Saturday, August 1, 2009

Vacation Wrap-Up, Part 1

We got back from our Maine vacation yesterday evening. Although our rental lasted through today (Saturday), we would have had to leave by noon and I knew getting Skip and me ready, stuff packed up and car packed would require more time than just the morning (unless we wanted to get up at about 4am). Also, returning home Friday would give me 2 days to unpack, get into the swing at home and be ready for work on Monday morning.

As it happens, events conspired that the entire group had good reasons for leaving on Friday, so we all packed up in concert, making the cleanout of the kitchen and the general housekeeping before departure a good collaboration.

All in all, it was an excellent vacation. Lovely location, mediocre weather, great friends, good food, relaxing time. I'm pretty set in my ways, so it took some time adjusting to a houseful of people, but it was definitely worth the adjustment.

Thought I'd post a bit about some of our vacation ....

Because we didn't have all the advantages of home for Skip's care, her day-to-day maintenance was harder, but not insurmountably difficult. And, it was definitely worth it so that we could be there in that location and with our friends. Every day, I found small ways to improve the process. By the time we were ready to leave, we'd developed a good routine that was harder than at home, but workable.

Unfortunately, the overly high bed proved to be our biggest issue for two reasons. First, our patient lifter with Surehands body support attached could not get Skip high enough for me to transfer her onto the bed alone. As a result, we had to draft our friends to get her up onto the bed each night. Our friends were always very willing to help and did a great job. We worked well together to find better ways to work it when some of the transfers, especially the early ones, had somewhat awkward results. Unfortunately, on our second to last night, I allowed the patient lifter to become unbalanced while moving Skip to the bed and she fell to the floor, hitting her head on the bedstead on the way down. (I did not have the base of the lifter opened wide for maximum stability, so this was totally my fault.) After making sure Skip wasn't too badly hurt, the group banded together quickly to figure out how to get her off the floor and onto the bed by using a sheet to lift her. (Skip did get a good-sized egg on the back of head, but the skin wasn't broken. Fortunately, one of the friends with us is a doctor and she was able to give Skip reassurance that her injury was relatively minor.)

The second problem with the bed height concerned hygiene. Without getting into too many details, suffice it to say some of our daily hygiene routines are conducted with Skip on the bed before she gets dressed. Without being able to get on the bed during the day for this routine, cleaning was much more difficult.

The patient lifter wasn't quite high enough for a clean transfer onto Skip's power chair. However, with the lifter I could get her positioned at the edge of the seat and then use the waistband of her pants to pull her onto the cushion. It usually required a pull, drop lifter arm a bit, pull again to pull her completely on. This resulted in some major wedgies early on, but I eventually got the hang of it and wedgies were kept to a minimum.

About 30 minutes from our rental was the town of Rockland, on the Maine coast. We made a couple of trips there for some shopping, both of which were pretty frustrating. Rockland has a lovely main shopping strip, filled with a variety of galleries, eateries and speciality shops to appeal to tourists such as ourselves. All the stores were on street level, but most were inaccessible because they had one step up to get in. How hard would it have been for all these stores to have slight inclines from sidewalk level to entry? The best shopping for Skip was the store connected to a small art museum, where she bought some Maine books. When only about a third of the shops had ramps in versus a step up, my whole attitude about the area was impacted. I certainly did not want to give any business to the folks who couldn't bother to make their shops accessible to Skip or other wheelchair users.

The next day, we went back to Rockland to visit a large antique store we hadn't gotten to the day before. Skip loves antiquing. We've found that small antique shops are usually cluttered and all but impassable for wheelchairs, so try to find large shops with lots of dealers. This gives variety and, usually, better accessibility within the shop. Even with our GPS, it took a bit to find this out of the way shop. When we got there, we found it was indeed a large, group shop. Unfortunately, the accessibility was spotty, with lots of level changes from room to room within the barn building that housed it and, more importantly, it was very cluttered. Admittedly, Skip is quite a good navigator in her chair, but I spent most of the time gritting my teeth, worried that she'd have a run-in with some display or another. About 10 minutes in, while rounding a corner, her left pedal caught a small bookshelf loaded with glass and china, knocking a framed picture on one level over onto china cups and saucers. Arrghh! Miraculously, nothing broke, but my patience was pretty frayed and I hovered like a nervous mother hen until Skip finally gave up and we left. I feel badly for her in these situations. She can't get there without me taking her, but I'm pretty cranky while she's there so it can't be much fun for her.

While buying the Maine books at the museum shop, I chatted with the cashiers about the weather. Two facts they related that pretty much crystallize the weather on this vacation: this was the latest point in the year that an 80 degree F temp had not been hit there in over 150 years and, regardless of the August rainfall, this was already the wettest summer in history for that area. We had only a few days of the 13 we were there that were beautiful end to end. But, we also only had a couple dreadful ones. Most were cool, cloudy and muggy. While nicer weather is always better than clouds and rain, our vacation didn't hinge upon it, so we were lucky in that regard. We did take full advantage of the lovely days, hanging out on the dock.

Well, this post has gotten quite long, so I'll wrap up the remainder in a second post tomorrow.


Herrad said...

Hi Cranky,
Sounds like you had a good holiday, shame the weather was not better.
Hope you are both havng a good day back home.

Cranky said...

Herrad - thanks. It was a great time and it is good to be back home.

harkoo said...

Since I have been in a w//c, I have been to Boothbay Harbor, south of Rockland. I have to always go with someone to help me is probably that way anywhere in Maine for the tourists..very difficult..OLD buildings, rickety...Even though they have ramps, I can't even get into the Portland Museum of Art by myself as the door is so heavy to open--have to wait for someone else to come by to push it...sorry for the difficulties you faced...For the first time I an seeing what YOUR experience is like with a partner with MS/disabled and it is quite ex-husband would have none of it...
Glad you had a nice vacation...I hope you got your clamcakes...
Taking a vacation is brave in a w/c....

Cranky said...

Harkoo - damn your ex-husband! I did get clam cakes, though they were deep-fried, so not the clam cakes I was expecting. We only ate out 3 times, so not many opportunities. There's a restaurant chain around here, Legal Seafoods, that has great clam cakes, I'll just have to get a fix there.

I'd say you have to be brave just to live life in a wheelchair.

steve said...

Oh good lord. Now I have visions of Lobster Rolls dancing in my head. Finally found a good one in SF, but haven't even started looking yet here in Austin. Got hooked on them years ago at Kelly's in Revere and The Lobster Pot in P-Town.

Time to start the search.

Cranky said...

Steve - too funny! I doubt you have a hope of finding a suitable lobster roll in Austin to replace the Lobstah Pot. Now you're making me want to do a road trip there.