Thursday, November 24, 2011

October Nor'easter

Suffice it to say, we don't get snow in Massachusetts in October. We barely get it in November and often don't even have a white Christmas. Turns out it's a good thing we don't get it that early. When heavy, wet snow lands on trees still filled with leaves, trees and limbs fall on power lines and lights go out.

For us, the power went out at 3am on Sunday, October 30th. The storm had started early on Saturday evening. We only got a few inches of snow, but it was very, very wet. We kept the heat up higher than normal through the night just in case we lost power, so the house would stay as warm as possible. Skip has a low air loss mattress on her hospital bed to help with her pressure sore. To stay inflated, the mattress requires electricity. We have a battery backup that lasts for about 80 minutes. From previous outages, we knew it wasn't too uncomfortable for her to lie in the deflated bed for a number of hours.

When we woke up in the morning, I figured we'd need to book a hotel room as soon as possible, before they were all taken by others in the same situation. We could always cancel before the evening if the power came back on. Here in the suburbs of Boston, there are plenty of hotels around like Courtyards and Embassy Suites. The first handful I called either didn't answer or answered and said they had no power. On the fourth try, I found a place with rooms and power but they didn't take dogs; fortunately, they had a sister property nearby that did.

We still had hot water (thanks to gas heat!). Skip's aide came in the early afternoon and bathed her, dressed her and got her up. The aide had a hard time getting to our house because there were trees down all over the place including multiple trees down on the street just before ours. Multiple lines were down. From that, we knew it would be a long while before power came back on.

With a fully packed car (boy, the disabled sure need a lot of crap to get through the day. I used to take multi-day trips for business with just a rolling suitcase that fit in the overhead compartment on a plane. That suitcase was about 1/10th of our load.), we drove over to the hotel. The setup for guests with dogs was excellent. Our room was on the ground floor with a second entrance out the back leading to plenty of space for dog-walking.

The room itself was great. Plenty of space to get around with the wheelchair, nice furnishings and quite clean.

At home, we have a system for transferring Skip installed in the ceiling of our bedroom. We also have a Hoyer lift that a friend gave us after her mother, who had MS, died (we used to have a manual one, but this baby had power!). At bedtime, it worked like a charm for the transfer at the hotel, able to get Skip up plenty high to get onto the higher than normal hotel bed.

I don't know how Skip is so brave, allowing herself to be hoisted up for transfers. She is so accepting of this stuff, never freaking out. She's calmly handled a crew hauling her in her chair up a flight of stairs on more than one occasion. I know I wouldn't handle it with such grace. At home, these transfers are old hat, but this definitely was not. So, we walked through each step of the transfer beforehand. Just knowing what's coming makes things easier for her.

We ended up staying 2 nights at the hotel. Ruby, who is a mellow dog, settled right in. She spent her time chilling on the bed (after just a short bit of sniffing around when we first got there) and was fine going out on a leash. Addy, not so much. Lots of investingating. Wouldn't pee when I took them out. Once she lasted 16 hours before finally going. Barking when she heard noise out in the hall. Slowly but surely, she got used to her new surroundings.

On Tuesday morning, we knew we wouldn't be able to stay another night as the hotel was fully booked. Power still wasn't on at home, though the power company web site said our town's power should be restored everywhere by midnight that night. We decided we'd head down to the Cape and stay at my mother's house overnight. My mom just sold her house and was moving on November 3rd, so I needed to be there, helping her, my sister and brother pack up. This also was a chance for Skip to get one last visit to the house that had been my parents' home for 20+ years. The last time there for her was a short visit after my father's memorial service in June 2010. We hadn't stayed overnight in years because, though accessible, the guest bedroom and bathroom were hard for Skip to manage. With the Hoyer, we'd be able to handle it.

We ended up staying two nights even though the power came on at home Tuesday evening (when the answering machine answered the phone, I knew the power was back). I was able to spend a lot of time packing and Skip got an extended visit with my mom.

I'd rather have not had to spend the money on the hotel and restocking the refrigerator, but otherwise, this turned out to be a fun change of pace. We haven't traveled since our 2-week vacation in Maine two summers ago. Skip's now more disabled, primarily due to her 5+ week hospitalization from her bone infection in late 2010. I'd love to be able to travel again. This short stay in a hotel proved we can do it successfully. Skip spends a lot of time in bed and only gets out about once a week, so this was a great chance for her to getaway. And, Addy isn't very good with new people. She barks, she has submissive pee issues. In the 4 day period of traveling, she met lots of new people and experienced lots of new things. Since getting home, when we send her outside to greet the nurses and aides who come to the house, she's not peeing as much. Let's hope this trend continues.

Dreaming of all those different places we might go to ...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm Back!

Over the last 8 months, since I closed the door on posting to this blog, I've often thought that the experiences I was going through, the things happening to Skip or my musings of the moment would be good items for posting here. So, I've decided to get back in the saddle.

So let's bring everyone up to speed on our little family and its current state ...

Skip and I celebrated our 30th year together in August. Yikes! How did that happen? How did we get that old?

Skip's MS is about the same as it was last March, though she says her left hand has gotten worse. Fortunately, she can still feed herself most of the time and manages to do a lot of surfing on her computer. Ruby recovered beautifully from her back surgery last February and dropped 6 pounds (20-25% of her body weight) because we changed how we fed her. She's gotten quite spry. Addy will be 2 at the end of January, so she's a teenager now. Still rambunctious and a barker. Her long hair is just beautiful and I'll have to post some photos so you can see what I mean. In many ways, she reminds me of the dearly departed Sally, with her extreme lovingness to both of us and her total attachment to me. Unlike Sally, though, she has not managed to piss off any skunks and remains unsprayed to date (Sally got sprayed 5 times in her short 4 years of life).

And me? Well, I'm still unemployed. Whenever I stop to think about it, I wonder how I managed to be a caregiver and work a very demanding job for all those years. Because, let's be honest, being a caregiver is a demanding job in and of itself. I know part of it was accomplished by being perenially sleep deprived. And, I pretty much always had a neverending to do list that nagged at me. No longer am I tired and behind on things. Also, I seem to be slowly but surely gaining back all those pounds I lost in my early 40s. Unfortunately, the additional discretionary time in my day hasn't resulted in my getting any exercise. This needs to change.

I've got some stories I want to share so will be posting these in the coming days and weeks. I look forward to writing them and hearing your thoughts on them.