THE DARK BEFORE THE DAWN
By Ellie Goldfon
Part 2 of 3
“Miss Goldfon, oh, Miss Goldfon, your breakfast is here,” the sweet accented voice of nurse Paulita stirred me from my deep sleep. Breakfast. I wanted to simply go right back to sleep. But the thought of Wednesday mornings breakfast interested me. Envisioning a nice waffle with syrup and butter, a lovely fried egg plopped on a piece of crispy rye toast, or a big bowl of steaming hot cereal with sugar and half and half, my chagrin was evident at smelling cold powdered scrambled eggs, limp toast, and some warmed over very strong coffee. The one thing I partook of that day was some pretty good bacon.
Washed and dressed in my finest shorts and shirt and supplied with my narcotic for the morning, a mild mannered fellow, Rich, came to whisk me downstairs to physical and occupational therapies.
“Call me, G.” Once downstairs in the physical therapy room, the young voice of a student therapist giggled when I inquired of Rich, “is this a volunteer job for you?” Puzzled at what I had said which was so funny, I was soon to meet this enthusiastic imp of a student. My twenty one year old teacher and strict task master, Ginara, who wanted me to call her, G. In my dopey state, I didn’t know exactly what her name was. I was saying all manner of combinations, Jalinda, Jolita, Jamara, Jimara. G. instantly evaporated all of my embarrassment.
My G. was quite the task master. We had to get both legs moving, including the sore one, ouch. This sore ankle just hated to be messed with, hated to be held up, particularly hated to be put down, and throbbed continuously.
“Ellie, march on it from your chair, sitting down,” the vixen commanded. Was she insane? The splint was at least seven pounds, but march I did. Twenty five marches. “Now thirty five,” she demanded. In the same day! I never did catch the hint that under these direst of circumstances, it doesn’t pay to brag.
Occupational therapy was taught by my kinder friends, Maria and Danielle. My personal trainers, extraordinaire. “Beginning with two pound weights, we curled and we crossed over to the other side, we punched, we flexed our wrists, we did everything and anything you can think of to strengthen our arms and back.
“Ellie, you must learn to stand up straighter,” G.s voice thundered at me. “I have to be tough with you because I don’t want you to fall back down and hurt yourself once you go home! After all, you know you will have nobody there to help you.” Well, golly, although she was right, I had been oh, so proud of myself, using the parallel bars to hop back and forth, to strengthen both of my legs, and to once again feel whole.
In retrospect, I now really smile broadly because these personal trainers of mine whipped me into tip top shape. An eager student, my world was enhanced and broadened by the myriad of older folks and younger folks who visited the therapy room with far more involved problems than I could ever have had.
Lunch arrived every day at one pm. Working and working tirelessly in the morning, lunch was always eagerly anticipated, delicious and usually plentiful. Served piping hot, it was usually something royally fattening, a casserole of broccoli and rice covered in cheese sauce, a hearty tuna noodle casserole, chicken ala king, or a meat loaf dinner. Figuring that we worked very hard every morning, the powers that be in the kitchen of the Heritage place saw to it that we were well fed at lunch.
Morning, afternoon, and evening, the strong pain medicine kept coming. Were it not for the strong medicines, I wouldn’t be able to do the therapies, but with the administering of voluminous amounts of happy medicines, unforeseen complications rear their ugly heads.
Constipation, a well known side effect of narcotic use, is itself the major cause of illness and cramping. Indifference towards food is another, but the worst symptom is mental incapacity and foolish dreams. In my most notable dream, I was sitting at home. Underneath the pillow of an armchair, I spied an array of things: combs, brushes, lotions, a wallet full of money, keys, all manner of stuff. I proceeded to give it all away to the people surrounding the chair and me. When I was done being lady bountiful, with a start, I realized that I had given all of the contents of my purse away.
Nights are divided into endless visits by interested aides. Given the infrequency of predictable helpers because all nursing homes are short staffed, the most difficult periods for the residents and rehabbers is at night. When a person’s night is uneventful, it is irritating to be awakened and checked on two or three times every evening. However, when crises arise and no help is forthcoming, the waiting can be endless.
A regular, healthy and mobile person, it is completely inconceivable to be away from your beloved home, enveloped in coarse bed clothes in a warm room, and finding yourself constantly waiting: for a bed pan, for a blanket, for help cleaning up.
Although placed in a very unenviable position because of an injury, you the patient thoroughly realize a painful truth, but nonetheless, an inevitable fact that, were it not for such places to instruct you in meeting your new and complicated needs, you would never be able to go home again.