Saturday, September 3, 2011

Contracture Conjecture

Imagine waking up in the morning and having a stitch or something in your neck. Try as you might, you can't move yourself just right to get rid of it. In fact, you can barely move, maybe your arms will flutter stupidly as you try to grasp the railing on the side of your bed, but they won't work, stupid things.  The nurse will come in to see that you've wakened and give you your morning medications. You try to say something to her, but all that comes out is stuttery nonsense. You take a deep breath and try again.  "I...I...I'm m m m huun huh huhhn...g gr gry." "Ok, honey," she will say off-handedly and arranges the bedding, "We have to do a bunch of things. We will have to shift you first."

You can't move because your legs are twisted up so tight from contracture that they are half-crossed up to your chest and you can't even pee.  It's like being curled up tight in fetal position- forever. (Imagine this, but with your hip flexion...)

They had to drill a hole in your suprapubic area and insert a catheter directly into your bladder.  The contortion isn't painful, per se, but staying in one position will make the bones from your spine and pelvis bore into your skin.  Sometimes, this might cause sores. Depending on the stage, the sore can vary from just a red and tender patch of skin to terrifyingly open, ulcerous, boring caverns.  Luckily, you have people who love you and take care of you 24/7.  It's impossible to even imagine what you would do without them.

Today, however, your catheter seems to have been pulled or something- and urine is leaking out of the hole.  It's time for another trip to the Emergency Room, where so many nice nurses, doctors, and techs know you by name.  Luckily, it's not serious today- you've been here for this before and you don't even feel pain.  The inexperienced nurses will have no idea what to do with you, and will baby-talk and condescend, but the urology resident will greet you warmly.  He does a great job and that technician that held your hand earlier and had trouble prying your legs open for the procedure, she was nice too. She was really worried that she was hurting you, but it was fine, nothing you haven't experienced before.

That technician came in a lot of times to take vital signs. She chatted with you like you were anybody else and didn't use the sickly sweet voice.  You were glad she was the one to take you back downstairs to get taken home by the ambulance, and she was nice enough that you decided to take a chance and ask.

Ms. Bedbound: I-I-I-I w-was - w-w-won-d-dering g- - -if--you c-c-could---do--- a f-f- f -favor -for m me.
S: Of course, what can I do for you?
Ms. Bedbound:  D-d-d-don't-t-t g-g-get ma-ma-ma-d.
I couldn't even fathom where that came from. I felt so sick that she would think I would get mad.
Ms. Bedbound: C-c-c-could... -I -I -I- c-c-could-d- - -have- - a sn-sn-n n-ack-k?
S: Do you like graham crackers?
Ms. Bedbound smiled widely and nodded: C-cr-c-r-crack-kers-s w-would -b b-be n-n-nnice.
S: Do you want peanut butter?
Her eyes widened and she shook her head no. Her hands fluttered and hit the railing several times before she got a grasp on the two little packages I gave her.
Ms. Bedbound: Th-th-th-th-thank you!
S: No problem. Are we all set to go?
Yes, but Ms. Bedbound was agitated and was trying hard to say something I couldn't understand. I paused to look at her and she took several deep breaths to try again.
Ms. Bedbound: I-I-I-I-I'm...s-so hap-p-p-py!

I felt a chill.  Maybe it was because my heart was warmed, but there was more than that.  I couldn't imagine what her life was like, to be utterly dependent on other for every detail of her life.  Of all the things that could go wrong, she had almost all of them, as a young girl about my age.  Immobile, infertile, incontinent, totally dependent. Yet, she could say she was happy and mean it. She looked in my eyes and there was something so childlike in her glee- she let me know that at that moment, she was truly happy.  The catheter tube problem was fixed, she was leaving the hospital, and she had graham crackers clutched tightly in her hand.

My problems are not problems compared to hers. Meeting her made me want to stretch out in the sun and bask in thanks for the life I have.


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