Friday, August 7, 2015

The Star of Rehab!

That’s not just what I’m calling him – the nurses, therapists, techs, and even the docs are calling him a star! Don has conquered several challenges during the past several days, including walking up stairs (which means he can climb up 6 steps into the motorhome)! His hand is blurry because he was giving me ‘thumbs up.’ And notice it’s with his weak right hand!


And then he said “Oh s**t, I have to go back down!” Stephanie, the therapist, was there to help him and he found it even easier to go down the steps.


He’s gaining more use of his right hand, even using a pencil with a foam tube that makes it easier to grip. Today he wrote out a lot of letters, taking the first letter from each word in a paragraph and writing it below, with the letters he wrote making a new sentence. He did pretty well on the first task. But the therapist was talking with me about the RV life, and he was too distracted on the next task, which was also harder because he had to write down the last letter from each word. This was both a cognitive and a physical challenge. When the therapist left and said she would pick up the paper later, I left him alone to finish the task and he did just fine because he wasn’t distracted.

Yesterday, he walked a long way with a 4-wheel walker, aka ‘rollator.’ Not everyone can manage this type of walker because it tends to be a little squirrely if you don’t have good balance. But Don did great after a little practice, and the social worker is investigating getting him one through Medicare. He did even better on it this morning.


With this device, he can walk with support, and also set the brakes and rest whenever he needs to.


We would like a rollator with not only the seat and basket but also fairly large wheels so he can manage varying terrain in different locations. As our RV friends know, every RV park has a different setting, with gravel of various sizes, concrete, pavement, or even the rough terrain on BLM land in the Arizona desert. We plan to go to Quartzsite again in January 2016, and he may still need this walking aid. As our friend Jan Mains knows – having met that challenge last year after shattering her heel – it’s tough to pilot a rolling support out in the wild! If Medicare won’t cover an adequate device, we’re willing to pay any upcharge necessary. Or we may just buy one from or, both of which offer lots of options and pretty good prices – whatever it takes, we’re prepared to do for him.

In addition to all the physical mobility improvements, he’s only using 1/2 to 1 liter of oxygen, so we hope that he will be completely off oxygen when he comes home.

Speaking of coming home, Don’s EDD has been set firmly for Wed. August 12, exactly one month since he first arrived in the hospital rehab unit. It’s truly amazing to see this guy progress from barely being able to stand up between two parallel bars with help, or move his legs off the side of the bed, to where he is today. And every day brings new strength and mobility. I’m so pleased with his progress, and I know he’ll always be the ‘Star’ in my life!

I’ll close with a sunset and an alpenglow picture from last night. Both make me feel like someone is smiling down on us!



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Happy Birthday, Don!

Yesterday was Don’s birthday, but he opted to have his special dinner tonight because of his dialysis session yesterday afternoon. We never know when he’ll actually return to his room after treatments because of the varying start times and unpredictability of the transport staff to move him in his hospital bed to and from the dialysis center. And he’s usually pretty tired afterward. So I gave him a birthday balloon and card on the day, and waited another day for the dinner.

During the morning of his birthday, he had a great OT session with Gary O’Brien, Occupational Therapist, who was laughing at Don’s comment about me catching him ‘screwing around’ just as I took the picture.


This rehab treatment is helping him use his right hand more, and he learned more exercises from another therapist, Gerry, this morning, ones that he can do while lying in bed that will strengthen his arm and shoulder and in turn help strengthen his hand.

I spent part of yesterday afternoon making Don’s request, Chicken Long Rice, a traditional Hawaiian dish, which I’ve never made before. For those who want the recipe, I adapted one from Don’s sis-in-law Charley Del Rosario (who lives in Hawaii with her hubby/Don’s brother Dave). Here’s my version of her recipe, with a smaller quantity and less sodium:

Chicken Long Rice

1.5 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
olive oil for frying
2/3 cup water, heated, with ½ chicken bouillon cube dissolved
1/3 cup shoyu sauce (low sodium soy sauce)
1 pkg bean threads, soaked in cold water for about 10 minutes, drained (can be found in Asian markets and military commissaries)
4 green onions cut in 1-inch pieces (mostly green part) for garnish

Fry chicken in oil till almost brown, add garlic and ginger. Cook on med/low till fragrant, you don't want the garlic to get brown or burn. Drain off excess oil and add soy sauce and chicken broth, let simmer for 20 min or so, this sauce should cook till it permeates the chicken, add water till it just covers the chicken. Add bean threads. Stir till they absorb color and liquid. Be sure to taste, and if the soy sauce is too strong add more water, if too weak add more soy sauce. Just before serving garnish with green onions and enjoy.

I added more minced ginger because we love ginger and it becomes milder when it's cooked, and about ¼ cup of shoyu at the end of cooking. Then I packaged and refrigerated it overnight for warming up the next day in the microwave – about 1.5 – 2 minutes per dish.

Here’s the result:


Although Don didn’t eat a lot of the dinner, he did enjoy it – in fact, he said I nailed it! Hurray!

I also steamed some asparagus as a side, since I know Don loves it and hasn’t had it for a long time.


The traditional accompaniment to the dish is rice (the sticky kind), but I’m not fond of plain rice, and Don usually has rice with his lunch.

Thanks again to Charley for the recipe, as well as the bean threads and ginger she sent, along with the Hawaiian sea salt Don requested. This dinner is a keeper and we’ll undoubtedly make it again and again.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Goals and Perspective

For the many friends and family members who have asked about Don, here’s a quick update. He’s doing very well with physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. He still has some burning pain in his belly, but the docs have reviewed everything and can’t determine the cause of it. His heart is doing well, he’s getting stronger every day – walked farther than ever today without getting tired – and is learning all the things that he needs to be able to do in order to live at home, hopefully starting with his estimated discharge date of August 11.

His goals:

  1. Be able to climb 6 steps into the motorhome
  2. Feed himself
  3. Shower without assistance
  4. Dress himself (maybe with a little assistance)
  5. Breathe without oxygen support
  6. Stabilize blood pressure
  7. Get rid of the wheelchair
  8. Walk without a walker (his goal – I think that may be a little too ambitious)
  9. Get stronger, including his right hand that was the most affected by the stroke

He’s well on his way toward all these goals, but not quite there yet. This morning his blood pressure kept dropping whenever he stood up, so he didn’t get to take the walk he wanted, but he walked really well after lunch.

We continue to realize how fortunate we are compared to so many others. Our hearts go out to them because their future sometimes looks dim.

Given this perspective, we count ourselves among the lucky ones who will bounce back from our personal experience, and will likely be able to resume a fairly normal existence. Yes, dialysis will dominate our lives and our travels. And it will be challenging to follow a diabetic-renal-cardiac eating plan. But we will keep a positive attitude and make the most of the life we live together.

Tomorrow is Don’s 71st birthday. We will celebrate on Wednesday, since Tues is a dialysis day. Don has appreciated the greetings he has received from so many friends and family, and loves hearing from you all. I’ll be attempting to make one of his favorite dishes for his birthday – Chicken Long Rice – with help from his brother Dave and SIL Charley in Hawaii for sending the recipe and some of the ingredients that might have been hard to find in Tucson.

This update wasn’t very quick after all. But I hope you all know how important it is to Don that you’re all cheering him on. And I appreciate you all as well. It helps so much to know we have your thoughts and prayers for good days ahead.

A sunset view out my window a few nights ago.