Column: Recovering with Herschel, mobility sidekick


For the Valley News

Published: 02-22-2023 9:32 AM

I just bought a brand-new candy apple red four-wheel-drive sport model, big-wheeled walker. Its name is Herschel, and it will replace my old walker, which features two small wheels and two pierced tennis balls. In him I am currently terrorizing the halls of my rehab unit. All I really lack is a little bulb-actuated clown horn to warn innocent people of my speedy approach.

It’s been a week of ups and downs, good news and bad news, progress and setbacks. And through it all dozens of inspirational maxims have chased each other through my head.

When the going gets tough, we have often heard it said, the tough get going. Last week, buoyed by my rapid recovery from a fractured pelvis and the consequent diminished pain, I was transported to the hospital to have the cast removed from my broken right arm. The standard X-rays, however, revealed that the surgical repair to the elbow had come undone. They gave me a date for a second try and sent me back to the rehab center. You can hardly imagine the gloom this caused for my normally sunny spirit. But then I thought: It’s always darkest just before the dawn — which didn’t help at all. Another one came to me that I had been using before this: We got this! This helped a little. I could be discharged from rehab in spite of my casted flipper, as long as I could safely navigate on two feet with the aid of Herschel and other help around the house.

You can see where this is headed: up and down, up and down. Just as I managed to start typing this column on my own, thanks to the help of friends and my computer guy, the computer died and nothing I have been able to do has revived it. So my long-suffering daughter Martha is, for the fourth week in a row, typing this for me. She’s good, but aargh! I can’t help but wonder where this is going next.

We had a so-called status meeting in the administrator’s office, where I was described as amazing and ahead of schedule, which helped a lot. But I’m still here, with a little way to go before I’m discharged to my home, my support systems, visiting nurses and my bosom pal Kiki. Kiki, by the way, will henceforth not be walking with me anywhere on a leash. She and I can’t have any more accidents. But, around the house, in the park and in the car, she’s welcome company.

You can’t always change circumstances, but you can change your attitude. That’s a paraphrase from the author Amy Tam. So, accepting that as probably true, I’m working on my attitude. My goal is to be out of here by the end of the month, even with only one arm working well. My aim, should that prove impossible, is not to let that get me down. The food’s good, and the company varies, but is generally friendly and helpful. So there are worse fates a man my age could suffer. Visitors show up one after another — my girlfriend came up from Boston for the weekend, cleaned out the fermented orange juice from my fridge, took the garbage out to the composter, did this week’s laundry, held my hand and we chatted for hours. No wonder I’m getting better fast.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. My journey home has begun with multiple, increasingly speedy rounds of this building behind my new friend Herschel, chatting with people as I go. I’ll miss them when I leave, but it’ll be wonderful to be home again and cooking for myself. The very thought of the first Omelette Guillaume is almost enough to make me run away from this place — as if I could.

So as spring ineluctably warms the hills and Facebook friends excitedly report the arrival of bluebirds, robins and redwinged black birds, it also warms the large door through which I shall forthwith be returning to the world outside. There will be more downs and ups in the coming days, but the thought of succumbing to any of the downs is beyond the pale. Things here are looking up. I’m discovering people who care enough to come and visit, and I’m promising myself never again to be an old widower hibernating with his dog in a house too large for both. That’s the hopeful message of all this misery and slow, halting progress. We can do this!


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