Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kate Does TIRR Volume 1 Edition 5

I figured it was time to add to my blog. I took some time off because I've been perpetually exhausted. From fighting to open up my lungs to getting rid of my bronchial pneumonia to making the move back to TIRR, I've been pretty busy for a girl who lies in bed all day. But since this blog seems to be so popular I decided I should write something. (It's amazing how quickly my boring school blog blew up after I broke my neck; but maybe that's the secret to a good blog. Just get really injured and everyone will be interested.)

A quick update: I've been back at TIRR about a week and a half now and man am I tired. These people just don't understand the concept of sleeping in (says the girl who in college woke up between 5 & 6 every morning to ride her bike before classes). The therapy is going well; I am doing mat exercises, pedaling away on an auto bike and riding the tilt-a-whirl table that made me pass out the first week I was here. Also, I am vent weaning!! If all goes well I'll be off the vent by November 18. That means I'll be breathing on my own again, which is actually much harder than you think. But I've learned that about most things we take for granted. Even sitting up requires a coordination of so many different things that I never thought of just to be able to sit for a minute. But I'll leave that topic alone for now. I'll just preach to everybody later since I am not in a preachy mood at present. (You just dodged a bullet!) 

Now that we got the boring medical stuff over with let's talk about some of the stupid stuff I have done. Thing number one: I might have accidentally called my resident a fake doctor. He was in here during my admission assessment (that super fun thing where they poke me all over and I can't feel a thing...seriously they need to learn the definition of paralyzed) and we were talking and for some reason that I can't remember I said "Dr. Davis is my real doctor." Which is technically true because residents come and go but Dr. Davis is my permanent doctor that is in charge of my health while here at TIRR. Of course the resident, being a man, took my words the wrong way. He responded, "What does that make me? A fake doctor?" Of course I denied this but the damage was done. Thankfully he is a rare doctor that doesn't take himself too seriously and has a great sense of humor. Now whenever I see him we just joke about my poor word choice. Stupid thing number two: I might have called another resident a fake doctor. So this time I was talking to the weekend doctor and her resident so I told them the story above. Well, I didn't realize until he told me that her resident was a second year resident as well. In essence I told him that he was a fake doctor just like the first one.  Which is totally not true. They passed medical school and they could probably save my life if I started dying. However, they are just not as experienced as the head doctors. Adding insult to injury, this was a really cute resident that everybody has been talking about when he's not around, of course. (Wow. I really hope nobody from the hospital tells either one of these residents if they should happen upon this blog. But they are both attractive in their own right....Platitudes, gotta love 'em.) Stupid thing number three: I might have implied that my tech is a lesbian. Since I have been here for a collective total of about two and a half weeks I decided it was time to find out a little more about the people who help me. In this vein I asked one of my favorite techs about her relationship status and past history. So while I was questioning her I found out she had been married once. I proceeded to tell her, "When introducing yourself should lead with that." She then asked, "To a guy?" Me, being me, of course misunderstood. I thought she was asking if I was asking if she was married to a guy. Since she was asking with great incredulity, I asked if she was married to a girl. This of course led to lots more questions and laughter because I had totally missed the mark. Apparently she thought I was saying that she should introduce herself to guys she meets by saying she was married before. The confusion eventually cleared up but once again my mouth led me into another faux pas. On a different note, my tech is very much single and ready to mingle. I am now accepting applications to date her. Just don't tell her. 

So those are three majorly stupid things I have done so far. Some more kind of cool things: I am getting a power chair (isn't that a scary thought? I'll be the menace of the fourth floor. Crashing into people, speeding down the hallway at a brisk three miles per hour and causing general distress in my wake.) Plus the possibilities are endless:  I plan to play Mario Kart where we tie balloons to our chairs, race against each other and bang into each other hard enough to make the others lose their balloons. I have had a lot of visitors, which I absolutely love. Seriously. If you're thinking of visiting me, please do not hesitate to do so, even if you think I won't remember you or don't know you. There's no time like the present to make new friends.  Just let my mom know you'd like to visit, and she can let you know when I am not in therapy so we can chat. Feel freeh to bring gastronomical gifts.  (Put down the dictionary. You don't need to know what gastronomical means. I'm just kidding about that. You don't have to bring anything. Just yourself and a good attitude.)
In my power chair. Like my socks?

Sitting on a mat

Trying to type on my iPad. Did you see my Facebook post?

Well that's it for now. But in the next edition I'm going to talk about some of the cool stuff that has happened since my accident.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Kate Does TIRR Volume I Edition 4

Well, I was right, but did we really expect any differently? (But really, I'm wrong sometimes and I'm not that arrogant.) Beginning on Tuesday of last week I tried to tell anybody who would listen that I needed to go back to the ICU. My lungs labored to draw in air and were hindered by these rather large disgusting mucus plugs. They looked like a mix between Silly Putty and that goo you get when you mix Borax solution with Elmer's glue. I was coughing these up 3-4 times each day and whenever they came up my oxygen saturation and breathing always took a nosedive. Despite my constant complaints that my lungs were not functioning correctly I was not moved to ICU for another 3 days. I think it was because I didn't have a little piece of paper that said I graduated from medical school so there was no way I could know what was going on within my own body. Because that makes sense. 

So finally on Friday night my lungs felt as if they were collapsing and no respiratory therapist seemed able to help me. Ironically, this was the first night my dad stayed with me at TIRR, though it wasn't his fault. After a couple of hours of struggling for air and gasping my demands to be taken to ICU, a brainwave finally ricocheted throughout TIRR: they finally realized I was in critical condition and needed to go to the emergency room.  Hallaleujah! We're finally doing what Kate said all along. It only took constant breathing treatments, a bronchoscopy that against my wishes I was awake for and felt way more that I should have, the collective mental capacity of at least twelve medical professionals and a couple of hours of severe respiratory distress to figure out what I needed to get better. 

"Yes," I think to myself as I flail like a fish out of water struggling to breathe. The ambulance finally arrived about an hour later to escort me two blocks. Ridiculous, right? But the paramedic who stayed in the back with me during our seven minute encounter was really cool. 

Three hours pass in the ER and I realize I really hate the ER. Unless you're dying they really just don't care about you. So for those three hours I constantly fought to fill my lungs with a little bit of air because the machine settings were not helping at all. So to survive, I closed my eyes, counted, " 1, 2, 3 inhale," trying to figure out the ventilator to get a little bit of air. Then after all that fighting for my life, shift change occurred bringing me some relief. A new respiratory therapist came in and knew exactly how to fix my vent so I could breathe again. Thanks, Bonnie! You're the best!!

Finally I arrived in ICU and got hooked up to the Cadillac of ventilation machines. I mean we're talking the McLaren Venge of bicycles--for those who don't know, that's a $20,000 bike. My vent now not only moisturizes my air but heats it to the appropriate temperature to enter my fragile lungs. And the bed, we're talking first class! This sucker can be a bed, a chair, a recliner, an elevated bed. Pretty much any position you can think of this bed can do. Plus the mattress is inflatable to create the perfect support for my body. Needless to say Memorial Hermann MICU is very nice. The food is decent and my caretakers awesome! Additionally, both the doctors I have met thus far have been pretty fantastic people. 

So for a little bit more of an update, I have bronchopneumonia, which means nasty stuff is sitting at the bottom of my lungs and we're trying to get it out. Plus, the lower quadrant of my left lung was mot open. Gee, who predicted that?? I have free rein on my diet, which means I can eat or drink whatever I like. Sounds great, right? In actuality I eat less than a baby. I am only able to take two or three bites of something before I am full. Because of this limitation on my stomach I eat a little bit of everything, devouring salty potato chips, savoring the decadent Snickers bar, nibbling the deliciously sweet blueberry muffin, and mass consuming--at least for me--the flavorful and juicy strawberries, cantaloupe and pineapple. Besides eating, I am also able to talk whenever my cuff is deflated. The cuff is little balloon in my trachea that, when inflated, can isolate the breathing to just my trach, making it easier to breathe. Now that I can talk I don't shut up. Whether it's asking questions of my caretakers to get to know them better, complaining about this itch or that pressure point to my mother or endlessly talking about my favorite subject cycling, my lungs and my vocal chords have definitely gotten a very thorough workout today. 

Well, that's about it. Eventually I'll have to talk about how there is no modesty in hospitals or the pathetic way they get me out of bed. But I am tired so this is the end.

The End

(Actually, I lied. This is the picture section.)

The Cadillac of ventilators

The kind of weird hazmat like curtain that makes me wonder what other diseases are down here with me

An actual tv

Viewer discretion is advised. What you are about to see is incredibly gross and the 8th wonder of the hospital as all the doctors, medical students and other medical professionals all seem to puzzle over how such goopy nastiness can arise from my lungs.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kate Does TIRR Volume 1 Edition 3

Teeth clenched, I focus my every effort on my task. Squeezing my eyes shut I harshly draw in a deep breath as every muscle in my body strains to fulfill my brain's request. Fire rips through my muscles as I tell myself just one more second, keep going. With a grunt I release all of the tension in my body. Opening my eyes I check my progress. I have moved my right arm forward two inches.

Now almost completed with my first week of intense therapy, I can honestly say this is the toughest struggle of my life. Just sitting in my chair exhausts me within minutes. I don't sleep and I feel tired all the time. Seriously, I am taking cat naps like a grandpa. Getting out of bed each morning is a whole ordeal. It takes about thirty minutes to get me dressed and into my chair. Of course, by the time I'm in my chair, I am ready to get back to bed.

This week has also been full of lots of fun times. One morning my heart wouldn't stop pounding so I freaked out and made the resident come to see me. Though of course he refused to give me medicine. Another day, after physical therapy where they tried to get me to an almost standing posting by tying me to a board, I completely passed out. When I woke, of course it was the same resident who I made come down for me plenty of times before. He probably thinks I'm a nutcase. After waking up from passing out I found myself surrounded by 10 or 15 people. Apparently the Rapid Response is really rapid after all, which is kind of reassuring knowing that if I start dying all the doctors and respiratory technicians and nurses will rush to my side. Immediately upon waking up I tried to convince the crowd of people staring at me to send me back to ICU. When that failed, I tried for sedatives but of course those leave me awake at night. Losing all pride at this point, I actually asked one of the doctors to punch me really hard and knock me out for the rest of the day. Of course he said no. Stupid Hippocratic Oath!

But on an actually positive note, my room is shaping up quite nicely. Flowers cover every surface  and birthday balloons cling to life along the edges. But one of my most favorite aspects of my room is my photo wall.  Created by Chrystine the wall features pictures of fond memories and selfies of friends with well wishes. I would like to expand this wall and would appreciate any photos you could send.

          My photo wall

Also I got a new trach in my throat that allows me to speak normally. No more Grudge voice. Although last night I sounded like an evil cartoon villain because my lungs were full of nastiness. My mom and I had a good laugh over that one.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Kate Does TIRR: Volume 1 Edition 2

Well, yesterday was my birthday and let me tell you, of all the things I imagined I'd be doing, spending it in a hospital wasn't one of them. But you know, UT did beat OU yesterday so Hell has probably frozen solid and pigs are likely flying. What I really wanted to do for my birthday was get up and do a Saturday ride. I wanted to see how much all my riding in Austin has affected my riding at home. I've climbed some big suckers (even crashed because I couldn't turn my pedals...thankfully nobody saw the crash, that would have been embarrassing) trying to get stronger. My goal was to keep up with or maybe even put the hurt on the big boys ( I'm looking at you Lance, Jeff, Rob, Marcus and all the other fast guys). 

But even though I didn't get to spend my birthday the way I planned, it was still pretty good. I was truly touched by all of the people, cards, messages and well wishes that came my way. I guess I never realized how much of a support system I actually have. If I can say one positive thing about this accident, it has truly taught me how much I am loved. Plus I get to milk this thing for its benefits; I'm thinking a puppy or possibly a Cervelo S5....

From the teddy bear Celeo gave me to the beautiful "selfies" Chrystine got for me, all of my presents are treasured. They're just clogging up my room a little bit! By the way, sorry for most likely misspelling your name Celeo. 

Also yesterday,I figured out how to talk around this big old hunk of plastic in my neck. However my voice sounds like the love child of the Grudge and a goat. It even kind of freaks me out sometimes, so I can't imagine what everyone else must think of my less than harmonic tones. But it is a voice after all. So I'll take it. I just might freak out small children. 

Kate Does TIRR: Volume 1, Edition 1

Hellooooooo Everybody!!! That's a "Despicable Me" reference in case you missed it.

Since I am no longer in college I have decided to repurpose my World Lit Blog to a "Kate Does TIRR" blog. But mostly because starting a whole new blog was way beyond the electronic prowess of a quadriplegic cripple and her electronically challenged personal assistant. Just be happy we put pictures in last week's blog. That was a whole ordeal!

The good news: I got moved to a rehab facility in Houston, I got to get out of my bed, I got to eat ice chips, I really like the TIRR staff, I got a neck brace that fits my face proving the rumors true: Kate does have a nose and mouth. (Wow! I'm talking about myself in the third person...weird!) Some sensations are returning to my arms, my left foot, though nowhere near fully restored. I can also move my arms like an erratically dancing monkey, but mostly I look like an idiot. But hey, Rome wasn't built in a day, or some cliche like that.

The less than stellar parts of my stay so far include all the stupid pre-tests. I've been poked, prodded, manipulated and examined like a lab rat from freshman year. They ask me, "Can you feel this or that?" And I reply, "No Einstein, I'm paralyzed." Looks like somebody needs to go back to medical school. That's what I say in my head. In reality, I lie there doing an Oscar-worthy impersonation of a dead log.

I really miss all of my friends and the medical staff from ICU at Brackenridge. The Respiratory Therapists (RT's) here, though awesome in their own right, aren't Sade or Danielle, ditto the nurses; I really miss Arianne, Jackie and Jennifer.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Week of October 1

The week started out with a bang. Literally. I was enjoying a fantastic Tuesday morning ride after a terrible ride on Monday due to a flat tire. Fifteen miles from home. Whats's that thing about Murphy's Law? Oh, yeah, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. One moment I am on my bike on Loop 360 having a great ride and the next thing I know I am waking up in a hospital after surgery. The news was not what I wanted to hear: I had just come out of surgery to repair my broken neck.  Additionally, I had copious amounts of road rash, two broken ribs and I was hooked up to a ventilator. I felt broken, worthless, crushed and stupid. I know that road is dangerous but I rode it anyway never thinking that I would be the one to get hurt.

But through all this I have learned how much my friends and family truly do love me. "Cue the tears." My childhood friends, distant relatives, past and current teachers and my many new friends at UT have all shown their love through cards, gifts, visits, Facebook and email. That's made me feel especially loved, treasured and valued. I sincerely admire their devotion, generosity and well wishes.