Secondary Facility

“You know what my usual breakfast is? Coffee and a cigarette,” Lilian told me and Allanya and the rest of the Breakfast Room as she did every morning. This was one of the last times Lilian got to give us her morning speech. She was being released in a couple of days.

She would go to a nursing home for further therapy until arrangements could be made with her family for her long term care. Most elderly stroke victims are no longer able to live on their own, so there is a lot of organizing that had to go on behind the scenes of the Rehab ward as patients approached their release date. The Social Worker for the Rehab floor had her hands full arranging all of this, making sure patients were released to adequate care and that medical insurance and/or Medicare was covering what they were supposed to.

My release date was scheduled for June 15th. We were closing in on June 10th. I was making some progress with my left arm, but I still couldn’t walk (or pee). I was frustrated. My PT, Cheryl, was frustrated, too.  There didn’t seem to be any good reason why my left leg wouldn’t “turn on.” One afternoon, she explained the reality of the situation to Matt and I. “We can’t send you home like this. You have three small children to take care of. And you don’t have any family here to help you, right?”

True enough. At that moment, I’m assuming those three small children were at another mom’s house. Since school ended for my eldest, the moms of our school/parish had started taking the children a couple of mornings a week, so that Matt could come see me and talk to the therapists. Matt had also hired a sitter for the evenings when he taught. He was stretched to the breaking point already.

“So, will they push back my release date?” I asked.

“Possibly, but it depends on your insurance. It may not pay for a longer stay here. We need to seriously consider a secondary facility.”

Secondary Facility? What the hell is that?

“Like a nursing home?” I dared to ask.

“Yes, but not how you’re thinking,” Cheryl said. “There are younger people of there who need more care than they can get at home. We need to make sure you get the care you need.” The bottom dropped out of my stomach. I’m not going home? They’re going to put me in a nursing home?

The pessimistic side of me kicked right in. They should. You’re of no use to anyone like this. They should just put you away and get on with their lives.  I started to cry. “I don’t mean to upset you,” Cheryl said. “I just want you to understand why I’m pushing you so hard and how important it is to get that left leg turned on.” She said it like I controlled it. Like I could just magically make it start working. If only. Is it time for my montage yet?

She left me to talk to Matt. There wasn’t much talking, mainly crying on my part while Matt tried to hold me (which is pretty awkward in a wheelchair). When Matt left later that afternoon, I lay belted in the bed with my dysfunctional bladder, my paralyzed leg, my barely uncurling arm and had a long talk with the Angel I Never Met. A very long talk.

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