Because September 22nd was a beautifully windy Sunday, my husband and I, and my dear, visiting brother, Jerry, went to exercise Herman’s big, wonderful rip-stop nylon two-handed kite, sort of a rainbow-colored flying wing, at Gas Works Park.
He was doing so nicely with it that he offered me the reins. I took the left hand wrist-strap reins, took the right ones. . . and a good gust took me — until in disgust at how useless I was as a kite steward, it slammed me to the grass. (I was only dragged, my feet never left the ground.) Cracked my pelvis in a couple of places, and my shoulder in a whole lot more, at the point where ball and socket meet. As bad luck would have it, both on the same side. And I am right-handed.
From then until today, as Herman and I start the sixth week of rehab here at home, I have …umm fallen in among the most extraordinary, gifted, generous, scrupulously careful, funny and caring gang of professionals, from rescue teams to healing ones, working in one city, and in one hospital, Seattle’s UW Orthopedics.
Part of the trick of getting me to the UW was protecting that shoulder, while we all hoped it might still just be out of its socket. The odd, ungainly inflatable cushion that one of the five Fire Dept. rescue crew came up with looked like a pteradactyl that had settled in for a bite of my shoulder, but it protected perfectly. It was at that point that movies began to float in and out of the next 5 days.
Somehow, I learned that my ambulance attendant’s wife’s name was Brie.
“Oh my. THAT’S a great movie name,” I said. “Bree Daniels.”
“Jane Fonda,” he said,. We both took a minute of reverie.
“And that dress that unzipped all down her back.”
Then we both tried to remember the name of the movie with Bree Daniels. The driver couldn’t help, she was roughly Jane Fonda’s age when she made the picture. We two memory-wrapped fans were useless.
We arrived at the hospital, I got straight into the doing-something-about-this-situation-fast room, the ambulance crew waved and left. . . when, as they had almost pulled away, my attendant friend reappeared in the doorway, shouting:
“Klute! Of course! Thank you!” And I finally relaxed.
The luck which has surrounded me and my whole family, lifelong, hadn’t left. Scanning my dozens of x-rays was the best possible “provider” for me: a smart, bemused orthopedic surgeon who read my background history, and decided that at 82, it made a lot more sense to let the bones heal on their own, rather than opt for a surgery involving pins, nails , and who knows what-all. He delivered this opinion, omitting nothing: it was very possible that I’d get a range of shoulder motion back, but all would not be as before. I probably will not be able to raise that arm above my shoulder.
“So, from here on, it’s the John McCain wave?” I asked.
I saw his mouth curve nicely. “Afraid so.”
“Could be a lot worse,” I said.
Then, in one all-seeing measure of alertness and goodness, this young god at the top of my UW pyramid, listened when I said that, as a demi-claustrophobe, if they planned to save me from blood clots with knee-to-ankle plastic pneumatic stockings which squeezed and released, rhythmically, all night long and most of the day, I would take manicure scissors to them. He wrote me a pass, good for the whole five nights I was there, that excused me from them.
So, with Herman “sleeping” nights in a corner of my room, we both embarked on an intensive five days of learning: how to get from bed to portable biffy; how to begin to get a tiny bit of strength back; how fortunate I was that the right (bad) leg is still, somehow (OUCH!) weight-bearing, plus all the skills I’d need if — as we were determined to do — I came home, instead of being sent to a rehab facility. So we began a campaign with any staff who would listen. They were plentiful.
My teachers came to the UW from all over the world: Franklin, well over 6’1″, from Nigeria, who was security and gentleness itself at 2 ayem, as he helped me navigate to the biffy by my hospital web belt . (If I’ve lost SO many names and remembered his, it’s because Franklin is a name that threads through my family. Well, that and his pure sweetness and strength, there in the dark.)
There was the nighttime RN, who somehow always seemed to get the joke, no matter how arcane; the magically gentle pre-dawn phlebotomist, also from Nigeria, whose headwrap was secure and spectacular, all at once. The crowd grew to include an fourth-generation Japanese-Chinese RN and a matinee-idol handsome Persian.
Then there were my spark plugs, the Occupational Therapists, who taught me the daily nuts and bolt of the new normal, and the Physical Therapists, who covered all the rest. And it became clear that, in order to be allowed to go home, we had to persuade both of them that Herman and I could manage. (We had, after all, managed after my 2 major/3 minor eye surgeries, and then back surgery.) Herman, they had no doubt about; with me, the learning curve was a bit more steep.
As for that strain of the movies: day before they finally said I could leave, the OT announced that I could have a shower. ???? Who knew that the inside of my very own bathroom had two lovely, wooden pull-down seats and a long, lovely shower head.
Or that J. , a fresh-faced 27-year old son of the Bronx, would be my shower buddy? I tried to spare him.
“This is nothing for your eyes, believe me.”
“I’m a Health Care Professional,” he said, with a grin. We’d had other, long conversations before this. Somehow, I learned about his passion for really old movies. Black and white, he said. The 40’s.
All went perfectly, except that I needed a shower cap. J. decided to improvise with a white towel, which he tried to put on my forehead and knot at the back. Wouldn’t hold.
“J., J!” I said, “Lana Turners turban in The Postman Always Rings Twice.”
The movies never let you down.
They let us go home. We’re safely settled. After their initial shock at The Bruise pictures (home day #2) all three daughters came to believe that all will be well . (Caitlin, most recent in the rotation of daughters, just left after 4 days here, having flown from her current FS posting in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.)
Medicare now gives me an OT and a PT, sometime two a day. And a gentle woman who tosses me into the shower. My only complaint is exhaustion. Since I cut out the hard drug, three nights ago, I can now read AND comprehend, and even try a bit of email. Mostly, we are healing hermits.
That luck I mentioned has also given me my friend Janaki, who has made it her business to see both of us through this. She’s my trainer, sink hair-washer, she’s even made us multiple dinners with our borrowed crock pot (thank you, Elaine!) She has put up with my inclination toward melodrama, and seen that there are snacks on my tray. . .er Command Module, that trails me everywhere. And crucially, she is a fresh and avid fan for my sacredly saved 13-episodes of Rubicon, which somehow she missed, all those years ago.
The rock-solid hero of the day is, of course, this person.
When we had our 31st anniversary just last month, I somehow believed I knew a lot about my husband, but I don’t think either one of us knew the depths he was capable of, until he went into action and stayed there, every single blessed day since the 22nd of September.
Somehow, the droll edge to his wit has never disappeared, certainly his tenderness hasn’t. He has managed resilience and a measured, honest look at what each day has brought us — and he makes it all seem like progress.
What neither one of us could have dreamed was how much his deep political savvy could lighten the day, as we watched the wanton savagery and limitless malice of those Tea Party fools, who cannot accept two elections and a Supreme Court decision. If you like great ad hoc political commentary, you don’t get better than HH, in full voiced outrage..
As he copes with shopping, cooking, the dishes, the laundry, a few details of recovery have been cruel and unusual — waking up with me the necessary three times each night left him as sleep-deprived as any new father. . . and he is at the same time, working downstairs in his office every day as Pace and Hong Auctions rises and expands. (Prolonged cheers!) Now — ahem — I am up and down again, without waking him. At this point, I call anything progress.
So, that’s us, these days. However, lest you think that this unusual event has left either one of us with anything against kites, take a look at this for the sheer beauty of their airy lives. (If you feel the need to skip, do NOT miss the ending.)