Thursday, 26 March 2015

A Stolen Parking Spot

The other day I was going out to dinner with a friend, and as I hadn't been out of the house in almost a week wanted to stop in the store on my way. It was pouring rain as I made my way around the parking lot looking for an empty handicapped parking spot.

I could see a vacant spot a couple of rows ahead and drove in that direction. A red van pulled out in front of me from one of the parking lanes, and proceeded to 'my' parking spot. First come, first serve I thought, until I drove by the van and saw that the driver was young.

I watched as three young people, in their early twenties, got out of the van and walked to the store. One of the three did have a bit of a limp, but still managed to walk with what appeared to be speed and ease. I continued on my way and found another parking spot a short distance farther from the store.

I was curious, and checked out the van but there was no disability parking permit on the dash. I know I've talked before about 'invisible' diseases, and making judgments because people do not look disabled, but I really don't think there was anything seriously wrong with any of these young people. I think they wanted a parking spot close to the building because of the rain, and didn't care who they inconvenienced.

It made me mad, I'll admit, because I was already tired with the effort of getting dressed to go out. It was damp and my joints ached. If I hadn't found a parking spot fairly close I would have given up on any shopping, gone straight to the restaurant and read my book while I waited.

I guess you never have the parking police around when you need them. Which is annoying because they once gave me a ticket when they didn't see the permit on the visor. That mistake, though it didn't end up costing me money, did take a great deal of my energy to go to the town hall, with it's horrible parking, in order to show my permit and get the ticket nullified.

And there ends my rant of the day.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Pain in the Neck

I’ve had neck pain most of my adult life and have learned to manage it, to know what I can do, and what I can’t. I have DDD, degenerative disk disease, and some nerves that are a bit pinched.

The head is heavy, and I find sitting without any head and neck support extremely tiring, and cause for pain. That’s why I love my wing back chair, and why I get so tired in social situations where the chairs available most often have low backs. Even with the high back I must rest my head on my arm as there’s a dent in the armrest on the left side from my elbow.

Last night I realized I only ever read in bed, and that is because in bed I have support for my head and neck, plus the book. This made me think of other ways I’ve adapted to protect my neck.

No heavy lifting. I’m stubborn (I admit it freely) and often used to carry too many bags of groceries, trying to save myself a second trip. This was difficult with the cane so the walker has been great as I just load it up and can tote everything at once. I still have to lift the walker in and out of the car, and it weighs just under twenty pounds. I’m lucky to have a van, and I store the walker in the back, without folding it up as some do to slide it behind the seat. This way I can step into the walker, hold it close to my body to give it a short lift, and basically roll it up over the bumper and in. Lifting it in the folded position would mean lifting away from the body, and more strain on my neck.

I find I need to look at things straight on, so the television is directly in front of me, and if someone is here and sitting on the sofa, I need to turn in my chair so I don’t have to turn my head. This means choosing my seat carefully when I’m out, like always sitting at the head of the table so I don’t have to keep moving my head back and forth.

When I feel the strain in my neck muscles I use my buckwheat heat thing. It’s long and narrow and perfectly wraps around my neck. I put it in the microwave and find the heat is soothing for all those tense muscles. I couldn’t live without it and go to heat before I reach for any other pain killers.

There are many times we adapt the way we do things, to accommodate the changes in our abilities. Some of these adaptations we make over time without any conscious thought, and others we do purposefully to make life more comfortable. Either way, it’s all about making our day the best it can be.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Balance Dance

I was going to my neighbours the other day and was only a few yards away from my door when I began my dance. It was an awkward waltz of sorts, the two steps forward, steps to the side kind of thing, only without the graceful movement usually associated with a dance.

I don’t use the cane in the house, and it was a surprise that I had stepped out leaving it at home, and how bad my balance was without that third point of grounding. I made it there and back, and coming home realized just how afraid I was of open spaces.

Sounds like agoraphobia, but I’m not afraid to leave my place, its open spaces I don’t like. I just feel safer when I can touch something to help maintain my balance. I prefer the walker with the increased sense of support it gives me, and admit I walk better, straighter and with more confidence with it. Even with the cane I use my free hand to touch ‘base’ so to speak, with walls, furniture, and sometimes people.

I have a fear of falling and that old joke of “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” isn’t so funny anymore.

I remember when I was a kid and my Dad did the collection at church. Our church was round, with the altar table in the centre and five sections radiating out, four for the congregation and the fifth for the choir and the Minister’s pulpit. The seating was tiered, so the aisles went downhill from the back to the centre of the church.

My Dad was a big guy, an ex football player, well over six feet and about two hundred and fifty pounds, athletic, but not always graceful. He delighted in teasing his children by taking a few stumbling steps as he began down the aisle, scaring us with the potential mortification of seeing our father tumble down.

My fear of embarrassing myself in public, well, I came by it honestly.

And falling in public, been there, done that, and don’t want to do it again. I once fell in a public parking lot, on a hot summer day when I had walked too far and was weakened by becoming overheated. It was long enough ago that I was walking unaided, but the feeling of that day has never gone away.

Today the fear is greater because my mobility is more compromised, and I’d have a great deal of difficulty getting back on my feet. The smartest thing I’ve done in years was to get the walker, now if I’d only accept it and use it for more than getting to and from the car or the laundry room. I need to replace the cane, but the walker adds another whole set of challenges I seem reluctant to take on right now.

Baby steps, everything is baby steps. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Feeling Foolish

My friend was just visiting, and I told her as she was leaving that I wasn’t getting up to see her to the door. I did that last week when she was here and in turning, or something, supposedly pulled a muscle in my chest.

I had pain to the right of my sternum, just below my right breast, a continuous ache, sometimes relieved by lying down, but constant enough to be wearing, physically and emotionally.

I am used to having chronic pain, but this new pain was different; I’m not comfortable sitting, and nothing I did seemed to give me relief. By Thursday last week I was really feeling ill, fuzzy head, balance off, unable to think or concentrate.

I feel foolish; because I let this kind of get to me...anxiety is my new middle name. The new pills were doing a great job; I had been feeling so much better. I was not supposed to be feeling like this. And to be honest, I wasn’t thinking I was anxious, I just wanted the pain to stop.

Word of warning, the emergency department is not where you want to be on a full moon. We were five hours, and other than the initial cardiogram, no one spoke to us in all that time. When the doctor finally came in I was told the EKG and the blood work were fine, I was given a pain pill and came home.

The only highlight of the whole day was the uninterrupted visit I had with my son. I just wish the setting had been better.

So, here we are on Monday, and I’m still in pain. I guess with my age and condition everything takes longer to heal. I know with the MS my muscles are weaker, and that would include chest muscles as I find it harder to sit any length of time without head and neck support.

I hear my bed beckoning; I’ve sat long enough and need to lie down.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A Child's Curiosity

I watched my grandson’s hockey game on Saturday from the warm room. It’s not that the arena is too cold; it’s the stairs to get to the seating.

I spent most of the game talking to my new granddaughter, just turned six, a new addition to the family by way of her Dad’s relationship with my daughter. We have spent family time together, but never been as alone as we were that day.

She was quite talkative, explaining how the red light is used to indicate a goal has been scored, but that it didn’t work, and still she had a fascination with the light switch. We watched the Zamboni making its rounds of the ice, clearing away the skate marks and nicks.

My grandson, also age six, came on the ice. He played a more regular game, with line changes and referees, the score on the big electrical scoreboard. She told me she didn’t get referees, just coaches, and they don’t count their goals. It’s funny the things kids notice, and remember.

My grandkids have lived with my increasing mobility issues; have seen me go from independence to cane, to walker. This little girl has only seen me with the cane, and less often the walker. Looking at the cane, she asked me why I used it. So typical of children, if they want to know something they ask. How else are they going to learn?

I tried to explain about balance, and how I need the cane to keep me steady. She then asked why I needed that other ‘thing’, the walker, something she’s seen at my place more than she’s seen it in use. I gave her the simplest explanation I could, and she seemed happy.

I was accepted as Grandma that day, especially when she asked if I was going to stay and watch her play, and I answered yes. When I did leave at the end of her game, I gave her a wave and was rewarded with a big smile.

My fatigue and physical limitations prevent me from being the active and involved grandparent I’d like to be, and I’ve learned to accept that. It’s these little moments that count and make up for all the rest.