Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Limb Lament

Nothing much blog worthy has been going on.  Physical therapy and doctor appointments have monopolized my time, so I have very little contact with the horses beyond feeding them and cleaning up after them.  Although, yesterday I broke out my hot pink ball scoop to fling a rock at the barn roof to get the geldings to stop shredding Bombay's fly mask, and Gabbrielle came charging out of the barn to break them up.  Bombay took off to the furthest end of the arena and dropped the mask there, so lucky me got to hike out all that way to retrieve it.  Gabbrielle was so funny, though.  She perked her ears up and looked to me for praise after she disciplined the boys.  She's such a smart mare, and I'm touched that she understands my needs and tries to help.

The physical therapists and I are still trying to narrow down how to approach my leg pain.  Historically, the pain has been in my right hip and thigh, so we started out strengthening the muscles in that area, but then I started having shooting pains that stretched from my hip to my ankle.  The therapist said that's classic back pain, so he added in exercises for my back.  Now the majority of pain is in my knee, so I've got people climbing all over me, pushing and pulling and bending my leg, hip and back in all directions in an effort to stretch things out.  All of us are trying hard to understand what my deal is since it seems to be ever-changing.  The only thing that stays consistent is that the pain is always in my right leg.

I put a knee brace on it last weekend just so that I could get up and do the grocery shopping.  That seemed to help quite a bit.  Sleeping has been a struggle, because leg and knee pain keep waking me up.  I flip and flop and stuff pillows all over the place in an effort to ease the pain long enough so I can regain sweet unconsciousness.

Originally, my physical therapist was saying that in the future, he would have me record how far I could walk before I felt pain.  I was a bit anxious about that, because first off, I'm always in pain.  For me, it's more a matter of how far I can I limp before I can no longer limp.  Also, I don't want to start out my day exercising for the sole purpose of seeing how long I can go before the pain stops me, and then be in too much pain to be able to do my barn chores and take the dogs outside.  That seems counter-productive.  I'm trying to make the pain go away so that I can handle my responsibilities.

Also, between me being busy around the ranch and with it being hot outside, I doubted I'd be able to fit in walks for the sake of measuring my distance.  I think he figured that out, so now he's got me recording how many minutes I walk until I feel pain.  That's easier on me since I'm gimping around doing chores all the time anyway.  The only thing new I have to do is notice the time and keep track of which part of my leg hurts and the type of pain.

I remembered that I have a Garmin fitness watch that records both the time and distance I move, so even if I'm going in circles between house and barn all day, it will measure everything for me.  I put it on, turned it on, and headed out to do my chores.  I had barely started shoveling manure when the watch vibrated and tossed up a warning that the battery was low.  So much for that.  I charged it up when I got back to the house, but forgot to put it on this morning.  I limped around for two hours feeding horses, cleaning up manure, feeding dogs, taking dogs outside, cleaning up dog messes, and dealing with my own breakfast.  After two hours I started feeling a new sensation of burning in the front of my hip and thigh, so I wrote that down for him.

When I'm there, I feel like I'm in a gym, but I have to remind myself to think of it more like a doctor's office, because the first thing they have me do is pull down my pants so that they can attach electrodes down the length of my butt and thigh.  They are also big on treating stiffness at the start of the work out with heat packs, and then treating pain at the end of the workout with ice, so I spend a lot of time laying on my back.  It's so far removed from my lifestyle to be able to lie down and relax knowing that nobody is going to interrupt me and drag me away from that position anytime within the next ten minutes.  I don't know what to do with myself because I don't have dogs running around my legs constantly tripping me and pressuring me to take them outside.  My phone isn't ringing and no one is at the door pedaling their religion.  I like it.  I consider my physical therapy appointments to be mini vacations.  Ahhhhhh, so this is how the other half lives.

It's kind of funny, because they are always having me check in with my pain levels, and when I report any pain at all, they cut back or cut down my exercises in some way.  However, the exercises they have me do are so wimpy compared to the types of movements I have to do at home dealing with the dogs and horses and barn chores.  I try to explain to them that the workouts they have me do are not causing my pain.  I'm just in pain all the time because of my lifestyle.

As Scrappy deteriorates, he develops new behaviors that add to my problems and stress level.  He's almost totally blind and deaf now, but he also feels hungry all the time, so he pesters me incessantly for food.  He keeps track of where I am by staying connected to my feet.  He literally steps on my feet while I sit and walk.  His toenails dig into my skin if I'm not wearing shoes.  I have to catch myself when he trips me and I begin to fall.  That's jerking my back around and causing me to hyper-extend my knee, which is probably the main cause of most of my pain.  I've been putting him in the indoor kennel more often now just to give myself a break.

Midge does something similar since she's mostly blind and deaf as well.  She walks in front of my legs and feels their movement, but because she's a herding dog, she tries to control where I walk and what speed I walk, which makes me crazy.  Half the time I'm trying to get to the bathroom or fix myself something to eat, and she's blocking me from being able to do that.  It's dangerous to mess with me when I'm hangry.

I remember one time my father came to visit us when we had a Shelty, which is also a herding dog, and my Shelty kept pushing my dad around by leaning on his legs while he walked.  My dad got angry and kept kneeing and pushing the dog to get him out of his space.  I was annoyed that he treated my dog that way, but now I understand.  He had hip and back pain, and he was just trying to spare himself.  I should have been more sensitive and shut the dog outside -- something I can't do here and now for myself.  When you are young and have good balance, having a dog shadow you isn't a problem, but when you are old and in pain, it's not a good thing.

The other night I got up to go to bed and was carrying Stewie in my arms.  Since Scrappy is black, I didn't see him sleeping in the middle of the hallway and I tripped over him, nearly dropping Stewie.  I caught both of us before we hit the floor.  As a result of that experience, we now have four new night lights placed strategically around the house.  That's the other thing Scrappy has started doing.  When he sleeps, he places himself in high traffic locations so he'll detect the vibrations of footsteps when we get up and start walking around the house.  When I go outside, he presses his body up against the door so that he'll know when I open it and come back inside, so I try to come in a different door to avoid smacking him.

Midge follows me around and always positions herself in doorways so that she can keep track of what is going on in each room, but then she won't move out of my way when I need to get through the doorway.  Yelling or clapping my hands does no good because she can't hear anything, so I have to physically move her.  It hurts to bend over and pick her up, so I usually push her out of the way with my foot, which I'm sure adds to my leg problems.  Both she and Scrappy are starting to go senile, so sometimes she snaps at me and bites my foot.  They are anxious all the time about losing track of where their humans are.  I've never had dogs live this far into old age before, so it's an adjustment for all of us.

A part of me wants to find new homes for all the horses, because it hurts too much to take care of them, but then I realize that I spend way more time dealing with the dogs than the horses.  Plus, the horses have a healing quality about them.  I always feel better after spending time with a horse.  My leg pain tends to get better in cooler weather, so I don't want to give up on horseback riding just yet.  I think if things don't improve by winter, and I've exhausted all my treatment options, then I'll feel more confident about what to do with the horses.  The vet doubts Scrappy will live longer than a few more months, and Midge shouldn't have much longer beyond that.  I'm curious if most of my health issues will resolve themselves when my entire day no longer has to revolve around incontinent dogs that prevent me from eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, and walking through my own home.

My son got his first job with benefits and a fair salary since graduating from college.  I'm so happy for him, because now he has the freedom to do what he wants with his life.  For the past several years he's been stuck driving his grandmother's 15 year old Camry through L.A. traffic to a low paying job with no benefits, but soon he'll be able to afford a car of his choice.  Unfortunately, this new job is on the other side of the country on the east coast, so I won't get to see him often.  But he's good about calling home.

My daughter is in the process of changing careers, so I get to see her more often since she's between jobs.  She's going to start dropping by in the mornings after her cross-fit workouts to walk with me while I monitor my pain.  I'm hoping she'll help me with the dogs and horses too, because I'll have more time to do my physical therapy homework if the animals don't have me spinning in circles.

I can't tell you how many times the dogs needed to be taken outside, and I wished there was someone around to do it so that I could just sit still for a few minutes or finish something that I'm doing.  The really frustrating thing is when I'm down at the barn trying to shovel manure and the dogs are in the house barking.  I know they can't hold their bladders when they bark, so I have to scurry back to the house and let them out before they lose control.  If I don't get there in time, I have to do laundry and scrub the carpet.  Sometimes they bark to tell me they need to pee, and sometimes a delivery truck drives past or someone comes to the door, which gets Stewie barking, which gets the other two going.  It's tough always having to be in two places at once, but if you've got two people, problem is solved.


Camryn said...

I'm not sure how I'd deal with the pain and discomfort you've been dealing with. I sure hope the physical therapists are able to help. My eldest son just got neutered a few days ago. As he crossed the yard to see lincolns pumpkin seedlings begin the sprout, I had to burst out laughing. He was walking so bow legged, I'm a mean Mom I know!

Grey Horse Matters said...

It's hard living with constant pain. My sister and you sound like you have a lot of the same pain problems. She went to physical therapy and it did help now she goes to pain management. I wonder if when it's time for Midge and Scrappy to leave if your pain and stress will reach a more tolerable level. In the meantime I'm glad you like your visits to therapy. Hope your daughter might be able to stay a while and help out. You could use a break.

Crystal said...

Be nice to have your daughter around for a while. And funny how the physical therapy is a vacation lol and I hope they find something that works for you