Just Imagining Halloween

It’s almost October, and you know what that means…almost time for Halloween and maybe time to start thinking about this year’s costume if you plan to go partying. IF I am still stuck inside my clamshell ie Total Contact Orthosis Jacket (TCO) I can easily be 1) a Viking Queen clad in an armored vest 2) A muscle bound store mannekin or 3) a bionic woman. I’d just as soon not be any of those things since I feel closely akin to one of those creature as it is and would deign to be something else, someone who is free of encumbrances. Last year we had lots of fun not only dressing up, but checking out everyone else’s costumes.
What are some of the timely topics and people in the news? Obviously all those political candidates… vying for the presidential nomination, and then there are the disasters— floods, hurricanes, and an earthquake. The national debt? An ipad. The newest royal couple. It’s fun to imagine.
Scary is another way to go because ghosts, goblins, witches, vampires and the like never go out of style. So I suppose I could even use the TCO to be a version of Frankenstein. (Can you tell I really am starting to hate the thing?) In case you don’t know what a TCO looks like, I’m including a photo because it is quite scary in its way.
But before we arrive at Halloween, there is an entire month of Chesapeake Beer Madness and the kick-off party is this Friday night. It’s an awesome event, enabling you to taste a variety of local craft brews and prepare you for the upcoming weeks of beer tasting and online voting on the Whatsupmag.com website. Money raised from this event will be donated to charity through the auspices of the What’s Up? Foundation. For more information about the party and the foundation go to http://www.whatsupmag.com/


The Patient Turtle

Today I feel like a turtle. I have this thick shell around my middle that seems heavier and increasingly awkward when I attempt to sit in a chair or roll over in bed. It’s a funny thing that now without the cervical collar, officially called a Miami J collar, which prevented me from turning or bending my head, all my focus is on the TLSO brace. I hate it. I have to remind myself several times a day that it is the TLSO which enables me to safely move around while the fractures in my back continue to heal. Plus my shoulders and arms still hurt so I’m at the computer with a heating pad draped on my shoulder. Good times not.
But I did get some hot water beating on my back last night and I was in heaven….who would have thought just a little hot water? We broke the rules and I took a shower, never removing the TLSO brace, mind you, but in the care instructions you are supposed to only get sponge baths. I suppose they imagine people slipping and falling in the shower so I’m not going to recommend this to anyone else unless you have a trusty mate who will stand in the shower with you. Plus theoretically it is hard to get the brace, made of foam and plastic with six heavy straps dry afterwards. We used a hairdryer.
So on this somewhat gray day, I will continue to plod along, and visualize healing. It’s getting hard for me not to act grumpy and impatient although it is probably typical behavior. If you start feeling a little bit better after you’ve been sick, it is frustrating not to be able to do what you’d like to do, such as change the dirty tablecloth in the dining room. So I have to practice patience in a big way, take a deep breath, and tell myself “It’s not that important. Just do what you can.”

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

I’m going to start with a little Shakespeare:

Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

From Macbeth act 2, scene 2

Yes, sleep has been eluding me until I took some muscle relaxers last night (requested a prescription from my GP on Friday) and by taking two, succeeded in getting six hours of sleep, which is far superior to three or four! It might also have helped that yesterday was a busy day with visits that culminated in a family dinner– perhaps superior to the family dinner I had initially imagined on that fateful day two Sundays ago when I took the fall off the horse that led me to ShockTrauma. My middle son Chris is back in Annapolis and has just finished his first week of work at his new job at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center doing research on Chesapeake Bay subaquatic vegetation. (I hope I got that right). He was last night’s chef. But Chris is not the only child with a new job. Eldest son Justin, now in Singapore, started his new job at an international law firm this past week as well. (I’m not going to attempt to describe the complexity of the work he does). Then of course I must mention my lovely daughter Alex in California who just completed leading a group of 13 freshmen through their Week of Welcome (WOW) at CalPoly. Her school term as a sophomore begins on Monday. Well done Alex!

It’s the start of Sunday. I hope to walk downtown to visit the Farmer’s Market, although I suspect our purchases will be fewer since I can’t carry anything, but as the weather turns cooler I am reminded that the Farmer Market days throughout the region will start to wind down and my selection of seasonal vegetables will be greatly diminished. So it is important to enjoy what we have in the present.. particularly those fresh tart apples from local orchards.
I’m going to close with a quote from writer Evelyn Waugh
I haven’t been to sleep for over a year. That’s why I go to bed early. One needs more rest if one doesn’t sleep.

Yes resting is important. So savor a leisurely Sunday, good friends and fun times can be a great distraction.

Pain is Only a Four Letter Word

Pain is only a four letter word was my mantra last night as I tried to get back to sleep. “Stay in front of the pain,” cautioned my friend Eileen with her medical expertise, “Take your anti-inflamatories with commitment.” I was trying to stay on top of taking pills in advance of pain’s arrival but another part of me wants to see how few pills I really need to take. A tight knot of pain sits to the inside right and inside left of each shoulder, throbbing persistently and I keep telling my body to relax itself and let go of all the tension that has created the misery. I found myself singing “Shoo Tail Fly” inside my head, repeating the chorus “Jimmy crack corn and I don’t care,” over and over again– anything to distract myself and lull me into a slumber. Eventually it must have worked, I did fall asleep sometime before sunrise. I think today I will be due for a mid-morning nap.

One Week later

This morning I wanted to yank the ever annoying cervical collar off my neck, or maybe instead gently unhook it, but subsequently throw it hard against the wall. That would be a totally unwise thing to do, however I know have a pretty good idea of what a dog must feel like when the vet puts one of those very high cone collars on their neck to prevent them from scratching, moving their neck, or accessing their torso. It was not easy being me this morning. But after I took my morning stroll with Peter and had my coffee, I put it all back in perspective and remembered this is the 10 year anniversary of 911 today and at approximately 1:30 this afternoon it will be one week since my accident. Although I am frustrated, I might still be stuck lying flat on my back, with strict instructions not to move, at the hospital Shock Trauma Unit. And I also need to remember all the brave individuals who lost their lives due to senseless terrorism and violence, many of whom were attempting to help others. If I think too hard about how many weeks I am stuck inside these devices– ie the TCO jacket and the cervical collar, it is overwhelmingly depressing. So instead I think about the current day and limit my plans to getting through the upcoming week. One day at a time, living in the moment in applied practice.

Living in a Clamshell

Although I can hide it under my clothing, I am currently confined 24/7 to what is called a Total Contact Orthosis Jacket (TCO) which is specially designed to protect my spine while my broken vertebrae heal. In earlier times, accident victims were confined inside body casts, but with new modern materials, I get to wear a “coat of armor” which we have come to refer to in my family as my clamshell. I think we adopted the name because it has two sections front and back, which are held in place with six buckled velcro straps. I am never allowed to completely remove the TCO, so for maintenance one side is slightly opened at a time like a bi-valve shell.
The TCO enables me to sit up and walk around, so I am happy to wear it, although it makes me look a lot heavier– about 20 pounds in the mid-section– then I actually am. The TCO goes from the top of my breast bone down to my hips. I was specially measured for its construction so that it would follow the contours of my body as closely as possible. It is made of hard plastic with a softer layer of plastic inside. Underneath I wear a cotton T- shirt to protect my skin and absorb sweat.
More challenging is that I also have to wear a cervical collar 24/7 to protect my neck because the smallest fracture I suffered was in the cervical area of my spine. The cervical collar restricts my movement so that I cannot turn my neck from side to side nor look directly up or down. Until my present situation, I had no idea how often we turn our heads. Try sitting at a table and talking to the person next to you without turning your head. You need to turn your entire body as one unit, which is what I now do, giving me the sensation of being a robot.
Friends know I am a big devotee of pilates and my pilate training helps reinforce my efforts to sit up with my spine as straight as possible and to keep my hips aligned when I shift over to my side while laying flat. If you are stuck like me wearing a cervical collar, I would highly recommend a swivel chair, which I fortunately have at my computer desk at home. Sometimes the smallest enhancements can make the biggest difference.

Annapolis Not Totally Up and Running

Yes, Annapolis, most folks have gotten their electricity back but unfortunately not everyone has. Here at the What’s Up? Media offices our building only has partial power. That means no air conditioning, pitch black restrooms, and a dark hallway. I brought in extension cords to hook up to some of the outlets that actually work and I’m staying cool with a colleague’s portable fan. She decided to work from home because of the heat. It is stuffy in here.
For some residents of Cape St. Claire, including our art director, there is not only no power but no water as well. Imagine, no shower…
Maybe that’s why some people driving the highways this week are in such a grumpy mood. We take our electricity for granted, until we have none. Be happy for the little things like ice and a flushing toilet. It takes a hurricane to make you appreciate what you’ve got.