Friday, June 27, 2008

Burning for you

Was I a Visigoth at the Sacking of Rome? A Viking invading Eire? Did I pluck the wings off of flies? There surely were evil deeds that I committed in a previous life. It is the only thing I can think of to explain my string of calamities.

Last night I went to make, as I have a million times before, a pitcher of iced tea. I do this for several reasons. One, I am cheap. I don't see the point in buying it if I can make it just as easily. If I had a churn and an abattoir, I probably wouldn’t be buying butter or hamburgers either. But that is debatable.

Number two, it's just so freaking easy. Water. Tea bags. The end.

Number three, I like the way I make it. I just like it plain. I don't use sugar or anything.

So I never expected that I would pour in the boiling water as usual, add the tea bags as usual and pick up the pitcher as usual, to have it shatter and shower me with the aforementioned boiling water.

It splashed into my face and chest and onto my left arm and thighs, soaking my clothes. I ran to the shower and jumped in, clothes and all, letting the cold water run all over me.

This is what saved me from being burned even worse, according to the Nurse Practitioner in the Emergency Room.

That’s right, the Emergency Room. Again. I swear, they are going to reserve me a room.

The left side of my face is burned from my eye brow to my chin, including my eye lid. My eye itself is fine. I apparently reflexively closed my eyes when it happened. My left wrist is burned and there are splash marks on my chest. My thighs are burned where the water soaked through my leggings, in lengthwise stripes.

Fortunately, they are only first degree and superficial second degree burns. Painful, but not permanently disfiguring. I have kept cold compresses on everything, especially my face, and it has really helped. I am swollen and blotchy, but it mostly looks like I have a bad sunburn. On one half of my face. Very attractive.

My friends have offered to dance naked around a fire to dispel evil spirits on my behalf. Now that is what I call devoted. Or perverted, depending on your point of view. Especially since there has also been mention of tequila and absinthe.

But despite their love and commiseration, here is what I have to say:


Blue Oyster Cult. If this music video doesn’t make you laugh, nothing will.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bye, George

Oh, George Carlin. Sigh. The comic idol of my youth. He inspired me to be funny. I cannot believe there will be no new laugh out loud observations on the absurdities of our culture.

I didn’t love the Seven Words stuff but I know he was really proud of that work and the impact it made.

I did love the everyday humor that was so relatable.

He was a latch key kid who frequently, because he was a kid, was latch-key-less. For which his poor mother would subsequently tan his hide. (Can you imagine being George Carlin’s single mother? Equal parts laughter and tearing your hair out.) All Catholic kids know that St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. George did a hilarious bit on losing his house key for the millionth time. He knows he’s going to get it, so he’s frantic. He prays to St. Anthony, finally saying, “God, if you see St. Anthony, would you please tell him I’VE GOT TO FIND MY KEYS!”

On the difference between Baseball and Football: In football you wear a helmet. In baseball you wear a cap. Football is concerned with downs. Baseball is concerned with ups.

Here it is:

And driving. Being stuck behind a little old lady for miles going about 15 miles an hour with her turn signal on. At first it appears no one is actually driving the car. But no, he says, I definitely see knuckles on the steering wheel.

And pets: Remember, every time you buy a pet, you’re purchasing a small tragedy.

And of course, my compadre, the Class Clown. (Are any of you surprised? I was passing notes to make people laugh in graduate school.)

Funny stuff. Funny guy.

Thanks, George.

Friday, June 20, 2008


The original idea of this blog was to create a site of mutual support and encouragement in being good to ourselves, especially with weight loss. My accident has morphed it into something a little different and I am feeling somewhat uncomfortable about that.

I am trying to tell myself that it still is addressing issues that others can relate to. I am not completely sure though.

I was not particularly good to myself after I got hurt. (Although I did eat an awful lot of ice cream. It was quite delicious. :) ) My typical denial in the face of incontrovertible facts slowed my acceptance of the truth: that I was terribly injured. And would be in recovery for a very, very long time. Possibly up to a year. Now that this is finally reality to me, I am doing my best to nurture my body and take my recuperation seriously.

I am eating well, I am scrupulous about doing my home exercises and attending my three times a week Physical Therapy sessions, even though they are so grueling I want to weep. Ok, I do weep. Physical therapy is really, really hard. Although Mike, my physical therapist, couldn’t be nicer or more encouraging. I have gone back to the gym and have gingerly done some pool walking and stretching, although I can’t actually swim for a while. I am resting when my body says I need to rest. I am listening to it for a change instead of telling it to shut up, it doesn’t know what it’s talking about.

When my MS symptoms flare up, I still get angry and feel sorry for myself that I am not the active person I used to be, Super Woman, capable of doing it all. But I also try to acknowledge, rather than ignore, yes, my legs are like jelly today, or my feet feel as though they are filled with lead, or I am so dizzy I have to hold onto things to get around the house, the Furniture Crawl.

Bottom line, I am not sure where this blog is going. I don’t want it to be all about me (that is a TOTAL LIE!! I would love it to be all about me. Isn’t everything?!? :) ) I want to post things we can all relate to in ways of being good to ourselves, even if it is just a moment to stop and think about things that are important to you. Or seem interesting. Or to simply have a giggle. Because if nothing else, everyone needs to laugh now and then. And I am a sucker for a good audience.

So for right now, I will probably write about random things, but I will also remember what I started out to do. The title “Nourish” really can be expanded. Because that actually is what life should be about. Nourishing precious moments, nourishing our precious selves and nourishing our precious others.

I would love some feedback as to what you all think.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Humbling Moments


I had a follow-up with Dr. Wonderful this week. He looked handsome as usual. He asked how I was doing and I was thrilled to be able to enthusiastically say “I feel better!” And he said “Great. You look good.”

Now I have to tell you, this is not a statement that a fat, middle-aged, one-eyed woman hears too often.

So I replied with surprised and flattered glee, “Really!?!”. And subsequently observed his face recoil in unmitigated horror as he vigorously back pedaled. “I mean” he stammered, “It looks like you’re moving a lot better.”


Gee whiz, it wasn’t like I was going to jump his bones or anything. No orthopedic pun intended.

Oh well. It did feel good for a millisecond.

Another one:

I met this lovely older lady at physical therapy. She is doing exercises similar to mine, but she's doing them better than me.

Naturally, I'm dead jealous and competitive and want to knock this little old lady over so she breaks her other arm and I will outdo her in PT.

Part of my gambit is to gain her trust and give her a false sense of security by letting her think I am a nice person and actually interested in her. So I asked her how long it had been since she had her surgery, because she was doing so well. Her answer: 3 weeks. THREE FREAKING WEEKS. You know how long it's been since mine? Eleven weeks! She's flinging her arm all over creation and I can't even…well, it’s personal, but you get the picture.

So then I ask her, what happened? Oh, she fell too. Only she fell in GREECE. At the PARTHENON!!!!

Not only is this lady running physical therapy circles around me, she has a WAY better fall story.

My friends had encouraged me to make up good stories to explain my massive scar: shark attack; stuntwoman accident; the Jersey Devil; freak onion chopping accident; knitting accident; tattoo cover attempt gone horribly wrong; squirrel attack while drinking martinis (don’t ask). So, they say to me, maybe she is making the whole Greece thing up.

Hmmmm. I never thought of that. Now that you mention it, she did look like a big fat liar even though she was only about 5 feet tall and 85 lbs.

Parthenon my ass.

So then my friend Graea in England says, “Sweet looking little old ladies get away with murder. She probably isn't even very old--just cunning makeup. I bet she's exaggerating her injury, too.” Hmmmm. I never thought of that either.

And best of all Graea says, “And no way can she have a better scar than you. You would make Genghis Khan feel like a big girl's blouse.”

No wonder I love Graea.

I have to go lie down for a little while now and not think about little old ladies with great stories who do better than me in physical therapy. And doctors who look terrified when they inadvertently hand me a compliment.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Another Thing That Happened While I Was Broken

Team Cooper did the Belmar MS Walk and we raised over $3000! The Walk was 6 days after my surgery and so I power-chaired it. That was kind of a bummer because I hate feeling like a crippled person. Even if I am a crippled person.

But on the plus side, the chair enabled me to keep up with my team and enjoy their company instead of what I usually do, which is sit on a bench twiddling my thumbs waiting for them to get back.

It was a nice day but the wind was whipping, so it did start to feel cold on the boardwalk after a while. But we had a great time!!

Yay team!!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Things That Happened While I Was Broken

While life screeched to a halt for me, the rest of the world did go on. Hard to believe, but true.

So here is one thing that happened:

I had a Letter to the Editor of The New York Times Magazine published.


Not that I’m excited or anything.

There was an article in the Magazine in March that particularly struck a chord with me, so I dashed off a letter in my usual hilarious style. And I got an e-mail BACK!!!!!!


It said:

“Thanks for writing. We hope to include you in the magazine letters column of April 6. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.”

Wow. My very own e-mail from the New York Times that isn’t asking me to subscribe. I decide to control myself and not send it back corrected. They didn’t capitalize “magazine”. I ignored the “letters may be edited for length and clarity” part because obviously my letter, which was both erudite and witty, was perfect as is.

You know what? I should just rename this blog “Wrong, wrong, wrong”, because that’s what I always am.

It was edited until it was crap. A crap letter. I had a crap letter published in the New York Times Magazine. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I received the e-mail on March 27. The letter wasn’t going to appear until April 6. So, as I crowed to everyone I knew, I said over and over and over “I don’t know WHAT I’ll do to keep myself busy until April 6.” Ha ha ha Well, we know now, what I did to keep myself busy was fling myself to the cement and create a general mess out of myself.

I wasn’t too disappointed when I saw they edited it. Of course they did cut out the funniest parts. And the libelous parts. And the sentence where I use the word “hubris”. That was the best part of the letter! How often do you get to use “hubris”?! Honestly.

At any rate, here is the link (mine is the second one down), which I am sure they will nurture in perpetuity for its wit and brilliance. I know I will.

I’m thinking about having this put on my tombstone:

Marie L. Cooper
Beloved Mother
AND (continued on back)
The writer of a Letter to the Editor
of the New York Times Magazine.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Accident, Chapter Four: Surgery and Beyond

By that Friday afternoon I was scheduled for an open reduction/internal fixation of my four-part proximal humerus fracture, to be done as a same day surgery at a local surgery center. That comforts me a little. Just a surgery center. Well, it couldn’t be too bad then. The MS was not a complicating factor that would have it done in a hospital. So it would be simple. Sort of like having a tooth pulled or an ingrown toenail taken care of. My biggest concern was that I might have to have a urinary catheter. I am so shallow. Oh, and stupid. As a result of my ignorance, even as a nurse, I am completely and utterly unprepared for what I am in for.

The craziest part is when I called the center to find out what time I had to be there on Monday, the girl turned around from the phone and called to someone “What time is the Open Reduction on Monday?” Open Reduction. She said it. Right into my ear. And “open” means just what it sounds like. I know what an open reduction is. And it still never registered. I was primarily irritated that I had been demoted to a procedure, not a name.

My daughter Mary Kate brings me to the surgery center bright and early Monday morning, nine days after my fall. I am relaxed and cheerful. I am certain I will be sufficiently medicated to be comfortable and that this will fix my arm. Better in a few days, I’ll be. So I have no qualms. What a moron.

The staff is very nice. The nurse anesthetist shows me one part of the anesthesia they are going use, an interscalene block. A catheter will be put in my neck and medicine will go in there that will completely numb my shoulder and arm. With that I will only have sedation for the surgery, not general anesthesia. So I need neither intubation nor catheterization (yay, I can leave on my knickers!). An attached pump will go home with me, pumping medicine to the blocked area for four days, by which time the pain will be reduced. Well, that sounds great!, I think. I am still cheerful and relaxed. Especially since I still have my knickers on. They will give me a little something to relax me while they insert the catheter in my neck. And to be honest, except for a brief memory of being wheeled into the operating room, that is the last thing I remember until I am offered ginger ale in the recovery room. According to my parents, this is six hours later.

Dr. Wonderful appears in the Recovery Room with copies of my x-rays. He proudly shows off his work: a plate and about a billion screws that are holding my arm bone pieces together. I look at it as though it belongs to someone else. “Wow” I say while sipping ginger ale. I feel no connection to that hardware whatsoever. I had no idea there was going to BE any hardware, so it doesn’t sink in.


This is not my actual arm, but it's what the inside of it pretty much looks like now.

What I don’t realize has happened, and won’t until days later when I look it up on the internet, is this: I was placed on the operating table and put under conscious sedation, meaning I was heavily sedated but not completely unconscious. Because of the drugs used, I wouldn’t remember anything. The operating table was then raised into a seated position. Every bit of me, except for my right shoulder, the area to be operated on, was covered in surgical drapes, including my head and face (Can we talk about my claustrophobia? I practically need to be sedated just typing this.).

My right lower arm is swathed in sterile wrappings. With a scalpel, Dr. Wonderful makes a cut from the top of my shoulder six inches down my arm, which is then spread wide open and held in place like that with metal surgical retractors for the extent of the surgery. Muscles and blood vessels and nerves are pushed and/or cut out of the way to reveal the bone. The broken pieces of the head of the humerus were fitted together and fastened.

Dr. Wonderful then decided on the size of the plate needed and number of screws. Holes were drilled into my arm bone with an electric drill, the plate was fastened onto the bone and broken pieces with the screws until everything was nice and put together. Throughout the surgery the surgical site is continually flushed and suctioned to keep blood out of the way. Additionally, my arm was repeatedly manipulated and x-rayed during each step of the operation to make sure everything was fitting together as it should. At the end, I was sutured up and sent on my way.

Alrighty then. Not quite like having a tooth pulled. No wonder it freaking hurts.

I go home. My arm is numb and I have plenty of pain medicine. I sleep off and on over the next day and I feel…ok. Then a few things happen. First, my legs swell up like two giant slugs attached to my body. To the extent that anyone looking at them gasps. There is no delineation from my thighs to my ankles and my feet look like giant marshmallows with little dots where the toes are. Add the fact that my skin is as white as paper, this is not a pretty sight. I look like the Michelin man from the waist down.

I call the surgeon’s office. They tell me to call the surgery center. And to keep my feet up. Which is what I have been doing since I fell, but whatever. So I call the surgery center. They tell me to call the surgeon. And to keep my feet up. I call the surgeon back. They tell me to call my regular doctor. And to keep my feet up. I call my regular doctor. His office is closed for a few days. I am surprised the answering service does not tell me to keep my feet up. I call the surgeon back. They are not pleased that the hot potato has landed back with them. “Ok, well, keep your feet up and I’ll tell the doctor. We’ll call you back.”

And I also now realize that my arm isn’t really numb anymore. The pump was supposed to be effective for four days. This is the third day, but there should be another 24 hours plus to go. Then I notice the neck of my t-shirt is wet. Right where the catheter is. As a matter of fact, the catheter is leaking. The numbing medication that is supposed to be going into my arm is now dripping down my chest.

I call the surgery center about the catheter and they tell me to come in, the anesthesiologist will adjust the catheter for me, and he fastens it with surgical glue. He also gives me a nice bolus of analgesia, which numbs me for a blissful couple of hours. The nurse anesthetist says, “You know, I thought it looked a little out of place when you left the OR.” Oy vey. Maybe THEN would have been a good time to adjust it? But I keep my mouth shut, because otherwise everyone has been so nice to me. She points out my swollen legs to the anesthesiologist. “Hmmm.”, he says. “They weren’t like that on Monday.”, she says. “Hmmm.”, he says, “Keep your feet up.”

At home the surgeon’s office has called back about my legs. Get a pair of Jobst stockings. These are stockings that are about two inches by two inches and you have to get your whole leg into them and they perform miracles. However, the real miracle is getting them on. What no one has taken into consideration, including me before I plunk down $85 for the stockings, is that it is hard enough to get them on with TWO hands. With one, it is impossible.

Before I can even get too upset about the legs, like magic they go back to normal. The interscalene block catheter comes out. And then I settle into my routine of the next four weeks. Living from pain pill to pain pill, completely incapacitated, unable to drive, unable to dress without assistance, unable to lie down to sleep, sleeping in a chair. It will be seven weeks before I can sleep through the night. The pain and the stress have a terrible impact on my MS symptoms, ramping them up, causing major issues with walking, cognition, tremors and numbness. My daughter has to help me put my underwear on and does my hair. My mother and friends and church cook for me. I can’t even spread butter on toast!

The six inch long incision is breathtakingly ugly. Gradually it sinks in that I have had major surgery. That this is going to take a long, long time to recover from. And I become extremely depressed. I feel as though my body has let me down by breaking. I feel as though life has let me down by throwing me this incredible curve when I am already dealing with so many disasters, MS and being out of work. I feel like Dr. Wonderful let me down by not telling me what the surgery entailed. But, to be fair, I asked no questions either. Part of that may be because I was demented by pain, narcotics and lack of sleep, but…they could have given me a clue. The picture of my face in the waiting room that morning should be next to the definition of ‘clueless’ in the dictionary. But here’s a scary fact: according to my daughter, who was with me, Dr. Wonderful did explain exactly what was entailed when we were in his office that Friday morning before the surgery. I just couldn’t hear it.

I have home physical therapy ordered. Janet, who comes to the house three times a week, is wonderful. She is cheerful and no-nonsense, patient and kind. She is tolerant when Bella the Maniac Shih-Tzu jumps all over her like, well, a maniac. She manipulates my arm gently to get back my range of motion. She is relentlessly encouraging and supportive. She tells me to rest and take care of myself and how to manage my arm and pain better. She worries about me and my blood pressure. She scolds me when I do too much. She is a major contributor to my healing process. I love her.

Gradually I start getting out a little, but a simple trip to the supermarket exhausts me. My sweet father drives me everywhere, doctor’s appointments, the supermarket, even a job interview. Yes, I went to a job interview two weeks post-op in a sling. (I didn’t get the job :(). We go to the supermarket and can’t find a parking spot, so we park in the designated “Parent with Child” spot, at 76 and 53 years of age, giggling like two little kids. I do have to say it is a treat spending that time with my father, like I was little again.

After eight weeks, the incision is completely healed (although still hideous). And so are the bones in my arm. Dr. Wonderful gives me the good news: I can drive again! It has been two months since I fell. My life screeched to a halt that day and is very, very slowly creeping back to normal. I am not there yet. I now go to out-patient physical therapy three times a week (Mike is a great therapist, but I do miss Janet!). My arm is gradually, painfully getting strength and motion back. I can dress myself now and sort of do my hair.

It is going to take me a long time to process this experience. There has been a lot of bad, a lot of craziness but much good as well. Many people came through for me, supporting and encouraging me, telling me they loved me and thought about me and were devastated for me. Dr. Wonderful was wonderful. He put me back together. I am trying to focus on all that instead of how hard it was to get appropriate care, how horrifyingly brutal the injury and surgery turned out to be, how this accident impacted my sense of safety and how long it is taking me to return to my interrupted life.

I am getting better every day. And that’s the story!