Home-ward bound

>>>Home-ward bound

I’m going home.

Until a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t so much as driven onto my street for more than eight months. Since I couldn’t go inside the house–it’s not exactly compatible with a woman who balances the world on one leg and lives in a wheelchair–there wasn’t much point.

I don’t much care for ranch-style, single-level houses and so I purposely bought a place with stairs to nearly every room, on a steep, steep hill. It’s got four levels (five, if you count the outdoors), a sunken tub tailor-made for tragedy, and the bathrooms are all on the top floor. I love it.

“Oh, HELL no!” muttered the occupational therapist, rolling her eyes, as she viewed the video walkthrough of my house.

That’s how I ended up at Mom’s, where–thanks to her foresight–hallways are wide, there’s a massive walk-in shower, and the only stairs worth worrying about are easily overcome with a rented ramp. Problem is, it’s 90 minutes from work in GOOD traffic, it can’t include the cats (Mom is deathly allergic), and it’s a lot of work for Mom.

Mostly, though, it just isn’t MINE.

My shattered thighbone still looks like someone took a walnut-sized bite out of one side, too close to provide much support for Elmo, my replacement knee. We’d hoped that the last surgery–an autologous bone marrow graft from my pelvic bone–would turn the trick.

The Doc says not, and he’s down to last resorts: “Stress the fracture site,” he ordered, “Sometimes that can jumpstart bone growth.”

Uhm…I just spent the last eight months with my leg in the air, and now you want me to STRESS THE FRACTURE?

Yup. Doctor’s orders and I’m now “30 percent-weightbearing.” Busted leg and all.

The difference is mind-blowing. Not only can I touch toe to the floor, The Leg can once again (sorta) support me. I stand without steadying myself, and balance that way for as long as I like. I can reach for things on upper shelves without strategies and backup plans.

Bigger news: I can walk. The able-bodied would call my walk a shuffling shamble, embarrassingly attached to an old-lady walker, but I’m WALKING. The other day I did 150 feet. Didn’t die, didn’t fall, not a wheelchair in sight.

Biggest news: I can do stairs. It’s not pretty–I go up backwards, on my rear, which now sports technicolor bruises–and the last couple of stairs at the top require massive effort and a fair knowledge of physics.

I stand up, pivot to face the steps, then streeeeetch The Leg out as far to the side as it can go on that step. Doing that vectors the downward force away from the fracture, and pushes most of my weight onto my good leg. I brace hard on the transfer pole and bannister, then lift the good leg to the next step. My arm supports are just a tad too wide for me to get my weight over them so, for just a moment, my stalwart right leg is airborne, and The Leg is carrying a share of the load.

It gives those watching (and me) a bit of a heart attack, but it works. “Pretty soon,” predicts my friend, Rox, “You’ll be going up the whole staircase that way.”

She’s probably right. It’s part of moving out of suspended animation in a temporary wheelchair, and back to the land of the living.

My femur fracture isn’t healing. And–at least according to the research I’ve been reading–the longer it goes without healing, the less and less chance that it will ever heal. At nine months, the chances are pretty much zero, without some kind of interventional surgical miracle.

If the fracture stressing doesn’t get bone growing around Elmo, The Doc can think of only one more option: Shorten the leg. They’ll take out the plates and rods holding my femur together, carefully slice apart the bone on either side of the fracture and neaten it up, then shove it together until the ends touch. With a shorter distance to travel, growth is far more likely.

Problem is, it severely weakens the bone (all those holes left by removed rods), and makes the leg an inch or two shorter, resulting in a permanent limp, changing hipbones and probable arthritis as I get older, one shoe with a really thick sole. That’s still better than the inevitable loss of leg promised by a distal femoral implant (I’m just not into peg legs), but I can’t say I’d be looking forward to it.

There are other options–stem cell research, bone “bondo” to fill in cracks, even a femoral transplant from a donor–but none are covered by my otherwise excellent insurance. If I go those roads, it’ll be on my own dime, looks like. None are guaranteed wins, which brings up the question:

How much is my leg really worth? Honestly, I have no idea at this point.

So…we’re stressing the fracture site by walking. Standing. Occasionally whacking the damn thing with a fist. If it works, I’ll be thrilled and happy and probably bouncing off the walls, but I’m no longer in a holding pattern because of it.

I could be in a wheelchair for two months or two years. Time to stop screwing around and instead get truly mobile.

Mobility is mostly (a) problem-solving, (b) forward planning, and (c) guts. You view a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, shake your head a few times, maybe sleep on it, wait for the terror to subside. Eventually, you figure it out…or Erica, my fabulous physical therapist, says drily, “If it were ME, I’d do it THIS way…”

The hardest part, honestly, is convincing your brain that your body is actually capable of such things.

Mostly what I need, Erica says, is strength and confidence. She gives me new exercises, taught me to deadlift my whole body with arms and shoulders, challenges me to find new ways to go up ramps. Urges me to try stuff that looks impossible.

At the end of two months, I am wheeling myself up slopes instead of asking for a push, so Erica decided I was ready to test my new skills on The House.

Last Thursday we all trekked down there, and Erica introduced me to Melissa, my new occupational therapist. They performed a livability assessment, AKA “Can Cynthia Actually Be Alone in Her House?” For an hour they watched as I got myself out of cars, climbed stairs, deadlifted over thresholds, trekked across my new back patio, sat on toilets and bathtubs, and carefully discussed my plans for coping with obstacles.

I must have been convincing; I passed with flying colors. I CAN GO HOME!

There are a few more grab bars to install, a tub seat to build, moving to plan, but I’ll be home by June 5. I’ll likely order groceries delivered instead of shopping myself (I choose to spend my muscles on other things than dragging groceries up the stairs on my butt). More than likely, restaurant delivery and Amazon.com will figure largely in my communication with the outside world.

And there’s still that pesky driving thing to figure out.

But…I’m going home!


The Saving Elmo series covers my adventures after crashing to the ground on Elmo, my replacement knee, sustaining an “open, comminuted fracture of the left femoral shaft.” It’s a tad more dire than it sounds; if my bone doesn’t grow completely back and return me to normal function with Elmo-the-knee-replacement, there’s a new, more painful, less effective femoral replacement in my future…with eventual amputation.

If you want to follow along on the journey, try these posts:

Mantis lessons

November 14th, 2017|10 Comments

Mischief managed

November 8th, 2017|19 Comments

Surgery musings and kudos to Marriott

October 15th, 2017|22 Comments

I think I’m in love…with my bathroom

October 10th, 2017|8 Comments

Chirurgia interruptus

September 28th, 2017|11 Comments

Happy Crashiversary, Elmo

September 18th, 2017|19 Comments

So how did you break your leg?

August 10th, 2017|2 Comments

View from the mountain

August 4th, 2017|4 Comments

The ravell’d sleeve of care…

July 26th, 2017|6 Comments

Test: Can you spot the cripple?

July 22nd, 2017|14 Comments

Zeroing in and leveling out

July 20th, 2017|34 Comments

Femurs, accessibility, and Utah: Saving Elmo II

July 16th, 2017|14 Comments

Tripping the light surgical: Saving Elmo II

July 14th, 2017|12 Comments

Wheelchair traveler…

July 12th, 2017|7 Comments

Filling up on sweetness, with fragility

July 6th, 2017|8 Comments

Saving Elmo: Sometimes the bear eats you

June 26th, 2017|17 Comments

No place like it…

June 12th, 2017|6 Comments

Driving Miz Cynthia, Part Two

June 5th, 2017|9 Comments

Drivin’ Miz Cynthia

June 1st, 2017|5 Comments

Home-ward bound

May 29th, 2017|10 Comments

Room 15: Paying it forward

April 3rd, 2017|12 Comments

Whippersnapper

April 1st, 2017|5 Comments

The Fortress

March 25th, 2017|9 Comments

On the bone again…

March 10th, 2017|14 Comments

Moonlight at sunrise, with jitters

March 8th, 2017|8 Comments

The wheeled view

March 2nd, 2017|10 Comments

Elmo, Beorn, and the Ferengi’s ears

January 30th, 2017|12 Comments

Cliffhangers, clues, and claying around

November 28th, 2016|7 Comments

8 weeks: Patience for the unvirtuous

November 16th, 2016|12 Comments

Click edit button to change this text.

2017-07-03T14:23:45+00:00

10 Comments

  1. Jen D June 1, 2017 at 6:02 pm - Reply

    Being home with your kitties after all this time will no doubt give your morale a boost, not that you’re doing badly in that department. You’ve shown amazing, good-humoured resilience and commitment to self-reliance but, I agree with Valerie, if you do need help let us all know. I’m sure the glass community will rally around. You’ve helped enough of us. It’s our turn now.

  2. Coretha C Fulton May 30, 2017 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Cindy, I am so happy you can now go home! Just saying the word must feel like heaven. Will be praying that your leg will heal.

  3. Diana tillotson May 30, 2017 at 7:33 am - Reply

    Yes, you have my admiration and prayers.

  4. ellen abbott May 30, 2017 at 6:47 am - Reply

    determination. and you are one of the most determined people I know. congrats and hallelujah! and what a relief to finally be home.

  5. Nancy May 29, 2017 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    I love that you have tackled each situation with grit and determination, ingenuity and creativity. I look forward to each of your posts. Relatively new to glass, I have found posts of yours from years past so invigorating. Still in my prayers. Sending you positive energy and resolve. Go, Cynthia! Let us know about the novel.

  6. Gloria Badiner May 29, 2017 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    YES! You are amazing! Beautiful – so encouraging for those with a physical struggle. The optimism and delight in recovery are so poignant in your story. Good karma and healing thoughts continue your way.

  7. jennhsr May 29, 2017 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Amazing news! Zero percent self centered by the way. If you were not writing these posts you would have to have this same conversation 20 times a day.

  8. Jeri Satterwhite-Dearing May 29, 2017 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️I never post but have watched your journey for so long that I just had to say you are one hell of an amazing woman❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  9. Valerie Adams May 29, 2017 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    Hallelujah!!!
    I’m thrilled for you but have to admit, reading your stair-climbing tactic just about gave me a heart attack!

    Sounds like it’s time for a a Go Fund Me or other plan so we can all help with future medical intervention in case that’s needed.

    For now, take it very easy as you transition! Big hugs to you.

  10. Laurel Delaney May 29, 2017 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    I am definitely going to stop whining about my back in the face of what you have been going through. You are an amazing artist and hopefully this bump in the road will start to smooth out. Keeping you in my thoughts prayers. I know others have said this but your writing and wit are amazing. Get going on the novel that goes with this voyage! ☺

Comments welcome! (thanks)

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