Torn ACL or How things can change in a New York Minute. Take 2

Over two weeks ago I slipped while doing a lunge—part of my exercise program to stay strong and flexible now that I have reached my ninth decade. The following day at an Ortho Urgent Care, I found out that I had injured both my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and my Medial Cruciate Ligament (MCL). Definitive diagnosis pending.

What follows is one of the many examples of having a mobility problem as an older woman.

One morning, a week ago, I fell out of bed. Well, I just slid out of bed as I attempted to wipe up water from the floor with a bath towel. I had spilled the water out of a bottle with a spout that could be closed just in case I tipped it over from the bedside table it wouldn’t spill. (that only works if I close the spout in the first place.)

I didn’t want to slip on a wet floor and harm my already injured left knee, so I called my husband to bring me a bath towel. Of course, my husband could’ve wiped up the spill, but I am always in a rush to get a job done. While I leaned over trying to soak up all the drops under the bed, I stretched out too far. I couldn’t pull myself back onto the bed. I had no choice but to slither to the floor taking care to keep my injured knee straight. There I was on my stomach. On the floor. Parallel to the bed. Face down. After I managed to roll over, my husband bent to pull me up. No way would I allow him to do so. He might damage his back, or worse. I lay for a few moments trying to figure out how to get up from the floor. Scenarios danced in my head: 911, fire department, neighbors, grandchildren, embarrassment. Finally, I bent my good knee, crawled over to the bed, and pulled myself up. Gazing at the ceiling, I felt lucky as an 80-year-old that I had the strength to wiggle out of a tight situation without injury to me or my husband.

Thank goodness feet first

Yesterday, I had an MRI and today I will see an orthopedic physician to find out the extent of the damage and, most important, what I will need to do to heal the injury. Will the exercises I have done (thanks to Dr. Google and YouTube) show an improvement to my knee? Now I only wear the leg brace and use a cane when I am outside. More recently, I have managed to climb up and down the stairs of our 2-story townhouse.

This injury is teaching me to listen to my body, find ways to keep up my strength and flexibility as I age, and to slow down to smell the flowers.  There are probably more lessons for me to learn as I move forward.

I can hardly wait.

Why Do We Write?

Reblogged from September 16, 2012

I attended the book signing this past August. Farther Along, written by my friend and mentor, Carol Henderson, which tells the stories of thirteen mothers (she is one of them), a bakers dozen as Carol points out, who had lost children at various ages.

I was prepared to cry. I don’t do well with death of children, even adult children. Children shouldn’t die before their parents. Maybe that’s why I choose geriatrics as my specialty. Old folks die. It’s expected. No surprises. I can deal with that.

I teared up but didn’t cry and was somewhat unprepared for the humor, serenity, and lack of self-pity as the six mothers read sections from the book. But then ten years had passed since the women came together under Carol’s guidance and direction. Certainly bereavement takes time to absorb, rant and rage against, come to terms and eventually accept the grievous loss that will never be forgotten until one’s dying day.

How fortunate the women found each other and Carol. Writing their stories seems to have brought them to a better place than they would be if they hadn’t immersed themselves in writing.

Why did these women write?

Carol says in her book:

“Writing about deep and traumatic matters, as many studies now confirm, is good for our physical health. Reflective writing actually lowers pulse and blood pressure, increases T-cell production, and boosts the immune system. Writing can help us cope with chronic conditions like physical pain—and the loss of health, of dreams, and, yes, of children.”

We all write for different reasons. I am haunted by my patients. They walk around in my memory and defy me to ignore them. I need to tell their stories.

“Why do we write? To make suffering endurable. To make evil intelligible. To make justice desirable and . . . to make love possible”― Roger Rosenblatt, Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing

Why do you write?

Learning to Heal

I’ve long been a proponent of nurses writing their stories to educate the general public about what we really do. Here’s a book: Learning to Heal: Reflections on Nursing School in Poetry and Prosethat does that and more.

The essays, from seasoned nurses as well as recent grads and “respected elders,” are set in the United States and abroad and show the history, rigors, challenges, humor, and sadness that alternate during the nursing school experience. Not every author in this collection makes it to graduation.

The prerequisite of nursing—compassion, empathy, and psychological support—threads through the stories. The reader will learn the depth of the nurse-patient/family connection. This connection becomes ingrained in the nurses’ psyche as evidenced by Courtney Davis’ Wednesday’s Child. Her story mirrors my Baby in the Closet. She, too, wrote about a newborn with a deformity who was left to die in a linen closet. Courtney, like me, carried the fate of the baby along with unanswered questions for almost 50 years!

Never a specialty I wanted to practice, psychiatric nursing demands a special temperament.  Poetry especially captures the depths of human understanding needed to make a difference.

. . . Come to my group, my plea, as I knelt offering

filtered cigarettes as free admission tickets.

In an empty silence, we sat on single beds, arranged

in a square, in a room as cavernous as an airplane hangar.

What was my hurry? Most had lived there twenty years.

Hardly a word dropped into the atmosphere.

—Ward 24, Nancy Kerrigan

I associated with Geraldine Gorman’s Learning the Wisdom of Tea, who takes us though her education from a diploma nurse to a PhD. I, too, wondered where were the “(f)irst person accounts of interactions of patients and family . . .”  Where were the nursing stories? And I, too, questioned the authoritative methods of instructors in nursing academia. And I, too, felt fortunate to find a career path that allowed me to “practice outside the hospital.” My “wisdom of tea” began at the kitchen tables of my patients when I visited their homes as a guest, learning that I needed to obtain their cooperation in order to institute a treatment plan.

The stories and poems in this anthology are varied, educational, entertaining, and poignant. Whether the reader is a nurse or not, all will learn that nursing has come a long way as Learning to Heal stories excellently show.

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