Dear Mr. Lemcool:
Before being taken by ambulance from McCaren to MediLodge, I had been hospitalized for 33 days being nourished by a J-Peg. A combination of both pneumonia and flu, seriously complicated by sepsis, almost took me out. Almost, but now -such a prolonged stay in the hospital had caused serious muscle atrophy: I couldn’t even brush my teeth or shave.
On the afternoon of the day I was transferred from McClaren Hospital in Petoskey to MediLodge in Gaylord, Dr. Mike Samalik, my primary care physician came to visit. He sat and held up his hand with his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart saying, “I’ve got a stack of reports on you this thick, Terry.” Then pointing his finger at me he continued, “You should be dead. The only thing that kept you alive was your heart; you have a strong heart.”
We chatted for a while and just before he left, Dr. Samalik asked if I had played sports in high school. When I said I had, Dr. Samalik replied, “Hell week is going to begin on Monday.”
On Monday I met Barb Hartman. Barb pushed a wheelchair into my room, greeted me warmly and lit up the room with her smile. There was another nice lady with her and it took both of them to lift me from the bed to the wheelchair. Before doing so however, Barb circled my waist with a heavy belt with a type of grip in the back. This, I would learn, was a safety device to keep me from falling. (I had one of those belts on many times during my stay.) As Mike had said, “Hell Week” had begun.
However this is not about me – it’s about the dedication and professionalism of Barb Hartman. At the time, I was too self-absorbed to realize how good Barb is, and it wasn’t until much later that I remembered her cleverness. For example, Barb had to perpetually walk a tightrope; she needed to challenge me, but not discourage me. I needed to be pushed but not excessively so. She was endlessly good natured and always praised my small triumphs. Once as we were getting ready to return to my room, from the gym, Barb asked me If I wanted to walk or use the chair. Immediately I said I wanted to be pushed. Barb suggested that perhaps I could walk the first half of the distance then take to the chair for the second half. Clever. And Barb knew I could do it; I just needed a little nudge.
Looking at the larger picture, no matter what exercises I was doing, Barb was nearby watching, judging, suggesting. Once during arm exercises on a machine, Barb asked if the resistance felt right. Barb had set the machine up for a ten minute time span. We were making this trip together. Another time I was to lift a barbell straight up in front of me, elbow locked, and then slowly bring my arm down to my side. I was to do ten repetitions. Barb gave me a three pound barbell for one hand and a two pound barbell for the other. Ten reps. I was to decide, Barb would critique my form. She watched as I made the first rep, and asked which weight I thought I should use to complete, in proper form, the required ten. I chose the three pound weights and did the ten reps to Barb’s satisfaction. If my memory serves me correctly, the next time I used four pound weights.
I remember a time when Barb and I were returning to my room. I was in the wheelchair, but Barb wasn’t pushing me – I was rolling the chair. Barb asked me if I had seen the day room, and when I said I had not, she suggested that we go there and check it out. So I rolled the chair right past my room and kept on going. After the tour, I rolled back to my room. I was delighted.
When they told me at McClaren that I was being transferred to Medilodge, I immediately assumed that my rehab would consist of walking, lifting things, maybe riding a stationary bike. I would do these easy exercises and go home. I had no idea that I would have to learn to walk. (I still have a vivid memory of the first time I was confronted by the parallel bars and was suddenly horrified.) There was no way I could get up and walk, even with the bars to support me. Barb and I did it. I did not know that while standing with Barb holding the “belt”, that I would be asked to raise my leg and with the ball of my foot tap the tops of randomly placed and different size cones. I did not know that I would, while standing with Barb holding the “belt”, that first with one hand then the other, have to pick up different size nuts and screw them on the appropriate size screws. I did not know that while sitting with ankle weights secured to my ankles, I would simply have to raise my leg, ten reps, then repeat with the other leg. Then do it again. And I was always praised and encouraged. Large muscles, small muscles, of course. I should have known.
Following a conference with Barb, the doctor, two (I think) of the nurses (angels, by the way), and my wife Ann, they told me I could go home the next day. Home. I could go home. Sometime later I hugged Barb and called her my life saver, and she, of course, said I did all the work. I could go home. I still call her my life saver.
P.S. And finally this, Mr. Lemcool. My wife and I agree that had I been a famous visiting dignitary, I could not have received better care than I did at Medilodge. Even the maintenance workers smiled and said hello. Thanks, and please pass on my gratitude and that of my wife Ann to the staff. Sadly, I have forgotten their names, but the speech pathologists who worked with me were, like Barb, consummate professionals.
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