Sunday, August 12, 2018

Wheels

I enjoyed some years of walking... how I reframed my recent "episode" (implying it is not permanent) of leg weakness/pain over several months that kept getting worse until I couldn't walk at all. This time, since I'd been through it all before (and already have my wheels), I didn't panic. 

Me--not panic? This is a new one for me. I finally digested that stressing out makes things worse. So does getting angry.

The weakness/numbness in my glutes, thighs, and legs moves around--to the right side--to the left side--back again. To the toes--but different ones each time. No matter how many pillows and pieces of foam I prop myself up on, I wake up with cramping hips and legs. 

In the past, I just got weak and numb all over from the waist down. I am currently on guard, wondering if this will happen again... so I am getting prepared. Better to be prepared than sorry. I arranged for someone who runs errands, and I will call and register for the HOP -- transportation to doctor/therapy appointments, especially ones that are out of town.

Since I know we are made up of energy, I watch where the 'energy' goes with some amusement (vs. fear). But not knowing when or how it will affect me, I decided it isn't safe to drive more than around my tiny town -- at least for now -- until I know what to expect. It would never happen suddenly... slowly over the course of say 5 minutes.

I had to begin asking for rides... something I had never been comfortable doing... if I was going to continue participating in club activities. Thank goodness I finally know people I can ask for help from! I can't drive further than my tiny town (no cruise control) as in addition to pain/weakness, I get cramps in my right leg while it is holding the position on the gas pedal. 

I pulled out my WHEELS which had been on standby in the storage closet off my back patio for who knows how many years -- since sometime in 2012 after I moved into this complex on the other side. 

While I went and sold my electric wheelchair (oops), I kept the walker. I had (falsely) assumed that if I needed an electric wheelchair again, I could get a new one because it had been more than 5 years since I had gotten the other one. Nope. Medicare changed rules. You can't get an electric wheelchair for outside... only if you need one in the house. Do I hide all my chairs on wheels and ask for one anyway? 

Also, I didn't have to pay a share of cost for the other one (which I got in California) and I'd have to pay here.  I would only be able to get the very expensive one that Medicare will pay for... billing me 20%. If I have to pay 20% of $5,000+, I'd rather invest $700 in a scooter of my choice. Unless I can manifest a donated one. :-) 

It is possible that going two years without chiropractic didn't help... at least I got to go for three years from 2012 - 2015. I'd only be able to return if I had an accident... which I did... when I fell back in February. But even then, he could only treat me for 'headache' due to the subluxated atlas.

I started with a new one who has different equipment, and I will hopefully get at least 12 visits before Medicare cuts me off. He alerted me to a fact I had discounted all these years. I hadn't paid any attention to the words PARS DEFECT clearly stated on the many MRI and x-ray reports I still keep in my files. He showed me L5 had broken away from its base (pars) which is why it slipped forward. (See arrow.)

When I was 21, I had ignored the word Spondylolisthesis that was typed on the accident report for insurance (at least I kept a copy) after I crashed into a parked car because I didn't know what it meant. I could have saved myself grief when the Physiatrist I went to in 1998 suspected I had MS. It was years before I went through old files and brought it to his attention.

Back to the walker. Here's a link to the one I have... 


I got it in California before I moved to Texas. In case you ever need one or know someone who does, I recommend this one. (I don't have a basket under it.) 

It held up in the extreme heat and cold conditions during the many years it was stored in the outside closet off my patio. Unlike the vinyl on my comfy office chair that is disintegrating, the only damage this walker has are multiple pinprick holes in the seat... reminders that I once had cats that enjoyed digging their little claws into it. 

Most walkers I've seen do not have wheels... and wheels are wonderful! They roll over everything (almost), even an occasional bug. (Yuch!) It is even wonderful when I need to transport things like groceries in and out of the car. 

I am enjoying this walker, especially since I found a large tray with high sides to lay on the seat. (Photo below.) 

I am enjoying the secure feeling of holding the handles. (Note: I am finding reasons to be positive.) I wheel it around the apartment and put whatever I need to transport from one room to another on this tray, including a cup of water and my cell phone. It saves me a lot of trips and actually helps me be better organized. 

I even pull the walker up to whatever chair I sit on as it holds my water, notebook, pen, snacks, paperwork that needs to get filed, stuff to throw in the trash, etc. Wish I thought of doing this in years past. 

I even have a Word Puzzle book on it for when I am using the toilet... hoping to distract myself from the sensation of pain when I sit on it. (Imagine the sensation of sitting on a bruised butt, hips, and backs of thighs, but it is neurological.) I tried a raised cushion, but it was just as bad. It was only meant to make it higher, not softer. I'm open to ideas...

My walker is great outdoors, especially when I need to sit down, although I can't walk very far. The seat is a bit hard, so I don't sit for long. I can also pull myself along while seated for short distances (like after I've visited my neighbor). This is actually good exercise for your legs, although steering it while seated doesn't work very well. 

Going backward is much easier to steer, but dangerous if you hit a crack in the pavement. (Yes, I've done this.)

Did I mention it only weighs 21 pounds, so I can get it in and out of my car? Yes, it folds. And yes, the little exercises I've been doing gave me some arm muscle strength, and I'm grateful that the frozen shoulder I had in my right shoulder cleared up a few years back. With the wider of the split seats in my Dodge down, it will fit into the back end of the hatchback. 

I am grateful for the dumpster on the opposite side I can drive right up to for throwing my trash into. (Drive-up dumpster. Not really. I'm just being funny.)

I can drive up to the mailbox at the post office to mail letters, etc., but still have to walk from my car to my mailbox... which is down by the office. 

But wait! This is a small apartment complex compared to the monster ones in larger cities, many of which I have lived. And my car is parked right outside my door. Isn't this a gorgeous Crate Myrtle?


I was worried the walker wouldn't fit into the trunk of my new friend's (Monica) car... or behind her seats. She just happens to have a model car with a truck that goes on forever! 

Monica joined my Toastmasters club in December... reluctantly accepted an officer role (like I had done)... and lives nearby. Yay! I had been driving my own car to Friday daytime meetings, and she drove me to additional training and meetings further away or at night. During long drives, we've gotten to know each other and have quite a bit in common... never a dull conversation or long stretches of awkward silence. 

Monica has a 9-year old daughter (Lili) who is an angel (like her mother). During the summer, she joined her mother (and sometimes her little brother, too) for Toastmasters meetings. She is very grown-up and has often filled simpler roles at meetings such as timing and being a Topics Master. She loves to get up in front of the group to speak. 

Monica used to work 60+ hours a week in hotel management, but when her health began to decline, she made changes. Now she does a variety of income-generating jobs which include house-cleaning, website design, and building a Young Living (Essential Oils) business. 

Lili helps her mother with house-cleaning to earn some money of her own, and I asked her (Lili) if she wanted to vacuum my apartment for $5. She is also learning how to play the guitar, so it was a joy for her to stay and show me what she has learned on guitar (I still have one). Then I uncovered the electronic keyboard where she stayed glued for another hour.

Anyway, on the way back from Toastmasters, we stopped at the HEB Superstore. The original plan was to drop me at the entrance, but it seemed everyone decided to go to the store at the same time we did. Even finding a parking space was challenging, and it wasn't even one of the larger stores. 

I used the walker to get to the entrance of the store (couldn't believe tiny Lili could lift it out of the trunk herself), switched over to a motor cart, and Lili pushed the walker through the store nearby. My heart was filled with joy having Lili and her Mom accompany me in the grocery store... something... believe it or not... had been absent way too many years of my life... having company while I had to shop.

When I first began going to Open Mics and other evening events for Writers and artists, I found out a young man by the name of Mikey lived two minutes from me. Mikey has never driven and has never owned a car. (Wouldn't that be nice?) He rarely lived in a place like my town where there is no public transportation (settled here when his parents moved here), but his parents moved North, and he will soon follow... back to a place that has public transportation. I learned that once you get a job with Walmart (Mikey works nights stocking), you can transfer to another one anywhere in the United States... which he plans to do.

Nicole (founder of the Writer's society) had been driving here to pick him up twice a month (20 minutes each way). I took over giving Mikey rides until about two weeks ago when I asked him to find us another ride. Since Nicole used to pick him up, she came and got the both of us. 

(Note: socializing with people who are generous about giving people rides is quite nice!)

Sadly, Nicole will be moving out-of-state soon... as soon as the house sells. Her husband's parents offered their family a paid for house to live in. Who wouldn't want that? I know... the grass is always greener. We are seeking someone to take over. Nicole works at Walmart, too, (how she and Mikey met) and may transfer to another store as well.

Wheels. I am on the fence as to whether to have aftermarket cruise control installed in my car. People tell me just trade the car in for one that has it. I don't get this mentality. Why would I trade a car in that I slaved for six years to make payments on, which I paid off two years ago, which only has 82,000 miles on it? And why would I want to trade a car in which is evidently high in demand according to the numerous postcards I get in the mail with "we want your car!" If it is that high in demand, I think I should keep it!

Three men I talked to about after-market cruise control (my dentist who works on his own vehicles which include multiple old stickshifts, my mechanic who owns his own shop and is also a volunteer firefighter who said he's known even factory installed ones to malfunction, my apt complex maintenance man who I found out is 70 years old who also rebuilds classic cars) don't like cruise control to begin with -- they don't trust it -- never mind install aftermarket. 

I did get a quote for $420 at the Dodge Dealership excluding taxes. And then there are Tesla's that drive themselves. I wouldn't even need a driver! Maybe they'll give me one... along with every other disabled person.

I mentioned the topic to Monica during one of our drives... and guess what... her husband had just installed cruise control on his truck. But he has a demanding job... and it isn't being a mechanic. He just maintains his own family cars. Finally, I know someone who has done this.

The other set of wheels is a salon chair.

Instead of using a wheelchair in the apartment, I have office chairs on wheels in each area/room. I got this salon chair for the kitchen. My kitchen is quite small, so this works easier than an office-type chair. It elevates higher than an ordinary chair (and has a padded seat). I wheel it to the refrigerator... wheel back to the counter... wheel to the stove, etc. Swivel this way and that. I open the cabinet door I need to be in front of (like the kitchen sink), and my knees fit nicely underneath -- except when I forget there is a pipe under there. Just the same, my butt and the back of my thighs still go numb after sitting on it for more than 5 minutes or so.  

This morning, I remembered that Dr. Bergman (chiropractor) had given me a sacral belt the last time I was out to Huntington Beach, California. I have it on now, and my right leg doesn't feel as weak. This strap is tight.. holding my pelvis/sacrum together, and Bergman had advised I not wear it more than a few weeks... just until I got to my hometown chiropractor and my L5-S1 stabilized. 

Stabilized? I never could understand how this would be possible. 

I see my new chiropractor tomorrow for the 2nd visit. I will get his opinion about the belt. Hoping for improvement but have finally learned "it is what it is" and catch myself making up stories based on thoughts I can't prove. i.e. I can't prove the condition will continue to get worse... and don't catastrophize like I used to do all the time.  

I'm done with past years of numerous procedures, injections, and pharmaceutical drugs to hopefully get relief. It was all very temporary, and in the long run, caused additional problems, never mind the miles I had to drive to get them and the endless waiting in waiting rooms. 

I already know surgery is not an option. I am continuously learning about alternative treatments for pain... and I hope to experience them... like float tanks (you float for an hour in a warm pool filled with Epsom Salt), PEMF Therapy (Pulsed Electromagnetic Frequency), and sound therapy.  

BTW, I learned in the Matter of Balance course I am repeating to put the letters ICE in front of your emergency contact name/number in your phone. I just wonder how they will get into my phone, because I have it password protected, but I was told they can. If they can, doesn't that mean a crook can, too?

I also learned to keep copies of your DNR, Power of Attorney, medication list, etc. on your refrigerator door. This is the first place emergency personnel will look when they enter your home. Note, I said copies. Keep the originals in a safe place like your safe. 

I even learned that a physical therapist is supposed to analyze you and fit you for the right walker and cane. Really? I don't have access to P.T. and said so. I went home, looked at my walker, saw that it could be lowered another notch, and lowered it. I am, after all, a short person and didn't realize I could lower it.

P.S. The image of L5-S1 Spondylolisthesis is one I got on the internet because I couldn't get a clear photo off my x-rays. It looks pretty close!

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