Arx Hereticus

Welcome to the ramblings of a merry heretic, an ex-pat (Tex-pat?) American living in Maryland after having spent six years in Germany. Arx Hereticus is part travelogue, part cooking, part budo, part socio-political commentary and mostly just me BSing.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Saturday, July 28

-- 10th post-op day -- 1st Reha Day

So far, rehab is a lot like the Army. Hurry up and wait.

I was told to have all my bags packed and be ready to go before 9 am, and did so. After a wash-up, breakfast and quick dressing change ... I waited. 0900 came and went, 0930 ... and about 1000, one of my floor nurses came along to fetch me and my baggage. We traipsed over to the rehab center, got my room key, dropped my baggage and then I was deposited at the nurses station where I ... waited. There were two newbies ahead of me and there was only one staffer working the new folks.

Eventually, I got questioned, poked, prodded, got a mini-tour, was sent to lunch and given an appointment with one of the rehab docs later in the afternoon. And after a decent lunch in the cafeteria (fairly civilized), I'm back in the room ... waiting.

Got Tal Konsort playing; very nice classical played by a bunch of former Eastern Bloc musicians in Munich. Live, they act more like a jazz combo, very lively, active, interacting with the audience, and their interpretations of some of the classics show a distinctly jazzy influence, but are excellently done.

HW is apparently on her way here, I tried to call to let her know I was in the room, but she didn't pick up, so I assume she's driving. Not really expecting her before 2 or 3 pm or so anyhow. My appt. with the doc is 3:15, so I hope the timing works out.

Surprisingly, I'm not the youngest person I've seen hereabouts. There are several who look to be my age or in their 40s, a large handful of folks who look to be in their 30s and a smaller few in their 20s. Most, by far, are a somewhat more geriatric crowd.

HW showed up in the early afternoon and we had good cuddles and hugs, and took a couple of small walks, showing her around my new digs.

Despite my having warned reception Friday evening, they weren't prepared for her to stay and we had to somewhat vigorously assert ourselves, but once the staff figured out we were serious, they were very accommodating, especially the station nurse, who practically bent over backward to make HW welcome and make sure she was settled in, had a trundle bed, covers, etc.

Had an appointment with one of the rehab docs in the afternoon, general look-me-over, Q-and-As and so forth. She'll start developing my rehab plan and get things rolling for Monday.

Life in the rehab center is a bit more laid back (at least so far), less bustle in the hallways, I take my own meds, nobody barging in and out of the room (for the most part), I keep my own schedule and am responsible for making appts, etc without a sheepdog to nip my heels. And while roomie was a great guy, it's so very nice to have my own space again.

HW and I spent the evening chatting, catching up and playing dominoes. Watched the pilot episode of "Threshold", a TV series about a mysterious ET craft finding its way to Earth and wreaking havoc (whether intentionally or as a side effect of some undetermined and un-understandable purpose is kept muddy in the first of the series).

*HW: I still have no bloody luck at dominoes... *

HW was a little freaked out by some of the more thriller-ish aspects of the show, but I thought it raised some very interesting questions. I've got the series on DVD, let's see how many shows it takes for the thing to fall apart in cliche and "gee-whiz" limbo as so many good shows seem to do. Got some great actors, though, especially the linguist team-member. Me, I think the bastich little pug-dog is responsible for all the nastiness ...

*HW: I am not a fan of television in general, for the most part I find it a tremendous waste of time, which is great if I WANT to waste time (watching Snake in the Eagle's Shadow or Bullshit!, The Simpsons or King of the Hill) but otherwise it just hurts my eyeballs. I don't like "monster movies" I spent weeks after watching Jurassic Park opening gates at 0-dark-30 in the deep countryside in a quiet panic over velociraptors and the neighbor's pet tiger cub (not kidding!!!). Threshold was centimeters from being great, unlike Firefly, which WAS great. I just thought it pandered too much, while Firefly pandered too little. It's a bloody sad fact that it's the right balance of pandering which makes or breaks any media... I think that's why I'm so cynical about it. Besides, I'm more interested in what comes out of my head, when I give it a chance, and much more careful about what I put into it. I have learned to be careful of my mental digestion. Meanwhile a relative of CG's has a pug comment.)

Labels: ,

Friday, July 27

-- 9th post-op day

Slept well last night, mostly pain-free, woke a couple of times, but fell back asleep fairly promptly. Awoke about 5:30 to begin the morning grind. Nothing new today, but anticipating packing for the rehab center! After doc (who was pleased with yesterday's x-rays) wash-up, breakfast, PT and changing clothes, started organizing papers and books, and will start the packing process sometime today.

I plan a fairly leisurely day, with lots of lying about, and a celebratory eiscafe this afternoon.

HW will be down tomorrow sometime after I get moved with fresh clothes and supplies, and I hope to get a day-pass to get out of the clinic area for a while.

Barbarians is an amazing book. It's a look at the Roman Empire from the outside, and is extremely interesting and telling.

Randomness ...

Tornadoes: Not the whirlwind kind, but the German Luftwaffe kind. Most mornings are punctuated by several whooshing passes of the fighter jets as they fly sorties in support of NATO training ongoing at Hohenfels, for which we are apparently right under the flight path. One of the pilots got a little jiggy the other day and apparently pushed a little hard and we actually got a sonic boom. Kind of cool, if a bit unsettling for some of the older folks here.

Kuwaitis: There's apparently a fairly well-to-do Kuwaiti patient here, with quite an entourage of family and associates. His personal translator and assistant speaks excellent English and as soon as he found out I was American, he began saluting me when we passed in the hallway or on the terrase, and he somehow learned my name, Good MORNING, Mr. Gordon with a crisp, parade-field salute.

*HW isn't sure why this kinda freaks her out... *

Roomie had been out for a turn around the station when he came back in a rush (as rushed as a man on crutches with a fresh knee surgery can rush) with news: He'd found a patient lounge with a coffee machine! For .30 Euro, apiece, we got decent (instant) cappuccino and had a nice sit and chat in the airy, sunny lounge. It's right down the damn hall. Why the hell doesn't the staff let people know about it?

Blurf. Ah well, all reports say the rehab center has a great little cafe-like coffee bar.

Had a great mushroom ragout for lunch, and supper (which came at 4:30 pm!), once again was ... fishy. However, I'd splurged at about 3 pm and had both an eiscafe AND, American friends, brace yourselves ... a beer! My first since coming into the hospital.

It's pretty much accepted here that you'll have a glass or two of beer or wine if you want and no one gives a shrug. I could have had beer all along, but decided to pass on the alcohol to allow for any meds or other side affects (not to mention the possibility of even greater instability on crutches). However, today, being Friday and being my last day here, I celebrated.

HW promises a nice bottle of wine for us to split this weekend and a mini-bottle of good Single Malt for a treat. Mmmmm!

*HW brought a Sommeracher Katzenkopf, which unfortunately turned out to be a halb-trocken. I also got myself some incredible Italian Chardonnays, which I have gotten a bit mad about. I save them for special occasions, as I could literally drink the stuff 'til I fell over. Except that it goes so well with food, like the coconut curry pork I made Friday for my return today, Sunday. Yes, I'm a planner. I knew I'd be unhappy returning without CG so I made dinner and the bed... a poor substitute but a comfort nonetheless.*

Roomie's wife is visiting, and she MUST love him, she brought him beer.

I've got to get packed up this evening, sort out dirties, etc. Someone from the rehab center will be around before 9 am tomorrow to fetch me. I figure the morning will be taken up with orientation, and HW should be here sometime around or just after lunchtime.

I'm moving pretty good, though I have a slight 'muskelkater' (lit: muscle hangover) from the increased pulleyforme exercises. I can actually stand and take a careful step or two without the crutches (shh, don't tell the staff ... they're aghast that I prefer flipflops to tennies and dare to stand and walk around barefoot on occasion), however, I keep it to a bare minimum and only when I'm sure I can reach out and grab support quickly.

I've figured out how to bend over to pick something up from the floor without compromising the new hip (which isn't supposed to bend very much for a while). Basically, I stretch the bad leg out behind, lean on a sturdy support like a non-skid table (crutches work, too) and use my good leg to do the bending.

And having arms like an orangutan helps.

*HW: you should have seen him hanging off the overhanging handle of the hospital bed scratching his armpits and going "ook" I thought I was going to fall off my own hospital bed laughing. That was in between getting so confused with the various controls and levers that I variously impersonated a sandwich, a mudslide, and some unfortunate airplane landings.*

After supper (weird fish salad thingie, thank the gods for beer), roomie (Hr. Bail) and I took a walk over to the rehab center and he gave me a tour. He'd spent a few weeks there a couple years ago getting a shoulder fixed up.

Very nice digs. Very quiet, too, not nearly as bustle-full as the hospital part.

*HW: the rehab apts just exude serenity and restfulness. And the area is almost 10 degrees warmer than the bloody dripping, chilly GTA area- from 21C to 15 in an hour's drive. Brrr. Raining in sharp brittle bursts here, cold and uncompromising. Bleah. *

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 26

-- 8th post-op day

I feel like I'm running out of things to write about here. The hospital routine is ... well ... routine. Wake up, wash up, every other day get blood drawn, wait for the doctor, eat breakfast, take morning meds, take a little walk, die putzfrau kommt, schwester/pfleger visits, wait for the physical therapist, do PT, rest a bit, take a little walk, eat lunch ... etc. etc. Can you tell that I'm a bit, shall we say ... BORED?

Ah well, today and tomorrow here, and then to the rehab center we go. Roomie sings the praises of the Asklepios Reha Zentrum, according to him, it's sort of like getting into heaven after the purgatory of hospitalization.

I've gone through all but two of the books I brought with. Finished Mainspring last night waiting for the nacht schwester and my sleepy meds, and I highly recommend it. It's a well-crafted romp through an alternate universe wherein the Deus is truly and exactly en Machina. I'll start Barbarians by Terry Jones (formerly of Monty Python fame) today. It's a dissection of the history (and apprently the mis- and disinformation about) of Europe's barbarians and their interactions with the Romans.

The other brain-rot I've brought with is an anime series called Desert Punk (downloaded from iTunes). Very twisted and funny. The story of a diminutive bounty hunter in a post-apocalyptic Japan wandering the Kanto Desert, fighting bad guys, trying to get laid and always looking for a bigger gun. Big fun, weird, but fun.

Roomie's garrulous, a very social guy, and chats happily and at length with anyone who'll listen to him; sadly, our own conversations are pretty limited. He's a retired metzger (butcher), with three grown kids and a handful of engelkinder (grandkids). Was born and raised within 20 km of Essing, a town not far from here. He was born in '45, and grew up with that generation of Germans who saw the US Army as liberators. Talks about memories of soldiers bringing truckloads of food around to the villages, sharing out K-rations with the kids.

He's an interesting and engaging guy, and didn't really snore all that badly last night. He wears a sleep-apnea mask, which makes a sort of soft sussurrus (how the heck IS that spelled, the spell-checker isn't a bit of help on that one), sort of like distant surf, though he lost the mask sometime in the night.

PT today was the standard krankengymnastik I've been doing for several days, plus the pulleyforme system. I'm supposed to do that again this evening, on my own. The good news: I get to take a shower this evening! The schwester has a waterproof bandage for my incision. I've been doing spit-baths in the sink, and Em helped me get cleaned up pretty good this weekend past, but a shower sounds incredibly good right now.

Fr. Winter also scolded me again, basically for doing too much. She said I was sitting up, moving around too much, I should be lying in bed more. Sigh. Darn. Make me hang out in bed all day. Too bad it's without HW at my side! But that'd be a whole 'nother kind of PT that Fr. Winter would probably rather not know about.

*HW: One of the things I did this Sunday was scrub much of the dead skin from the postsurgical swelling off. One of the nicest things you can do for a very good friend or, indeed your partner, after a major limb surgery like this, is to help with exfoliation. Gentleness is highly recommended, as the limb has been traumatized, but the Betadine-discoloured overstretched skin sloughed off in impressive quantities as I gently, persistently scrubbed. I followed up with gentle application of natural skin lubricants based on vegetable oils (petrolatum and mineral oil are for machines, not skin) preferably pleasantly scented, with gentle, loving hands*

After lunch, I went down to the cafe and had a cappuccino, quite good, actually. Sat and read Barbarians a bit, but found the terrace quite warm, so I retired to the room to have myself a little lie-down ... got the fan drawing in the last of the cool air before the sun hits the room's balcony fully. Have to move things around in about an hour or so, close curtains, move the fan so it's not pulling in hot air. Did I mention there's no AC in the place?

After a little walk and very nice cappuccino in the cafe, I came back to the room and chilled for a while, did my pulleyforme exercises a second time after supper, then spent the rest of the evening anticipating a treat that had been promised to me by the day nurse: then glory of glories, I got to SHOWER!!!!

Just before bedtime, the schwester changed my dressing for a waterproof one, and I got to scrub away a week's worth of hospital (at least from everywhere I could reach). Luxurious.

I passed on the pain meds at bedtime, only taking the sleeping pill. I'm really not in very much pain unless I do something wrong, then it's a twinge that goes away shortly. The sleepy meds are because of the noise and constant bustle here (and the schwester looking in on roomie every two hours.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 25

-- 7th post-op day

Awoke about 3 am, but fell back asleep in about an hour, and slept until almost 7 am. Damn, I'm such a slug-a-bed. Got up, washed up, changed into fresh clothes (that had mostly arrived in the care package from HW yesterday).

My primary surgeon isn't in today, so a substitute peered at my wound, changed the dressing and blessed it as doing quite well. The drainage decreases daily, though at times it's still soaking the (ever smaller) bandages.

Nurses came bustling in shortly before breakfast, bringing in a new roomie, an older gent who's getting some repair work done to his knee. He's affable enough, though his thick Bayerische dialect and my stumbling mish-mash of German don't let us communicate much more complicated info than weather and generalities. Apparently he and his wife both have had surgeries here before and have spent time in the Reha center, too. They're big fans and many of the staff seem to know them.

It's suddenly late evening and I'll try to catch up. Nothing huge to remark, a few walkies, roomie went away and came back snoring with his leg wrapped in bandages, couple of phone chats with HW. Learned new exercises from the physical therapist, using a spring and pulley device suspended from the ceiling in the room. I'm translating the instructions for all my exercises and all the guidance they've given me and will post that somewhere along here.

Suffice to say that the 'pulleyform' thingie is quite an ingenious bit of torture, and 20 minutes of work with it was sufficient for me to be wishing for a cold beer after.

Spent a lazy afternoon, rewarding myself for the pulleyform exercises with an iced coffee from the cafe. Bought a few postcards and wrote notes, read more of Mainspring and wandered back up to the room to settle in for the evening, and was surprised to find my dear friend Karl at the door shortly after I got to the room.

The cafe was already closed, so we wandered out in front of the clinic and chatted on a bench, watching Bad Abbach roll past.

When he headed for home, I went back upstairs to find my anti-thrombosis shot waiting and a nurse checking her watch. Of COURSE! Silly me. I should have noted that it was TIME for my shot ... Ahem.

Winding down the day and getting ready for night-time. Hopefully roomie doesn't snore too badly ...

Bis morgen ...

Tuesday, July 24

Tuesday, July 24 -- 6th post-op day one week in hospital

Usual morning festivities today, get up, wash up, wait for the doc and breakfast. The surgeon said the wound is healing well and he's happy with the progress. Much less drainage yesterday and last evening than the day before.

Lots of bustle and hustle in the hallways, and suddenly, I have a roomie.

Interesting young fellow from Hohenfels, a US Soldier working with the visual info team there. He has a buddy with who can speak a bit of German, but I wound up translating a bit, and helping him get settled in.

He's here for repair of a fracture of a finger and possibly of one of the bones in his hand. Looks a bit like 'boxer's fracture' to me, but I have no idea what happened and haven't been nosy about it. He's probably here only for the day, and will likely be gone again tonight.

Took a quick turn around the hallway and spoke to the PT briefly, but just now, when she was passing by my room, I got scolded. As I type this, I'm sitting on the edge of the bed (knees dutifully lower than hips, feet theoretically flat on the floor), but when she was passing by, I had unconsciously crossed my legs at the ankles (thought the knee-hip angle and the spacing between my knees about two fists wide) was still correct.

It's interesting, the things I'm supposed to be undergoing and the things I'm not supposed to be able to do. I'm afraid I tend to push the envelope a bit, and am constantly trying to find the edges of my new functionality. For instance, I'm not supposed to be able physically to touch my toes, but I can. Of course, I've got arms like an orangutan, too.

I'm not supposed to be able to do this or that, but I can find a way to do it and stay within the parameters of my restrictions, for the most part. It just takes longer or I must re-learn simple skills and replace the old way of doing things.

*HW: It's been interesting watching his creative approaches to simple problems with doors, shoes, clothes, those damned unsexy anti-thrombosis stockings (I really must get him some proper white lacy garters) et cetera. He lives for pushing the envelope, which anyone who has trained with him can vouch for-- he WILL find your envelope and he WILL push it! He's not a big one for rules and tends to follow them with a jaundiced eye... but he's being very good, especially for him. *

Be interesting to observe, as this progresses, to see how much of what I can and can't do changes over the coming months.

Overall, I feel pretty good right now, pretty functional. I'm thinking healing thoughts at the wound (Mostly along the lines of, Quit fucking seeping, already, dammit!), and am marking off days on the calendar.

Later that day ..

Alex woke up craving a smoke and by that, the nurses figured he was ready to go home and kicked him out.

The rest of the evening was quiet, restful and utterly unremarkable. I did get a care package from HW, clean clothes and a few treats and necessities.

Every day, almost every hour, I feel better, hurt less, seem stronger. I still tire pretty easily, but stamina is coming along as well.

Couple more days here, and then we'll see what Reha brings.



Monday, July 23 -- 5th post-op day

Slept decently, but not deeply, nor well. No real pain, more discomfort and restlessness at being stuck in 'the position' ... I'd kill to be able to sleep on my side, curled up comfortably and snuggled in deep.

Ah well, a few weeks more.

Awoke and started my day about 5:30 am, listening to the hospital begin bustling about me. I got up, made water, washed up, brushed teeth and slicked down the thistle patch that I call my hair (HW absolutely refused to let me shave it for this ordeal), and of course, while I was mostly naked at the wash sink, the surgeon stuck his head in the door.

He said to take myself a restful morning, he'd be back later.

Restful morning. Well, tweren't far from that, but wasn't exactly a day on the beach either. Lab tech came in about the time I finished my morning ablutions, took three vials of blood, followed by a peek-in from the physical therapist with a promise of her return shortly, breakfast (with which they gave me again only a single cup of coffee ... sigh) and various nurses, assistants and cleaning ladies.

When the PT showed, we chatted about my weekend, how many times I'd walked and to where, how I was feeling about and after walking, etc. We did stairs today. She was surprised that I'd already researched the info and had practiced at home before the OP, and she only had me go up and down two flights and satisfied with my demo, sent me back to my room to await further ministrations later.

She's also using me as an example to other patients, Look at him walk, he's had his surgery only a shorter time than you. Watch, pick up your knee like that ...

I read a bit whilst waiting, Bill Bryson's I'm a Stranger Here Myself, about his return to the US after having lived in England for 20 years. Trenchant, in that HW and I will likely have to move back to America in the next year sometimes.

He's an excellent writer with a gift of prose that should be studied by any serious writer or student of the English language.

Fr. Winter showed up a bit later and put me through a series of exercises, designed to strengthen the legs and hips. She always seems surprised HOW strong I am already. I told I'd done budo, in German "Japanesische kampfkunst" for more than 30 years.

She first tutted a bit about me not being able to do that any more, and I said, And why not?

A lengthy discussion followed about what I do and whether I could continue taking falls, moving in the fairly specialized manner of my system of martial studies. I told her I'd already talked to the surgeon about it, before the OP, and that I had told him I expected to be able to continue, albeit perhaps more slowly and carefully ...

I've bustled about the room a bit, washed out a pair of shorts and t-shirt in case I don't get my resupply soon enough, they're hung out on a folding drying rack conveniently provided on my balcony. Yes, my hospital room has a small balcony with a view of the courtyard and cafe terrace below. Very spiffy, but I wish I could sit out there. There's a chair, but it's utterly insufficient for my current condition, I fear.

So, here I sit, on the edge of my bed, typing away at my laptop sitting on a slightly slanted bedside table. If my words are a bit off-kilter, that's why. It has nothing to do with the drugs. Really.

Actually, I'm not getting good drugs at all, these days. A NSAID *HW: Diclofenac, administered with Nexium to protect the stomach* (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug the same family as aspirin, narpoxyn sodium, metamizal, etc), an antacid (both of those twice daily), and a strong antibiotic (three times a day). At night, a slightly stronger NSAID and a mild sleeping pill. That's about it. I can get an extra dose of NSAID a couple times a day if I want it, but so far, the past couple-three days, haven't needed it.

My biggest concern right now, is increasing walking duration, stability and getting the wound to dry up an quit seeping.

Quite a bit of seepage yesterday, the nurses changed dressings 3-4 times, and finally sort of packed it in with a double layer of absorbent gauze covered by the main dressing. It held through the night, though there's seepage at the edges this morning. Nothing to worry about, it's normal. The wound must drain to cleanse itself, and as long as the seepage is not infected, it's healthy.

That bit, drying up the wound, is simply a matter of time.

I, however, want it finished TODAY, right NOW. Dammit. The hospital's not horrible, but I'm looking forward to the rehab cebter and in a couple weeks, Real Life.

Langsam, langsam. Du muss' geduld haben, says Fr. Winter. And HW. And the Schwestern and Pflegeren.

Slowly, slowly. You must have patience.

Langsam, my ass. I'm ready to move on.

Most of the rest of the day passed uneventfully, and I took couple of walks around the floor and ventured down to the gift shop. That was a wasted trip. Candy bars, underwear, postcards and assorted other junk. Debated going to the cafe for an eiscafe, but I'd have to figure out how to lug a cushion and a book, so said, fuck it, I'll hang out in the room.

Fortunately, one of the nurses must have read my mind, for she appeared at the door with a fresh cup of coffee shortly after I returned.

Doc came in about 4 pm, examined my incision, changed the dressing and told me the only thing keeping me from moving to rehab right now is the drainage. As long as the incision is seepy, there's a chance of infection.

All else, he says, looks great. Oh, and I can fly again, any time after August, so it looks like the trip to Greece in September (a little gift to me for my recuperation), is a go! Woohoo!

Aside from fighting off boredom and trying not to nap overmuch, I'm doing pretty good and can't WAIT to move on to the rehab phase!

Afternoon and evening passed quietly. I took a couple of strolls around the hallway, read, watched TV, played on the computer, etc. Nothing of note, really, except calls from my HW and a dear friend who is a rabid Adam Ant fan and a fiesty little red-head.

(I plan to link some of these references when I get 'net access again, but for now, y'all know who you are.)

For some delightful reason, I got my pain and sleep meds early, which was good, as I was dog-tired by about 7:30 pm, and treat of treats! -- I got a footbath.

I can't reach my feet very well right now, and these damn compression hose make my legs itch and my toes sweat. The nurse who did it told me she'd recently been in the hospital herself for a blood poisoning problem and had had to wear the hose for a while, so was quite sympathetic.

By the time she was done (as HW will attest, if you want to put me to sleep, rub my feet), the drugs were taking hold and I was utterly relaxed and happy. I read a bit (Just finished Bryson's Stranger here myself and started Mainspring a clock-punk novel by Jay Lake) and was soon fast asleep. HW called, but I was pretty incoherent, so we kept it short. The tucking-in by phone is a long-standing tradition when we're apart.

Slept like a log until about 2 am, woke for a while and read some more, than fell back asleep and didn't stir again till about 7. A late morning for me lately.