30 Days of Thanks Day 12: Massage

I used to work in a large building with several offices. I hated most of life in the cube farm. The one thing I loved was my weekly massage.

Alyssa, my massage therapist, came to the building once a week to give chair massages. For twenty minutes every Wednesday around 1:00, I would sit in bliss as she slowly tried to work the stiffness from my neck and shoulders.

As I was preparing to leave that job for my current employer, I lamented to Alyssa that our weekly visits would be what I missed most after I left. Her reply filled me with joy and hope.

You know, I do make house calls.

So, for the past five years, Alyssa has come to my house once a month for an hour-long massage. Last year when I was in the hospital, she came to visit me. Her gentle touch helped relieve some of the swelling in my feet and toes.

Today was massage day, and boy did I need it! I’m not just saying that. Alyssa kept mentioning it too as she found new areas needing work.

I told her I was going to make her my daily gratitude, because she is by far the best thing that happened to me today. Thanks for helping me feel better for so long Alyssa. I’m grateful for your talented hands, but more appreciative of our friendship.

Two open hands with red palms.
Alyssa’s hands after a massage.
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30 Days of Thanks Day 23 – Alyssa

One of the best outcomes of my brief employment in an office at the New York State Department of Health was my introduction to Alyssa, my friend and massage therapist. Alyssa brought her massage chair to our building once a week and set up shop in an alcove near the cafe on my floor. I was quickly one of the regulars, reserving the 1 PM spot.

Over the next two years, we swapped stories and developed a friendship as she worked the knots and kinks out of my shoulders and neck. When she moved her workspace into an empty office large enough for a massage table, I lamented that I wished I could get on it for a full body massage.

You know, I don’t mind doing a home visit. Would that be an option?

Wait – she was willing to bring her wonderful hands to my house?! Of course I said yes!

So began our monthly visits. Since I have a fully electric hospital bed, Alyssa does not need to bring her massage table. With the help of my red satin sheet used as a pull sheet, Alyssa is able to move my body into positions which are comfortable for both of us.

I was scheduled to have a massage on the week after I broke my leg. I contacted Alyssa from the hospital to cancel our plans.

I’m going to keep it on my calendar. I’ll plan to come visit you at the hospital.

Alyssa arrived that Sunday to find me whimpering in discomfort. The swelling in my lower leg and foot, below the fracture, was the worst I’ve ever experienced. My leg felt like a sausage under pressure, my skin shiny like a casing ready to pop.

Would you like me to just massage it gently? I see you have some lotion here.

The next hour was bliss. Alyssa dimmed the harsh overhead light, used her iPhone to provide relaxing music and slowly started to rub my leg. Gradually, the fluid started to work it’s way up my leg and I felt the pressure decrease. The pain and tightness disappeared as she worked her magic hands over my skin. When Alyssa was done, I asked her to grab my purse from the drawer next to my bed so I could pay her for the massage.

I’m not going to let you pay me Denise. I didn’t come to massage a client. I came to visit a friend.

Alyssa has become a very treasured friend. She listens without judgement, providing encouragement and support. She frequently shares my writing with others and always takes time to comment on posts she has heard me talking about writing or researching. When I had to learn new ways to move my body after the fracture, Alyssa was willing to adapt our sessions. Throughout this year, she has helped with stretching and massage, providing some of the few fleeting pain free moments I have had since fracturing my leg in January.

Sometimes when people have to provide my physical assistance for the first time, they are nervous about hurting me or doing the wrong thing. Alyssa did not have experience with personal care before she started coming to work at my house. But, she listened to my instructions and very quickly became adept at moving me and working within my limitations to give me the most benefit.

Alyssa knew I was planning to move out of my former apartment this year. She witnessed the stack of boxes growing as I packed my life in June and July. Then, she surprised me with a text.

I’ve blocked out the morning you are moving. Plan on me being there to help, and I’ll try to bring my boyfriend.

Alyssa and Josh lifted and carried many of those boxes in August. Even when her family plans changed, Alyssa honored her commitment to provide help during a stressful time in my life. Because that is what Alyssa always does. She provides relief when I am stressed and anxious.

Thank you Alyssa, for being a true friend through good times and bad. Yes, I love your massage skills and talents. But they pale in comparison to your kindness and compassion. I am grateful to all you do to make my world less stressful and less painful. I function better because you are there whenever I call.

Two open hands.
Alyssa’s hands after a massage.

Medical DeeScriptions

Today is Monday, January 25, 2016. Twenty-five days into a new year and my life has already had one year of action packed in. Here’s what is happening, and a brief glance at where 2016 will take DeeScribes.

I spent an enjoyable week at my sister Caroline’s house for Christmas/New Year vacation. It seems like years ago, not just three weeks. I played with puppies, crocheted projects, wrote, and visited with friends and family. It was a perfect week.

Just before leaving my sister’s house, I checked my bank account balance online. I planned to make a few returns and needed to check on my status. I discovered someone had written over $1000 of fraudulent checks.

The fraud caused me to take additional time off work to process the paperwork and fraud protection account changes. I have always had good relationships with my local police officers. Unfortunately, it is not the first time I have been the victim of theft.

At the end of the first week, I began to get sick. An ear and sinus infection kept me home for five days, coughing and congested. Of course, my wheelchair decided this would be a good time to die, so before I could go back to work Wednesday, January 13, I had to get my chair fixed.

With a working chair, I powered through 4 hours in the office before heading home. I am trying a new work schedule which permits me to work part of my day at home so I have access to an accessible rest room. Good thing, since that Wednesday my body decided to surprise me by starting my menstrual cycle. I know I don’t typically share this much personal detail here, but trust me – it’s relevant.

It’s relevant because it is why I used the bathroom with urgency on Wednesday afternoon. Or, at least, I tried to.

Instead, my leg gave out as my Personal Assistant was transferring me onto the commode. She didn’t listen to my commands, and she dropped me.

SNAP!

I heard it crack as my butt hit the floor. My left femur broke in two places.

Imagine the scene – me, half naked on the floor by the commode, bleeding profusely, knee blown the size of a basketball, a whimpering Personal Assistant trying too late to make things better, with the police officer who worked with me for five days to arrest the women who stole from me. Can you see me sobbing on the floor, in a puddle of blood, with the policeman rubbing hair out of my face while we wait for the ambulance? It wasn’t pretty.

It definitely wasn’t pretty as they moved me to a backboard and lifted me to a stretcher. It was downright ugly as I swore in pain while they secured me in the rig.

Competition at the operating rooms meant surgery did not happen until Friday. For 36 hours I lay in agony, anxiety about impending surgery coursing through me. The last time I had “routine” surgery in 2013, I spent four days on life-support in the Intensive Care Unit.

Thankfully, surgery happened on Friday. According to my surgeon, my leg is now held together with (his exact words) “plates, rods, some chicken wire and a little bubble gum.” I don’t know the exact ratio of those components. I’ll do some investigating.

For the past ten days I have slowly started the healing process. My body has been drastically changed and I don’t know what the end result will be. I don’t know where I will come out but I do know these things:

  1. Orthopedic surgery still hurts worse than any other pain I have ever felt. I forget sometimes, and then things happen to remind me.
  2. Friends and allies who speak up for you are worth their weight in gold. Once again, I was in a position to require others to have detailed conversations about my heath wishes. We have had these discussions amongst ourselves before, so when emergencies occur they know what I want. I am blessed to have Sandy, Sally, Stephanie and so many others to advocate for me when I am weak.
  3. Nurses and patient care technicians deserve to earn far more than they make. Especially the ones who answer your call bell at 2:30 AM because your eye is tearing and you can’t reach your face to itch it. And the ones who clean you up after your laxative decides to start working. And the ones who heat the soup your sister makes for you because nothing tastes good. And the ones who have to try to make you comfortable after your urinary tract infection causes you to void with urgency every half an hour. And the ones who listen to you and respect you as an expert on your body.
  4. Complementary medical treatments need to be funded and supported. The massage I received reduced my leg pain more effectively than the narcotics. And human touch is so essential for healing.

I am waiting to learn where I will go for rehabilitation. I will be non-weightbearing for at least five more weeks according to the doctors. The real work is just beginning. Transferring, driving, working, living arrangements – all of these unknown factors are still to be faced. This injury is a game-changer. There is no doubt about it.

But I am a tough cookie. And I have too many things to do. There are books to write, people to reach, hearts to touch. I am overwhelmed by the love and support given to me these past ten days. I am gathering such great fodder for future work! And I am witnessing countless acts of service and love which make me want to work harder.

To the nurses and doctors at St. Peter’s Hospital, especially McAuley 2, you are rock stars. It has been great to get to know you. I’m going to have fun writing about our times together!

I’ll blog as I am able. Letters and cards from friends have been positive and keep me focused. If you reach out to me and I don’t respond, please try again because I know I am not at 100%.

Thanks for reading, and for sending positive energy my way.