on ankle crunches and can't seem to lift his hands) cheered and told Chico how awesome he is, the woman I see outside talked about how much better he did than she (true), the next guy just checked in more generally as he took the leg holders off his wheelchair.  Chico's responses, "Hey!...This'll be you in no time...nah, nah...yeah, good to see you..."  were warm and encouraging also.  I was reminded of all the invisible worlds we have even in our own, familiar, regular, American world.   It was moving.  The whole scene was moving, not just the part about seeing Chico hop.  He did it at a steady pace.  Gritty.

Back home I had a consultation with Jim, a new dear friend (formerly an acquaintance for many years) and valuable resource who is six years past a head-on worse than Chico's.  He sent a package to Chico which included an invitation to me to call him.  Both Chico and I jumped at that chance and Jim came over as soon as I arrived home from Albany.  Here are some salient points for the Little Missus (me) right now.  He drove himself over in his truck, he walked to the house without a limp, climbed our five steps to the house, and twice we went upstairs to the second floor and  back down the stairs.  Phew!  This could not have seemed more generous to me, nor been more thrilling and reassuring.  I should have taken his picture to post!  He gave me great advice about setting up our house, practical information of all kinds and a capacity to see that there is a future pulsing with hope.  This man exudes life.  It is a new life to him too.

As ever, I am filled with gratitude.  And although the days are no picnic for Chico right now, he is comforted by your support and still manages to enjoy a laugh, a good conversation and engage positively with the staff, between long expanses of hospital time. 

The count down to Bristol is in full force.

One More Thing

I neglected to say a big THANK YOU  yesterday to the many people who have sent lovely cards and gifts to Chico in the hospital.  I know those were particularly helpful during the past week...Little promises of lasting ties to the world outside Albany Med.  Thank you.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


 In Albany yesterday some schools were closed due to flooded streets.  In Vermont yesterday roads were closed due to flooded rivers and fields. It was a wild and slow drive down.

It has been a nice day.  Chico had a very difficult week with new infections, antibiotics but no pic line, missed PT and more days without family than usual.  Tricky.  My brother, Gordon, visited today. The sun shown.  Chico was limited by fatigue and paraphenalia so we postponed our outdoor plans until tomorow morning.

We have begun preparations for home in earnest.  Our case manager is working on agency preparations there, ordering equipment and so on.  The physical therapists are setting guidelines.  Our heroic friends at home are designing a ramp and will be sure to 'get her done' before Saturday.  It is both difficult for Chico to wait any longer and impossible for him to imagine getting there or being there. 

We're planning a breakfast of waffles with maple syrup and maple yogurt for Sunday morning. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just Shy of Day 42

Chico has had a rough couple of days and has been on bed rest.  Luckily he has been sleeping a lot but when he isn't asleep he has a lot of pain.  And it must be lonely.  He doesn't complain. 

The great news is that we are planning for a release date of  October 9.  I'm headed down tomorrow to learn how we handle this transition.  These bits of news were obviously the fuel Chico needed today...In addition to outstanding care at Albany Med.  I'll miss that place, those people and those city streets.  Chico will miss the people, I don't know what else.  It may become our vacation destination.  We'll be visiting doctors frequently, and hey, we may not be ready for a longer trip for quite some time. 

It has been, on the whole, a grounding experience to spend this week at work.  The Monkton School Community has been incredibly generous with and supportive of me.  I love that the staff always welcomes me and expects me to be competent in my work as they are in theirs.  The work with staff and community is both exciting and challenging.  The work with kids feels like home.

We have a lot to be thankful for.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Night

Chico has a lot of mobility in his leg compared to one week ago. I used to be afraid to touch it. While it remains fragile and tender, putting the brace on has become easier. With it on he will swing the leg off the bed using his hands to lift the leg. Once today he lifted it off the pillows on his bed and high into the air! Quite an accomplishment. There is a photo but I am unable to post it at the moment.

Chico hopped 50 feet in therapy today. A record. He remains an inspiration.
Note from E8
Piss bag
unaccustomed to opiates
and the prostate, enlarged

Dull parts slumbering
beyond the hypersensitive
nerve endings

Where poems break off
the tree of life
like bone fragments off the spine
                                      - Chico

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I forgot to mention that Chico had this idea, once he heard that he would be using a wheelchair, that he'd roll out of his room on the Orthopedic floor (C 5) and sneak up on the staff, surprising them with his mobility.  He didn't ever get the chance to do that there because he was whisked away in his very own bed.  The wheelchair was introduced the following day. 

This morning, after he'd been assisted in his pivot to the chair for a PT session he said to me, for the benefit of the attendant,
"This is so great.  Now we can make our big break!  Before they know it, we'll be in Tennessee!"  The young woman, Ariel, was steadfast, smiling cheerfully.  After a few beats she said,
"Good luck living without your pain meds."  Chico cracked up and admitted he hadn't thought of that.   He has fun with people here.  He makes an effort to. 

We went outside today.  Day 36 and we're sitting outside.  It was pretty great and quite a distance to get there. 

Chico was eager as he rolled before the modern Albany Medical College, the original building beside it dates 1837.

I couldn't believe his independence and fervor.  That 50's style building is also part of the college.

It was fun, our outing in the heat of Albany Beach.

Here's a clarification:  Chico doesn't walk.  Relative to what I've seen in the last five weeks, standing up on one leg and moving across the floor with a walker and a spotter is walking.  I'm told this is actually called hopping. 

No weight bearing for 3-4 months.  No driving.  I think that leaves a lot of options.

We're going to need a ramp.  I wonder what else.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 34

Chiico is in Albany.  I am in Bristol.  This is challenging.  This is how it is best right now. 

School is going well.   I have an incredible group of colleagues with whom I work.  Incredible.  The work is plentiful and rewarding.  I see students and adults doing great work each day in many arenas.  

Rehab is also going well.  It must be such hard work.  Let's remember that two days ago Chico had transfered himself to a chair and back (gotten out of bed) exactly two times.  Now he spends three hours per day out of his room and in therapy.  It must be excruciating and exhausting.  He now dresses and bathes himself.  His pic line was removed today.  He is pushing himself.  He is concerned that he can't walk the length of a room.  The fact that he can walk at all astonishes me.  He has goals about when he wants to come home, and about what he will be able to do when he gets here.

I will rejoin him tomorrow night.  I can't wait.  He hopes to go outside this weekend.  I can hardly imagine it.

I shall embed a photo he asked me to "keep in my pocket" until I was home and needed to post something interesting.  It is gorey, so if you don't want to see it, exit now.  

Also, upcoming blog schedule:  since we are now apart (barring emergencies of any kind) during the week, and together only on weekends, I commit to an abbreviated blog schedule.  I plan to post on weekends and then once or twice during the week.  I can't stress enough how helpful it is to us to have you keep up with us via this medium.  Also, let me know if you want to visit Chico now.  The visiting hours have become strict but he could probably use some visitors these days during the week.

If you'd like to send him a card:
Garland Martin
E816 (Rehab Unit)
Albany Medical Center
43 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208

He hopes to be home mid October.  I can't wait! 

Here is Chico's foot on Day 32.  Note the pins coming right on out of toes 4 and 5.  Painful.  He needs an orange flag on them.
On the phone Chico told me that he walked thirty feet today.  Startling.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Get This!

Chico has been in a great mood all day. At 11:00 he transferred himself into the chair with the help of only one physical therapist!

At about 12:30 the surprise attack began.

"Hello, I'm Dr. Geisler from the rehab unit. I'm here to evaluate you before you move up today."

"I'm moving upstairs today?"

So we're packed and ready, resting up for the next exciting ordeal/event.  Nurses, PCAs and other staff members stop by smiling, having heard the news. 

People continue to remark on the amazing attitude Chico wears daily. It isn't possible to overestimate its healing benefits and the tremendous support he receives from the entire staff!  We just reviewed a list of over 30 staff members who have worked with him on this floor (not including doctors and administrators). Chico can remember moments when each of these many people said or did just the right thing to help and encourage him when he most needed their support. 

We are grateful.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Today Chico got out of bed for the first time in thirty-one days.   He has been exercising from his prone position more in the last two days than I have ever seen.  He says that before the removal of the ex fix and the hardware installation he was "hopping around."  That is his phrase for the way he was in bed.  Today, he seemed to be hopping around a fair amount before the crew came to put on the brace and help him up.    He must have been  tired when the moment finally arrived.  Chico was determined.  I thought there was adrenaline flowing but Chico says he was more faint headed than anything else.

Finally, around 3:27, after what must have been a chaotic day elsewhere, Al, Al, Brenna and Julie showed up to help Chico stand and move himself to the chair.  He was clear with them about the significance of this event, and clear with me about the need for documentation.  He was excited and scared, rightly so.

The move was difficult and excruciating.

Although he had imagined this moment many times, even dreamt of it, he hadn't imagined there would be four people needed to help him move a very short distance and assume a pretty similar posture to the one he has in bed.  He finds this amusing.  The move seemed to take everything he had.  Blood drained from his head and while his leg was held out in front of him by others, the blood found its way to his pinned toes and everywhere in between.  There was pain and emotion to spare.

Once in the convalescent Barko, our friend Adam, a nurse, appeared with a box from Amazon. 

Leonard Cohen's new DVD and CD arrived, as promised.  Everyone encouraged Chico to open that box and enjoy his prize.  Once they had left, Chico faintily asked me to open it and we played the DVD.  How lucky we are to have laptops here.  Playing a DVD of an old favorite at that very moment sent by a dear friend was moving. 
I wanted to post, call, email everyone right then but there really wasn't a moment to do so.  Even though it was quiet.  The air was full.  It was as if I were a catcher at that moment.  A catcher of the metaphysical. 

Chico was still. He needed...Rest...Space...

The move back took many as people and much effort.  Chico has remained positive, modestly proud and realistic. 

A few more things: this night nurse is very special.  Last time he was on he was able to draw blood without waking Chico up! 

Chico's fourth and fifth toes have pins sticking out of them-straight up out of their tops. I'm not sure how I missed that for the past four days.  Aversion I guess. 

Thanks for checking in.  Your engagement is integral to our hope and well being.

The Brace has Arrived

It feels a little bit like a childhood Christmas morning here in the room.  The brace arrived.  Chico was very excited and eager, "I know it's going to hurt, but I'm ready."  Now an hour has passed.  It still isn't time.  The waiting becomes difficult.  Every next step is contingent upon this very next step. 

Before the brace can be put on, PT has to come so they can evaluate him, there has to be medication given and so on.  The Barko Lounger has to be draped and moved. 

Chico was just visited by our friend Jacob, a bright, shining star.  He greets us with, "How are my good, good friends today?"  Yesterday he sang hymns to Chico.  I've only heard his speaking voice.  It is lovely, rich, deep and well accented.  Earlier Theresa visited us.  She always does us special favors and tells us stories of her family.

I think about how we will miss our favorite people here when we move upstairs.  There will be more favorites to meet, I expect. And Jacob will visit. 

Day 31

This day has dawned with more pain than is welcome or expected.  It's morning; we should not be surprised. 

I drove to Albany in the sunshine yesterday.  It was lovely.  Chico had called a few times thinking of details that needed to be taken care of.  From Fort Ann I called Chester.  He first said enthusiastically, "It has been a great weekend!"  He went on to remember some of the struggles of Saturday.  Chico and Chester did have a great time together: Scrabble, football and long talks. 

There are small signs of great progress everywhere.  Chico is brimming with good humor. He pulls his upper torso up while at the same time raising his right leg for point and flexes.  He is using pain medication much less.  He drinks from a cup without a straw. He's made a few phone calls.  Now he sleeps, exhausted from the early morning rush.  After only a moment he begins to read the paper. 

Chico has been able to move his left leg a little for the first time today.  He uses his inner thigh; it is a muscle unpierced by bone or surgery. 

Worries wait at the door.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


'Twas a bumpy road kind of morning.  I left Chester sleeping and headed over to Chico.  He looked great in his sleep!  It felt sunny and breezy in the room. He was relieved to see me in the barko when he awoke.  Coming from such a restorative dream, he was unsettled by the sheets of pain that greeted him in his conscious life.  He is not allowed to move, still, until his 30 inch knee stablizer arrrives.  We wish it would hurry up.

The morning went on like that: off kilter.  My sister and niece dropped in, strong and kind.  Chester was in and out: steady, loving, brave.  Eventually, after noon, I left.  Conscious of our growing co dependence and our more typical independence, we agreed that I'd stick with the plan which was to take advantage of Chester's presence to come home, check in with the cat, the house, the neighbors so dear and good to us, do some chores and head back down to help get Chico settled in rehab.  Hopefully this will happen Monday.  More, likely it will happen Tuesday.  When I can be back at work full time we will both know we have made some serious progress.  We are eager for that.

Pamela celebrates her 60th birthday tonight.  Rooms full of beautiful, loving people.  Meanwhile, I hope life is peaceful and intimate in room 505. 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Early Evening

A busy day: consultations with many, a bath and shave long overdue, dressing changes, rehab discussions, long term plans and prognoses, bicep curls, tricep dips, sitting up in bed, blood transfusions.  Soon we will go to x-ray again.

Evening sun comes straight across from the west, undercutting cloud cover, horizontal at Floor 5. In Alaska, it could stay awhile.  And we could wave to the Russians,  who would be back-lit.

Four Weeks in Bed

A new light is dawning in the room.  Chico can't tell yet but I can.  He is still in a lot of pain, nothing compared to yesterday though. 

Chico is pale but he is steely.  He's trying not to take pain meds (crazy), he is getting exercise advice, looking forward to seeing the doctors for a dressing change sometime, and looking forward to sitting in a chair.  For him, the exhausting morning exercise was lifting his right knee (the uninjured one), straightening it and putting it down.  He did some circles and 'point and flexes' with his right foot too.  This tuckered him out.  He feels a little overwhelmed by the notion that a small amount of movement takes all of his energy.  It's true, that is upsetting but the improvement from yesterday to is sharp. If this continues, he'll be back to chin ups in no time.  He is receiving a blood transfusion at the moment.

Fun things:  we have a playful nurse today.  She is very efficient.  She was our nurse yesterday too, and she was playful.  We may have been inpervious to it that time.  Chico has friends on staff that come by occasionally.  There is a lot of yelling in the halls becaues the floor is short staffed. 

You may know that when one is in the hospital with a lot of pain, staff continually ask what one's pain level is.  There is a 0-10 scale.  Chico's is high right how.  When asked he says it is,  "because my foot feels like it is bent into a rock crevice." 

I wonder if a pain poem will emerge. 

Things are good.  It is important to bear witness to this.  Thank you for doing that with us.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 27

Today has not been a Writing Day. It has been a tense and pain filled day. And you know, people kind of have to 'go it alone' with pain, once measures to alieviate it are being fully exercised. This first day is reputedly the most painful.

Chico dozes on and off. Right now he naps as he receives his second unit of blood. Next he will go to x-ray. The dread of pain seems always to be accompanied by the loathe of the thought of being a complainer. What a burden!

It was great for both of us to have Gordon here. Such gentle kindness.

This evening the doctors came in again-the third time today. They were encouraging and appreciative of the difficult work of healing. The main surgeon also mentioned that he too is still recovering from the procedures: his hands are sore. Chico expressed his gratitude well.

We remain deeply grateful and humbled. Thanks for keeping up with us; I apologize for the late post.

Chico is Resting Peacefully

He's had a busy morning with people in and out.  He is relieved and happy. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chico is in Recovery

The surgery lasted 5 hours and about 10 minutes.  The resident that Chico has been seeing every day at 5 AM (our hero) came out beaming but was reserved in his appraisal. As was the surgeon in charge who said, "The surgery went as well as could be expected."  The were able to stick to small incisions, they rodded the femur, plated the tibia, pinned two toes and put a screw in a third.  This amounts to four pretty major surgeries at once, I was told.  I feel confident that they did their best.  I feel confident that their best is a model of expertise.

Infection will be a worry for a long time.  Months.

Hopefully in a few days Chico can recommence chin-ups.
My brother, Gordon, arrives tonight for a support sleepover, and Chester will arrive on Friday. 

We are moving forward.

In Surgery

Briefly, I just left Chico being wheeled to the operating room after very compassionate and thorough preparations in pre op.  We were there for about an hour and a half.  Chico was at ease and smiling as he left for the grand adventure of the long awaited surgery. 

The primary surgeon admitted that he is not exactly sure how he will address the fractured femer.  He wants to fix it without greatly risking infection.  What can we be but grateful?

I'll keep you posted.  The surgery will be 3-5 hours, recovery before I can see him will also be long.  I'll post again tonight. 

Living in the Moment

Chico sleeps. It's a good way to pass time.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Snag City

Ok, so we can't find Chico on the OR schedule for tomorrow.  He's been still all day, minutes ticking by like hours, the pic doesn't seem to be working.  And this morning's blood clotted before it got to the lab.  Drat.

Nurse Michael,  "I'm going to raise you up so that I can get better access."
Chico, "Like raise me from the dead?"
Nurse Michael, "Yeah, towards the light."

Albany Med

I drove down after a great day at school yesterday.  So much good work is going on there.  I like being a part of it.

It was obviously the beginning of a new era in Chico's room.  Or maybe I'd missed the beginning.  Chico seemed mobile.  In spite of being confined to his bed and having a very sore left arm, he was eager to show off the chin ups  he can do on his red triangle.  He was optimistic about the surgery, looking beyond it.  His mood was solidly positive.  We talked about the future, the current challenges...Focus was the most dominant challenge last night.  He delighted in his mail (of all sorts).

Morning is more of a worry time.  This morning one of the two pins at the top of the ex fix was unscrewed and removed.  There are many more pins (5) still in his leg. Now Chico has to lie as still as possible and be careful.  This concerns him.  It is the dominant challenge of the day. What was once easy-lying still-is now a dastardly trial.    The pick line is still in and a lot of blood was just removed. 

Chico looked at his x-rays sometime last night after I left and before I returned from the hotel.  I sure don't have any interest in seeing them yet. Too frightenng.  Maybe after the surgeries.  Maybe after a decade or so.  We'll see.

We eagerly await tomorrow's attention.  Thanks for your help.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 23

As it turns out, shock and resilience can wear thin and then come back, resilience anyway, hope, belief, strength and other desireable disopositions...those can come back full throttle.  Another thing to be grateful for and to be aware of.

We just spent three days apart and one together.  The days apart were brutal.  I don't want to overlook the fact that I loved being at work, being able to exercise; it was good to take care of some things at home.  I was well attended by an abundance of friends and neighbors wrapping me in their care and concern, wanting to know, sharing their stories.  It was very helpful.  Chico did some healing alone, was attended for two of those days by our dear friend, Michael O' better.  Underlying the existence, though, was profound anxiety and dissatisfaction.  I guess we might want to get used to this state for now.  We also know that Chico's recovery will not last forever.  It is odd how the shock (I wonder if it was physiological for two or more weeks) provided a lot of stamina and pragmatism. 

Today I rejoined Chico.  I drove down to Albany and sat in a chair, a vinyl chair, all day.  It was sublime, if you can imagine.  Deeply reassuring for both of us.  I am home now but I'll return tomorrow night and stay through Thursday at least.  The surgery Wednesday will, by all accounts, be a doozy.

After three day's absence, healing is evident.  Though Chico is "Unrecognizeable to  myself [himself]" he looks like himself to me.  A supremely expressive face.  The silver stubble is a little too reminiscent of my father but I'm just letting that wash over me.  My father and I had a great relationship; he spent the last year and a half living alone, well, except for his Alzheimers and his dog...Stubble city.  Teeth falling out like corn kernals too.  So the similarity really begins and ends with the stubble. 

Chico is strong.  He pulls himself up on a new ring (red triangle, actually) hanging above his bed to be washed and have sheets changed.  It is obviously very painful but I don't think excruciating.  His leg is less swollen.  The stapled wound looks all healed.  His belly is tender...Well most places are.  He is thinking, thinking, thinking.  Memories are coming back.  "I remember seeing my bone come out of my leg.  Did my bone come out of my leg? It came right through my pants.  Where are my pants?"  I'm short on short term memory, can you tell?  It is sorry task and a wonderful task to be able to comfort a person for whom the world has done a back flip and taken him, unspotted, with it.  Injuries.  Scars. 

You know, when I was asked to identify Chico over the phone the first night-he in Albany, me in Vermont-the person with him kept asking me what distinguishing features he has..."Scars? He must have scars. What scars does he have?"  He didn't have scars.  She was giggling.  LADY, HE DOESN'T HAVE SCARS OKAY?!  I didn't say it.

Chico is strong.  People inside the hospital come to visit him because he has maintained so much of himself.  His fantastic roommate, Kevin, and his wife Shouwen, moved to rehab tonight.  They had all become good friends in my absence.  They admire Chico.  They told him so.  They presented him with two books: Sol Le Witt and a book of Japanese poems.  They understood Chico. I felt pride and wonder.  Why do we so often wait to see people in their most vulnerable states before we can tell them what good we see in them?  Chico is still very vulnerable.

Today I read cards, emails and posts to Chico.  It really brought him relief, and a bit of release from his locked down
Which brings me to all of you:  your words of hope and admiration, the rawness of some of these messages you send continue to touch us to the core.  This event and its aftermath are penetrating change agents. Thanks for being part of this with us.  We'd be lost otherwise.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I've posted a poem Chico wrote recently.

The leg is not what you thought it was.

No longer are you walking

to and fro the reconstructed

memories your mind wanders.

Well-lit corridors are a way

outside time, and their stations

hum with voices from around the world.

On your back, unmoving, day after day,

you begin to take apart

what remains of your person.

Someone else can have the sunglasses

and the wallet. The watch

needs a timer and a reset key.

On one side of the leg, doctors have pulled

skin together with stitches;

the other side’s fish-like design

is a graft taking hold.

An external fixator extends

from foot to hip and keeps in place

countless fractures.

The tree is a painful fact.

The body has been broken

by its puzzle: pieces of bone

that float in the sky.

You recall the brilliance of this sky

and that it did not let you fall asleep.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 20

I have a lot to say but no Internet access. Let it suffice when I tell you that I had a blast back at my job, in part because Chico insisted I go and put on a brave but not ingenuous phone face. I hope I'm accurate in my assessment. More tomorrow. I'm awaiting tech support's call.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What a crazy morning! 

By lunch time we'd found out that surgery is now scheduled for next Monday or Wednesday, Chico had seen both an OT and a PT, and we'd talked about adapting our home for him  in preparation for whenever he is well enough to be there.  A new light shines in this room.

Now we are organizing for my departure.  I'll be able to work for a few days and get something done at home before coming back down for the surgery and the day after. 

Though the extended bedrest is unwelcome, we are very happy that the two teams of surgeons are working together for the most positive outcome possible.  We are comfortable with the plan even with its characteristic uncertainty. 

The insurance appraiser just called from the car.  He pronounced it a total loss. 
He wondered first if Chico was ok and second if he needed a rental car.

I just overheard Chico saying to the OT, "Yes, in fact my pain is being so well managed that I'm having to supplement it now [with the foot drop boot]."  I like the sunny side up on Chico.

Lots of stories to tell, people to convey, feelings to explore.  For now, it's more preparation and then a drive to Vermont.

Thanks for being here with us even as you sit, stand or lounge wherever you are.

Not so fast...

Could be there will be no surgery today. We are waiting to see the docs. If surgery is postponed, we'll likely go through this routine each night until the real day.

Chico is sleeping; we are ok.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Lucky thing we love them so much (see previous post) because it turns out we're scheduled for surgery tomorrow.  Did we miss something?

Actual time:
8:15.  Time stamp is wrong.

Day 18

Chico woke up this morning thinking he was in a beach cottage.  He wasn't of course.  He soon reoriented to his whereabouts. 

One of the fascinating aspects about being hospitalized day after day is the role surpirse plays.  It brings delight to otherwise predicatble tedium.  Today there were several surprises.  A trip to the x- ray room in the basement, the arrival of a back ordered foot brace, a change in the medication for pain management...Chico likes to think that he will come out of this experience with a higher tolerance for surprise.  In fact he intends to delight more in every day surprise.     

The Foot Drop Brace is attached to the External Fixator,
said Pooh to Christopher Robin (as they tried to get comfortable with the unfamiliar).

His next surgery is yet to be scheduled and the uncertainty remains challenging. 

Thank you for your ongoing interest and support.

Labor Day 2

Wow! I the most delicious dinner of spinach and artichoke hummus. I have no idea where it came from but it was in our refrigerator in Bristol when I packed it up on Friday morning.  Thank you, anonymous donor.  Chico eats the hospital's food uncomplainingly.  Some of it is quite good.

Chico had a good day yesterday.  It began with rounds, of course.  The surgery was pushed back again-more time to heal.  The days bring unremitting pain, and Chico bears up.  It looks exhausting. 

Last night Chico was moved to a new room.  Who knew the room across the hall from the nurses' station is prime real estate?  It was needed by others so we moved two doors down.  It was a little unsettling at 7:30 PM but it did result in some writing-the first since the accident. I'll post the poem as soon as Chico is ready for that.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day 1

What a treat it was to sleep for eight hours, come in and find Chico sleeping soundly.  Cheerful employees bopping around at shift change.  Familiar faces.  Doc's here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


It's been a nice Sunday. Chico has slept a lot. To me this indicates a couple of things:
1. His pain is under control.
2. He is relaxed enough to sleep. This is a function of familiar nursing and care staffs. I think it is difficult when one is so vulnerable to rely on everyone else to be suitably careful even with evidence to indicate that they will be!
Phone calls are becoming possible and are sometimes even welcome!
Continued appreciation of support from here.