This past Tuesday I was discharged from Craig Hospital and I was finally able to come home after eight weeks of healing in the hospital. It has been so great to be home again with my family, but it's certainly not without its challenges.
Because I am not able to move my feet, I am in a wheelchair. Such a change presents problems when you live in a multi-level home. So currently I am confined to the main level of our home. Janene and her mother Susan worked with the neighbors to move our bedroom from the second level into the room where my office used to be on the main level. She also installed ramps so that I can get in and out of the house, our family room and the front porch. I'm very grateful that we did not have to go through a giant home renovation to accommodate a wheelchair.
It feels comforting to be back in my home with my family, but it also feels strange to be at such a lower level. When I stand up I am six feet tall and this is the perspective from which I have always known my wife, my children, my parents and in-laws and my home. Being in a wheelchair changes that perspective instantly. I now have challenges trying to do just about anything in the kitchen. Doing laundry presents some issues, but I'm lucky that we have a front-loading washer and dryer. Because I'm still wearing the back brace, I'm prevented from bending over completely and reaching anything that falls on the floor. For this situation, I have a reacher-grabber. I will be very happy to get rid of this back brace, but I still have four weeks of it left (it needs to stay on for a total of 12 weeks).
Still, even given these challenges, the mental boost from just simply being home again is much needed. So much better than being alone in the hospital every night. I feel like I'm not in this alone anymore, like my family is here with me.
I had forgotten that Janene had some photos she took of a 3D digital rendering of the fractures in my spine and an x-ray while I was in the ICU in Boulder Community Hospital. The 3D rendering shows the dislocation and fractures in the L3 and L4 vertebrae. I hate to think about what the surgeon had to do to manipulate my spine to reset that dislocation. In the past, I have seen videos of spinal surgeries and it's not pretty. But I'm told that my surgeon is extremely talented and sought after for spinal and neuro surgeries.
The x-ray shows my spine after the surgery. Not only did they insert two rods and eight screws to fuse the L2-L5 vertebrae, but they also had to clean up all the bone fragments from various other fractures of the transverse process bones that occurred in the accident. When my pain meds fully wear off I can feel the hardware in my back and it's not fun. I'm still on pain meds for the next month, but it's a fraction of what I was once using. I'm worried that once the pain meds are done that I may deal with chronic pain, but I will have to cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I'm still trying to get used to sitting up in my wheelchair for the full day without a rest.
I also have photos of some of the road rash from the accident. I will spare you the sight of these because they are gruesome. But I can tell you that I had horrible road rash along the left side of my torso, both up and across my back as well as down my leg. Additionally, I had a nasty laceration about six inches long on my left hip that had to be stitched together. There were other spots of road rash on my right side and other various places. My right ankle got pretty banged up in the accident. So much so that they x-rayed it to see if it was broken but they believe it only sustained soft tissue damage. Of course this is all in addition to the incision scar from the surgery that is about eight inches long. Even a week after the accident when I was finally coherent, the wounds looked pretty bad. When I was admitted to Craig Hospital, they took photos of all the wounds. Several weeks after I had been there, I saw the photos and almost dropped them when I first saw them. They were so bad that it was shocking to think that this was my own body. Thankfully, it's all healed up now and all that is left are lots of scars.
The muscles in my lower back are extremely tired by the time the evening rolls around. I'm told that they probably did not cut through them for the surgery, but instead they probably split them along natural lines. I won't know for sure until I have a follow-up appointment with the surgeon next month. At any rate, my lower back muscles are really tired and sore by the end of the day.
Every day I have to stretch out the muscles in my legs because they get so tight for not using them full-time. I also stand for various periods during the day to get my body used to having the full weight on it again. Even though I cannot stand for more than about 20 minutes at a time, I remember when I couldn't stand for even one minute. The healing continues to progress and I continue to be hopeful for a recovery that includes some movement in my feet. For now, I'm happy to be home and surrounded by the love of my family.