OPINION: Summer memories or what’s a ‘physical terrorist’?

A column by a former longtime reporter of The Vidette.

Autumn’s here again, and the “lazy, hazy days of summer” are but a memory … at least for those who had days like that. I didn’t have many, for which I take full responsibility.

Long knowing I’d sometime need a total right hip replacement, I saw an orthopedic doctor two years ago who said he could schedule surgery near the end of December. I’d “been there, done that” with a left hip replacement in 2006 and didn’t want a repeat.

I’ve seen that many of life’s seemingly negative experiences have at least added to my education, though. And because walking is a very significant part of physical therapy after a hip replacement, I’d determined that when the time came, I’d have my right one done in the summertime. Building a snowman or slip-sliding on icy sidewalks isn’t my idea of safe PT.

I live in a “disabled adaptable” apartment in a beautiful complex that includes well-maintained walkways wending their way through what appears almost to be more of a large arbor than a place where seniors and disabled folks live in attractive and comfortable one-story residences. Benches punctuating the walkways provide seats for those needing to rest or who just want to “sit a spell” and enjoy the surroundings.

June or July seemed like a good time for my surgery, though I hadn’t realized it would take as long as it did to get an appointment with the doctor I’d chosen. But with surgery scheduled for Aug. 1 at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia, the earlier months did give me opportunities to prepare my home for my recuperation period.

As with much of medical science, hip replacements have come a long way in the decade since my first one, though there’s still a lot of recuperating involved. Moreover, my being 10 years older and having severe degenerative arthritis may be why it took eight days this time to become strong enough to leave the hospital. (Because my insurance plan covers rehabilitation services, I’d thought that would help me get ready to return home able to care for myself again. But the insurance’s denying my medical providers’ requests, even strong suggestions for “rehab” became another educational opportunity … and perhaps a subject for a future column).

Another learning opportunity presented itself, though, when I still couldn’t get into or out of bed myself by Aug. 5. Competent — and friendly — physical and occupational therapists had been working with me daily as I slowly gained the strength and ability to walk, learn how to enter and exit a vehicle and much more. But told my insurance would not pay for a short stay at a rehabilitation facility, some became even more instrumental in helping me regain my independence, for which I will be forever in their debt, especially Emily and Cynthia.

“Do you have that at home?” Emily, often humorous, deadpanned when I took hold of the rail in an attempt to get out of bed.

“No,” I admitted, letting go. “But I do have this,” I said, grasping the mattress edge for the same purpose. She agreed that was fair game. Even after I was finally able to get in and out of bed myself, Emily wrote down the steps in both processes in case I forgot after I was home.

Cynthia walked with me (and my walker) to the hospital’s orthopedic gym and taught me how to enter and exit a shower safely, as well as a car. Both ladies either came on days they weren’t scheduled to work on that hospital floor or arranged for someone else when they couldn’t be there.

And never, ever was any physical or occupational therapist mean or disagreeable to me. Every single thing they did was for my best and done kindly, even compassionately. It sets my teeth on edge when some people hint that folks in those professions are villains.

Another example of physical therapy kindness was Kelly of Harbors Home Health &Hospice, who came to my home to continue my PT education. Continually demonstrating her skill, she astounded me at times by her keen observations, noting once how my left foot turned outward when I walked and how stepping with my right foot and leg another time while using a cane showed I wasn’t far enough along in the healing process yet to give up my walker.

Oh, and I want to state clearly that it’ll be immensely distressing to me if I ever hear someone refer to these wonderful professionals by what one of them said was common jab: “physical terrorists.” And, no, PT does not stand for “pain and torture.”

That is patently unfair. So if you don’t want a long lecture on indispensible value and my high esteem for such experts, don’t even go there.