Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I’ve spent almost week in Atlanta working on my accessibility and mobility skills, which should help further build my qualifications for my work in this area. Rather than attending a conference or a TRB committee, this is about my mother, the woman who raised me and who now broke her ankle somehow while bending over the play with a two-year old at Mary Mac’s Tea Room. She undoubtedly moved hastily, something she does from time to time, and a trait I see in myself when I mindlessly move forward with my day to day actions. Her hasty actions meant multiple fractures and a few floating bone fragments in her ankle. As a result, she was drugged last Friday to have an orthopedic surgeon add screws and plates and release her back to a hospital bed at Emory Orthopaedic and Spine Hospital (yes, with the pretentious spelling of orthopedic, because this is Emory University, an institution that does whatever it desperately can to seem to be better than it really is). And this hospital is in Tucker, not exactly a posh locale.

Her bed was in a suite. A suite is what everyone in the hospital calls the place where your hospital bed is. It is the chamber where you recover and eat jello and watch a computerized TV that doesn’t work unless the facilities guy comes and signs in. A suite is a bland and dreary room that has no right to be called a suite. But once again, this is Emory, and they are all about marketing.

The nurses were very nice, although nobody adjusted the messed up sheets on my mom’s bed and most of them seemed pretty light on work, so they were chatting and chatting. The friendly dining service guy, Ricardo, came in and touted his amazing food options available to the hospital’s patients. I had already tried the soup downstairs and my mother told him that I thought it was awful. A hasty comment. After a night’s rest in the hospital and a day of checkups and physical therapy, I schlepped her home.

“It’s time to go. You’ll be more comfortable at home.”

And we were off, mom to her home for the next eight weeks and me to escape the confines of the hospital and the terrible food.

She’s recovering well. I don’t blame her for being worried about her recovery. I would be disappointed if I couldn’t walk on my right foot for eight weeks. It means she can’t drive, can’t walk out of the house, can’t go down to her mailbox, can’t easily get to work.

I dragged her out of the house on Monday. I told her we were going to the mall and Home Depot. After a few days of me running around and doing things for my mom, it was time to show her she could be confident enough to get out of the house and to do things in public. And she did, borrowing one of the mall wheelchairs at Lenox Square we went cruising all over and even bought a few shirts at Benetton. Then at Home Depot I ran in and got the wheelchair while she chatted with the temp employees out in front who were demonstrating the merits of Windex Outdoor Window Cleaner. Although she couldn’t move any more easily, she was out and about and people talked to her and were courteous. She’ll be able to do it again.

I’m now on my second flight of the day. My first flight was delayed because there were five wheelchairs on board, including one fairly overweight paralyzed man that took a crew of people to load on to the plane. The second flight was delayed due to thunderstorms, and an aircraft malfunction, but mostly due to a medical emergency. It looked like a man had a stroke in the back of the plane. The flight attendant made the man's wife move up to the front of the plane, in the seat in front of mine, and sit there by herself. Just as I was trying to strike up a conversation and let her know I was sorry and did she want a piece of chocolate or to use my cell phone, a friendlier flight attendant told her she could go to the rear of the plane while the doctor and nurse on board and the slew of EMS staff attended to the poor man. His wife told me they lived in San Jose. Instead they are spending the night in a Chicago hospital. And her husband will probably take a long time to recover.

A broken ankle is bad. But it’s not as bad as all of the other brain and kidney and stomach and heart things it could be. It’s not as bad as being completely paralyzed or having a stroke on a plane. I think my mom realizes that, but I know that when it’s your broken bone, it is the worst thing. I hope that she heals fast and walks faster and doesn’t let getting bummed out keep her from moving forward.

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