WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Getting Mike accustomed to new terrain

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: Getting Mike accustomed to new terrain

Record-Journal

YIKES!  Another year has gone by and I almost forgot yet another of my “caregiver” jobs: writing Mike’s Father’s Day article for the Meriden Record Journal, in which I give his faithful readers a little insight into the “real” Mike Roberts.

So here we go.

Mike and I have had a “rollercoaster ride” these past couple of years as far as Mike’s health is concerned. He has been in and out of several hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, emergency rooms and has had in-home care, out-patient care, specialist doctors, numerous doctor visits, medication changes, health care plan changes, comas, depression.

And in his typical “I’ll do it my way,” he has defied all odds and is still here with us!

And, yes, he’s still complaining, still criticizing (I mean critiquing — ha, ha) and is still able to write his weekly Woods ‘n’ Water column.

He still has the same wife (though I heard she’s been posting in social media that she’s looking for “any job that pays more and has better benefits”).

And, yes, Mike is still looking for his phone and glasses, especially now that he has added a cane and oxygen container to the necessity list!

Who would have thought that the “Mighty” Mike Roberts would have to make so many lifestyle changes in mind, body and spirit. So, here are some noteworthy changes you might be interested in.

Mike has spent most of his life in “physically active” jobs, which resulted in his family and friends referring to him as being a strong and healthy male. Now his physical state of being might be characterized as “a work in progress” as he struggles to relearn many tasks, such as eating with silverware, dressing in clothes with zippers, buttons and laces, walking with the assistance of a mobility device, etc.

What’s so difficult with that, you ask?

Let’s start with mobility. Please remember that Mike is not a small person. He’s 6-foot-3 and around 250-plus pounds. To hear from the doctors that he has balance issues and must use a walker to be able to walk was devastating to him. “No way,” he muttered.

While his self-respect was a bit bruised by this news, this new “health prescription” also brought out his fierce determination and competitiveness to “win.” It was his incentive to prove to everyone that he would soon walk on his own.

How did he do with this new personal goal?

After several weeks of extensive therapy at Gaylord Specialty Healthcare, he soon mastered through sheer brute force (as one therapist described it) pulling himself up and balancing his large frame on his thin “spaghetti-like” legs. (I refer to them as “bird legs.” Picture a large eagle-type bird with little skinny legs and large claw-like feet; he wears size 13 shoes!)

When he was able to pull himself up out of the wheelchair, which he looked at with great contempt, and take a few steps without wiping out all the furniture and medical apparatus within a 10-foot radius, he was allowed to be discharged from Gaylord.

Mike 1, Walker 0. Self-respect much improved!

About the problem of getting dressed. How could that be a problem, you say? It’s easy after days and weeks of being in medical facilities where the designer wardrobe of the day is a hospital gown. (It certainly was not the “camo” hunting wardrobe Mike was used to).

The gown was quite short in length. In fact, it was very short on a 6-foot-3 man. Plus, it had a suggestive opening in back that extended clear down to — you get the picture, right?”

As Mike’s discharge date loomed closer and closer, dressing himself was not on the “needs list,” so when he came home, it became necessary for me to add 20 minutes each morning to assist him in dressing in “street clothes” as opposed to the lovely hospital gowns he gladly left behind.

Putting on underpants does not seem too difficult a task, so long as you’re able to bend over and reach your feet. That’s a looooonnnnggg way down when you have vertigo and get dizzy and nauseous when you bend over past about six inches.

“EDNA, please help!”

Then there are the trousers. Mike had to trade in his “normal camo pants” — complete with a zipper fly, pockets to hold his wallet, hanky and $42 worth of change, plus a button at the waist and a size-48 leather belt with a five-pound buckle and handy “Boy Scout” knife attached to it — for a pair of large “bloomer”  exercise pants with no fly and a long string to knot around the waist, as his body retained fluid during the day.

Then there are the compression stockings. Fortunately, he has bird legs (previously described), which make pulling these toddler-sized white nylons up over his flippers — I mean size-13 feet — and all the way up to his knees a bit easier. Thank goodness they don’t need to go to his waist.

We also traded in his high-cost athletic shoes for the kind with velcro strips. No laces to tie or trip over!

Next, let’s tackle the job of eating “people food,” as compared to the pureed hospital food that he had to eat after several of his medical “episodes.” No one prepared Mike for the “affliction” not uncommon for people after a medical problem: hand tremors.

Let us consider broccoli. Mike’s caregiver (that would be me) has to have some math skills to calculate the probability of how many pieces of broccoli will fall from the fork onto the floor (where our two dogs, Charlie and Abby, wait in anticipation). Mike, in his quest to conquer the broccoli, squints his eyes as if to command the forkful of food to “stay put.” Then it may take him a few tries to outwit the tremors in his hand and deliver the food to its intended destination.

Well, I could go on and on, but I’ve bored you long enough with my short-version epistle of caring for Mike as he battles the medical maladies of being a senior.

In closing, a colossal and belated Happy Father’s Day wish to all the dads, step-dads, foster dads and to Mike personally, as well as to our sons and their families: Michael Jr., George, Kyle and our Harley-riding spirit guide Keith, who may be gone from this earth, but will forever be in our hearts.

These wishes are straight from the hearts of our “furbabies,” Charlie and Abby, our new little Devil Dog companions, as well as Mike’s best friend (at least I hope I am — ha, ha) and soulmate, a.k.a. “The Boss,” Edna.

Happy Father’s Day also to all of our servicemen and women. We want each of you to know that we thank you from the bottom of our hearts and greatly appreciate you for giving us the inalienable gift to live in freedom in the USA! God Bless America! 


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