Today was a pretty busy day. I had visits from the doctors during ward rounds as usual, the pain team popped by to make some adjustments to my pain relief, and then I had my first ‘proper’ visit from the Physiotherapy team. I had been given a zimmer frame to use simply to get me about my hospital room, to the bathroom and so on, but now it was time to use it therapeutically. I had been off my feet for a week by now and already had visible muscle wastage around the top of my left leg; I didn’t want to waste away.
They got me into suitable footwear and assessed my walking with the zimmer frame, which was not good at all; I couldn’t lift my left leg from the hip and so had to drag that foot behind me with each tiny step. Bearing weight through the left hip was extremely painful and it was so unstable that my whole leg would shake and bow with the effort, but taking weight off it totally was just impossible. For some reason it felt like the joint would slide out of place if nothing was supporting the leg and so I just couldn’t take that foot off the floor – I could manage with only touching it with my toes, but no further. I tried to explain this to the two young physios, but they claimed I was simply trying to protect the limb too much and I got a bit tearful and frustrated with myself. I was trying so hard, wanting to get walking again so that I didn’t waste away and yet, I couldn’t get it right.
The other thing I was finding difficult is remembering our natural way of walking (it doesn’t take long to lose this), and so they gave me some exercises to get back into the right habits. Yes, I’d made progress in getting on my feet and managing the short distances around the room, but it was also important to do so properly now. These exercises included: 1) ‘heel-toe’ stepping movements while stood stationary and supported by the frame, to encourage me to take natural steps rather than the shuffling I was currently using. 2) Bending/flexing the knee as you would when taking a step. I was also to do these whilst sitting in my chair; even five repetitions with each leg every hour or so would help the ‘muscle memory’ come back, strengthen those muscles, prevent ligaments from tightening / joints from seizing up and improve my circulation. All of which were very important to my recovery and so, from then on, I was a woman on a mission.
Despite the near tears, I think I did quite well really. It was the first time I’d been on my feet and tried these things, so maybe I was being a bit tough on myself in hindsight. It also turned out that there was a physical reason for me not being able to lift the foot from the floor, which came as a relief to me the next day. I’d hated thinking it was something within my control that I was simply getting wrong; yep, I’m a sore loser!
Later that afternoon though, I had a visit that lifted my spirits again. One of the hospital volunteers, called Afi, came to give me a hand and arm massage, which was wonderfully relaxing and gave me chance to have a chat with someone new. It makes such a difference to have someone take the time to sit with you and do something nice like that, when you’re stuck in hospital; she also did manicures, pedicures, plaited hair and gave head massages, but the hand massage seemed the perfect choice for me. I felt so much better after her visit; I can only imagine how it must feel for others who are maybe in a whole lot longer, more poorly, or who don’t have family and friends to visit them. It’s a brilliant idea and something that I want to look into doing myself when I’m feeling up to it, especially with the elderly.
I had my own visitors that afternoon and evening too. My friend brought my mum to see me and then my boyfriend came later on. I don’t think you ever realise how important visiting is, until you are a patient yourself and clock-watching for the next visiting times. I was so lucky to have my visitors, who travelled quite a distance, and can honestly that’s what kept my spirits up during my stay and made the days pass by so quickly 🙂