“Breaking My Left Wing: Reporting for Rehab-Days 2 and 3”

Friday, 2/3/17  Day 2

TMI Sports Medicine

Well, after having lived through Day 1 and practiced all seven exercises from the handout Shelby, the  PT student gave me, I showed up at the gym medicated to the gills but nonetheless sparkly-eyed and ready to go.

“How have you felt, today?”

“Can’t complain,” I said. “In fact, I turned another corner today.”

“Oh? What did you do?”
“I managed to put in my left earring with my left hand,” I  gloated.

She sucked in her breath. “Hey, great!”

After leading me to a table, she asked me to show her the exercises I’d been assigned to do, as we chatted about this and that.

Soon, she was placing a much-deserved ice pack — my reward for work well-done — on my shoulder and helping me lean back.

“Is Daniel here?” I asked.

“Sure, he’s right over there. Let me go get him for you.”

Within minutes, he came around and, after more friendly chit-chat, stretched my arm as gently as he could. Although it was a minor “owee”, I took some deep breaths and made it through. It was a small price to pay to regain full use of my left arm. My spirits were soaring because after Jeff and I finished our therapy sessions — my PT at TMI and his EECP at Legacy Heart Center — we would head out for a day at the Fort Worth Stock Show.

At last, after the machine he was attached to stopped and the assistants freed him from the straps that held him down, we struck out for the stock show where we strolled the cattle and pig barns, shared a jumbo corny dog slathered with mustard and a large iced tea, before checking out the general exhibits. Best of all, we benefitted from some badly-needed exercise.

As we walked, Jeff was impressed that I was finally able to take his hand as we walked, something I had not been able to do up until then.

Between Days 2 and 3, I reached yet another milestone: applying mascara to my left eye with my left hand without winding up looking like a Picasso painting. I could hardly wait to report my progress to Shelby  on Monday, February 6.

Monday, February 6 


This time, after putting me through my “paces”, Shelby raised the bar a couple more notches.  This time, she handed me a pair of hand-grippers that athletes use for strengthening their hands and fingers and asked me to use each finger at a time as I squeeze it. When we noticed that that my ring finger and little finger were barely cutting it by themselves, she asked me to use both of them.

“Don’t worry. We’ll be helping you to further strengthen your fingers.”

An “aha!” moment flashed in my brain.

“Would playing my piano help my fingers?”

“You know, it just might.”

“Good,” I said, grinning. “I haven’t played my piano in years, but I’ve been dying to pick out a song I’ve been hearing on Pandora.”

For my  last exercise, Shelby led me to a door where she directed me to ball my fist on a wash rag against a door jamb, push as hard as I could, and count to twenty. Once I finished, she had me turn around and so that I was facing the other way with my elbow touching the cloth. This time I was to push as hard as I could against the door with the back of my shoulder.

Soon, Daniel came around and stretched my arm while I was chilling with ice on. my shoulder. Bracing for another “owee”, I was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t hurt like it did on Friday.

“Okay, that’s it. We’ll see you next Wednesday,” Shelby said, leading us to the checkout desk.

I caught their attention one last time. “I will definitely play my piano when I get home.”

Each of them gave me a thumbs-up and waved good-bye.

When we returned from Jeff’s therapy, play the piano, I did. Thank God for muscle memory. Although years without practice had caused me to be rusty,  I sat  down and picked out the tune and accompanying chords to Leonard Cohen’s  “Alleluia” on a piano badly out-of-tune. Regardless, I was ecstatic.

“Wow, babe,” said Jeff, as he came out of the kitchen. “That sounded  really good!”

“And would you believe this is the first time I’ve played this song?”

Once again, I turned one more corner by removing my sling and leaving it off for the rest of the evening, as my PTs said I could start doing.

Every step I’ve taken, so far, has been a step forward. When I return, next Wednesday,  I can’t wait to tell them what all I’ve accomplished since I was there, today.

Stay tuned for Days 4 and 5 in my continued journey to recovery coming on February 15 and 17.

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“Breaking My Left Wing”, Part 4: “Reporting for Rehab–Day 1”

January 30, 2017

TMI Sports Medicine

10:00 am

“Drop and give me fifty, grunt” snarled my physical therapist, spittle dripping from his chin. “On the double!”

I quivered. I cowered. I rolled into a ball.

“P-p-please. D-d-d-on’t h-h-h-urt m-m-e,” I whimpered.

“You helpless puddle of poo. You disgust me,” he said, upper lips curled, as he kicked me in the side with his steel-toed combat boot.

I was afraid I would surely die until, lo and behold, a miracle  happened:  I woke up.

Yes, the big day had arrived, at last. As I brushed my teeth, my every nerve pinged with excitement.From here on out, I would eventually get to sling my sling after  completing  the prescribed number of  sessions . Meanwhile, Facebook friends who had undergone physical therapy for on various body parts regaled me with “war” stories. Despite  tales from the trenches  from other PT “vets”, I resolved, then and there, that my experience would be different. 16266230_10210422592714845_5765612115168230575_n

Jeff and I arrived fifteen minutes before my ten o’clock appointment. Again, my nerves began tuning  like an orchestra before a concert. My eyes trained on the entrance to the therapy room; any  minute, someone would call my name.

Unlike the part of the office reserved for people waited fifteen minutes — and then thirty, forty, and so on –for someone to call them back, I waited, maybe,  twenty minutes at the most. As specified by my paperwork, Daniel would be my therapist. So when I heard a feminine voice say “Kim?”, I was surprised to see a young woman who appeared to be in her twenties.

“You don’t look like Daniel,” I told her as Jeff and I entered the therapy room, set up like a fitness gym. She laughed.

“No, I’m *Sara, one of the students. I’m just going to lead you through some exercises to see what you are able to do, right now.”

Now, it’s  important for you to know that I was so excited about the  procedure that I really didn’t catch her name, thus the asterisk beside the name “Sara”. It is also crucial to remember that I really don’t remember her exact words, only their essence.

My husband and I followed her into the gym where she directed me to sit up on one of the padded tables, asked me some questions about my pain tolerance and when I took my last pain pill. Then she led me through seven range-of-motion exercises:

  1. Wrist Active Range of Motion
  2. Elbow Passive Pronation/Supination
  3. Active Hand/Finger Gripping
  4. Passive/Active Assisted Elbow Flexion
  5. Upper Trapezius Stretch (Stretching the neck muscles)
  6. Cervical Retractions (Chin Tucks)
  7. Scapular “Clock” Active Motion (on the shoulders)

She also measured the distance I was able to move my left arm away from my body.

Well, as she directed me through the various routines and told me that these exercises, performed in ten reps each, twice a day, would also be my homework, I felt elated that I could easily do them, particularly the hand and finger movements and tried not to sound boastful when I reported that I already used all ten fingers to type three out of four blog posts since the date of my surgery. I was feeling pretty darned good — for awhile, that is, until the warm room started spinning, and I broke out in a cold sweat. Raising the head of the table, Sara eased me back against it and ran to get an ice pack which she applied to my shoulder.

“Does this happen to other people?” I asked. “I’m not the only weenie, am I?”

“Oh, no,” she assured me. “Since you’ve just taken your pain meds and are obviously excited about your first session, it is perfectly normal. I’ll tell you what — we’ll let this be it for today,” she said, handing me two sheets of paper with photos and instructions for completing my homework and walked Jeff and me up to the front to set my next appointment time.

All in all, even though today was only the beginning of Physical Therapy “boot camp”, I came out of there feeling not only thankful to have completed my first session but, also,  pretty proud of myself. Within the three weeks since surgery and even the hellish second week of 2017 when I hollered a lot from the pain, I knew I had come a long way within a relatively short time period.

Last Wednesday, not only did I get the staples removed from my shoulder incision, I also got to ditch the stabilizer  that weighed down my sling for two weeks. Jeff and I had even been able to take little outings where we walked around. What’s more, I have already been able to  slack off on my meds since last Wednesday after the PA said I no longer needed to take them around the clock, but could take them on a PRN — Latin for pro re nata or “as needed” — basis. While I still need my Tylenol with codeine “fix”, I have just about cut out the need for Tramadol which I had taken regularly, four hours apart, since I got out of the ER on New Year’s Day.

My next session is this Friday, February 3. I expect Daniel will be back to put me through the paces and to see how well I have done on my homework. I, for one, intend to be one of his biggest success stories. Tune in for “Breaking My Left Wing: Reporting for Rehab — Day 2” coming to a computer, tablet, or Smart Phone near you.






It was brand-new, burgundy, with touches of gold and the heavenly aroma of new leather. Like the proverbial little old lady and her car, I got it out only on Sundays and, when I was through with it, returned it to its proper place.

But it wasn’t a car. It was my first adult bible — burgundy leather cover with delicate pages edged in gold — a birthday gift from my husband in November, 1985. Until that day, I carried my childhood bible — white, zippered, name stamped on cover — to Sunday school and church. With help from the poetic rhythm of King James, I memorized countless verses. As I grew older, a question dawned on me. How much was I really grasping?

On October 31, 1995, I learned that a meningioma — a slow-growing tumor that grew to 3.5″ in diameter, about the size of a grapefruit– was homesteading smack dab in the bi-frontal lobe of my brain. Thank God, the seven-hour surgery on November 2 — the day before my birthday — was successful.The pathology report, that the tumor was “encapsulated and benign” was almost miraculous. Still,because the tumor had insulted more than one system in my body, I was looking at five more weeks before I could go home.

The first step to recovery was a walk down the hall. I was barely two days out of surgery when I graduated from Neuro ICU to fifth floor of Richardson Tower, the stop before Rehab. When Michael and Cheryl showed up at my room with a gait belt — a length of webbing with a buckle at one end — and announced it was time for my walk, my first thought was, “On these wobbly legs? I don’t think so!”

Still, I felt driven by two things: the desire to return to life even better than I ever knew it and my renewed faith, thanks to prayers lifted up by three congregations: my sister-in-law’s, my mother’s, and mine. With my hands firmly planted on Michael’s shoulders and Cheryl holding on to me from behind, I knew there was no room to fall. Inching my way down the hall, I began to focus on my favorite New Testament verse, Philippians 4:13: “For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Scarcely a week passed before I was approved for rehab. There, I was encouraged to wear street clothes and to resume my favorite activities: writing and reading. Knowing that Mike would be visiting me, that afternoon, I asked him to bring a notebook and my bible.

When I was little, I memorized Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” in Sunday School. Yet, I knew very little about other chapters in Psalms, let alone the Bible, itself. So, when I wasn’t in therapy sessions, I sat in my wheelchair and explored other psalms.

Always loving the majesty of a thunderstorm, I was thrilled to find 29:3, “…The God of glory thunders.” Flipping to Chapter 150, I could almost hear the flutes, cymbals, and tambourines. A real-live spiritual pep rally that ended with, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”

On December 1, I was released from Harris Hospital where I continued to recuperate. Every milestone — driving, teaching — required a wait. Then, I discovered 27:14 is all about waiting…on the Lord.

These days, even though my bible is an app on my iPad, I still have my rehab bible. Its pages are dog-eared and rumpled. Verses are highlighted and notes, scribbled in the margins. Still, whenever I pull it from the shelf, I remember when this gift became grace.