November 15, 2008
Notes from rehab
No, not that kind of rehab. On October 4 I had a stroke. The next day my wife and I called 911 and asked them to take us by ambulance to Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut. Ever since United Hospital in Port Chester, NY, closed, that is considered our community hospital.
I stayed four days, getting good care and lots of attention. After four days in Greenwich Hospital I was moved to Burke Rehabilitation Hospital in White Plains, NY, which is close to Rye, where we live.
Here are some suggestions I'm compiled for surviving rehab:
Fight for your independence. Like all of these survival skills, this will stand you in good stead if you are ever part of a large bureaucratic institution.
Make friends. Not only with your fellow patients, but more important, with the staff. Especially with the nurse's aides because as you soon discover, they run the place and outrank de facto—though not on paper—everybody including the therapists.
Be meticulously neat. If you look like a slob and act like a slob, you will soon be treated like a slob.
Be a good patient. One woman of our acquaintance was thrown out of therapy because she refused to do the work. And the work is tough.
On days when you are scheduled for two sessions of physical therapy and of occupational therapy, and on alternate days of speech therapy, you will feel exhausted by the end of the day.
Keep saying “thank you” even if you don't mean it. It helps to lubricate the interaction with the staff, who of course are paid, but like anyone else, would like to feel appreciated.
This practice of saying “thank you” applies particularly to the doctors who you'll see trooping through corridors in clusters with their stethoscopes swinging from their pockets like swarms of seabirds.
Be patient. If your schedule calls for a class in half an hour take into account that it may take the staff that long to show up to take you to the bathroom for a pee break, and you wouldn't dare go with a full bladder.
Actually, I remember the Duke of Edinburgh saying when he travels with the Queen, he never passes up a chance to take a leak.
Keep careful track of all the friends and family who send cards and flowers. That way when you get home you can resume your pre-stroke relationships as if nothing had happened—well, nothing of importance that is.
As I look over this list of survival skills in rehab, it occurs to me that they are indeed suggestions for a successful life.
The only parallel I can think of is when I ran for Mayor of Rye and I decided that the rules for a good politician stand everyone in good stead. For instance, never get trapped in a lie.
Don't make any promises you don't think you're going to be able to keep. The only promise I made when I was challenged by my opponent about my age, was not to die in office.
Of course, I might have gotten hit by a bus going home from candidates' night, so that's a promise I couldn't be sure of keeping.
Warren Ross is editor at large of MM&M
Editor's note: Warren has since returned home from the hospital, where he is recovering and slowly but surely re-learning to walk, stand and use a computer—but true to form, never missing a deadline and insightful as ever.