Lessons Along The Walk Way
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