Sunday, October 31, 2010

Benefit Happy Hour this Friday!

Everyone is invited :)!/event.php?eid=113364875394819

Thank you is an understatement too...

Monday was a hard, hard day.  I had my first physical therapy appointment since my surgery, and spent two hours completing a humbling reevaluation.  Without burdening you with two-hour’s worth of PT-related whining, the entirety of the appointment can be summed up as follows:
Therapist: Okay Kate, now try to kick your heel back towards your butt.
Me: (lying on my side on the elevated mat, teeth gritted, brow furrowed) Is it moving?
Therapist: No.  But it says here you were able to do it last time.
Defeated is an understatement.
Two days later, I pulled into my parking spot at school to find Destiny about to head inside.  As I opened the side door of my van, she stuck her head in and with the most ridiculous-sounding voice I’ve ever heard, said “Hi Ms. Hooks, I lost my voice.”
Though I’d be lying if I said I remembered what Minnie Mouse’s voice sounded like, I’m pretty sure that Destiny’s voice was slightly squeakier and considerably higher pitched.
“What’s up Kiddo?  You sound ridiculous¸ but I’m so glad you’re here!”
I backed up the driver’s seat and lined it up with my chair, took a deep breath and transferred horizontally into the chair.  Or should say I attempted to transfer into my chair.  As soon as I initiated my muscles, they decided to put my body into its new favorite “plank” position.  My butt was half-way on the chair, my legs extended straight into the passenger seat and my back pushed against the back of the chair so hard that the chair actually tipped over backwards and I was stuck at a 45 degree angle unable to move.
Destiny asked the obvious, “Ummm, what do we do now?”
That’s when Antonio walked by and peered in.
“Antonio, come help!”
Between the two of them, Destiny managed to get my legs out from under the passenger seat, and Antonio – using all of his might – pushed me forward enough that my trunk finally bent.  By that point, Michael was standing outside of my car asking how he could help too.  Both of my shoes had fallen off, but once I was securely in the chair, shoes were no longer a high priority.  Antonio pushed me out of the van, handed me off to Michael and the four of us trekked into school through the rain.  Once in the building, the new administrator asked how I was,
“Better now, it just took three kids to get me in here!”
She laughed.  I think she thought I was kidding.
Once inside, though, I attempted to leave my mortification and frustration in the van and spent the next eight hours trying to make the unification of feudal Japan interesting to 9th graders.  At the end of seventh period, I rolled down the hall towards the bathroom, and caught up to a student I taught three years ago.  Right before he made a right hand turn into his English class, I thwacked him in the back of the knee,
“What’s going on, Miles Green?”
Pants hanging down beneath his butt, with twisties in his hair and gold fronts on his teeth, he turned around and caught me off guard,
 “Ms. Hooks.  Hey I wanted to tell you, you ain’t gotta worry about that money stuff no more, we got you.”
I literally had no clue what he was talking about.  Apparently my face registered confusion.
“Ms. Belleville told us what’s going on.  You ain’t gotta worry, Ms. Hooks, seriously.  We got you.”
“Well Miles, I appreciate that, but I hate needing all this help from people.”
“Nah, nah, Ms. Hooks, that’s just it, you gotta learn to swallow your pride and take our help.  That’s what you gotta get, we want to help you.”
“Okay, Miles.  I get it.”
“Seriously, lose your pride.  We got you.”
He disappeared into English class, and I continued towards the bathroom.  The kid gave me chills.
Afterwards, I went back to my room to pack up my stuff and finish up some work.  Mr. Marinelli, the Science Department Head walked in to my room, sat down next to me and proceeded to explain a  Causes page he set up on facebook called “Running for Kate’s Care”.  Apparently he started running recently, has signed up for a number of races, and is asking for pledges in honor of my care giving expenses.  Two parts of this conversation struck me as absurd: 1. He prefaced the story with, “I did something last night and really hope you won’t be mad.”  2. Marinelli doesn’t run.  At least that I knew of.  The last time we talked about aerobic exercise he told me he walked and that he didn’t enjoy running.  So I was shocked.  On a number of levels.  And I am so rife with guilt and self-doubt and perpetual frustration that I struggled to respond. 
“Thank you.”
He doesn’t need to hear about the panic attacks that wake me up at 4 am almost every night where I start to imagine my life without Meg and the millions of impossibilities that I cannot conceive of conquering without her – care giver or not. 
Marinelli left, and almost immediately the bell rang signaling the end of the school day.  Within seconds, Jasmine (see my “Little Homie” story below) walked into my room and reminded me that we had to leave immediately so she could get a ride with her friend’s mom.  As Jasmine is, at this point, the only person at school who is able (and willing) to physically lift me out of my wheelchair and heave me into my driver’s seat, I am tied to her schedule.  After she heaved me into my seat, she backs down the ramp and says this,
“Last period, Ms. Hooks, I was thinking about how much I love you and I decided that if the school were on fire, and no one had gotten you out, I’d go back into the burning building to find you.”
“Really, Jas, but what if I were in the bathroom?  I know how much you hate bathrooms...”
“Ms. Hooks, of course I’d rescue you from the bathroom.  I already did that once, remember?”
So I can’t kick my butt with my heel any more.  With either heel in fact.  But really, with these people in my life, how lucky am I?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing...

Title compliments of Jack Johnson. And though his song has nothing to do with my particular circumstance, I cannot help but get those lyrics in my head on a more-than-daily basis. I’m still sitting, obviously. But as the days go on, I’m losing patience rapidly.  You know that ants-in-the pants feeling you get after a long flight or car ride when you just want to move your legs? I have that feeling all day long. Every day.

Waiting. I am desperately trying to hold onto a semblance of hope that this will get better, but in the near-term, the list of things I wait for is ridiculous. It starts at 6:00 a.m. when my obnoxious alarm wakes me up with a jolt. Some people hit snooze a few times and fall back to sleep for an additional ten minutes, and honestly there are days when I try. But the alarm sends me into a near panic-attack every morning, because the next hour and a half is debatably the most stressful part of my entire day (which says a lot considering I’m a teacher). I start waiting for Meg. Once the NPR announcer says it's 6:15, my stress level elevates and I start to worry about the list of things I need cooperative legs to do in order to get to school on time. Usually Meg saunters in around that time to help me get out of bed, but we don’t speak – there is an unwritten code of silence between the two of us until she’s had her coffee. When I finally arrive at school, I also wait (although generally my new helper, Rebecca, beats me to school). She helps me transfer from the driver’s seat to my chair, and pushes me into the building towards the main office. I sign in, she gets my mail out of my mailbox, and we head towards my room. Though at this point it has been less than two hours since my alarm went off, my level of exhaustion and stress convince me it’s late afternoon.

Once the bell rings, though, there is no more waiting. The time between 8:15 and 3:05 flies by and there is never enough time within a 47 minute class period to accomplish everything I intend to accomplish. Every day I want to be a better teacher than I was the day prior; at this point my job is my top priority and, as such, my students truly get the best part of who I am. They get my drive, my patience, my enthusiasm and my confidence, and at the end of the day this passion is almost immediately replaced by fear, self-doubt and frustration. They also get every iota of energy I have, and possibly even some that I don’t. That means that at the end of the day – in addition to my aforementioned grumpiness – I am also physically drained. Thus, the foray into patience-cultivation resumes.

I wait for Destiny (another new helper) to straighten my desks, and for Jasmine (referenced in my “Little Homie” story below.) and Antonisha to eventually bring me back out to my car. There, Jasmine actually picks my entire 5’10” frame up off of my wheelchair and heaves me into the driver’s seat as if I’m a toddler. Then I often head towards Hopkins to pick Meg up from work (where I generally wait in the hospital parking lot), or I head directly home. If I’m alone when I get home. I need to wait for someone to spot me during the seat-to-wheelchair transfer (my attempts to do this alone after school have ended in disaster – or near disaster – far too often). As the list of things I cannot do independently grows, the list of things I need to wait for grows conversely – putting pants on, getting on or off the toilet, going anywhere in my car, getting into or out of the shower, changing into pajamas ETC. Since I have zero control over the execution of these tasks, I also have zero control over when any of these things happen.

Which brings me to the last word in Jack Johnson’s aptly titled song, Wishing. But something tells me that one doesn’t require much explanation.