Knee blog: first week home!

Thurs. 7/5

I get up the deck stairs and am greeted by Gordy and the kitties. Matthew tries to escape--he seems to be his old self again. Gordy informs me that Matthew is actually allowed to go out, nibble grass and roll in the schmutz for a few minutes, so long as he supervises.  Carrie shows me where everything is, and goes home till tomorrow morning.  Feels weird to be nearly alone. Make myself a cup of coffee--first in two weeks--and make a mini-pizza from foccaccia, basil and provolone. (The other 3/4 of it disappears before I can find it). Take a nap, open bills, and then Bobby calls, apologizing that he can't make dinner. So after waffling for half an hour, I order out from Mei Shung--wonton soup, basil shrimp, pupu platter, beef chow fun and a free portion of sweet & sour chicken.  It is so hot that the delivery guy is delighted to be invited inside to carry the food into the kitchen for me.  I realize I have grossly over-ordered, but it's not like I won't have help eating the leftovers. Have a small bowl of soup, brew a cup of oolong, and fill a lunch-size plate and am immensely satisfied. (Tricky to monitor the amount of green onions, bok choy and basil leaves, but as the nurse explained, consistency is key).

Fri. 7/6

I wake up at 10:30 (I slept like a baby, with the A/C blasting, and my full dose of Norco--2 x 10 mg every 4 hrs except overnight). The daybed is comfy, I'm not in much pain, I have a lot of DVRed episodes of "Jeopardy" left to watch before I nod off. I awaken surrounded by all three kitties. Tough to get comfy sitting up and using the computer, because the front room is small, the recliner rickety, the dining room armchair at the wrong angle vis-a-vis the TV, the ottoman the wrong height, and the comfy daybed conducive to lying down.  I go to the kitchen, fire up the stove, and fry myself one perfect free-range egg. The separate yolk and white is nearly too beautiful to eat. I cut off a hunk of crusty whole grain bread with cultured butter. I sit in the dining room to eat it, along with one good cup of coffee. The kids take on the entire cat-feeding task. I am grateful beyond words.

Things soon fall apart: Carrie can't come because Skip has fainted at his radiation treatment; he was very, very dehydrated and is too weak even to push his own wheelchair.  I realize by afternoon I haven't heard squat from the social worker about home nurse and PT visits, so I call.Of course, it's the first Fri. of the month and the exterminator comes (as she usually does when Carrie is not here). We have to keep the cats away from the sprayed areas for 2 hrs--harder than it sounds, especially with ltd. mobility. I call Rona on my cell, and of course that's when the landline phone rings: it's the home health care agency. It's still too awkward to use the laptop, so I go online mostly via cell and iPad.  I nibble on some leftover Chinese food, dress, call a taxi and head to the Old Town School for First Friday.

I am out! I am on my own! I can get around! (OK, with a cane, but that's beside the point). Never do connect with Lori, who skips the song circle for the concert (alas, the circle runs too long).  Small but great circle--with some formidable songwriting. Nonetheless, the comparatively simpler "Ballad of Ruby" (the story of my Taurus gone psycho) is a hit. (I have to borrow a guitar, since I'd have had balance problems bringing my own since I need to have one hand on the banister and one on my cane).  I flag down a cab easily out front and get home near midnight, exhausted but happy.

Sat. 7/7

I am awakened by Gordy coming in the door, returning from the vet with Matthew. Matthew has already gained a pound and a half.  I forego my coffee till after the nurse comes.  Wash up, change into exercise gear for the PT.  He is easygoing but firm--distracting me from my pain via conversation. We only get 95 degrees of flexion, but he says that's normal for the earliest days at home, especially without a warmup on the elliptical. He suggests we get the recumbent bike moved to a comfier cooler room. I have been pricing ellipticals, so we'll see.  

I have a gig coming up Monday, but my picking thumbnail had split Fri. morning, and a thumbpick felt last night as if I were using somebody else's thumb. Fortunately, my nail salon can take me late this afternoon.  And the heat wave has broken.I call a cab. It is a lovely drive, and surprisingly, not very crowded. This time it takes a silk patch, and we have to go back to gels rather than the non-chip gel polish "Gelish," which didn't quite hold up. I hail a cab out front, and it's the first Prius V I've seen "in the wild." The back seat entry is very roomy and not high up like a van, so I needn't ask to sit up front. This car is roomy, carries more than Steve's Forester, and gets the same fuel economy as my Fusion Hybrid. Alas, no AWD, or else I'd have Bobby all over it like white on rice (where does that expression come from anyway)?

Bobby calls, offering to take me out for a late dinner.  So we go to Calo.  Maitre d' sees me hobbling on a cane and seats us right away, welcoming me back effusively. I order a bone-in ribeye, Caesar salad and linguine aglio e olio.  I wolf down the Caesar (extra grape tomatoes, no croutons, dressing on the side), reveling in how wonderful fresh real veggies taste.  Even have an O'Doul's--which after over two weeks of enforced teetotaling (with three more to go till I'm off the coumadin) actually tastes like beer.  To my chagrin, I can manage no more than a couple of ounces of steak and a few forkfuls of pasta before I realize I am full.  I had practiced portion control in rehab (the lousy food made that pretty easy) and my stomach has shrunk. I rationalize that I'll have lots of leftovers to tap if I don't feel up to cooking.

Sun. 7/8 

Slow and lazy day. No PT visit or blood draw, so spend day catching up on correspondence and categorizing bills as payable and wait-for-insurance. Plow my way through backlog of TV episodes, do set list. Bobby goes out for brunch and haircut, then comes home. We go out to Broadway Cellars--walk in under my own steam, using cane but not leaning on it.  Glad to be back--though it sure feels weird not to be able to drink. (I have an Arnold Palmer, which beats a soda or a plain iced tea). We have the spiced carrot soup (still cool enough out to be able to enjoy it) and the Moroccan trout with green beans. Huge portion--again, make it through only half. Anthony brings over some complimentary peach sorbet--hadn't planned on dessert but it sure is luscious.

Mon. 7/9

Nurse comes in morning for blood draw, INR looks great.  Northwestern's coumadin clinic calls to tell me keep up the good work and keep alternating between 3 & 4 mg./day. My last day on that med will be July 19, and on July 23 I'll be able to drink, have spinach/cranberry juice/green tea/garbanzos (funny what foods I miss!), & start switching over to NSAIDs from opioids. Get ready for gig at Katerina's tonight--more nervous about logistics than usual, since cab dispatcher is telling me I have to have a special permit to sit up front. (I MUST sit up front because most back seats are too close to the front seat for me to swing my leg in; and those old Ford LTDs can't move the front bench seat back or forward so I can't ride in them at all.  Minivans & SUVs have too high a step up to the back seat. Most cabbies who drive Scions, minivans, Camrys and SUVs are fine with me sitting up front, but every now and then--as tonight--I get a petty bureaucrat dispatcher. I have to go through two layers of supervisors before they agree to send me a cab I can sit up front in--a Scion. Gordy is my roadie, carrying my stuff while I wrestle with the stairs & cane (and high curb up to the sidewalk at our destination--had forgotten about those double curbs along Irving Park). We're the first to arrive. I size up the small stage: that 10" height might as well be Mt. Everest without a step and rail. Will have to sit in front of it--but the chair is the wrong height and I can't keep my lap level to hold the dulcimer securely in place, even with the rubber lap pad.  And I can barely see my guitar neck, because the mic stand won't go low enough. So I have to compromise and go for the vocals first & foremost.  We solve to logistics by putting me on last in the first half and then lead off the second.  Am gratified to find two of my friends have come out to see me, and both are delighted to not have missed any of my songs.  I get fed (Greek pork stew & ginger ale--take home the leftover stew) and paid--way more than roundtrip taxi fares. A good evening all around even if I had to stand around longer than I wanted while Gordy flagged a taxi. (Flash never even took me off "hold" when I called). Fortunately, it was a Camry and the driver let me sit up front.  By the time we get home, it's been nearly 7 hrs. since my last painkiller dose, and was glad to be able to take another and go to sleep. Of course, I'm up late watching "The Newsroom" episodes Gordy recorded for me.

Tues 7/10

I sleep in: the nurse and PT aren't coming today.  On days like this I don't do much besides walk around the house, go online, wash, change, nap and watch TV. Hard to get comfy, as I can't let my knee stiffen either bent or straight. Lying down with leg propped is my default--good for icing and reducing the swelling. I can now sleep on either side and even lie prone for leg-raises. Cooking & making coffee are good exercise, since I can do my standing leg & knee lifts, toe raises, and lunges at the counter.  Still eating mostly leftovers for dinner, but Bobby brings me some pizza margherita from Calo.

Wed. 7/11

PT comes early this morning, which is why I sleep downstairs again--can't get down from the bedroom quickly to answer the door. We get to 110 degrees of flexion, after some painfully hard work. This may be my last week before I am discharged to ATI, which will pick me up and take me home.  I have a bagel & lox, which was only a mirage when I was in rehab. (Bagel, yes--but with fake grape jelly? No thanks).   Slathered with onion & tomato, dill & capers. I eat only half but it is still very satisfying. Earlier this week I made my first panino since before the surgery--focaccia was just this side of being toastable.  But ah--bell peppers, provolone, prosciutto, rosemary! All the flavors I so sorely missed in rehab.  

My goal, now that Bobby has his passport, is to book our premium air travel. (I need legroom, and plain old economy-plus won't cut it, since there's only 3-4" more legroom and no chance to get up and move around to prevent DVT). Bobby has agreed to ride in premium economy--a separate cabin, sort of like domestic first class but not as luxe or costly as int'l business class--with me if we can get it.  Tougher than we thought: 9/14 is a Fri. and no airlines with that class have any availability.  So I opt to leave Thurs. the 13th instead (Tues, & Thurs. are usually cheaper). We luck into World Traveller Plus on British Air--leave Chicago Thurs. evening at 5:30, arrive at Heathrow the next morning, and have a long enough layover there to get through Customs and have a midmorning snack before boarding our flight to Budapest. Alas, within Europe we can get only Economy, but we get aisle seats and those are short flights. We book an airport hotel in Budapest, where we can drop our bags and get a sightseeing tour. (Had we stuck with our original plan to leave Chicago on Fri. instead, all we'd see of Budapest is the bus ride from the airport to the ship and the short time before we set sail). Going back, it's an hour flight from Amsterdam to Heathrow (Economy again) but World Traveller Plus the rest of the way home.  Turns out to be cheaper--even with cancelling office on Thurs. and the night in Budapest--than leaving Fri. with me in Business and Bobby in Economy (and since 9/11, neither of us would have been allowed to visit the other's cabin). Bobby is delighted to get the chance to see Budapest and have some real Hungarian food--he wistfully mentions his mom would have loved that. And the hotel is 4.5 stars, free internet, non-smoking....and $85 for the two of us. That's less than I spend for a single room on the road in a Holiday Inn Express or Hampton Inn!

I also book the premium beverage package--so we get to try boutique and local wines, beers & spirits. We have to wait till we board to buy tickets to the optional Passau organ concert, which won't sell out.  Speaking of concerts, having cancelled Omaha (we couldn't get a gig en route to or from this time) frees me up to go to see Arlo Guthrie & Mary Chapin Carpenter at Ravinia with Bob on Aug. 19, so he tells me to try to exchange his ticket plus some $ for two pavilion seats. I am surprised to find he'd unknowingly bought the ticket from a broker--more than twice as expensive and much further back than the pair of pavilion seats I manage to score straight from the Ravinia box office.

Dinner is leftover linguine (Gordy ate the steak, trout and green beans) with leftover pork stew (and some diced tomato and peppers) atop it. Pretty darn yummy. And I sneak a Dove bar for dessert. Know what? Meh. I actually prefer Greek yogurt with nuts & honey. Fall asleep in front of the TV again. 

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