Blog 232 Life in Rehab May – July 2012

As we mentioned we will try to condense these next few months in Melbourne a litttle. Quite a large proportion was whilst I was in hospital so naturally we have to write about it a bit but we will try not to dwell on it too much..

Blog 232 Life in Rehab    May – July 2012

Good things – the food, strong pain killers and good friends.

Bad things – lack of sleep/privacy and pain.

How did I cope with over three months in hospital most of it bed ridden or in a wheelchair? At times it was tough but I made friends and we had a laugh.


All I had to do was concentrate on getting better, I had no home or work issues, no children to fret or worry over. We did have a few headaches to sort, as we were so close to leaving the country (back in May 2012) our visa was about to expire along with the bike visa and we had three flights all booked in advance for our onward travel plans. (Thailand, London and Santiago). In the early days I was only able to manage a few hours a day before I felt wiped out so Kev took the brunt of most of the paperwork sorting. It was a very stressful few weeks for us both cancelling flights, sorting insurances and visas in addition to trying to get better.
The picture shows the helicopter pad that I landed on at the Alfred hospital and Boofle recovering from his injuries after he was missing for a few days.

I was very lucky I had two good teams looking after me. The many friends that came in or phoned on a regular basis and some from far flung corners of Australia to ensure Kev could also get rest, recover and fix the bike without feeling he was abandoning me. A big thank you to all of you, you brightened my days and kept me sane.
Extra special thanks go to Jan who soon became like a surrogate sister, we laughed, chatted, had coffee, moaned and generally had a good time. The photo is of Jan and Adam (Mish and Rowan’s son).


My second team was my lovely nursing staff who although hugely overworked at times still managed to attend the needs of a very dependent sometimes not so patient, patient. For the first three weeks I was totally dependent on the nursing staff for EVERYTHING because of a suspected neck/back injury I was also in a neck collar for about a week and limited to being raised to a 30deg angle. Feeding time was hilarious using my wrong arm due to the broken collar bone I was unable to see my hand so a well aimed throw with mouth open ensured I did not starve. I was always told I had a big mouth as kid – well it came in useful now…

I also learnt as early as possible ways to get by in the bathroom, I’m not a prude but there are just some things you would rather do yourself even if it does take forever.

Severe pain was my constant companion in these early days, if I got four hours sleep in one hit it was a good night.

A highlight occurred on May 17th 2012, it was our 2nd year anniversary of being on the road. I asked the prison (sorry) hospital staff if I was allowed out on good behaviour for the evening. They said yes, if it means we see some good behaviour when you return….. A deal was struck. Unbeknownst to us Keir had organised a friend to bake a cake, she designed a beautiful cake taking the information she needed off the website (see the photo). It tasted great too. The evening gave me a much needed morale boost, just to get out of the hospital and be surrounded by like minded friends. It also gave Kev a chance to get down on bended knee in order to replace my wedding ring that had been removed in hospital due to the swelling in my hand. Very romantic. I slept my best sleep that night.

In the early days I lived for my hydrotherapy sessions, for one hour a day I could stand on my feet and have no pain. I could feel the exercises were working I had more movement almost daily. I felt like a princess when they lowered me in the water using the hoist. Some grapes would be lovely and don’t stint on the fan – there’s a good fellow. It was soon back to the harsh reality of pain and discomfort.

Life improved somewhat for the next month with the arrival of the one armed bandit. A self propelled one arm operated wheelchair that I could steer and drive myself by pumping the lever with my right arm. This was a god send as it enabled me to leave my room unattended and travel around the hospital in search of peace, solitude and fresh air. I was shown a secret balcony with no smokers, it had tables, chairs and a power source it became my haven. Although once I did get told off by the staff for speeding down the corridor!!

My daily routine was breakfast, an hour of hydrotherapy, an hour of physiotherapy, lunch, another hour of physiotherapy, a snooze,  time on the computer then dinner and finally bedtime. Due to the length of time it took me to do all this and dress, eat etc I barely had any time to be bored or feel sorry for myself.

Life continued to be a series of ups and downs, goals won and hopes quashed but on the whole I was definitely improving and the pain was less. The unsung heroes of the nursing staff were keeping my spirits up in particular Andrew my orderly who’s task it was to take me to all my appointments. We gelled from the beginning and we both looked forward to our conversations which usually ended in raucous laughter. On one occasion he had to rescue me, I had wheeled outside for some peace and quiet and had tried to navigate a narrow path ending up with one wheel in the dirt. Unable to free myself I luckily spied Andrew and hollered to him “Where are you?” he said looking all round for me, in the flowerbeds I cried meekly, we laughed so much we nearly cried but he did rescue me.

Kev ensured he came Saturday or Sunday as I had no exercises then and on dry days we went exploring around. The Epworth hospital was very centrally based and our first longer excursion was to the famous MCG (Melbourne Cricket ground) that I could see out the common room window. Here we “walked” around and saw the statues to the great legends of sport. It is also where Australian Rules Football originally began, the current rules of Australian football may be traced to a meeting held on May 17, 1859 at the Parade Hotel, later the MCG Hotel, on Wellington Parade by four football members. By this time Kev was aching all over from his own injuries and having to push me so we headed back to “Colditz”.

In the first photo looking out of the common room window you can see the domes of the Olympic stadium and the floodlights of the MCG next door. The second photo shows a map of the area, the Epworth hospital is just off the map at the bottom.

6th June 2012 an interview for ABC radio had been organised by Mark one of the club members. Kev was in the studio and I was to do a phone link from the hospital. I headed out to the smoko area but although the call came in 9.30am we were not on air till 10am. John the interviewer tried to steer the interview mostly about the accident but we did manage to get a few good stories in and I got a plug for the website, so we think we held our own. Heading back to the common room my fellow inmates opened both doors saying my head might not fit through one now I’m famous and good twenty minutes of ribbing followed, they must have been bored.

Another good thing about being in the heart of the city was the architecture all around. The varity of buildings in our small circuit was immense. Trams are not common at home in the UK but they are definitely an iconic part of Melbourne as is Victoria Bitter seen in the next picture. Melbourne is a very cosmopolitan city, the next picture is part of the Vietnamese area followed by a few other buildings that have caught our eye, more of that later as we explored further.

On another sunny day out we headed along the Yarra river, here we could “walk” all the way to Flinders station and Federation square. The tall building  is known locally as the staple building because it looks like the big red “staple” is holding on the top part. The river walk was lined with artwork, see if you can spot me amongst the Federation bells in the last picture. These bells rang three times daily but we were never there at the right time and missed hearing them.

June 18th 2012 was the day I got the news weight bearing as tolerated on my collar bone, Jemma my physiotherapist greeted this news enthusiastically by removing my faithful old one armed bandit and giving me a normal wheelchair to be operated with both hands, “we were not amused!” My arm had not been used for over seven weeks and those first few days were really hard.

Here is a photo of Jemma torturing someone else for change (Stephen) and an arty shot of my new wheels. Jemma worked us hard in those first few months but I thank her for it now.

We finally could begin to venture further afield, now I could use my arms to transfer I could use a public disabled toilet so our range from the hospital had grown vastly. One day there was match being played in the MCG so we headed further and found another smaller park Fitzroy gardens with a miniature mock Tudor village donate by England through the war as a thank you for food aid, the gardens also housed a conservatory with exotic plants and Captain cooks house.

No the man in the entrance hall is not a giant, the house was built in England in 1755 and shipped over to Melbourne in 253 crates to be reassembled complete with an ivy cutting which now covers the house. I had to admire from a distance as rickety stairs were beyond my current capabilities. The original thatched cottage in which Cook was born at Marton-in-Cleveland UK was demolished in 1786 and so this family cottage is the only concrete historical link there is with Captain Cook’s origins.

As you can imagine excitement is not heavy on the ground in hospital so when they were moving some really heavy duty equipment into a new wing I was glued to my window especially as they had to cut out two massive panes of glass and the metal frame surrounds to enable access, they created a false floor using a solid platform from the cherry picker crane. A better four hours entertainment could not be found.


Weeks had passed and Kev had by now recovered sufficiently from his injuries for us to attempt the push to the Royal Botanical gardens over the river a fair distance away. It was so worth it the gardens were beautiful and we were lucky enough to see some black swans doing a mating courtship dance in the ponds. I did wonder if Kev was going to stop as we bumped over the grass towards the pond edge I had visions of being tipped off into the water. We enjoyed a coffee in the waterside cafe before heading back.

I had a wonderful surprise one day when enjoying a lazy Sunday breakfast in my pyjamas. Kerry peaked round the curtains “Not up yet lazy bones, what time do you call this” When I had recovered my shock of seeing her here I found out she had bought Wesley her dog along as she was on the mainland visiting her parents (Kerry and Paul live in Hobart Tasmania, we stayed with them). I laughed and told her we are just about to meet you in our blogs we’re that far behind. After hurried getting dressed we hobbled/wheeled our way outside. Kerry and Wesley were a sight for sore eyes I got my doggy fix whilst Kerry and I caught up exchanging our news.

June 24th 2012 The boys organised an escape from “Colditz” day. Pierre one of the Guzzi club members had a pool room he thought might be suitable for my wheelchair. In the true Guzzioverland spirit of adventure I decided I would join them in the wheelchair so we could see what worked. Kev had to physical lift me into the car and we stopped briefly at Craig and Paula’s where Kev had been staying. I said a quick hello to their Airdale dogs Molly (camera shy) and Teddy and our bike which was in the shed.

The further out from the city we traveled the more at peace and relaxed I felt. By the time we turned up Pierre’s drive I was saying I will make this work, whatever we have to do. We had to convince Mimi, my occupational therapist that I could manage here. The small toilet was impossible to enter but I could negotiate the en-suite. We really want to use the pool room but know Mimi will not approve this as it’s too close to the pool and five steps up so we have to convince her we will be in the main house…..

From the left Pierre, Paula, Neil, Nancy, Karen and Kev and not a wheelchair in sight….

During the next day I worked on finding a local swimming pool with a hoist and a physiotherapist I could attend as an out patient. Mimi arranged a day visit to assess and measure up for any equipment I might need. A weekend visit was also organised, I soooo wanted this to workout. I knew my recovery would improve threefold in this beautiful environment listening to bird song rather than traffic.

We stayed in the pool room over the weekend there were a few teething issues, the commode chair needed a slight modification to fit along side the shower but that was easily achieved, as for the shower itself that was going to be a problem to get into but as I have regular Hydrotherapy sessions at the pool with disabled facilities I can shower there.

I had to return to the Epworth Hospital to give feedback but it was all systems go for release to Lilydale on Tuesday so I said my goodbyes to my friends. Swapping this, the outside of the Epworth hospital, for this, our view from the pool room, I felt better already……


Next up – Lilydale and beyond





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