Since it was Queen’s Day, followed immediately by the weekend, my first four days were holidays. I had to rely mainly on nurses during this time to train and guide me. Afterwards, the nurses and therapists told me on numerous occasions, “Everything is therapy.”One of the first parts of this therapy I had to learn was “The Transfer.” When I thought of the word “transfer,” images of Schiphol airport, planes, hotels and holidays came to mind. Here it had a different meaning. The word “transfer” now meant between my wheelchair and something else. It seemed easy, and it was, for normal people. For people like me, though, it was a complicated operation. To start, I had to plan in my head what I had to do. Then I’d take the first and most simple step of calling the nurse to let down my bedrail. Someone that I didn’t know had already placed the wheelchair parallel to my bed with the brakes on and the chair facing me. I lowered the bed to the chair’s height, then turned my legs over the bed’s edge and sat up straight. This meant I had to drag my limp leg over the edge with my working arm. One doesn’t realize how heavy a limp leg is in reality. If it wasn’t for the nurse cheering me on and other natural powers forcing me to leave the bed, I would have fallen back in the pillows to sleep a bit more. As it was, I had to pause for a minute to rest and regain some strength. The nurse gave me a lot of instructions that went in one ear and out the other. First, I had to raise the wheelchair’s armrest. Next, I had to put my feet sideways of the floor. Then, my right hand was placed on the wheelchair’s armrest, while my left hand stayed on the bed for support. When my left hand bunched up into a fist, I was instructed to stretch it out flat. “Then wiggle your ass to the wheelchair,” the nurse said. “It’s just like the salsa.” My youngest daughter though this was hilarious. She imitated the nurse and got a lot of praise. It may have been the salsa to her or other people, but to me it was a chance to forget something: brakes on the chair, raise the armrest, feet in the right direction — very frustrating. The nurse would stand back and watch my attempts. She did this on purpose so I better learned what I had to do. As an educational psychologist, I recommend this approach in training. As a patient, however, I wanted to smack someone every time I forgot something. Especially when my youngest daughter added to the humiliation: “Look mom, it’s really easy! Just like the salsa!” The nurse helped me to educate my daughter. She was a cozy grandma, and my daughter really liked her. “Do you know how hard it is for your mom to go and sit down?” the nurse asked my daughter. “No,” she responded. “Go sit on the bed with your feet on the ground,” the nurse instructed. After my daughter complied, the nurse continued, “now lay down flat on your back on the bed.” The nurse stood with her legs against my daughter’s, then said, “try to sit up straight without the use of your hands.” That was a challenge for my daughter’s muscles. She managed to sit up, but her face was red and she moaned a lot. “Hard, wasn’t it?” the nurse asked. “For your mom it’s much harder.” My daughter looked at me with admiration. “When you wake up tomorrow,” the nurse continued, “try to realize how many muscles you use when you are getting up and out of your bed.” My daughter promised she would, then had to go home.
The reception in the rehab center felt like a warm bath. Hubby and I were greeted by a male nurse named Brother Bernhard, who apologized that the wheelchair mechanic wasn’t available that day. He informed me that I would have to make do with a general wheelchair until after the weekend. This didn’t really bother me since no one knew I was coming here until very recently, and I knew it took time to adequately prepare for a patient’s arrival. Also, I could still move around in the general wheelchair — albeit very slowly.
I was wheeled to the room I’d be staying in. It was a double-occupancy with a sink situated between the beds and curtains that could be closed around the beds for privacy. The previous room’s occupant had just left the rehab center, so I would have the room to myself for a few days. The time and quiet to reflect on everything was going to be appreciated.
Brother Bernhard arrived with the paperwork. He was very precise and detail oriented throughout the procedure, and he asked both my husband and me all kinds of questions. He was meticulous with writing down our responses to his questions.
While taking my blood pressure, Brother Bernhard asked me what I wanted to eat for lunch.
“A cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee would be nice,” I replied.
“Would you like to have a croquette as well?” he asked.
That was a really nice surprise. Lunch turned out to be one of the best I’ve had in a while. Wonderful.
I was tired from the ride to the rehab center and lunch afterwards. I was taken back to my room and helped into my bed.
“You can go to sleep now,” Brother Bernhard said. “Your husband and I can organize your closet and the registration.”
A red push bubble was attached to my bed as a life buoy. If I ever needed help with something, I could press it and people would come to assist me. Rails surrounded the bed, which made me glad because I worried that my paralyzed side would fall out of the bed without them.
Later, I discovered the lay-out of the rehab center, which was quite simple. During the day nurses came in and told me their names and what their responsibilities were. They were all incredibly nice and understanding; although, immediately after we met I forgot their names, what they looked like and what we talked about. Nobody cared about that, though, because they were used to people with faulty brains. Memory loss was one of the many symptoms they witnessed here.
Suddenly I heard loud cries: “I NEED TO SHIT, DAMNIT!” I was shocked and surprised. Then a nurse came along, and I heard him talking quietly to the patient in need. Lack of impulse control is a symptom of brain diseases, I learned later. Also, I heard loud whining and crying throughout the night. It seemed that patients who had a terrible accident were reliving their experiences. It must be terrible to go through these experiences once again. Terrible for the patient, and terrible for his roommates as well. In some rooms there were 4 patients in one room. It seemed a lot to me, but obviously there wasn’t any other way. Later I noticed that the staff tried their best to get the noisy patients in a separate room, but there wasn’t always one available.