Dad’s accident — third in a series: Rehab refrain

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old_man-2We continue our story with Maria’s dad in a rehabilitation facility, after a fall hurt his leg, rendering him unable to walk. Maria is 3,000 miles away, and, since her dad is old and unfamiliar with technology, she has just the phone to connect with him. Let’s listen in.

“South unit.”

“[My dad], please.”

“I’ll connect you.”

Ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring… “South unit. He’s not answering.”

“Thank you. I’ll call back.” That was at 7 p.m. his time.

At 8 p.m. his time, “South unit.”

“[My dad] please.”

Ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring…ring… “South unit. He’s not answering.”

“Thank you. I’ll call back.”

I talked to my dad’s social worker the next day and told her I’d tried to call my dad. She relayed the message and he called me.

“Hi, Maria?”

“Hi, Dad.”

“Speak up, will ya? I can’t hear you.”

“HI DAD. HOW ARE YOU? I TRIED TO CALL YOU, BUT THE PHONE JUST RANG AND RANG.”

“Oh, yeah, I heard. It rang about twelve times.” Really? You know it rang twelve times and you didn’t pick it up?

“WHY DIDN’T YOU PICK IT UP?”

“Well, it took me a while to realize it was my phone.” So let me get this straight. You heard a phone ring. You counted twelve times. You knew it was coming from inside your room, and you didn’t check to see if it was yours?

“WELL, THAT WAS ME, DAD. I WAS TRYING TO CALL YOU.”

“Okay, well…”

“HOW ARE YOU?”

“I’m okay. I wanna to go home. They have breakfast here at six, and I don’t get up that early. Then you can use the gym or go back to your room. I go back to my room, then they get me for physical therapy, and after that, I can use the gym or go back to my room. I go back to my room until lunch, at twelve. And then there’s more physical therapy in the afternoon, and I go back to my room. There’s nothing to do here. I’m bored.”

“BETH BROUGHT YOU MAGAZINES AND A RADIO. WHY DON’T YOU READ OR LISTEN TO YOUR RIGHT-WING RADIO PEOPLE?”

“It’s very tough to read here. The other guy in my room has the TV on all day. I can’t sleep here.” Bullshit. You sleep 90 percent of the time, nodding off all day.

“THERE MUST BE SOMEPLACE YOU CAN GO. CAN YOU LISTEN TO THE RADIO?”

“Well, I didn’t turn the radio on yet.” It’s on all day when you’re home, what the hell? “I wanna to go home.”

“WELL, CAN YOU WALK?”

“No, not really. Put it this way, I can lean on my leg a little, and I can get around that way.”

“WELL, DAD, YOU CAN’T GO HOME LIKE THAT. YOU’VE GOT STAIRS AND NO ONE’S THERE TO HELP YOU. IF YOU STAY UNTIL YOU’RE BETTER, THEY’LL HAVE AN AIDE COME TO YOUR HOUSE AND HELP YOU.”

“I don’t need that; I don’t need that.”

“I THINK YOU DO. YOU CAN’T LEAVE WHEN YOU CAN’T WALK.”

“I can. I used the rocking chair as a walker.”

“THE ROCKING CHAIR IS DOWNSTAIRS. YOU’D HAVE TO CARRY IT UP NINE STEPS TO GET IT TO THE LIVING ROOM.”

“Well, I wouldn’t need it upstairs. I stay in one place.”

“YOU GO TO THE BATHROOM. AND THAT’S UP FOUR STAIRS.”

“Yeah, but I have a railing there. I can hold onto that.”

“WELL, DAD, I THINK YOU SHOULD STAY A LITTLE BIT LONGER, UNTIL YOU CAN WALK BETTER.”

“I’m okay.”

“WELL, I’M GOING TO COME SEE YOU AND I CAN HELP YOU WHEN YOU GET OUT.”

“No, don’t do that. It’s too expensive, and what are the kids gonna do?”

“THEIR DAD WILL TAKE CARE OF THEM.”

“No, no, don’t come.”

I took a deep breath. “OKAY. IF YOU SAY SO.”

“Okay, I’ll be talking to ya.”

“Bye.”

“He doesn’t want me to come,” I told my husband.

“Well, I guess you won’t go, then.”

“I guess not.”

A few days later, we had a treatment team meeting and Dad’s social worker conferenced me in. We talked to his physical therapist, medical team, nutritionist, and some other people I can’t even remember. The meeting ended and Dad and the social worker said goodbye, and I was about to hang up. I heard Dad tell her, “I wish she was here.”

So I decided to go. I looked up plane tickets for a few days and tried to call to tell him I was coming. The phone rang and rang. I called the social worker and she told me, “He left. He stumbled into a cab and he left. He forgot his medication, and we tried to get him to come inside and get it, but he didn’t want to. I’m surprised he stayed as long as he did.”

“Yeah, you did a great job of convincing him to stay. He was gonna leave no matter what. He’s just stubborn.”

“Well, we tried,” she said.

I called him at home, where he has a listening aid on his phone. “Hi Dad, I heard you left. What happened?”

“Well, they wanted to keep me there, you know, they just want to make money. They had me going to this physical therapy. Everybody has physical therapy nowadays, and it’s nice, but it’s doesn’t work. The guy who does my back massages it for a while, and that feels good, then I do exercises, but I’m not cured.”

“Well, you won’t be cured ever. You have two shattered vertebrae.”

“Yeah, yeah, well this physical therapy doesn’t work. It didn’t work on my leg.”

“It takes a while, Dad.”

“Well, they couldn’t help me, so I left. Now I have to go back to my physical therapy guy and I can’t tell him I had physical therapy from someone else.”

“Why not?”

“It’s a conflict of interest.”

“How is it a conflict of interest?”

“Well, these guys take it personally when you go to someone else.”

“You were in inpatient rehab. You couldn’t have gone to him if you wanted to.”

“Yeah, but I can’t tell him.”

“You can tell him, and he can work on your leg.”

“No, no, I can’t.”

“Well, I’ll be there next Wednesday. I can drive you to your appointments and help you get around.”

“Okay.”

“How are you getting around?”

“Well, I lean on things when I walk. I can lean on the leg a little.”

“Okay, well, I’ll be there to help you. Don’t make any appointments until I can drive you, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, okay.”

I’m going there next week, and I’ll report back. Stay tuned.