A STROKE OF LUCK (5 OF 6 Chapters)

5 ̶ Rehab

I was ushered to an empty bed in 3 North, Room 335-S3-3. My two new companions were enjoying their suppers in beds facing the eastern windows. And I mean they were ENJOYING them. If fact, two or three times a day, Peter (my name for him) would make a comment to the effect “My God, this food is delicious!”

As for me, I would pick out what looked most edible. I didn’t suffer because I had no appetite.

Most of my days consisted of waiting for my next appointments. I had two or three a day, each less than an hour long. I soon learned the floor plan of Level 3 North so that no one had to escort me to my appointments. Until then I waited. Until I knew what time I was having an appointment and where I was destined to keep that appointment, I waited. Other than that, it was a matter of waiting. And also waiting. And, as far as I could determine, a multitude of other patients spent most of their time waiting. And, at the risk of repeating myself, I too waited. And waited.

I entered St. Joe’s at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 3. Starting on Thursday, I kept appointments with two different physiotherapists, an occupational therapist, and a speech therapist. Apparently I put quite a burden on the staff because in juggling my schedule, they kept assigning me different times to show up and in the case of one staff member, after keeping three or four appointments, either cancelled further appointments or just failed to show up. They were all nice people but apparently just working with very limited resources and tight schedules.

My schedule, such as it was, was free all weekend. Between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, I was expected to just wait. And between spells of waiting, I was expected to wait some more. During my first full day at St. Joe’s, I started plotting to go home. In consulting all staff responsible for my schedule, I learned that there was a doctor assigned to me, a Dr. E.

Meanwhile, I was given free rein to wander all over the hospital. I kept my civilian clothes in a bureau. I had a faded blue institutional uniform ̶ pyjama shirt and pants ̶   so I blended with other patients. I didn’t stand out from the multitude of other patients, so I kept pestering staff to allow me to see the mysterious Dr. E. I was not prepared to wait around all weekend doing nothing but waiting and I said so. Sometime about mid-day Friday, Dr. E. showed up. I was already dressed in my civvies. I was ready to leave ̶ I don’t know if they could have held me back.


Dr. E. breezed in and interrogated me about stuff she surely knew. What was my age? When did I have the stroke? How long had I been in St. Joe’s. She scribbled quick notes. It was all over in two minutes. I just had to sign out for the weekend. If it had not been for my persistence, I might still be waiting. And waiting.

Waiting for things to happen, I learned to use my Samsung tablet. I learned to download apps so that I could watch streamed programming on CBC and CNN. The rehab centre provided a free Internet service for which I will be eternally grateful. A couple of times I located a couple of tv sets that were not occupied, but otherwise there was a tiny tv set placed in an awkward position over my bed that I refrained from using in consideration of my roommates. I used it only at 10:00 p.m. to watch CBC’s The National.

I also read a lot. I started one novel from the Level 3 North library and switched to another novel that I borrowed from Laura. Reading was a laborious process. I often had to start over a sentence and sometimes even a paragraph to grasp the full meaning. But I was reading. I never saw anyone else reading.

Physiotherapy consisted of walking exercises in a long, very long, corridor (dodging patients, and up and down a flight of stairs once), and some sessions on a treadmill or a stationary bike. And standing on one foot.

Occupational therapy involved some tests of strength (isometric exercises) and some simple cognitive tests such as drawing a clock face and inserting hands to indicate a time (e.g., 10 after 2), which I failed spectacularly, and making an outline map out of numbers and letters (which took me an inordinate amount of time). I later learned that I was taking a Pre-Driving Screen, and had failed 4 out of 5 categories. My next Screen is now scheduled for July 27.

Speech therapy consisted mainly of memory exercises, such as listing synonyms, naming categories of pictured objects, and learning certain mnemonic tricks. In my opinion, I excelled that that.

Every day I looked forward to visitations from son Rob and daughter Laura and sister Susanne (spouse Olga had no way to visit from Greenstone but we had daily phone talks). My roommates were two nonagenarians, recovering from strokes. Both received daily visitations from family. Peter, 90 years old, long retired, enjoyed witty exchanges with staff. Pater (my nickname), 97 years old, was still recovering his speech faculty, but I was learning to interpret his sounds. He proved to be quite cheery and loquacious.

Every day in Room 335-S3-3, I thanked my lucky stroke. I learned of other patients from Greenstone not so lucky as me. A few days before, one of them had suffered a stroke, and while waiting for the air ambulance, he suffered a second stroke. He was now confined to a wheelchair.

My visit home to our country home in Greenstone was a godsend. Rob returned me to St. Joe’s after suppertime on Sunday. Starting Monday, Susanne and I planned excursions outside the rehab centre after therapy sessions. I signed myself out. She taught me how to catch buses and to read the schedules. And we walked. My, how we walked! Miles and miles. I kept that information from the physio staff to avoid their disappointment. One night we gorged on real food at Swiss Chalet served with real iced tea. Another night we gorged on tasty fake food from concessions at Silver City CinePlex washed down with a carbonated drink.

Rehab staff now often implied that I was ready to go home. One speech therapist arranged for me use the Telemedicine videoconference system to participate in online sessions from home. I pestered the staff about the mysterious Dr. E. until I learned she had okayed my release.

On Friday afternoon, May 12, I said my goodbyes, packed my bags, and waited for Rob to pick me up. I was given meds for three days. I was free to do anything except drive.


About EJ Lavoie

Writer and independent publisher with website www.WhiskyJackPublishing.ca
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1 Response to A STROKE OF LUCK (5 OF 6 Chapters)

  1. Louise A Tonin says:

    I truly enjoy your descriptions of the various,,,,dare I say “adventures” 🙂 …..glad you survived all your “waitings” …..and I shall be waiting for the next chapter…have a great day.

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