Friday, December 17, 2010


The bellbird was there again this morning. Great! I wonder if he/it/she’ll sing. I haven’t heard a tui for a while; unlike the spring when they were carolling all the time. Humans are rarely satisfied.

The word ‘docking’ for me has two connotations. On the farm it is removing the tails of lambs and in the case of the males, castration. It’s a noisy, dusty, bloody business. The other use of ‘docking’ is spectacularly different - a space shuttle establishing contact with a space station. In older days it was a ship being docked at a wharf, huge ropes to tie it securely to the shore.

I use the term ‘docking’ to describe getting to the stool in my shower. I walk my walker into the new wet shower with its smooth vinyl floor. My caregiver hovers close behind in case I stumble. I turn almost 360 degrees and step backwards to the stool. A rail on the wall helps steady me. Gingerly I lower myself on to the stool.

The caregiver takes the walker away and showers me. Friday is shampoo day. We do my hair first. Then the rest of me. The shower over she retrieves the walker and positions it. I’m already upright. The last act of the showering is for her to wash my backside, so I’ve pulled myself up by the rail to stand and face the wall.

Again gingerly I reach for the walker’s handles. I push it out to the bedroom where she positions the stool and I repeat the reverse docking. She finishes drying me, applies ointments for my dermatitis – my back is especially bad this morning. Why? Humidity? Chinese meal last night? A long night’s sleep – my mask means I have to sleep on my back?

Finished, glasses cleaned, I take the walker out to the lounge where Susanna makes me a cup of tea. No milk, but sugar and a slice of lemon. The nicest cup of the tea of the day. Highly necessary, for I find myself pretty exhausted at the end of a shower. It takes energy, nervous as well as physical. There is that element of risk in the docking. Though my experience is that I have not fallen while being careful. Touch wood.

The biggest element of risk of falling is when I first get up in the morning. After a night with the CPAP machine thumping away plus the oxygen converter putting a flow of that gas into my system I wake up rather mesmerised and I’ve a hunch a build-up of carbon dioxide in my body. I swing my legs out of bed and sit up. I take the mask off and sit there deep-breathing. It’s important to clear the head before I start moving around. It is my biggest moment of risk of falling in the whole day. Eventually I retrieve the walker and begin the day’s activities.

The falls I’ve had have been the result of simple multi-tasking. Like stepping up from the garage two years ago and turning to put off the light switch. Mistake! Balance was lost. The last fall I had was such a simple thing. I was turning and started to sneeze I reached for my handkerchief and next thing I knew I was tumbling.

Those two falls, there were four others, happened when I was using the walking stick only. Now I have the walker. The knowledge lurks that sooner or later there will be further falls. But four wheels are more secure than one sole stick. All I can do is to express gratitude each evening for another day without mishap and each morning to express cheer at the prospect of another day.

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