Farewell “Invictus”!

On June 23rd 2016, I took possession (!) of my with me for life pacemaker. Not exactly how I expected to start my retirement but it’s kept me going so far! Post operative care included 6 weeks cardiac rehab courtesy of NSW Health.

The physios there were wonderful. At that stage my now replaced knees were completely cactus and after getting back on deck post pace maker, the plan was to make the knees the next priority.

At one session, a physio took me aside and said ” Louise, do you think a walker might be something that could help your mobility” and I was in like Flynn! Being horizontally gifted – or morbidly obese to use the correct medical definition – the usual, run of the mill walker was not for me. The lovely physio did some research and found a make and model of walker that would assist my mobility and provide space for me ample, continental shelf of a backside to park itself for a rest when necessary! I rang the supplier. They had one in stock and Joe and I went to collect it the next day!

Gigantic! Huge! Enormous! Big enough to have its own postcode! A seat for at least three of the grandchildren at Carols by Candlelight, I named it Invictus! It was HEAVY! So heavy I could not manage my stuffed, painful knees and lift the thing up to get it in the car! My little Trax had to suffer the indignity of having it back seat collapsed so that Invictus could slide into the car via the hatchback door! Around the house it was no different. It didn’t fit between the doors. Manoeuvring it into and out of the front door was nigh on impossible.

WOn it’s first official outing, just days after I got out of hospital, my son took me into my favourite spot in town, the Ocean Baths. The Dog came along for the ride. Traumatised by the state of the car – folded down seats, his seat belt attached but not in the usual place, the glittering sheen of the shiny new maroon paint Ibvictus -he panted anxiously until we arrived at the baths and he could get out!

I managed to negotiate the ramp – the furthest I had walked in months –   applied Invictus’ brakes and sat at the water’s edge. Joe and the dog headed off for their walk. It was a lovely winter day, crisp and clear. I took my seat with Invictus and looked at the water, watched the seagulls, tasted the salt spray and wept with relief and joy to be there but also with regret for the choices I had made to deal with some pretty horrific challenges in my life over the last few years, which saw me resort to alcohol as a coping strategy and which sent my heart off the air!

I took  Invictus with me when I want in for ” prehab” in preparation for the new knees. I was glad to have it of course and it did fit through the doors, although the bathroom was tricky and ” Woaw! That’s a hell of a big unit you’ve got there, love” in the corridor as I did my six minute walk as part of my physio program did make me blush! It was at this time that I met Beryle my 97 year old room mate about whom I have written in previous blogs. She had the most brilliant, zappy  little three wheel walker that got her around like a rocket and I knew Invictus had to go!

“Blue Beryle” my three wheel walker with saddle bag and removeable tray, that folds up flat, is lightweight and fits easily anywhere in my car, was purchased the day I got out of hospital and has served my faithfully ever since although having mastered the Canadian walking sticks and being of the cusp of using two walking sticks as the next step in my return to normal mobility, her days are numbered!

Invictus has gone to a loving home! A magnificent woman is now its owner. It will make such a difference to her ” the grandchildren ask me to go and watch them at sport. I’ll be able to go now.” We talked today about our fear of falling over. You can’t kneel with new knees! I asked a physio what to do if, by some odd set of  strange circumstances,  I should find myself lying in the gutter. Her  response? ‘ only thing to do is to get yourself into recovery position and just lie there and wait for the paramedics! ” something which I hope I never experience!

Invictus’ departure heralds another progressive step in my journey back to comparatively normal mobility! I am glad it has found a good home among good people who will benefit from t!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRPR…….pivotal recovery point reached!

Today I went for my second unescorted road trip. The weather has suddenly become more than Autumn-ly chilly but the sun is beautiful and warm making a car trip seem like snuggling into a doona! I love to drive.

Sleep  has been one of my biggest challenges post operation – lack of same! I was concerned I would not be able to get through the expedition without a new knee nana nap, and I was right!  On the way home I was mortified by the driver who blasted  his horn at me at the second last set of traffic lights before home after I had spent a split second in the land of nod! I also may have slightly misjudged to width of the driveway gates giving my little silver Trax the chance to gain a couple of ‘ life experience” scratches. Not funny I know!

My excursion took me to Mums’ Cottage. On a Fruday they have a craft morning and when I arrived a table full of women were industriously involved in making chocolate coated almonds into pretty little bunches of “grapes” for sale at their Mothers’ Day Stall.

The driving force behind this amazing place is Sr Helen-Anne. She greeted me with great welcome as did the other women and I spent the next couple of hours just wallowing in the company of these funny, strong, generous, wonderful women. Wonen whose lives are a real battle but who keep on keeping on as my mother would say. I love the opportunity I am always given to laugh, to listen, to be heard and respected.

FInding Mums’ Cottage has been one of the greatest gifts of my retirement!

 

 

At the going down of the sun

Anzac Day seems to bring me a cloak of melancholy that wraps itself around me, quite comfortably and sets my mind a wandering through cloudy patches for the entire day.

The Last Post has always brought me undone. The loneliness of the open notes played on the bugle, produced in a way that might be described as “organic” depending entirely on the pressure of the breath from the diaphragm out through the lips of the musician, forced through a mouthpiece that many people cannot get to make any sound remotely similar to music, chills me to the core. Many, many times I struggled to hide tears at the school observances of Anzac Day that I was part of over forty years and I saw it again today on the coverage of Dawn ceremonies in two minute bites on every news bulletin. Close ups of ordinary people, somber still, some wiping away a tear.

I think it’s an age thing perhaps! When I was a kid the veterans from WW II were aplenty! My uncles, my friend’s Dads, my friend Mums who had been nurses, the men at Church even some of the priests who had served as Chaplains. My Mum used to ” entertain the troops” on leave in Newcastle. She was a terrific pianist and could knock out just about any tune you might ever need for a sing-a-long. We knew them all to – The White Cliffs of Dover, We’ll meet again, It’s a long way to Tipperary, Kiss me goodnight Sergeant Major, Mademoiselle from Armentiers, Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, A nightingale sang in Berkley Square – so many of them!

At school we learned the discipline of marching. I wonder why now, although getting back in touch with the correct technique for heel/toe walking after years of crap knee shuffling has been an unexpected bonus from my youth!  Were we too being prepared for what was seemingly inevitable, yet more war, so soon after the end of the last one?

As a kid I could not imagine a time when these Heroes would be gone. I remember grappling with the fact that there are no more Gallopoli Veteran left alive and today so few from WWII – that generation is nearly gone or at least they are lined up ” on the Tarmac” as my Mother used to describe her state in the last couple of years of her 98 years of life! My generation is next!

I think about our reaction to natural disasters. Two years ago our region was hit by terrible storms around Anzac Day. My Facebook memories reminded me this morning! Natural disasters always elicit the same response from me, That is “when Mother Nature rages, it serves to remind us how small we are and how little we know.” We, humankind who have made such progress, who have  filled civilisation with wonder, who can split the atom, who can produce new life via in vitro fertilisation, who can replace my crapped out, self abused knees and make “life” so much more ” quality filled” cannot control the weather or the tide or the earth when it quakes!

And I think about war! It isn’t Mother Nature that brings war! What ” Mother” would entertain the notion of the “mother of all bombs”? What “Mother” would use a chemical weapon to snatch the breath out of innocents? What “Mother” would devise a technology that makes it possible to kill people almost by remote control and watch their destruction on screens, miles away as if playing what our kids play on a myriad of electronic devices available to the 24/7?

Some blame God for war or use war as proof of the non-existence of God ” if there IS a God, how can he ( always he) allow this to happen? IF there is a God it is not God that creates war!

We, humankind, who make war, have  the power to stop it. We CAN opt for peace. We CAN reject war. We can honour those who ” went with songs to the battle…..fell with their faces to the foe” and who ” shall not grow old as we who are left grow old, who “age shall not weary…nor the years condemn” (words taken from the Ode to Rememberance which I did not hear once on any coverage today and which has seemingly been watered down to “Lest we forget”) by committing ourselves  to working for peace.

Lest we forget.

Ready to head South

The little home is quite. Triple L and I are in the ” guest wing” – him under the covers, me on top of the covers in the usual sleep position, uncomfortable though it be having just taken a pain killer – “warning, this medication may interfere with mental health and co- ordination” a reminder that pain is a normal part of life, especially when it comes to being surgically kneecapped for the sake of quality of life. However……

The other occupants of the house are tucked up in dreamland except for my daughter who is ” tucked up” on the couch in the lounge room watching TV through her closed eyes – a trait she inherited from her father!

Its been a very special time and it has been good for me. Especially good for me has been the regular assault on and conquering of the flight of 9 stairs that lead to the ” guest wing” on which is located the TOILET. Triple L and I worked out tonight that during our three night stay I must have ” done” those stairs using the ” up to heaven, down to hell” step climbing technique and my Canadian crutches 6 times a day making a total of  162 stairs mastered! Hence the need for the mind numbing pain killer!

Our daughter is a great cook and we have been pampered in the midst of the craziness of a household of 6 – blended family the older half aged 18 and 17 ( one her’s, one his) and  two littlest aged 10 and 5 – theirs! It makes for interesting, challenging often bamboozling interactions! But she, being the magnificent creature she is has made a point of telling me and more incredibly demonstrating to me how  glad she is to be able to ” just take care of you, Mum”

Our children have always been pure gift!

As for the next generation? Well, thanks to my incredible craft skills, my 10 year old grand daughter  has learned how to make pom-poms, something she intends on doing tomorrow while I do my knitting and our 5 year old grandson has helped Triple L rebuild the wooden truck he got for Christmas. We are on full time grandparent duty tomorrow before we head for home because our daughter returns to work.

Today (now yesterday!) marks the 46th anniversary of our marriage. It’s been a great  day and I think that I am doing OK. Of course I am not doing it alone! It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is, it’s not pain free but neither is life! One of the things that my physio stresses to me when I feel it necessary to hunch my shoulders and grimace and hold my breath after she gives to instruction to do ” just 5 more straight leg lefts”  or ‘ two lots of ten squats’ is the importance  of breathing, (DUGH! I hear the collective response)  but, it works every time for me and everytime I relax, stop anticipating, breathe and just do it I am surprised by the notion that when your breathe IN life, it’s LIFE than you give out!

Travelling North!

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Mission accomplished! We arrived in Port Macquarie!

I had not seen Trish and her family since January. I missed her and her brood! It’s only a bit over two hours nowadays, and having been a regular driver from Newcastle to Melbourne, sometimes doing that trip in one stretch, it’s a bit of a pushover. The road is great and we know it well.

But anticipating the toll the trip might take on me in my new ” state” – not to mention on Trip,e L who has to put up with me – it loomed like a challenge that could easily go belly up!

Advice from everyone – take plenty of breaks, don’t forget the water, pack your crutches, your walker, your grabber stick, remember the importance of ” depends” – we said goodbye to Roscoe and his guardian and off we went.

Being a man of routine, Triple L did not deviate from former practice. Sandwiches cut and packed, a stop for a coffee at Maccas (three minutes from home), a stop at the servo next door to fill up the car, purchase of “fizzy drinks” ( sugar free) lollies ( sugar free) the trip unfolded with military like precision! Two toilet stops later, we arrived.

it was a beautiful day for a drive and a most comfortable one at that. Having lost a bit of weight, I think I must fit in the seat better. I had none of the usual aches from pressure points – where the seat belt buckle dug into my hip or the edge of the seat impressed itself on the back of  leg and so on. I managed to get in and out of the car and to negotiate the step onto the verandah when we arrived.

the nine stairs to the guest room were not an issue thanks to the crutches and the ” up to heaven, down to hell” technique!

however, there was one rather large hurdle that nearly brought me undone and turn away now if you are a little sensitive. That hurdle was the toilet! The house has three toilets – none of them on the ground floor! Not surprisingly enough, the toilet had presented a challenge at home too. What is now referred to as ” the toilet accessory” – the commode like thing that goes over the toilet to raise the height of the “drop” caused untold discussion between the men of the house. My only concern was that my ample ” glutes” would see me stuck between the hand  rails. But we got over that and it’s all good on the home front!

Not so on my first trip to the loo in Port! Having made a most impressive deposit I was stuck on the seat, it is a very low toilet. No amount of ” nose over toes” or ” don’t drop you bundle” helped! Ingenuity kicked in and I called Triple L to bring the walker up to me.  He felt one crutch would do the job. So there I was, low squat painful position, negotiating the walker into the small cubicle, him on the other side of the door with the crutch! We ditched the latter and finally, his arm appeared, propping open the door and he said ” hold this’,!

He was exhausted! Seven weeks of looking after me, listening to me howl when the pain is too hard, washing, cooking, doing everything and at the end if the trip offering his arm, from the other side of the almost closed door, to hoik me off the loo and into freedom and that’s what happened!

Before the day was over, Trish had organised for us to hire a ” toilet accessory” for the length of our stay and it was duly installed – again by Triple L!

You know, I get cranky at all those reality TV shows that are based around finding love at first sight, getting through the seven year itch etc etc. In two days time Triple L and I will celebrate the 46th anniversary of our marriage. I guess as a reality TV show we would not be nominated for the Gold Logie but if what I have found in him and have come to appreciate more and more is not love, well I don’t know what love is!

Bloody witching hour’s got me again!

Post physio again and I am battling the tops of my legs both of which are hell bent on reminding me of their presence with funny ( perculiar not funny ha ha!) little grabs  on the inside of my upper thigh!

It could of course be my mighty gluteus max reminding me that it s awakening me to misery!

I wrestled with the should I  take a pain killer thing and I decided to take the tablet.

hopefully, my twitching nerve bird will surrender and call it a day!

 

 

Post flu shot!

Had a first today…….my first ever flu injection! My lovely doctor apologised for the sting of the injection! WHAT? Come and try my knees on for a bit. Although I have to say that I was taken back in time to my polio vaccinations in primary school courtesy of the district nurse!

Just as I managed to avoid visiting the doctor for 27 years ( truth not exaggeration) I have managed to avoid the flu for the same period of time. Not really wishing to introduce a note of cynicism into this piece – look out world if I am struck down by the flu this winter!

On the weight loss campaign, I have just worked out that I have lost more than one fifth of my body weight since June. Every day I notice “new” bones around my not quite so ample chest and every day when I look in the mirror I see my Mum looking back at me and every day I am thankful that I am HER daughter.

She tripped over the cat at the age of 71 and broke her ankle. At the same time she and Dad were caring for our kids while I was continuing to develop my brilliant career, Dad had retired and the older 3 kids were pretty much able to look after themselves, but Joseph was about 2. Between them, Mum and Dad carried on! She struggled with pain and the physio! Every time I get up out of a chair now I can hear her saying ” nose over toes” coaching me to stand correctly! “Don’t drop your bundle, Louie” has been a recurring motif when things have been a bit of a struggle!

As I read over this I wonder how I got from recalling my first flu injection to  my Mother’s adventure with the cat! It occurs to me that it’s proof that she has never left me!

7 weeks and counting!

Easter has come and gone and the world has not yet collapsed into nuclear warfare. As I write this triple L and youngest offspring are propping their eyelids open to watch the end of a double episode of the Amazing Race and it is 12.04 am! It’s funny how this house seems to gave a limitless capacity of reality television.

physio therapy today. It is lovely to meet such a diverse group of people in the pool or in the torture chamber aka ” the gym”!each time I am doing a bit more in the gym and I leave filled with terror at the anticipation of at least 24 hours of painful recovery – as described in earlier posts. But something must be happening because I have only needed to have the ice packs on for a couple of hours before I can walk around without being in agony! It’s a big improvement!

I keep being told how brave I have been to get two knees done at once. Honestly if I had really thought about it I would have gone for one at a time being a bit of a wimp. That would have been a problem though because getting me to turn up for the second one would have been a challenge!

Going to the. GP tomorrow. Getting my free flu injection! Can’t wait!

6 weeks check up! I passed!

Night meanderings strike again and I am in  the usual position – propped  up, legs in the air, flat on my back- accompanied by the “andante” ostinato of the sleeping pooch, pondering the journey so far!

My surgeon is a genius! The choice to take him on was highly influenced by Judy who suggested I might get in touch with him after I had been given April 12 as operation day for single knee only, by a doctor reputed to be “the best” in the area. Here I am now, one day after April 12, six weeks down the track, walking, doing well, still in pain but I can see a way ahead!

My knees look a bit like they have been chopped up and traumatised but I was a bit worried about a bit of a bump on the left one. This is the one that gives my gyp! I asked the doctor about it.

” I have this funny bump on my knee.”

“show me” So I reveal the lovely knees 2017 candidate (NOT) to him and he has a look and bit of a feel. “mmmmmm ,yes, it IS a funny bump” and I immediately see myself on the way back to the operating theatre post haste! “But don’t forget I’ve hacked around in there, put some pretty funny things where your knee used to be – plastic bits, cement and screws!” So I calm myself down and yield to the specialist!

He had the X-rays up on the wall and I asked him if what I thought was my knee cap was the “original”.

“Oh yes, you have half the original. It was pretty bad! The bottom of it was worn away and it was bone on bone so I just chopped that bit away and glued in a bit of plastic replacement!

I remember watching an Irish tv series in the 80’s called “Me Mammy”. The main character was a crackpot Irish Catholic woman who despaired of her wayward Catholic middle aged son. It was hilarious. In one episode she had been given responsibility for the safe keeping and adoration on the relic of one of the saints. The relic belonged to a martyred virgin. It was her patella! Members of the parish would come for nightly devotions gathered around the holy relic!

one night, to her complete and utter horror the relic could not be found! Panic ensued until the wayward son (Milo O’Shae was the actor) confessed he had thought it was a soup bone and had used it to make the evening meal! It occurs to me that my wonderful doctor may have missed an opportunity for future fame and holiness (!!!!!!!) had he kept the shattered shards of my patellas in the event of my future canonisation! They would have to change the category though. I am hoping not to be martryed and well I won’t get into the ” virgin” bit!

I am doing ok. The blog makes me laugh and reminds me of the wonderful people who are on this trip with me. It is not easy at all but there is something amazing about the discovery of and appreciation for the strength that comes from within  and without!

I read a Facebook post this morning that said something about being strong on my own. It was acknowledging inner personal strength and celebrating that it was “my strength, my spirit” that was the answer. As many of you know I believe in ” the story” and it is the telling of it that makes us eternal and this has led me to learn that my strength comes from me, but also those whose stories I KNOW because they have been handed down to me or because I lived part of them – the men and women of my past, Bridget, James, Selina, Herman, Hammond, Mary Kathleen, Euphemia, Samuel, Kenneth, Mary Patricia, Paul Kennth, Peter Julian – their siblings, their children. I AM strong because I am standing on their shoulders!

ooooppppsssss nearly forget – for those of you who might be wondering – there was no internal!!!!!!!

If the knees are shocking, don’t bother knocking….or ringing….or expecting any kind of communication except howls of pain and floods of tears!

Some days are diamonds, some days are pretty shithouse!

Praise be to God for pain killers that can only be purchased in lots of 20!

Praise be to God for medication that restores bowel movements after painkillers that can only be bought in lots of 20 even if drinking it tastes like the smell of drinking laundry powder!

Praise be to God for husbands and sons who wrestle with the frustration of witnessing the pain of wives and mothers and who get angry because of it. Mind you, this is not the most helpful of responses but it does snap me out of thinking I am going through this alone – for a split second! 

I would like to call down a pox on all physiotherapists, but that is probably a little harsh. So a pox on data gathering of angle of knee bend and leg straightening.

its 3.26am. The dog is snoring on the lounge. Triple L is in the land of nod so too is son and heir and I am wide awake and fidgety!

I have to present myself to the surgeon for the six weeks post operative check up at 10.00am today. I’ve got the outfit ready, just have to psych myself up.

It’s a rapid learning curve I am on and it sets me pondering all the things I have said to my friend Anne who endures complex regional pain syndrome that must have made her want to belt me in the face with a dead fish! Thing is there is bugger all that can be said to take the pain away except perhaps ” can I get you an endone?” No amount of ” have you tried……….” , “I think you should……” “Where does it hurt most?” “Have you had this pain before?” , or even the standard data gathering verbal placebo ” on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your pain” to which my most accurate response on a shithouse day would be “the head has just crowned and I do not want an episiotomy” – something no man, no matter how beloved, would have the slightest idea about – there just are NO words …….except “can I get you an endone! ”

Its now 3.51am and I am starting to nod off so I will hit the hay. Looking for a happy thought to carry me over the threshold of consciousness  this has just occurred to me. At least the six week post operative appointment will not involve an internal examination!