Living in China's third largest city, Guangzhou, is an interesting experience - especially for one on crutches!
I've been back almost a week ... and my biggest concern before I arrived was an important, but mundane one - would I be able to use the average restroom when in need?
As some of you know, my studio apartment in the Tianhe section of this city of around 18,000,000 (the official statistics are always low) was briefly lived in by my landlord, and is nicely decorated... However the key thing about my studio is that it's a loft - with the bedroom and the bathroom being upstairs.
So, upon arrival in Guangzhou (GZ), and having my bag brought up to my studio, I started acclimating myself to my environment.
The most dangerous thing about using crutches when you've had your leg literally rebuilt from femur to foot with not only screws, wire, nails, plates, and rods, but also a combination of donor bone and synthetic bone is trying to shower. It's a daily event ... and any liquid on the floor which gets between the two (2) inch diameter 'crutch foot' and its share of the 200 pounds it supports can easily result in a sudden slippage of the crutch.
I've fallen to the floor twice now - once in Taiwan, and once in China. I slipped in my room after trying to grab something off of my bed; I moved too fast as I reached with my right arm (allowing my right crutch to stop supporting me, and the increased angle on my left crutch caused it to shoot out from under me. One's immediate thought is to put your foot down to stop the fall ... but somehow I'm good at instinctively not following 'common' reactions. I fell to the floor and laughed at myself. I was extremely thankful that I did not put my foot down - as my most recent Xrays show tha my toe is still fractured, but its healing.... and I have no idea what would happen to my femur - as its got the 6 centimenter section of 'bridging' which consists of nothing more than a metal plate about 1/2 inch wide and 1/8 inch thick with a bunch of mixed non-Parker bone (the bone is mixed synthetic bone with donor (corpse) bone).
I've lost about 20 kilograms (around 45 pounds) ... and had somewhere around 7 kilos installed into my left leg ... so I'm lighter, but visibly thinner; so much so that everyone comments on it. The ramifications of losing so much weight is that I have the joy of wearing belts every day! Putting a belt on while standing on crutches is something takes serious practice!
While I used to sleep only about five or six hours a day, it's a brave new world for me now. I sleep somewhere around twelve hours a day... so getting up at six like "normal" is impossible as I'm still in the office. I've gotten accustomed to getting up daily around eightish...
After dressing, I hazzard the spiral stairwell. I'd have to say that this is the most dangerous part of my day - from top to bottom it's a clockwise spinning stairwell with ten (10) stairs taking between the loft and the main floor. There is no way that the stairwell would pass whatever organization 'approves' stairwells in the USA - as first of all its width can't be three feet (about 95 cms) and the tread depth is somewhere around 5 (13 cms) inches at the middle of the tread ... which means when I'm coming down the stairs with one good foot the which is a size 13 (47 or 48) I have to step sideways. As a teenager I spent years on crutches so ... I do the advanced process of holding two crutches under my left arm and then put a vice like grip on the center pole of the stairwell with my right hand.
I've had the joy of hanging by my right arm only once - my foot slipped out from under me and the crutch propelled me forward and I just hung there like a flag waiting for a breeze. I got my foot back on the stair - and thanked my lucky stars for the fact that my shoulders and arms are already a LOT stronger due to porting myself around. I doubt I'll slip again ... I now only walk the stairs with my awesome looking
I shut down my laptop - its playing jazz all night long - after checking my email and put it in my overladen backpack... and at the same time eat get some fruit or vegetables in me (cherry tomatoes, bananas, oranges or star fruit is my normal purchase as they are fairly indestructible and I imagine they are good for me) I chow down my pills.
Medicine: Chinese & Western
I take pills four (4) times a day ... with a slight variation.
The overview is, one is to help me from getting an ulcer, some are NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), pain killers, Chinese anti-swelling medicine, and anti-biotics.
Some are taken every 8, some every 6... and I was even proscribed some sort of Chinese medicine which basically tastes like it came out of the bottom of some discarded vat of gook used to die felt orange. It's taken every other day an hour after food and allegedly helps my bones grow... which as Dr. Flood did such a crap job on my tibia I'm taking it too. I'm extremely thankful that its only taken every other day, and not twice a day - as I don't know that I could keep that much of it down!
So after loading up on my medicines, I choke down something (tomatoes are easy, bananas are tasty, and oranges are a pain to peel) ... and then take my vitamins - Calcium (a pill that has to be the largest horse pill I've ever taken) and a pill that's essentially every vitamin known to man kind - which has about 200% of one's daily need of Zinc, not to mention the other vitamins the body does and doesn't need.
Then, once I've got my drugs in me - which I definitely need, because there is always some part of my leg which demands attention (although somedays I do go without taking the pain medicine as I am constantly trying to keep its usage to a minimum to keep from building up a tolerance), I find my ziplock bag and allocate my lunch and dinner allowances of pills. The bag usually inspires giggles and some laughter when people see me pull it out for the first time... the pills come in all sorts of colors and sizes.
Depending on my feeling of exhaustion, I suck down a can of "Fire" coffee... not bad, and now that there's allegedly no more toxins in the milk I feel as safe consuming it as I do about consuming anything else here.
I suppose getting to the office is actually the most boring part of the day - outside of actually getting my backpack on and then standing up. I feel like one of the actors playing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle must have felt the first time they put the shell on.
The weirdest thing about being out in public is the stares. I've never once seen any other handicapped walking down the street... I've never seen anyone else on crutches ... and as a foreigner on crutches - usually listening to some pounding rock music to keep my march moving at a decent clip - I'm certainly about as weird looking as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle walking down the street.
As my left foot is so swollen that nothing fits on it - one of my gym socks feels tight - I wrap it in the 6 inch wide ace bandages that I used to hold the splint on with - and depending on the amount of swelling where my femur tore through my thigh I wrap that area with two ace bandages too. As the temperature has been in the high 20s the last few days (mid 80s F) I've worn nice short pants more than half of the time ... allowing my incredibly sexy leg (photos are on the way; I need to find a photographer) is quite an eye catcher!
I've learned to protect my foot in the elevator - as it's usually chest to back, shoulder to shoulder full during rush ( I bang my crutches on the ground and casually "accidentally" hit ankles when feet get too close).
At work I decided to be right up front - as everyone was ecstatic I was back (some clapped). I told people that if they wanted to see, I'd be happy to show them my surgeries - and got a standing room only audience. The forty plus stitches which are essentially in four different areas for a total length of around thirty inches (70cms) plus all the scrapes, and holes where the 'external fixation' device was installed make for a bizarre sight.
Now, when in pain, I put my leg up on my desk with a pillow and continue my job; writing, reading, working on a project etc.
Having worked hours on the flexing of my knee - I have about 20 degrees of range of motion (ROM) - I don't have to worry about using the rest room ... except for the fact that restrooms in Asia are no where near as clean as they are in the USA....
I order lunch delivered to the office, and try to remember to take my meds on time.
I try to get home around a decent time - call it between six and nine ... and I usually eat something delivered - Papa John's has made a major entry into my life LOL - and I've learned what channels have decent shows on my TV - which has never had so much interaction since I've lived here.
Sit Down For This: I watch TV now
I watch mostly soccer (football as its called over here) because regardless of the language being spoken by the broadcasters you can understand what's going on by watching. I've yet to have a favorite team - but ask me in a few months. If it's on TV in China, it's excellent football. I also watch a bunch of the propaganda on their CCTV channels ...
I do laundry daily - it's easier to do that way - and basically throw the clean laundry up onto the floor of my bedroom.... which is fairly ironic (wash your clothes so you can throw them on the floor).
And my big event of the evening is the fact that I've moved my showering to night time... as it's impossible to do in the morning. It is no longer possible for me to take a three minute shower ... I figure 'fast' is about ten minutes. Oh, and I screwed up my goatee that I was intent on keeping as it is easier to keep than being clean shaven. I should have just found a barber, but I didn't, and accidentally screwed it up, and ended up going back to good old Parker. (It took Sarah 3 hours to realize today!)
Help, I've fallen (in my tiny as heck shower) and I can't get up
As I said - my biggest fear is slipping on the wet tile and falling ... and the fold-up stool that I have in my shower helps me get over that some ... but I still move at tortoise pace as I really don't want to end up in a hospital bed for a long time.
A turtle, a tortoise, or a snails pace - just call me a limpit
So what I've done is I put two carpets in my bathroom and have a stool... and then try to keep my crutch feet totally dry.... and then I take 1/3 of the normal step I take ... so that my good foot is moving only about 8 inches at a time ... so even if a crutch slipped, I don't think I'd lose my balance.
After my shower, I do my laundry, put on my jazz (usually Coltrane), and go up and take my bed time medicine and go to sleep for the first time of the evening. My average evening I start waking up around three am, and then once an hour until I finally get up... although my first two nights here I slept almost twelve hours straight.
- I'm going to start going to physical therapy (once I can find somewhere to go!)
- as well as going swimming on a regular basis to try to get the muscle mass back in my legs
- - and relearn how to use my left leg.
- Also, I am thinking of joining Toastmasters for something to do once a week - and making more acquaintances; I got Alice (one of my consultants) hooked on it and am thinking of joining her this Thursday.
I also have to be more diligent about my masochism - as I don't stretch my knee enough; but that's why I'm going to find some sadist at a physical therapy department to torture me.
Did I miss anything? Don't think so!