1 May 2013
A day in the life of someone who can’t walk.
I have been thinking about all of the little things that I do now every day since I haven’t been able to walk. It’s interesting how much we as humans with 2 functioning legs, (and fully functioning bodies, for that matter) take so much for granted every minute of the day. Want a glass of water? Get up and get one. Want to go to the toilet? Walk to the toilet and go. Want some food? Walk to the fridge and get some. Want to do the washing? Gather up clothes, put them in the machine, and once it’s finished, hang them out. Want to go outside? Do it. So many things that are so easy to do when everything works properly and you aren’t in pain. So here is a small insight into the routine I’ve developed over the past week. I’ve gotten really good at it, and can now do everything I need to do.
5.45am Wake up because someone is calling Dre’s phone. Wonder who could be calling at this time of day, but don’t find out, because I know that by the time I would be able to get out of bed and move across the floor it will have stopped. Lay awake for a few minutes and feel a little annoyed that I need to go to the toilet. It requires a lot more effort when you can’t walk but I resign myself to it and get out of bed.
First I have to lower myself to the floor, making sure my left leg stays above the floor because the lower I move it the more intense the pain is. I use my right foot and my two hands, as well as my bum as my 4 points of contact to the floor, and use my leg and arms to lift my body off the ground, move forward half a metre or so, then rest on my bottom while I move my arms and leg forward again, all the while keeping my left leg up. This repeats about 20 times or so, until I reach the toilet. Here I need to put my back to the toilet, raise my left leg more in anticipation of my body about to be higher off the ground, put my right foot centred in front of the toilet to take my weight, and then put both hands behind me into the toilet seat and lift myself up.
The whole time my left leg hurts because I have just changed the height of my body from the ground, so I’m pretty focussed on just keeping it as high as possible. Now I have progressed to being able to stand up on my right leg while holding my left leg up with my left arm, while I flush the toilet and then hold onto the towel rail while I use my right foot to heal – toe zig zag across the floor to reach the basin. When the floor is dry sometimes I can hop, but it’s usually wet, being a bathroom in Laos, so hopping is too dangerous and zig zagging is a much more controlled way to move. Also when the floor is wet it’s not so great to be floor-bound… so I have gotten good at either avoiding the wet patches, or if it’s really wet then I have to shed all clothing on the bottom half of my body before entering the bathroom.
After I’ve washed my hands I can then use the door way to help ease myself back down to the ground, and move with my right foot and two hands and bottom back across the floor to the bed. Phew. I never realised going to the toilet could be so involved.
9am Wake up again. I check on Dre and he says he feels a lot better today, after 13 solid hours of sleep. His foot isn’t hurting so much and neither is his burn. This is about the time the girls from the shop always bring our breakfast of fresh fruit salad. Today I really want to be showered and in the lounge for when they come around, because they love coming to check up on us, so I really want to show them I’m doing fine. The past 3 days I haven’t managed to get out of bed in time so when they come with the breakfast they haven’t gotten to see me.
I don’t quite manage it. I have bum-shuffled across the floor to the shower, made sure that all of the body wash and shampoo is on the edge of the basin where I can reach it, and then carefully positioned by right foot so I can stand completely still when having a shower. Over the past week I have learned exactly where to put my foot so that when the floor is all wet I don’t need to move at all and can shower my whole body (except my left leg). If I lean back slightly my face and front gets wet, and if I lean forward slightly my head and back get wet, perfect. My left leg I rest on the basin, which conveniently is at just the right height for my leg to stay on for the entire shower. When I’m finished, I carefully and slowly zig zag my right foot across the bathroom, while leaving my left foot up on the basin for extra balance, to reach my towel. I now dry myself and the zig zag toe-heal a bit more to hang the towel back up. From there I zig zag across the floor until I’m no longer on the wet bit, and can hop a few steps on the dry bit of floor while using the door, basin, and doorway for balance.
Back onto the floor for the trip to the dressing table, deodorant and moisturiser are all now lined up on the edge so that I can reach them from floor height. Next is finding clothes – each day it’s a matter of finding a clean tshirt – which there are a lot less of now that it’s really hard to do the washing and especially hang it up. I have to lay on my back on the floor to pull up underwear and skirt. Anything I’m wearing on my top half is a lot easier because I can just sit up while I put this on.
Now it’s time for what Dre now calls the ‘pillow train’. So I pull my pillow that I keep my leg up on all day and all night off the bed and onto the floor. I load it up with my book, lip balm, Anti Flamme, paracetamol, water, and my dirty clothes from the day before. I rest my left foot on the pillow and as I bum-shuffle across the floor I use my left foot to push the pillow ahead of me, so that all the supplies I’ll need for the day are with me. This is my transition into the lounge, where even though the couches aren’t comfortable, I prefer being there during the day because it means a change of scene from the bedroom.
I leave my pillow near the sofa and I detour to the washing machine where I have pretty much perfected throwing in yesterday’s clothes from floor level. Next I scoot over to the fridge (or sometimes one of the chairs) to collect my fruit salad. I put it in various places around the room on my travels back to my pillow, resting it on chairs and stools along the way until I get close to the couch. Then I unload the food, and all the stuff on the pillow onto the coffee table, and put the pillow up on the sofa. I use my arms and right leg to lift myself onto the sofa and put my leg up on the pillow, where I can now rest for a while. I sit up to eat my fruit now, which is good because a few days ago I felt so sick that even eating had to be done lying down to avoid nausea.
11am Well the morning showering/dressing/eating took almost 2 hours and so now I am slightly dismayed to realise that I need to go to the toilet again. I repeat the same process as above, and am pleased to learn that I can now get from the couch to the toilet and back again in just over 10 minutes. Woohoo! A few days ago it was taking almost double that. I also took the opportunity while being in the bathroom to clean my teeth – to do this I can just put my left leg up on the basin and so it works well to do it when I am already in the bathroom washing my hands, otherwise it is another time of hurting my leg to stand up at the basin. I put on some brainwave entrainment music to listen to today, to help with the healing.
The swelling in Dre’s foot has gone down a lot today and so he has gone out to buy some more dressings and tape to stick them on with. I decide to use the time to remove my dressings. The top one comes off really easily, it’s the first time I haven’t needed saline to soak it off so I’m really pleased. The bottom one is stuck on, so I get the towel at the end of the couch and lay it in between my leg and the pillow to catch all the saline solution I’m going to have to use the soak the dressing off. I soak it and decide to write this for half an hour or so. Dre comes back and we both decide to let our burns air out a little bit today, so we leave the dressings off for a while. Dre has to soak his dressing off in the shower.
There is a knock at the door and I realise Dre locked the door when he came back in, so it means that whoever is out there is going to have to wait for Dre to get dressed after his shower before he can open the door. It’s Thong, come to visit and make sure we’re OK. I haven’t seen him in over a week now so it’s nice that’s he’s come to say hi. After about 10 minutes Paet and Mona also arrive. Paet has a good look at our wounds, which are open and airing out. I think Dre’s is healing pretty well now, after resting a lot more in the past 2 days and our huge sleep last night. Mine is also healing really well but is getting a bit bubbly and gross on the bottom one.
12.30pm Dre heads down to the shop to organise our lunches. He can walk really easily even though his wound is not looking as good as mine, and we wonder if this is because he has been walking around each day instead of just resting. In the beginning my burns were deeper and bigger and worse than his.
We live on the top (4th) floor of a building that only has stairs, so even leaving the house and walking the 50 odd metres to the shop or pharmacy is still a small workout for a leg with a burn.
The girls at the shop deliver everything we need but Dre says he needs to get out of the house sometimes to stop going crazy. Fair enough.
For me I’m just going to lay here until he gets back and feel good about everything. I feel so lucky that we have so many amazing people in our lives, so lucky we have a business that runs without us needing to be here, that we are both so fit and healthy, and that neither of us got hurt more seriously. I love living in Luang Namtha, even though the medical care leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s really nice to just take the time to appreciate everything I have.
1.30 I really want to try to walk again today and I have been spending a lot of time throughout the past 2 days exercising my leg as much as I can by bending my knee a lot and moving my foot backwards and forwards and side to side as much as I can. I think the range of movement has increased a little from a few days ago. It’s still not as much as it was before the crash, but I’m confident that this will come with time and am just so happy that I can move it as much as I can.
Dre back with my lunch. He also brought me some frangipani flowers and some chocolate. Aren’t I lucky? Before that I had to go to the toilet again. Sadly this seems to becoming a toilet blog – but the reality is that it’s pretty hard to go to the toilet when you can’t walk, so each time it’s a bit of an event.
I have decided not to drink any water for a while to delay the next trip.
2pm talked to my parents on the phone, it was nice to update them that we’re pretty much doing fine now. They both confessed they were really worried for a while there because burns are so susceptible to infection and we don’t exactly live somewhere where we can get good medical attention. They are really happy we’re both on the mend and told Dre to stop doing stuff and rest!
4pm. Woke up from a nap that must have been about 1.5 hours. It’s amazing how much sleeping we’ve both been doing in the past week. Dre is still sleeping. I’m really glad he’s now finally taking time to rest and recuperate. Doing some more foot movement exercises.
5pm. It’s amazing to me how I haven’t read many books. When the accident first happened I imagined reading loads of books – I love to read and I usually read a book every week or two. I have read a bit, mainly though I spend time just healing. Noticing the sounds outside or sitting up to look at the mountains, before I noticed how beautiful the clouds are. It’s really nice to have time to just completely do nothing. There is definitely a plus side to not being able to walk. My leg is more sore now. I stood up for a few seconds before and I might try it again before the day is out. I reminded myself though that it’s much better do this in the morning when my leg and foot are feeling their best. As the day draws on it still gets a bit sorer and my the evening usually I go to bed and take half a valium just to sleep and not be in pain.
Dre’s foot is almost normal size again now, he has just gotten up and is proudly showing me it. He’s really grumpy now because he’s sick of having a sore leg.
6pm. Tried to stand up again but wasn’t able to do so for more than a few seconds. The pain is just so intense and it makes me feel really sick and faint. Instead I have tried to sit down with my leg on the floor. This lasted about 30 seconds before I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to just put it up, and try tomorrow. I am still doing my exercises and even though I am gently moving my foot back and forth, and side to side, this has broken some of the newly forming skin around my ankle. It’s only minor, and it needs to happen anyway otherwise I’ll never get the movement back. It’s a little sad that I have to break some of my healing in order to progress.
7.30. Dre bought us some spring rolls from the market and we had them. Now for the first time in 9 days I have been adding this information to the internet so doing something other than laying around.
Dre says he has seen me cry more in the past week than in the past 5 years. Burns aren’t very fun.
Leila, the American doctor came around before. She said that not being able to walk on the 9th day after the accident is ‘not impressive’ and that she wants us to go to hospital in Chiang Rai tomorrow and not come back until we are both fully better. She said that the dressings we have are really inferior to what they have in Thailand, and also the pain relief here is non existent. She says I need to be walking and having enough pain relief to do so. She said that I could get some people to carry me out of the minivan into the boat, out of the boat into the bus, and out of the bus into a tuk tuk and into the hotel. I’m not so sure. I think that some of that would involve being in a lot of pain.
We do have it pretty good here – when we want food we just ring the shop and someone delivers it to us, and really the biggest problem of the day is working out how to get to the toilet and back without hurting my leg.
Leila says I need to get some proper pain relief and walk though. I stood up again before and was able to stand for at least 40 seconds or so before I had to sit down again, so that is progress. But Leila says I should be way ahead of this in terms of healing. And after I thought we were both doing so well! She says the reality is that burns take a lot longer and require a lot more care than most people realise and we need to go and get proper medical attention. It seems weird to go now though, when we’re already seemingly past the worst of it.
Also I am really scared to go. It will be so hard for me to do anything and I will need to be carried or crawl across the ground to do anything. I will need someone to carry me into the minivan, out of the minivan, to lunch, down the hill, into the boat, out of the boat, into the tuk tuk, into the bus, out of the bus….. it all seems very very hard. I am also worried that here we have food delivery but in Thailand Dre would have to go and get food.
Click here for Day 10
Click here to read about Day 8
Click here to read about Day 7 when I managed to stand for the first time
Click here to read about Day 6 where I made some progress
Click here to read about Day 5 when I had an allergic reaction to the burn cream
Click here to read about Day 4 when things started to look up
Click here to read about Day 3 which was the worst day ever
Click here to read about Day 2, when I was so drugged I had no idea what was going on
Click here to read about the day of the accident
Click here to find out who we are and where we live and why this has been a bit of a challenge living in a third world country.