Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Good News

Looks like it’s possible to put an elevator in the house where Mike will come in at ground level in the garage and will be able to go up to the main floor or down to the basement where his room will be.  This is more expensive but will eliminate the necessity of a porch lift in the garage.  We can modify the bathroom downstairs so that it will have a wheel-in shower and other wheelchair friendly adaptations.  This is good news!

Mike had his driver’s evaluation yesterday.  It consisted of an hour or so of written work and then he went out driving.  It didn’t take him long to figure out the hand controls so with a few more times driving, he should be able to take his driver’s test.  Because the goal is independence, he will probably need a van that will allow him to wheel or lift into the vehicle.  He can transfer to a car but he needs assistance and for going to school, he will want to be able to drive himself.  The vehicle must be custom fit to his wheelchair so, although he has already chosen his manual chair, Mike will have to decide on his power-chair.  It was gratifying to see Mike conquer another “first” – more good news!

This weekend we plan to move into the apartment.  It is a furnished suite so we don’t have to worry about furniture but since Matt is still living at the house in Edmonton for now, we will probably be back and forth for some time. There will be many transitions for the next while but for now we’re concentrating on the long weekend coming up.  Mike considers that excellent news!

Only 20 more days until discharge – best news of all!

Monday, August 28, 2006


Accommodations…looks like we will be staying in an apartment for the next few months because the house that the boys were living in will not be suitable for Mike in the long term.  The good news is that we think we have found a house in Sherwood Park but we still have to make sure that an elevator can be installed.  We won’t have possession until October and then renos will have to be done but we are used to renos!  We still haven’t sold our house in LLB.  Having Mike home on the weekends has given us a taste of life on the “outside” and though there are obstacles, we are up for the challenge.

Steve…and Lori are expecting!  Another bright spot in our lives and though we are cautiously optimistic (they have had a number of miscarriages), we can hardly wait for our little “miracle” to arrive in February!  

Matt…has been building muscles while framing with Cal (my brother-in-law) but will be starting school next week.  Even though he’ll have a bit of a drive when we move to Sherwood Park, he plans to live at home while he finishes university.  I’m glad because with how busy he is, unless he lives at home, we probably wouldn’t see him much!

Mike…can hardly wait until his discharge.  Each weekend at home gives us more opportunities to try out new things.  This weekend we explored Sherwood Park and went to a movie.  Next weekend…can’t wait!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Some Snapshots...

These should have been up a while ago, but I had some technical difficulties and posted them to the wrong site. (Sorry Mom)

Absolutely, positively no pictures permitted!
Okay, one picture but I refuse to be happy.
No matter how hard he tries, the smile sneaks out...
Mike and Matt at their house - "vegging" is always sweeter at home!

Monday, August 21, 2006

What We Learned...

It was wonderful to have Mike home again and in spite of the challenges, it was not easy for Mike to go back to the hospital Sunday night.  Things we learned:
  • This carpet is extremely difficult to wheel on.

  • Couches are cozy and comfortable to sleep on whether you are paralyzed or not!

  • Unless you have a pedestal sink, you can never face a sink straight on while in a wheelchair.  Instead, you wheel up to the sink sideways and twist your body.

  • The “high” table we were worried about was not so high after all.  We made do just fine for the weekend and with a small platform, he could use the table all the time.  

  • I have a much greater understanding as to why Mike catches little naps during the day when I realize how much he has to be up during the night doing turns and catheterizing!

  • Hospital beds that can raise and lower have definite advantages.

  • It’s not that hard to “bump” someone up or down the stairs but having to do it multiple times during the day could get tiring.

  • When it rains outside, your wheelchair leaves little black marks on light carpet when you don’t wipe down the tires.

  • You can take the door right off if you need that extra inch.  

  • Cooking simply tastes better at home, even when it’s just a bun and salad.

  • We can hardly wait until Mike is home for good!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Weekend Pass

Mike is coming to the house in Edmonton for a weekend pass.  Because this is not the house we will be living in when Mike comes home, we do not plan on making any modifications to the home.  Therefore, we do have some barriers!  

Stairs – This home is a bi-level and we come in the front door to a small landing with six stairs going up to the main floor or six stairs going down to the basement!  We will use the back door which has three steps outside the house into a small landing but only three steps up to the main floor once you get in.  This will be easier than the front door provided his wheelchair will fit through the gate to the back yard.  Needless to say he’ll get “bumped” up and down the stairs a few times during the weekend.

Bathroom – Mike will not be able to get his wheelchair into the bathroom on the main floor.  He should be able to use the bathroom downstairs but the shower may be too small for a shower bench so he will have to forego the shower!

Bed – Mike usually slept in a twin bed at home but if he sleeps in that bed for the weekend, he’ll have to have help turning during the night.  He has to turn every four hours so rather than have someone come in to help, if he sleeps in Matt’s bed (a double), he’ll be able to turn himself.  That suits me just fine since the “person” helping him would probably be me! Matt’s bedroom is on the main floor…only bathroom Mike can use is in the basement. More bumping up and down the stairs!

Table – The table at the house here is a high table.  It might have been in style but it is no longer practical for someone in a wheelchair!  We figure he could scoop the food into his mouth while sitting up to the edge but that could get messy.

BUT other than those few barriers, Mike can hardly wait to get out of the hospital for a few days.  He’s already been thinking about what he wants me to cook (Cook?  I haven’t hardly cooked since the accident!) and what kind of things he wants to do.  I think it won’t really matter what we do, it will be simply be nice to be together as a family outside of the hospital.  Now if only Steve and Lori were here, things would be perfect!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Wheelchair Skills

One class that Mike looks forward to is wheelchair skills every Thursday.  Yesterday he practiced doing “wheelies” and wheeling around pylons with one hand turns.  One of the exercises involved transferring a bean bag from a chair on one side to his lap and then from his lap to a chair on the other side.  The trick was keeping his wheelchair in a “wheelie” position (on the back two wheels only) the whole time he transferred the bean bags.  He had to keep one hand on his wheel at all times balancing his body and chair so the front two tires stayed suspended in the air.  Trust me, this is not easy!  

He also practiced falling out of his chair (they were nice enough to do this exercise on a mat!) and though he doesn’t have enough strength at this point to get himself back in the chair, he learned how to direct someone else to assist him.  He also learned that if you have cute girls helping you, you can ask for their phone numbers at the same time.  Mike felt this was valuable information indeed!  

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Drive

Yesterday we went for a drive!  That meant transferring to a car which we have done in class but not on our own. It made for some interesting moments.  Mike did well but let’s say that I was obviously not the best student when it came to remembering how to take the wheelchair apart!  Of course, once I’d figured out how to disassemble everything…wheels off, arms off, anti-tippers off, seat cushion and back off, seat frame folded back…I had to maneuver the frame into the trunk (rigid frames do not fold up).  I found out that it won’t fit in the trunk but if you breathe just right, it goes in the back seat.  

We stopped at the house where the boys have been living but didn’t go into the house.  It was a treat to have our neighbours drive up and say hi.  (Thank you, Huts, for being the perfect neighbours!)  Would it be any surprise to know that we then stopped at the mall!  Needless to say we parked far away from the door so that we could have plenty of room to “stumble” through our transfer!  Getting the wheelchair back together again seemed much easier.  

Getting into the mall was no problem but did you ever notice how close some stores place their racks? Trying to wheel between narrow spaces becomes a challenge.  Did you know how easy it is to lose someone when you’re used to searching for a 6’1” person exploring the aisles? Some things are easier.  For example, before the accident, Mike might try on 20 pairs of pants and not find a good “fit”.  He claims that because he doesn’t feel the “fit” now, he’s not so concerned.  Bonus!  However, stiff or hard seams can cause a pressure sore.  Snaps, buttons or extra flaps can pose a problem.  Just another perspective!

Mike thoroughly enjoyed driving in the car.  He said the thing he will miss the most about driving himself is that he won’t be able to hang his elbow out the window because he’ll need both arms for the hand controls.  So he made good use of being a passenger and worked on the right arm tan yesterday!  You know that we will have conquered the car transfer when we actually park in handicapped parking and don’t look like amateurs dismantling the wheelchair!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What Mike does during the day...

  • Mike has to be up, have had breakfast, finished his personal care and in his chair ready for PT at 10 am.  Today he was on time!!!  Never the morning person, he isn’t always his cheerful self when I arrive in the morning.  I think he misses his Dad singing “Good morning to you…”

  • He’s been doing stretching, arm strengthening and transfers in PT.  Today he took the wheelchair outside and practiced doing curbs.  Once a week he works specifically on wheelchair skills.

  • Twice a week there are teaching classes about pressures sores, bladder and bowel routine, etc.  I wouldn’t be surprised if 15 years ago, people at Glenrose with SCI (spinal cord injury) saw exactly the same video that we saw today! Could be time to update the presentation.  Hmmm…

  • Nurses still change the dressings on his burns every day.  If they haven’t had time to do that first thing in the morning, it is usually done as soon as he gets back from PT.  If possible, he still tries to squeeze in a nap!

  • First thing in the afternoon is Mike’s hand class where he works on strengthening and exercising his hands.  Though they don’t work the way they used to, his hands are definitely getting stronger. (Helena, Mary and Kerstin – you would be impressed!)

  • Once a week, Michael meets with a psychologist, a social worker and a recreational director.

  • Finally, Mike goes to OT where he has been working on dressing himself and transferring to different surfaces i.e. various beds, cars, shower benches, etc.

  • In true Mike fashion, he seems to build a unique connection with many of his therapists and nurses.  Today the “cleaning lady” came in and gave him a back rub!  How he manages this, I’m not quite sure but I love to watch it!  This week, during our session with the psychologist, she talked about his positive attitude and his willingness to accept this next “page” in his life.  He is going to have quite the “story” when he’s done!