Monday, August 22, 2016

Countdown to the New Normal

If our bodies made logical sense, we would be robots.

A lot has happened since I wrote the posts for May - including some lovely professional opportunities, re-connecting with old friends and colleagues, and making new memories.

But in the last couple of months, the excitement about bringing out The Book has been overshadowed by health concerns.  We have two relatively urgent medical upheavals in our lives right now. (Along with the usual number of chronic concerns, if there is such a thing as "usual number" of those.)

One is the news that Ernie's mother Peggy has had a serious downturn in her longstanding battle with cancer. The other is that after trying a lot of alternatives, we finally have been referred to an excellent surgeon, who says there is a very good chance of a successful below-the-knee amputation for Ernie.  This is a HUGE decision, but it's one that Ernie has already researched, and made up his mind a few years ago was the next logical step to move forward.

(The weeks between organizing Peggy's hospice care, and going to meet this new surgeon and find out what was possible for Ernie, have been a VERY difficult time to stay focused on work tasks.  But now I seem to be back in the saddle for logistics and follow-through.)

If Ernie's insurance gives the green light for this surgery, we need to allow for a year to 18 months of post-surgery recovery and adaptation.  After that, we get to discover our "new normal." 
  We can look forward to possible reductions in pain (currently between 7-10 pain level most days), and significant reduction in the infections he's been experiencing the past year and a half. 
  I hope we can enjoy a lot more water-sports (many amputees are active kayakers, sailors, and swimmers), and better options for bicycling again.  Most travel should become significantly less painful and risky, as well, though we may need to be stricter in our criteria for ADA-accessible destinations.

We have also been warned to expect that construction, especially lifting, twisting, and balance-type activities, are extremely difficult after any leg amputation. The prosthetic socket represents sort of a bendy break in the lower leg, which is a weak point under sideways stresses such as torque, bending, or shear (unstable as well as very uncomfortable).  The surgeon and prosthetist we talked to have worked with a number of drywallers, builders, firefighters, and fishermen, and these folks rarely return to the same work after an amputation.  (The longest example the surgeon has seen lasted about 2 years at drywalling, and that was a guy who was highly motivated to keep supporting his family.  It was just extremely difficult to do that kind of work.)
  The most successful people in adapting to life after amputation are good "outside the box" thinkers, who can find new ways to perform familiar tasks now that their body has a new shape and new limits.  We all agreed that Ernie is very likely to remain well above average activity levels; he is intrinsically highly motivated, and highly adaptable.

You can imagine this involves a lot of discussion about our work and life together.  We may be sending me alone to honor some existing commitments, and identifying and cancelling those optional things that have to give way to higher priorities. 

Ernie wants to "support me" in going ahead and doing things without him, things that might take my mind off all this, like fire fighting, book signing, and scheduled events where I get to shine as a featured expert. 
However, I find fame is a poor substitute for creative partnership.  Performing under the limelight doesn't come naturally to me when my heart's priorities are on what's going on back home.

I've resumed mutually-supportive dates with two of our local friends, and phone check-ins with a couple of family members.  A few regular people who ask me how it's going once a week, and especially those who don't mind taking the time to discuss detailed work logistics, family concerns, and other problems, are much appreciated.

We had a lovely "angel visit" from our friend Tyler this weekend, who helped with construction (see next post) as well as prep and playing with natural plasters and goat cheese.

I'm currently organizing my chore lists, so I can delegate somewhat in case of offers from other angels with time to spare.

Erica (and Ernie) Wisner