A few days later, after knocking on the door, a young man in his middle 20’s entered the room and, after a momentary pause, asked for Dave. Dave raised his hand. “That would be me.”
“Hi, Dave, I’m Dillon. I will be your physical therapist. I’m going to help you learn to walk on your prosthetics.” He began, sitting in the chair next to Dave. “Over the next few weeks, you’ll be in therapy 5 days a week for 4 hours. We’ll start slow and gradually build up as your strength grows. Have you been fitted for your prosthesis?” Dave winced then nodded affirmative. “What’s wrong?” he asked Dave.
“It chafes like a sonofabitch.”
Dillon raised one eyebrow. “Seriously? It’s not supposed to chafe. That’s what the skin is for.”
“They didn’t set you up with a skin?”
“What’s a skin?”
Before answering, Dillon checked Dave’s chart. “A skin is a sleeve made out of a form of polyurethane. It goes on your leg and then the prosthesis goes over the skin. It insolates your skin from the plastic of the cup, preventing chafing.”
“No, they didn’t fix me up with one.”
Dillon looked at him and said, “We’ll see about that! I’m not about to start you on physical therapy without one. It will be too painful.” He left in a huff, determined to find out why he hadn’t been fitted for the skin.
Half an hour later, an orderly walked in and checked the charts. “Dave Barton?” Dave acknowledged her. She checked his wrist band and informed him that she was taking him to the orthopedic suite to get fitted for a skin. He was greeted by Dillon and Dr. Pearson.
“Dave, I’m Dr. Pearson. I’m going to be fitting you with a polyurethane sleeve that will go under your prosthesis to make it more comfortable. The process is completely painless. It will involve applying Teflon tape to your stump, then basically painting on the sleeve. It will take approximately an hour to set then we’ll pull the sleeve off, remove the tape and put the sleeve back on to make sure it’s comfortable.”
“Was this supposed to be done before I was fitted with the leg?”
“You weren’t fitted with the sleeve before you were measured for the prosthesis?”
Dave shook his head no. “Was I supposed to have?”
“Yes, you were. I don’t know why you weren’t, but trust me when I say I will find out!” He handed the Teflon tape to Dillon and asked him to tape up Dave’s stump, then stormed out to find out who screwed up. 15 minutes later he returned and apologized to Dave, assuring him that the mistake will not happen in the future. He proceeded to apply the polyurethane then made sure Dave was comfortable in front of the TV with a call bell should he need anything.
He returned an hour and a half later with a special device that had various adjustments and readouts. “I’m doing this fitting myself to make sure it’s done correctly.” He placed first the sleeve then the device over Dave’s stump and proceeded to make various adjustments. Throughout the process he would ask Dave how it felt, if it was too loose or too tight. Finally he was satisfied with the fit. Writing down the various measurements he asked Dillon to call for an orderly to take Dave back to his room apologizing again for the screw-up.
“Wow that was fast. How did it go?” Greg asked as soon as Dave was back in the bed.
“It didn’t happen. They screwed up. They were supposed to fit me with some kind of sleeve that would prevent the cup from chafing and irritating my skin.”
“Hm. Never heard of that before. So I take it that they’re going to give you a whole new leg then?”
“Yeah; the doctor himself took all the measurements for the fitting.”
“Cool. So how long do you have to wait?”
Dave thought for a moment, trying to remember if the doctor had said anything about how long it would take. “I don’t know. The doctor didn’t say anything, but I’m guessing it will take as long as the first one did. They probably only have to remake the cup. The rest of the leg should still be usable.”
“Well, I guess we’ll find out.”
Tommy looked up from the book he was reading when he heard the kitchen door open and close. Andy was home. “Hey baby; how was your day?” he called out.
“No codes today. It’s always a good day when nobody goes into cardiac arrest,” Andy replied, coming through the door, being greeted by his husband with a huge hug and a kiss. “How was your day?”
“Second day into my vacation and I’m already climbing the walls. Now I know why I never went on vacation until I was forced to. The only time I’m not bored out of my skull is when we’re together. I clean and I read. That’s it until you come home.”
“Well, my vacation starts the day after tomorrow, so we can start going places. What’re you reading?”
“Curiosity Killed Shaney by JC Wallace. It’s about a loveable misfit who keeps getting into trouble, or should I say trouble finds him. He got into trouble and has to do 200 hours of community service and because of his insatiable curiosity can’t seem to stay in one job long enough to complete his 200 hours. It’s really, really good.”
“What did he do to get into trouble?”
“He broke into some warehouse because he thought he heard kittens. His heart was in the right place, but there weren’t any kittens.”
“Wow. Sounds good. I’d like to read it when you’re done. Speaking of good, I have some good news and some slightly not-so-good news.”
“Yeah. Orthopedics screwed up with Dave’s prosthesis. They didn’t make the isolation sleeve, so now his prosthesis has to be refitted.”
“What’s an isolation sleeve?”
“It goes over the stump underneath the cup. It prevents chafing and skin irritation by the cup.”
“So what happens now?”
“They made the sleeve and now they have to refit the cup. They don’t have to redo the whole thing, just the cup. It has to be bigger.”
“Is that the good news or the not-so-good news?” Tommy asked.
“The not-so-good news. The good news is that Greg’s eyesight is starting to return. He’s starting to see shapes, but they’re blurry. He’s seeing colors, though. That’s a very good sign that his eyesight is returning. He may need glasses to get his full sight back. We have to wait and see how much of his sight returns. At least it’s returning.”
Tommy jumped up and practically crushed Andy’s ribs in his exuberant hug. “That’s awesome. I gotta call Kyle and Jay.” Putting action to his words, he grabbed his cell and speed-dialed Kyle.
“Hey Tommy, what’s up?”
“I got great news. Greg’s eyesight is starting to come back!” He heard Kyle call out to Jay and tell him the news. “That’s really great. Jay and I are going to head out to the hospital and visit them. Want to meet at Ruby Tuesday’s later?”
“Why Ruby Tuesdays? Haven’t you done enough damage to their salad bar?” Tommy asked, jokingly. Kyle’s raids on their salad bar were legendary.
"Hey! I have a rep to protect." Kyle said, snickering.
"Sounds good. Andy and I are getting ready to head out to the hospital."
"Great. We'll see you soon."
A few minutes later Kyle and Jay snuck into Dave and Greg's room, mindful of the hospital's policy of only 2 visitors per patient. Since Dave and Greg were in a bariatric bed, they weren't sure if the policy still applied, but they weren't taking any chances. Greg's eyes seemed to follow Kyle as he approached Greg wordlessly.
"Kyle!" Greg exclaimed. "I can see you. You're blurry, but I can tell it's you!" Greg cried, excitedly. Kyle bent down and they wrapped their arms around each other; Greg's body cast having come off the day before.
Dave hurriedly pressed the call bell. When the nurse replied Dave practically yelled, "Greg can see! He can really see!" The nurse replied that she'd notify the doctor. True to her word, they heard the doctor paged. Dave pulled Greg into a fierce embrace.
Once they separated, Greg took note of everyone in the room. "Jay! Tommy! Andy! Ah can see y'all. Y'all are blurry, but ah can see you" Overcome with emotion, Greg broke down. His southern accent was more pronounced, as it tended to be when he was highly emotional or excited.
The doctor came in and sent everyone out of the room so he could examine Greg without distraction. Taping an eye chart to the wall, he asked Greg to read the lowest line on the chart that was clear. Greg told him that they were all blurry. The doctor replied, "Don't worry Greg. I pretty much expected that.
"However, I am encouraged by your progress. We'll give it a few more days then we'll check your eyesight again. If there's little to no improvement, I'll take you to my office and we'll see if eyeglasses will help. Do you have any questions for me?"
"Will I regain my full sight?" Greg asked with some trepidation in his voice.
"I can't say for sure at this point. However, like I said, I'm encouraged with your progress. If you notice any changes, no matter how slight, have the nurse call me. In the meantime, I'll prescribe some eye drops that should help."
"Thank you, doctor. I appreciate it more than I can say."
"You're welcome Greg. Remember, any changes notify the nurse." The doctor left after another quick look at Greg’s eyes.
“I’m not going to lie to you. It will be painful at first until you get used to the prosthetic leg. Progress will go slow in the beginning, so you are not over-taxed. I assure you though; you will be making progress, even though it may seem to you that you’re not. I have a lot of experience helping people learn to walk again and I’m looking forward to working with you. Do you have any questions for me?”
In a show of nervousness, Dave licked his lips. He had one request, but he wasn’t sure what the physical therapist’s reaction would be. I guess I won’t know until I ask it. “Can Greg help? He’s my boyfriend who’s a cop that was shot several times and had to learn how to walk again.”
Without even a moment’s hesitation, Dillon answered his question. “Of course; it will make it easier for you getting help from someone who’s been through it themselves. However, you’ll be alone with me for the first couple of weeks. It’s imperative that we get you into a routine and the right mindset. Greg, however well intentioned, will be a distraction.”
He glanced briefly at Greg, shooting him a warm, open smile before turning back to Dave. “I’m sure he’ll help you in any way he can. Patients do much better with a loved one around for support.”
“Dave,” Greg began, “I’ll be right by your side throughout the course of your therapy as soon as they allow me to. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If I can learn to walk all over again, so can you.”
“That means a lot to me baby, but to be honest, I’m scared. What if it doesn’t work?”
“With a positive attitude I guarantee it will, baby. You just have to trust Dillon and believe in yourself as I believe in you.”
Dave gripped his hand. “Thank you baby. I love you.”
“I love you too.
“When do I get started?”
“I have you down for 2pm this afternoon. This way your lunch will have settled. I know you’re going to be nervous, but try to relax and remember, when you’ve finished with the therapy you will be able to do everything you could before you lost your leg. This I promise you.”
“What can I do to prepare myself for this?”
“The best thing you can do is remember that Greg had to go through the same thing you’re about to go through.”
“Not the same thing. Both of Greg’s legs were intact when he started his therapy. Mine are not.”
“The difference is only in your mind. I know you can do it, and I’m sure Greg knows as well.” Greg nodded. Dillon turned to him and asked, “Would you mind telling me why you had to learn to walk again?”
Greg drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to tell his story to a stranger or not, but if it would help Dave in any way, he would. “A few years ago I was with the Boston Police Department. I was shot 17 times during a drug bust.
“My left leg was badly shattered and my right hip was basically turned into a baby rattle. It took me fourteen months to be able to walk again, but I did. At first it was extremely painful, but that was mainly because my leg had been shattered in 5 different places and I had to have a total hip replacement, which is why I walk a little funny.
“I doubt your rehab will be as painful, since your hips and legs were not broken.”
“But I lost part of my leg.” Dave countered.
“Yes, but with the exception of that, the bones are intact.”
Dave shrugged, “True.”
The lunch trays arrived, which signaled Dillon to leave. “I’ll see you guys in a couple of hours. Remember that old adage “When the going gets tough, the tough get going. You’re tough, Dave, and there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll make it through just fine. I’ll see you guys later.” As he left he gave them a friendly smile and a thumbs-up.
Thus began Dave’s rehabilitation, something he wasn’t really looking forward to.