Monthly Archives: April 2015
My 92 year old blind mother fell on Easter Sunday and broker her hip. She dragged herself to her phone and called me. I was out with my husband (the doctor) and we were able to get to her in just under 30 minutes. That put her about an hour from the time she fell til we got there and my husband diagnosed her broken hip. A few minutes later, EMS was on the scene and two very competent and compassionate muscle men got mom onto the gurney and on her way to the ER. I texted my brothers who actually beat me to the hospital.
My mom lives in an apartment in a facility that has both assisted and independent living units. She lives independently despite her blindness and advanced age. Her recovery since surgery the Monday after Easter has been nothing short of miraculous. She’s not a soft, fuzzy kinda gal. She was a registered nurse since 1944, served in the US Army mostly in the Philippines during World War II, and worked full time throughout my youth. The last 20 or so years of her career were spent as the Director of Nurses at large nursing homes. She knows old people. Now, she is one.
Believe me, it sneaks up on all of us. One day you are agile, capable, independent and the next you are old, frail, and asking for help from those around you. No one plans that. It just happens.
Why has mom’s recovery gone so well? You already know the answer. Even at 92 and robbed of most of her vision due to macular degeneration, she walks at least a mile every day inside her facility. She uses no walker or cane. She takes the stairs, shunning elevators due to fairly severe claustrophobia. Her blood press and cholesterol are lower than mine. As my husband would tell you, she chose her parents well. Despite her years of smoking, she has no lung disease. She lucked out in the genetic lottery and has maximized her health by continuing to walk and push herself when most of her younger apartment mates are sitting around complaining of their aches and pains and sharing tales of the horrors of hospitals.
Not mom. She had no aches and pains. In fact, since two days after surgery, she has taken no pain medication except right before bedtime – and then only Tramadol, a non-narcotic pain reliever. She requires assistance with a lot of things right now – like getting up and down to walk, help ordering from the menu (she’s blind),and dealing with ‘hip precautions’ which require someone else to put on her socks and pants. This phase won’t last long. She is already bending too forward (than the hip precautions allow) to pull up her own pants. She receives visitors and chats on the phone. All 3 of us kids visit almost daily and the grandkids, inlaws and outlaws have all made appearances. She’s really lucky that way.
Mom has no mental deficiencies. Since she has become blind – about 15 years ago – she REMEMBERS all the dates that I write on her calendar – hair and doctor appointments, laundry day, and which friend will be visiting on which Friday. She calls me to remind me to pick her up for the beauty shop. If she could see, she’d still be driving and giving the people at Walgreen’s grief for not having her eye drops ready!
Most of us will not have the same durable, healthy genes mom inherited. But, we all have the ability to keep ourselves agile and physical strong. We can all work on our endurance. We can all get off the sofa to walk the neighborhood or march in place in front of the TV during our favorite TV show. If we are really lucky, one day when we least expect it, we might have an accident resulting in a broken bone requiring surgery, but we’ll recover much more quickly if we’ve worked to keep our muscles strong. And, there is strong evidence that the same exercise that flexes our muscles also flexes our brains so we retain our mental abilities right along with our physical ones.
You go, mom! Such a good example is impossible not to follow. Join me on the Walk Way.
NOTE: Here’s a picture of my mom when she was about 19, during nursing training. Wasn’t she pretty? St. Vincent’ss Infirmary School of Nursing, Little Rock, Arkansas.
NOTE: The photos in this article of anonymous people (or someone’s xray) from bing.com
Kris and I hit the trail again at Castlewood State Park in hopes of seeing those lovely bluebells again. We got a bit of a late start since I had a busy schedule then a friend in from Albuquerque. We got to the park and walked the route in the opposite direction from yesterday. Once we rounded the bend in the trail that mimics the river’s bend, we were greeted with the delicious aroma of the bluebells which seemed even more numerous than yesterday. Probably because it was nearer to dusk.
This end of the park has two wooded trails that edge a central grassy area that is easily the size of two soccer fields. When we entered this meadow, we saw a fireman across the meadow who indicated that we were not to walk across the meadow to the next part of the wooded trail but to divert to the parking lot. Then, Kris heard the unmistakable thumping high in the air from a helicopter. So, we stopped to watch the copter land and then to try to figure out what was happening. Things were calm, but it was clear this was no drill.
When we had entered the park, we had seen first a huge EMS unit (necessarily large as it must be ready for injuries on land and in the river) and farther down the road, a cluster of smaller emergency vehicles. We didn’t think much of it since they let us pass under the single lane opening under the train tracks that surround and crisscross the park. Unconcerned, we took the dog and walked away.
Once the copter landed, we watched one of the large fire department SUV’s load up the copter pilot and the other EMS guy from the copter and drive away. Hmmm. This was getting curious – and interesting. We loaded up the dog and headed back home. Then, as we passed under the train tracks, we could see the lineup of emergency vehicles. Later, Kris reported that the a train was stopped on the rails at a highway overpass just outside the park. Curiouser and Curiouser.
What we know about this park is that there are some extremely steep and rugged trails. There are bluffs over the river and bluffs over the railway right of way. There is a steep set of stone steps over one part of the bluff just above the train tracks. Bikers, runners, and walkers scramble high and low through this park every day, no matter what the weather. Further, the river draws boaters and fishermen, floaters (a term dear to the hearts of St. Louisans. If you aren’t familiar, please ask.), and photographers. The park is tucked into one side of a sharp S bend in the river and links at one end via a railway right of way (that is illegal to trespass on) to a small river town and a large park upstream. It’s a popular place.
We surmise that someone fell or jumped from some height onto the train tracks or from the tracks into one of the culverts that follow the train tracks. The tracks themselves form a levee to protect the park and farmland from the river. Sadly, the railway trestles and bridges have been the scenes of many teen deaths, either by accident or suicide. But the ruggedness of the trails lend themselves to body beating falls. The only thing worse than falling while you’re walking or running is to fall from the greater height of a bike. Something as simple as a broken leg could easily require a team of first responders to safely remove the victim from the trail. Something more happened today since we saw 10 or 11 first responder vehicles in addition to the helicopter! Probably not a simple fracture when more than one fire protection district responds to the call.
We may never know what happened today. Our fingers are crossed that it’s that broken leg on the train track rather than any of the scarier scenarios. Either way, we had our dose of drama for the day. We prefer the silent beauty of those fragrant bluebells.
My life has been mostly uphill the past couple months. Life can get like that, right? But, due to my perseverance and the support of good friends, I’ve been able to keep walking through most of it. Walking in sickness and in health is one of my mantras. It keeps me going so that the uphill days get leveled off to more stable territory and I sleep better and have a better outlook in general.
Yesterday, my friend Kris and I walked at Castlewood State Park, one of our favorite locations. We have had so much rain over the past few weeks that we had to walk on concrete to give the trails time to dry out a bit. Yesterday was our first off-road walking in a while. And, it was glorious. The weather was totally wonderful. But, the Bluebells. OH, my! They were splendiferous. The walk through the Bluebells was worth all the difficult days I’ve been through lately.
Kris is an excellent photographer, even with her cellphone. Plus, she’s a faithful walking buddy who is as devoted to walking as I am. That’s hard to find! So, enjoy ‘my’ Bluebells and the tiny violets we saw also. We even saw wild carrot blossoms! There’s no telling what beauties you could find in your own neighborhood.