Jan’s Stream-of-Consciousness Blog

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I “met” (via phone) a fellow amputee a few days ago. It was a good conversation, as we traded war stories. Turns out we were both grateful to have our legs amputated: It ended 24/7 pain for him; it ended a spreading bone infection for me. We’ve both had the foot break on our prosthesis. I had one foot pointing north and the other west; he had one pointing north…and the other pointing south. Two days before his wedding.

But best was the humor. I cracked up when he said his legs were named Ren and Stumpy — his wife’s idea. Hey, ya gotta find the humor in these things. Otherwise, it can be a drab and depressing life. It was necessary. It’s done. We feel better. We’re alive and life is good.

Remember that it’s also helpful to communicate with somebody else who’s in the same situation as you. It makes you feel less alone. I mean, hey, I’m not the only one who’s named her stump — mine is Kenny, after the podiatry resident who gave my now-missing foot its last pedicure — and I’m not the only one whose foot has broken.

If it’s Tuesday, I should be in Virginia. As I’m writing this very early Sunday morning, we plan to leave home today, spend the night in Charleston, WV, then go to Virginia to spend a couple of nights with an old friend, and then on to the Myrtle Beach, SC, area to visit with Dad.

I mean “old” friend. We’ve known each other since we alphabetically sat beside each other in Mrs. Davis’s fifth-grade classroom at Hurricane (WV) Elementary School a very long time ago. We shared classes and homerooms at school and hotel rooms on band trips and graduated together. Funny thing about sharing hotel rooms: We both had the same initials and the same pieces of Samsonite luggage in the same color. We do have different first names, but both go by our nicknames: Jan. Her mother had Type 2 diabetes. Both of us do now. I’m quite sure Mrs. Davis’s practice of giving her perfect attendance students a box of candy at the end of the school year had nothing to do with that.

Ironically, our mothers had graduated together from East Bank (WV) High School 20 years before. For you hoops fans who remember back a bit, basketball great Jerry West also graduated from East Bank High. (For those who don’t, he played for, coached, and managed the Los Angeles Lakers. Not all at the same time. ) Oh, and that’s his silhouette on the NBA logo. Makes me proud to be a hillbilly.

We’re spending a couple of nights at her house. And, you know, her husband’s house, too. It will be the first time I’ve stayed in a private home — aside from mine, of course — since the amputation. Well, there was the disaster in Tennessee last summer, but that was an allegedly accessible rental. Jan’s house is admittedly inaccessible, although she’s arranged for some items to make it better fit my needs. We’ll make it work. After all, there’s no front desk to complain to.

And what a perfect intro to my latest hotel stay.

I had appointments in Indianapolis on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, so my granddaughter and I spent the night in Indy. I had called the hotel and explained to the nice man that I needed an accessible room.

Well, it may have been accessible for somebody…

You had to enter the bedroom of the suite, then make a sharp left turn — maybe half a U-turn — into the bathroom. The sink was straight ahead and, to the left, was what amounted to a long, narrow hallway with a tub on one side, a wall on the other, and the toilet at the end.

There is no way you can get onto a toilet when the scooter is facing it, so I had to back out of the bathroom, turn around, then back into the bathroom. With only one grab bar, and that one on the “wrong” side, it took a little bit of time to figure out how to pivot around and sit down. Did I tell you it had been about five hours since I’d “gone?”

Then, while sitting there figuring out how to get back onto the scooter, I took a closer look at the tub. And what was a tub doing in an accessible bathroom, anyway? Heck, you can get into a tub easily enough: You can trip and fall into a tub. But how do you get out? Actually, I do have a tub in my bathroom at home, but it has a bench that folds up against the wall when not in use so the rest of my family can take a soak in the tub. There was no bench anywhere near my room, much less the tub.

Fortunately, the showerhead was detachable and there were two “holders.” One was fixed and the other was on a slider. Unfortunately, the showerhead was on the fixed holder, which was w-a-y up there. Also unfortunately, even if the showerhead had been on the slider, it was all the way up and the showerhead would still have been unreachable.

Off to the front desk I went. Where, to my surprise, the woman did not merely say, “I’m sorry.” She changed my room — but only after I’d seen, and approved, it. She then went with me to my initial room and had me go through what the problems were and how any of them could be solved or made better (one suggestion was to have housekeeping put the showerhead on the slider and put it all the way down). It may have been accessible for some people, but it wasn’t for me.

With that kind of service, it’s a place I’ll return to.

I hope you’re having a good holiday season. So far, so good for me.

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