Monday, September 3, 2018

Respite: Just What the Doctor Ordered

It took until the day I dropped Robert off at the facility to really believe Respite was happening!  Getting respite shouldn’t be as difficult as it is but that’s a whole other post for another day.

I want to share snippets of our days so that if you can’t get respite care (which many people cannot) then you can at least enjoy the experience with us.  I’ll do this in a few posts or else your eyes will glaze over and it will be like the old days where families would show their endless slideshows of vacation photos. 

Maybe that was just my family . . .

Day 1 (Thursday).  I dropped Robert off at facility and when I say “dropped him off” I mean it took four and half hours!  I checked him in to a facility located in a town 20 minutes away, unloaded Robert, his pillows, suitcases full of clothes and pjs, a bag of briefs, a walker, his puzzle books, toiletries, bible, calendar and lap tray then had to run home to get his medications (after having asked this very question and being told I did not need to bring his meds) but I was not going to complain!  As long as he gets good care and actually gets his medications, I will be happy.  They started him on lunch while I ran home and he was still eating it when I returned an hour later. It was quite a lunch, too!  He is going to be one happy camper.  I had conferences with the charge nurse, floor nurse and admissions director and posted the “About Robert” document that I create when I leave him somewhere.  I helped Robert with his lunch, unpacked his belongings then raced home.  Richard and I picked up Carol so she could stay with the dogs while we were away and we went out to dinner with her, Rach and Matt.  They gave us binoculars for our trip!  I started packing for me at 9:00 p.m. 

Day 2 (Friday).  We’re flying to Seattle today!  I woke up at 4:00 a.m.; Richard was up at 3:00 a.m. Rach picked us up at 6:00 and we loaded her car with all of our suitcases, carry-on bags and Richard’s knee scooter (it will, hopefully, help ease his leg pain during the trip).  Dogs are so sad we are leaving with suitcases!  Off to the airport, we check in and relax until our 8:00 a.m. flight.  The flight is delayed 45 minutes which just gives us more time for relaxation, a decaf mocha and yogurt.  We’re on vacation!! 

After a short flight, we are in Seattle!  We check in at the hotel and the room is ready (super early!), we are randomly upgraded to a room with a balcony and overlooking the bay.  Loving this vacation!

I call the facility to check on Robert and they report he is doing well and will have an activities person help him with activities. Apparently, they have bingo which Robert loves!   

The weather is cool but warm in the sun. I’m so excited to wear sweaters and boots on this trip after coming from the hot Sacramento summer!  Richard rewraps his leg and, after resting a bit, we go to Pikes Market to see the first Starbucks (you knew we would!) and walk around.  We lunched at a café claiming to have the “best salmon burger” and it was pretty darn good.  We walked back toward the hotel and sat by the bay in a park.  We had the perfect spot to watch a street magician do a card trick with a couple of other tourists then get mad at them because they didn’t tip him enough.  He stormed off and did the same thing to another group of tourists!  Not sure he is going to get any repeat business behaving that way. 

We go back to the hotel and Richard is hurting!  I’m getting pretty tired, took but we go out to dinner at the hotel restaurant.  Back to the room and relax. 

We called Carol to check on the dogs and she said they’re doing great.  Talked to Rach and she said everyone is doing well after “checking the mail.”  She’s checking our mail every day and simultaneously checking in with grandma to be sure she doesn’t need anything. 

I fall asleep super early! 

Richard has a rough night.  I wake up a few times to him moving around in room.  He goes downstairs to the hotel lobby and is the first person ever to close down a bar without ordering one drink.

Day 3 (Saturday).  I wake up at 6:30 after nine and a half hours of sleep!!.  Glorious – no alarms!  Richard is finally asleep so I stay in bed so I don’t wake him. 

He gets up around 7:30 and I walk to a nearby Starbucks.  This definitely counts as my exercise -- the streets are as hilly as San Francisco!  We sign up for the shuttle to the pier and enjoy the cool, misty Seattle air from the balcony.  It’s almost time to leave for the cruise! 

We get to the cruise ship and check in.  It wasn’t super crowded but we were able to skip the line to check in at the “wheelchair and other assistance needed” desk. One of the staff had seen Richard limping and took one look at his bandaged leg and pointed us to that desk.  The staff was very helpful!  We could have rented a motorized scooter for the week but Richard decided against it.  We’ll see by the end of the week if that was the right decision.  His knee scooter has been slightly helpful but it does hurt his back and knee after using it. 

We find our room and are overwhelmed by the spacious room and the balcony!  We will definitely not go to a smaller room after this experience!  Richard was able to put his leg up for a bit and let it air dry.  He rewrapped it just in time for the emergency drill.  Our suitcases arrived and I started to unpack while he cleaned his wound.  I wonder if Richard will notice my six pairs of boots and five pairs of sandals in the closet.  I spread them out between two closets so it doesn’t seem too overwhelming.

We left for the emergency drill, me with the life jackets in hand.  A couple down the hall spotted us with the life jackets and started back to their room to get theirs when the captain came over the intercom instructing passengers NOT to bring life jackets to the drill. We all busted out laughing. 

Some safety officer I am! Richard headed to the elevator while I scurried back to the room to drop off the life jackets.

Next up was the Sail Away party – we watched the ropes get unhooked from the dock and off we went!  Richard got his french fries he’s been dying for days to get and we found a table with a nice view of the water. 

The spa raffle was next but, sadly, we didn’t win.  Richard signed up for a traditional shave while I debated about scheduling a massage.  The gym looks good but there’s a walk around path on the 3rd deck and three times around will get me to a mile.  I think I’ll try that in the morning.  There’s a lot of walking on the ship but, with Richard’s leg, there’s elevator time too.  I need to make sure I keep up with the exercising. 

After not winning the spa raffle we found the buffet and drowned our sorrows.  No, we didn’t do too bad: we each had a salad, Richard had a bit of pasta and then we couldn’t pass up dessert.  Chocolate brownie cheesecake for Richard and apple pie for me.  Hoping for ice cream later. (Hey, I’m going to be walking!)

Richard was pretty pooped from such an awful night sleeping last night so we returned to the room.  We broke out the binoculars and looked out at the sea.  I was hoping to spot a whale or other marine mammal but only saw a fishing boat and a few birds. 

We finished unpacking and polished off the chocolate strawberries Richard ordered for our room (and which were waiting for us when we first arrived).  Richard debated about leaving his leg wrapped all night but I reminded him that the doctor wanted it unwrapped when possible.  Richard was worried about leaking on the bed but we brought plastic garbage bags we can use and I had a few plastic bags from the dry cleaners hanging on some of my blouses.  He can use those too.  He has to do what is best for his leg.

I didn’t call the facility about Robert so was slightly concerned.  I worry that he was alone in his room but then I remember that he loves his word search and television and I am sure he would be happy doing those even if he was left alone.  I had to tell myself that if something happened they would call Rich as I instructed them.  I debated about buying the internet package on the ship so I would be able to at least text but decided against it after talking to Richard about it.  Rach will be able to handle anything that happens with grandma or the dogs and Rich can handle any issues with Robert.  We’ll be at sea tomorrow but will be off ship on Monday.  I’m sure we can find a little café with free wifi in Juneau. 

It has been a slow process of being able to relax.  The “on” switch peels off in layers and I can start to feel a little relaxed then go back to “on” again.  More relaxed, then back on.  The “on” switch is slowly turning off, though. 

Richard and I realized we haven’t ever cruised with just the two of us!  I know Richard feels bad about his leg and his back pain and feels he’s slowing us down but just being on the cruise – even just in the room – is relaxing. We’re together; even holding hands and enjoying each other’s company.

Day 4 (Sunday).  I was so tired last night that I fell asleep at 8:00 p.m.  Woke up at 7:30 a.m. – yes, that’s eleven and a half hours of sleep!  Apparently, I am catching up on years of lack of sleep.  Richard isn’t so lucky: his leg has been killing him (way too much walking) so he is up half the night in excruciating pain.  I only half wake up when he’s moving about but I know he worries he keeps me up.  Doesn’t matter if I’m sleeping for 11.5 hours!

We were at sea all day today and it was rough!  Richard and I went to a bingo game and some poor kid lost his lunch during the game.  People were lined up to get seasickness patches and I finally wore the seasick bracelet Richard brought along. 

Richard and I went to an anniversary dinner and were let in even though we broke dress code.  Well, Richard did; I dressed up.  Richard can’t comfortably wear pants so wore a button down shirt with his cargo shorts. There were some discreet discussions amongst the staff but they let us in and we thanked them profusely.  We explained about his leg (which was obvious because he had it wrapped up and was using his knee scooter). They were super kind and understanding.

We had a delicious meal (way too much food though!).  Good thing I’m walking the ship in the morning!  I go around six times which makes a two mile walk but I might have to increase that with as much as I have been eating!  No music needed – listening to the ocean waves is all the motivation I need!

All that good food made me tired again so it was early to bed. 

I broke down and bought the ship internet package.  Richard needs to rest his leg and I need something to do while he’s sleeping.  Internet it is!

Day 5 (Monday).  Again, I slept eleven and a half hours.  I hope I can go back to sleeping six and a half hours . . .  I’ve been dreaming all night, too, so must be getting a fairly deep sleep.  Richard had his worst night yet, unfortunately.  Poor guy.  His leg wound is just so unforgiving.  The doctor decided he will need a fourth skin graft so we will get that done soon after we return home.  We hope that completely takes and resolves this awful wound and leg pain. 

Today we were making our way to Juneau and were a lot closer to land which meant the sea was so much calmer.  Thank goodness!  Richard and I went to a group class watching on the deck for sea life and we saw a couple of whales!  I caught just glimpses of them but that’s what they were!  Thankfully, we had the binoculars!  We ate breakfast and went back to the room.  Richard had to tend to his leg so I went back out to do my walk around the ship.  While walking, I saw several pieces of glacier just floating by.  Whales and glaciers and we’re early in the trip! 

Before leaving the ship, I got a voicemail from Robert’s facility. The message said it wasn’t an emergency but they needed to talk to me.  The plan had been for Rich to take care of anything related to Robert so I texted Rich to ask him to call to see what the issue was. He immediately responded and said he would call right away.  Turns out, Robert fell when trying to transfer from the toilet to the wheelchair.  He had been given a call button but was being impatient and decided to do it himself. He fell but was okay (probably bruised, though).  They told Rich they would change the protocols for Robert and have someone stay with him until he was done in the restroom.  Rich reported all this to me in a text and I was thrilled it was handled swiftly and all was well. 

Happy I could let go and let Rich handle it and so grateful to Rich. Grateful Robert wasn’t hurt and that the facility was reacting appropriately. Such a relief!

We were docked in Juneau from 12:00 – 10:30 p.m. but Richard and I only stayed off the ship for a few hours.  He was pretty sore from all the walking but we did all we wanted to do anyway.  We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening watching the sea and the city from the observation deck, sipping a decaf mocha.

We kept our eyes on a couple of bald eagles in town and were just amazed by their majesty. 

We ate dinner (not sure why – I am SO stuffed) and then came back to the room to watch the city (and our bald eagles) from our balcony.  We couldn’t have asked for better weather!  It was misty with a little rain but not too cold. 

Such a fabulous trip and it’s only Monday!

Part Two coming up . . .

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