Lately I’ve found myself in the odd situation of being forced to rest. Today I wanted to be up running around, but instead I was given the choice of laying down for a few hours and either napping or finding some other way to rest. I chose to spend my time on the couch editing photos, which brings me my own kind of zen. Digging through my electronic photo catalog I found an assortment of photos I’d taken from my month in the hospital. I’ve had people ask me how things have been and what the rehab hospital was like, but I’ve had a hard time explaining it so I thought I’d get a little visual help. In short, it was hard… After spending eight days in bed at my local hospital, I was looking forward to a change of scenery. I felt like I’d either stared at the ceiling or watched the IVIG infusion trickle out if its bottle and into me for days. At one point I took out my camera phone and took a snapshot of the medicine hanging above me, but then I realized that was the extent of excitement and so I curled back up in a ball and let the morphine work while I prayed the infusions were helping.
Fast forward eight days to my arrival at the rehabilitation hospital. I had no idea what a rehabilitation hospital was before we headed there – all I had heard about was a different kind of rehab that I was pretty certain I didn’t need… When we arrived I was still highly medicated, a bit disoriented and for some reason I was shocked that it didn’t resemble a hotel. “Oh, ok. Wow… This is a real hospital…” I had been admitted to the spinal care injury unit, which also dealt with “medically complex cases” like Guillain-Barre Syndrome. It turned out there were doctors and nurses everywhere, hospital beds, and people coming in all through the night to take my vitals and give me meds. But there were also all sorts of crazy contraptions to help get me moving and therapists that knew just how much to pick me up and where and how to brace my weak limbs so I could begin gait training (a fancy term for re-learning to walk). They would hoist me up so most of my weight would be off my legs and then they would work as a team to help me inch forward. They knew exactly how to push me to the point where I couldn’t take any more, but no further.
The staff became like family. They rejoiced in the smallest of victories and comforted me when I felt like the physical pain was too much to bear. They ran down the hall when there were problems and sat on my bedside when I didn’t want to be alone. They woke me up before the sun, sharing scripture (which I welcomed) and stories of overcoming their own challenges. They saw straight through my own b.s. and called me out on it in a way that wasn’t rude or disrespectful, but loving. Like a parent. And they listened to me and worked together to make daily adjustments so that I would be able to function, albeit at a new normal, by the time I left.
My stay there was only three weeks, but it felt like much longer. I started out taking photos as a distraction but then I found that it forced me to move around and become more comfortable using my wheelchair. Sometimes I would only feel like sitting up in bed and taking photos of my food, and others I wanted to photograph flowers. The weekend my kids came to visit was clearly my favorite – I wanted to soak every second of them in and have proof that they had been there when they were gone. Some of the photos I took are too personal to share – I’ll save those just for me. But here are a few others from my stay. The photos are a mix of iPhone and “real” photos, with a few (most of the pictures with me in them) taken by my husband. They’re not perfect and they’re definitely a lot less shiny and happy than usual but they’re honest, raw and taken from my new (temporary) eye level. This is the view from my chair.