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February 28, 2012 8:46 am

The Amend Corner: Down, but not out

Written by Don Amend

I received some big news while talking to my daughter last week.

It seems my grandson Arun, a precocious 2-year-old, has been promoted at his day care, where they deemed him advanced enough to move from the toddler room to the big kids room.

As a grandpa, I was pleased of course, but I also found it a bit ironic, since in some ways, his grandpa moved from big kid status into something resembling toddler-room status about the same time.

Yes, sir, for the last couple of weeks, I required help with a lot of things I normally do without thinking, such as getting out of bed and buttoning my shirt. Whenever I wanted to walk someplace, I needed a walker and a nurse or aide to accompany me to catch me in case I fell. In addition, I have had help carrying out some activities I’d much rather perform by myself in privacy.

Which is why, if you happened to notice my absence in a few places where I nearly always show up, I have failed to appear in recent weeks.

This all began the Saturday before my daddy-daughter chat, when I was suddenly struck by a gigantic pain in my back. Now I’d been having some problems with various aches and pains for several weeks, but I’d chalked them up to the usual causes, such as helping push a stuck vehicle while 67 years old. However, this was an entirely different pain, so I asked my wife to haul me over to the emergency room, where my legs proceeded to go to sleep on me, scaring my wife, the doctor and, of course, me.

Well, to make a long story short, I ended up at St. Vincent’s in Billings, and in the wee hours on Sunday, a large blood clot, the result of a piece of bad plumbing in my blood vessels — which probably was in my back when the stork delivered me — was removed from my spine.  I woke up in the morning with about 50 staples in my back and a strange compulsion to wiggle my toes, which, I’m happy to report, soon responded appropriately and were pretty much working normally by lunchtime, along with the legs that keep my toes hooked to the rest of me.

I won’t go into the gory details about the operation and four days in recovery followed by a week of rehab. All the nurses and therapists seemed to think I was a good patient and doing wonderfully well in rehab, and I think I maintained about as much of my dignity as could be expected under the circumstances. Along the way, I was well treated by everybody, from the time I walked into the emergency room at Powell Valley Hospital until I walked out of St. V’s to come home. Some very nice people worked on me, including a lot of nurses and therapists who looked as though they were still teenagers, and a surgeon who is new to the hospital and who seemed to bring sunshine with him whenever he walked into the room.

In short, I’ve been in pretty good hands.

There were other hands at work as well. During the worst of the experience, as I lay in the emergency room repeating one simple prayer — something along the lines of “Please make it quit hurting”— I don’t remember ever being truly afraid for the future. A still small voice kept telling me that  it was going to be all right.

Well my rehab continues, and I’ve had some ups and downs. It will be a while before I’m able to function normally, and I’m sure I’ve been left with some things that will bother me far into the future. But that voice keeps insisting that everything will be all right. “All right” hasn’t been defined for me as yet, but whatever it is, I know I can handle it, because those unseen hands will be helping me.

And I’m hoping that definition includes getting back to work, because I’m a bit unhappy that I missed last week’s state wrestling and swim meets, and I’m already looking forward to watching them next year.

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