Knee Blog, part 3: Rehab, week 1

Mon. 6/25 

We pull up to the Imperial, and from the outside I can tell it's expanded since I used to go to Lake Shore A.C. next door. I notice that kitty-corner from it on Fullerton is Charlie Trotter's To Go--I immediately plot to have something smuggled in for our upcoming 41st anniversary Wednesday.  I am assigned to the Grove Pavilion, which is subacute and rehab care (i.e., no permanent residents). I notice a library, a salon/barber, and a "bistro" (which turns out to be the dining room for long-term residents on regular diets--which I'm not because I'm on coumadin and sugar restriction). My private room is spacious and lovely---unlike my hospital room it has a flat screen TV and a sofa as well as armchair.  And I am issued a wide walker. (Because it's summer, I fit easily into a regular wheelchair).  I soon find out the difference between hospital and nursing facility: there is no doctor on duty, just on-call; and generally just one nurse per floor per shift--the rest are CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants, which at Northwestern were called PCTs, or Patient Care Techs).  So from first push of the call button to CNA takes longer, and even longer if the CNA has to find the nurse (who is often on break or at the other end of the long floor).  And of course, the food is highly reminiscent of a bad high-school cafeteria, only with lots of fake Sweet & Low and generic (not heart-healthy) margarine.  Sugar restriction, but inexplicably whole or 2% milk at each meal plus loads of white-flour or potato-based starch.

Tues. 6/26

I settle into my sleep pattern: up till late because Bobby has to visit after work, go online to watch as many videos as possible (Carrie brings me my laptop and I can finally get good signal), take my pain pills; sleep 4 hours (often 5 or 6 because the nurses screw up and bring the next dose late); then bathroom, blood draw, vitals, wound care and finally breakfast--with little or no chance to sleep in between each. Then wash (or if it's my turn, get wheeled to the actual shower), physical therapy, lunch, CLE study, occupational therapy, more study, visitors, dinner, more study. Physician's asst. comes in and assures me that unlike at Northwestern, my tests don't indicate high fasting blood sugar; she orders a hemoglobin A1c to determine once and for all to rule out diabetes, a full lipid panel, and writes a note in my chart that I MUST get 1-2 cups a day of caffeinated coffee to keep my lungs open and headaches at bay. Of course, I have to fight for my right to coffee--a couple of times, I have to beg a cup from the nurses' station (even offering to pay) because the kitchen only makes decaf by the vat. Slowly, the kitchen begins to brew me a cup for breakfast.  Tests come back: not diabetic, excellent blood lipids, normal controlled BP. Packets of sugar and salt appear on my meal trays, but nothing else changes. Carrie & Coco smuggle me some real maple syrup & honey from home in order to make my hot (lukewarm & congealed) cereal palatable, and some Hershey's dark chocolate truffles (which the Activities Coordinator and physicians' asst. gladly accept).  

Today's activities include the monthly "Meet with Rabbi J." I am relieved to see this, as there are only 6 of us Jews in the entire facility.  I wheel myself up to the dayroom after PT, expecting a discussion on spirituality or maybe some prayers. Rabbi J. turns out to be Haredi (more Orthodox than Modern Orth. but at least no Hasidic either), and I am instantly embarrassed to be clad in shorts & T-shirt. I apologize, explaining I'd just come from the gym. He is British-born, though Israel-raised--and probably 25 years my junior.  I am astonished to find that instead of discussing Judaism, he is engaged in debate with a 94-year-old Wobbly (proudly self-identified) who insists that the existence of Israel itself (not just the West bank settlements) is immoral and that the entire region belongs to the "Palestinians." I am even more surprised to find myself agreeing more with the rabbi.  The Wobbly's wife just keeps interjecting  "The Arabs are lovely people, they had us to their homes, they gave us tea!" as if to apologize for her husband's rhetoric and the rabbi's assertion that everyone in the area, including Jews, are "Palestinians" dating back to post-Bibilical times. Realizing that neither man is about to budge from their ideological corners, I ask about prayers to help us get through convalescence and recovery, and realize that no way can I offer to sing the Mi Sheberach, as hearing a woman sing would cause the rabbi to violate a mitzvah. He answers that it isn't proper to offer that prayer when not at a Torah service, so instead he recites a Psalm in rapid-fire Hebrew. He is relieved to have dropped the political discussion. I have to return to OT, so I wish him "zei gesundt" and proffer an air-handshake (avoiding his violating yet another mitzvah). I'm sure he was wondering how a blonde in gym clothes could possibly have known about those mitzvot...but OTOH, he's probably seen everything.

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