The Viet Cong Nurse Service – Rehabilitation by Ambush

The alarms start to go off at around 8am, interspersed with phone calls.  I pick up my phone to switch off the alarm, and find myself talking to a nice young man who identifies himself as Ranjan, the outpatient physical therapist.  He’s calling to let me know that he plans to come round for an initial session between 9 and 10am.  Having been home for almost two weeks, I still haven’t figured out why these visits are set up like ambushes:

“Hi.  It’s your nurse.  I’m on the corner.  See you in five.  Reschedule?  Well, we can do it in couple of months, if you prefer. ”

“Hi.  Your nurse here.  It’s 8am.  I assume you can have your strokey ass up and showered and dressed in workout clothes and fed in time for a physical therapy session between 9 and 10am?”

Well, I’m pretty desperate to get back to Rusk, midtown, to get on the out-patient rehabilitation program, so sure, I can do that.  By 10am, I’ve showered myself on my little stroke patient shower bench, gotten on something loose enough to work out in (which, for my new model skinny ass, could be anything from the tuxedo I got at 17 to the Brooklyn Industries pants I actually wear, the button of which was under critical threat one stroke and thirty pounds ago), brushed my teeth, had a cup of tea, devoured a bowl of Special K, buzzed up someone I assumed was the therapist, and sat through half an hour of Fox 5’s Good Morning New York.  Superstorm Sandy still dominates the news.  Also, J. Peterman from Seinfeld is promoting take your pet to work day.  He mentions that all NY hospitals are allowing dog therapy now.  Joan at HJD would certainly bring round cute dogs for my roommate,  The Wee Man, and I to reject on a regular basis.  I’m slightly allergic.  The Wee Man no doubt thought that they would attack him in his sleep if they could get a hold of his scent, and devour his soul.  And Joan would no doubt happily have trained them to do so.  Yep, it’s time to find out what’s happened to Ranjan.

Well, he’s alive and answering his phone, and should be with me in five-to-ten minutes.  This is also standard procedure, and I get it, I really do.  The don’t want their nurses standing around on cold NYC corners all day waiting for the lame, crippled and injured to get their shit together while they could be tending to other lame, crippled and injured patients.  So you wait for them.  But this cripple has sat through Good Morning New York, and is damned if he’s going to sit through The Wendy Williams Show.  I’ve even Wiki’ed Wendy to find out what she was famous for in the first place to get a show.  ‘Cos this is terrible.

Oh, this is basically what she’s always done, except previously on the radio.  And getting into tiffs with people.  Well, leave me alone, Wendy.  Did I mention I’m crippled?  And you look like you could kick my ass.

Thank god, here’s Ranjan.  He has me show him the exercises I’ve been given to do at home.  Then we get down to work, and I remember why I enjoy PT so much.  For the past two-and-a-half weeks, I’ve had no benchmarks against which I can measure my progress, other than a vague sense of “I couldn’t have done that a couple of weeks ago,” which is pretty easily offest by “Bloody Hell, my left arm feels vaguely sore/tingly/numb today.  I don’t have a clear sense of it feeling like that a month ago [when I couldn’t raise it above my waist.]”  So, as requested, I stand steady in a variety of poses with my eyes open, then closed.  I walk a few yards, picking up items strategically left on the floor.  I show off my uncanny ability to get in the shower and sit on, and get up off, the toilet.  I get onto the bed and roll over.   “Like,” as the Wee Man, my old hospital roommate, would no doubt say, “a dog.” We hit the fire stairs and I demonstrate my ability to get up and down a flight of steps, only being slightly thrown off by the fact that, unlike hospitals, regular buildings only have a hand rail on one side.  As soon as I’ve negotiated maybe my fifth set of stairs in two months, we rush back to the flat to take an unrepresentative blood pressure reading.  Notwithstanding, I’m in a good mood.  A child of the late twentieth century, I’ve had the chance to take a bunch of tests, and I’ve passed them, so I’m feeling good about myself.

To finish our session, Ranjan pronounces himself satisfied with what he’s seen, and asks what my aims are for PT.  I tell him, with Beth – my real audience – sitting a few feet away, that I want to get back to normal, pre-stroke, 100% functionality.  He reckons that’s reasonable, which is also encouraging.  Then Ranjan outlines his expectations regarding a couple of weeks of home PT prior to sending me to Rusk Midtown and we have a quick chat about setting up Access-a-Ride for the trips.    I get a copy of his business card, including the VNS main office details, so I can address that with the head nurse for my case.  Then it’s right back to regular strokiness.  Within ten minutes of Ranjan’s departure, I have no idea where the business card is.  Still, I’ve been using the most useful piece of advice I got in Speech Therapy [Memory Section], and keeping all the new information I may need in my phone, so the physical therapist’s personal details have already been added, prior to business card loss.  I call him and get the additional details.  Yay for the positive results of therapy!

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