Rehab Highlight Reel

January 21, 2019

I spent 11 days in the acute rehab unit. Sorry you didn’t get a day-by-day account. Remember my phone has been dead now for 2 weeks and I didn’t have a tablet or laptop with me. I’m not sure I had the brain power or emotional space to write anything anyway. So you’re getting the highlight reel instead.

Acute Rehab is pretty much the same thing every day – Breakfast, then Physical Therapy (PT), Occupational Therapy (OT) or Speech Therapy, then lunch, then more PT, OT and/or Speech Therapy, then dinner, a little TV, then bed. It’s tiring. My brain and body aren’t up for all of this. I am sicker than I thought I was when I went into the hospital on January 5th.

On my first full day in the rehab unit, my first therapy appointment was with the speech therapist. Luckily, I had already done a few sessions with a speech therapist at the hospital for chemo brain. Even more fortunate, that same speech therapist is on the hospital rotation for the rehab unit, and I loved her before, so this wasn’t a scary or bad During my first therapy appointment was with her. We did a couple of puzzle-like things and she left me some homework. Because I’m writing this based on my failing memory and it’s been almost 6 months since I was admitted so I’m a little foggy on some details.

Occupational Therapy – The first night I was there I had ordered some sort of meat for dinner that required cutting. My coordination was so bad that I couldn’t hold my knife and fork in a way that would actually allow me to cut my food. I mentioned this to the OT. She brought me a couple of pool noodle looking things to put on my fork and knife. That, surprisingly, worked, and it worked well. I felt like an adult again.

Next, she brought me a tub of TheraPutty. It’s basically colored Silly Putty that comes in several different colors that indicate how stiff it is.  I’m supposed to sit and squeeze it and play with it with my “bad” hand. This actually worked pretty well, too. Within a few days, my left hand just decided to start working semi-normally again. Hallelujah! Now if the rest of me will cooperate.

Being that this was the middle of football season, and my next-door neighbor was a football fan also, we watched football together from our separate rooms. Some of this was because I wasn’t allowed to get up and move around by myself, and some because he had family around quite a bit and I wasn’t going to impose on their time together. I eventually got to meet him. The funniest thing about this is that when he was watching a game, I was trying to find it on my TV. I found a rugby match and watched that instead. The referee whistles just happened to almost coincide most of the game.

Physical therapy included some riding a stationary bike, walking around the floor with the walker, learning how to maneuver it around things and making sure I didn’t walk into stuff with it. After a bit I graduated to a cane. More walking around the floor and going up and down stairs. There were also some exercises in picking things up off the floor. Eventually, I was going for longer walks around the hospital.

One trip we did a treasure hunt of sorts down to the gift shop and back. I should have asked to go to the coffee shop or something or even to have bought a wallet. Oh wait… I was living in scrubs so no pockets. Yay.  It was a combined test of my strength, stamina and my ability to remember steps and what to do if I got lost. Needless to say, I forgot steps and got lost. I should have asked for popcorn or something to leave a trail.

When we got down to the hospital lobby, there was a guy, maybe a volunteer, playing the piano. We sat in a chair and listened to him play for a bit. I kind of wished I could put my hands on the keyboard. I knew already that I wouldn’t remember how to play any of the songs I used to play 10 or so years ago. 😦  Maybe I should have asked anyway. Oh, well.

Another OT session we had a therapist who was also a musician. This was kind of fun. We did therapy as a group. We pretended to play keyboards with TheraPutty on the table. Having played French Horn, trumpet and piano for so long, I was happy to find some of that muscle memory was still there.

There were a couple of other things that weren’t quite as fun for me. There was a little kids’ jigsaw puzzle. I couldn’t figure out how the pieces fit. That bothered me. Then there were some worksheets that baffled me for a while. We also did this thing with a light board where I had to stand on a foam mat and touch the lights as they came on. I didn’t do that well the first couple of times I did it. Well, there are a lot of things that I expected to be able to do better than I did the first few times I tried them. Some of the worksheets for Speech Therapy are a good example. Folding clothes was another. It was really frustrating and a little depressing to realize that I didn’t have the


I’ve been on the IV antibiotics for the entire time I’ve been here. I’m starting to feel a little better. There’s talk about sending me home. Naturally, there is no real planning to this piece. My family are mostly back in Minnesota or in California/Arizona. I haven’t had a boyfriend here in 6 years. There isn’t anyone who can some stay with me on short notice to help out.

It’s about this time that I realize that no one at work knows where I am. To my knowledge, no one is looking for me. This is concerning. I was able to get one of the nurses to do a Google search for my HR person’s name and my company name. She found me a switchboard number for the office. Good start. The switchboard number’s got a company directory on the voicemail. Of course it can’t find my HR person.  The directory says there are too many people with her name. The LOL on this is that her name is pretty unique, so it’s clear to me I’m either not pronouncing it correctly or she’s in the directory differently. So now I have to think of someone else. My memory is still crap so I can’t think of anyone but the guy I used to work with that left the company to go back to school to be a nurse. Eventually, I remember another manager and call him. I left him a voicemail to please let HR and Benefits know I’m not dead (yet) and what’s going on. Then I ask him to contact our mutual friend who went back to school because he and his wife don’t live too awfully far away from me and I’m hoping they can help out here and there.

Oh, and remember how the hospital doesn’t have voicemail or ring to the nurse’s station? This place doesn’t, either, even though they told me the first day that my phone would ring at the nurse’s station if I was away. So when I’m trying to coordinate help for when I get home, and I’m in PT sessions big chunks of the day, I’m missing calls because my cell’s still dead.

After 17 days of hospital and rehab stay, I’m being sent home. Ready or not, here I go. Hint: the real answer is no, I’m not ready. In fact, I’m scared witless. I have 2 sets of 14 stairs to get in and out of the house. One set is bare wood with treads glued on. The other st is carpeted. I’m more afraid of the carpeted stairs. It’s cold outside which means that it’s cold in the garage where I’ve got the futon. Even if I could sleep down there, I’d still have to go up 14 stairs to go to the bathroom. Well, that’s not gonna work. I’m going to have to mostly live upstairs, which is probably fine.

I will have home health visits for some time after I get home, too. The first visit will be an a  nurse and an OT to help assess fall risk in my house. The rest are on a schedule and there will be someone checking in pretty much every day.

I’m eager to get home to my own bed where it’s quiet and the blankets fit the bed. I’m not thrilled about being there alone and going up and down the stairs. I’m not wild about how I’m going to manage showers, either. I’ve been told and shown a bunch of handicap bars and tub chairs and stuff while I’m at rehab. I have no mechanism to get any of this stuff purchased or rented and delivered to my house. Even if I did get a bath chair delivered there’s no way I’m going to be able to carry it up the stairs in my condition. So… more things to figure out.


Later on I called it Swedish Chef hand.








About Pink Ribbon Road

This blog is about receiving and living with a breast cancer diagnosis.
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