Scouring for Signs of Progress

progressWhen I was in hospital, I used to write down the little improvements in my condition that I witnessed. Some of those improvements included:

  • The golf-ball sized bruise on my left leg began to shrink.
  • The bruising on my genitals began to heal.
  • The swelling around my belly began to recede.
  • The dry skin on my arms showed signs of restoration.

There were moments in hospital when there really was no timetable for my release. So when I started feeling shitty about being an in-patient, I would refer to my list and try to remind myself that I was getting better, albeit in tiny increments.

Since my release from hospital last June, I’ve tried to maintain that habit of jotting down signs of improvement. That was fine for a while, but lately there haven’t been many new additions to the list. It feels like my progress has not only stalled, but actually worsened in some aspects. My drainage tube continues to spew out nasty fluids from my abscess, I feel pain around my overactive stoma on a nightly basis, and I’ve continued to lose weight since returning home. That last point has been a major blow to what little optimism I possess.

In an attempt to rectify my weight loss problem, I went back to Mount Sinai Hospital last Thursday to consult with a dietician, a trip that unexpectedly gave me a few new signs of progress. When I entered the hospital, I didn’t feel like a patient. This was my first time back at Mount Sinai since my surgery where I wasn’t going to the ER or consult with my surgeon about needing another major operation. I wore green sneakers, black shorts, and a white England jersey, not the white gown with green and blue snowflakes that patients usually wear. I felt like a visitor, not a patient, and that’s always how you want to feel when entering a hospital.

I stepped off the elevator on the 19th floor and ducked into a washroom to blow my runny nose. I washed my hands and breathed in the familiar scent of the anti-bacterial soap that’s in every single one of Mount Sinai’s washrooms. Another reminder of my time in as a patient, and another reminder that at that moment, I wasn’t a patient. I had survived a major surgery. I didn’t come out of it in good shape, but I survived. I looked in the washroom mirror and didn’t exactly hate what I saw. My arms didn’t look as boney as they usually do. I rolled up my right sleeve and flexed like a douchebag. I still have a little definition on my flimsy arms. Or maybe it was the lighting in the washroom. Whatever.

The dietician I met with gave me some tips on what I could do to improve my nutritional intake, and what I could try to slow down my high outputs. It was a thorough 40-minute conversation, and I left feeling a little better about what I could do in the next few weeks to get in better physical condition. I left the hospital and began walking down University Ave. towards Queen’s Park Station. I remembered that a few months ago, I was shuffling up and down the same street in my hospital gown, robe and plastic slippers, being passed by everyone else. This time my stride was quick and purposeful, and I was the one weaving through the pedestrian traffic.

I enjoyed my ride back to Etobicoke on the subway. Being able to make my way around the city without needing a drive from someone felt good. I’m still dependent on many people for many things, so I savour the moments of autonomy when I can find them. When I got home, I jotted down some new improvements:

  • Can walk faster than many people on the street.
  • Can wear my England home shirt and look okay in it.
  • Can take public transit on my own to get around.
  • Underwent a major operation, one that went wrong, and still can do all of the above.

Image via Life With Alacrity

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About rasheedclarke

Award-winning author. Marathon runner. Exceptional dresser. I'd like to be all those things.

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