Yesterday I started my outpatient rehab sessions back at Fate Bene Fratelli. What an event that turned out to be! Just getting there is plenty of rehab all itself, and that's only where the fun began.
From our apartment, the only realistic way for me to get to that side of Cannaregio is to ride the vaporetto. With me and my crutch, it's a slow walk of about 12-14 minutes to the vaporetto stop at Sant'Andrea/Piazzale Roma to catch either the #42 or #52 line to Madonna dell'Orto. Anyone else can probably do the walk in 5-7 min. It's also just my luck that recently the boat dock for these two lines was moved from right outside the Coop at Piazzale Roma to quite a ways away in front of Sant'Andrea church. Nice and inconvenient for someone with a mobility problem to begin with!
Once I get on the boat, it's a 20 minute ride to the Madonna dell'Orto stop, then another 15 minute walk to Fate Bene Fratelli. Again, someone without a crutch can probably do the walk in 5-7 minutes.
Yesterday my husband Mike was good enough to accompany me on this trek, as I was not confident I could actually find Fate Bene Fratelli once I got off the boat. I had only seen the entrance of the place twice before. The first time was the evening I arrived by boat to begin my stay. Being pitch dark, and given the fact I was in pain and not really paying much attention to anything but the pain, I never noticed what the building looked like. The second time was the day I was released and again, I was not in great shape that day. I was focused on just putting one foot in front of the other and trying my hardest to actually GET to a boat stop to get home.
Once we arrived at Fate Bene Fratelli yesterday, my first stop was the Appointment Office. I had been instructed over the phone to report here the first day to complete paperwork. Turns out I also had to pay for my therapy sessions. As soon as it was my turn at the window , the woman on the other side exclaimed, "Ah, yes, Signora! I remember you. The Americana!". Then the woman behind the next window looked up from her work, shot me a big grin and said "Ciao, Signora. I was the one who spoke with you on the phone". All this is going down in Italian and I'm feeling pretty good that I understood everything. And then a third woman, this time on my side of the counter, joins in and says, "Ciao! I know you from our pool sessions a few weeks ago! How are you?". Yes, now that I look at her more closely, I also recognized her. This was old home week already and I hadn't even gotten 20 feet in the front door!
This third woman and I completed our transactions about the same time. By the way, I must add this little fact here: 10 sessions of water therapy and 10 45 minute long sessions with a private physical therapist cost me a whopping 36.75 Euros. I love the Italian Health system. Ok, back to the third woman. We both exited the Appointment Office , and stopped in the main lobby area to chat for a minute about our respective illnesses , and said goodbye. The the woman says to me, "I'll see you again here, and also, we should meet outside of here, in a cafe for coffee!" A new friend!! This may seem odd to you, but I loved that I was making Italian friends- and here in a rehabilitation center of all places.
With a big silly grin on my face Mike and I proceed down the hall. The very next person we encounter is none other than the Orthopedic doctor who was assigned to me when I was a patient- the one who snapped my leg in two. I'll never forget her, and she didn't forget me either. She said "Ciao" to me first, and then we had a pretty lengthy conversation about how I was doing, all in Italian too! I thought it was an omen of some kind that she was one of the first I bump into again.
Next stop, the pool. This is where Mike and I parted company. While I was in my sessions, he was going to go find a cafe out on the street somewhere and wait. I changed clothes, entered the pool area, and immediately heard " Mar-gar-eeeet!". I've gotten used to alot of the staff here calling me that, even though it's my middle name. No one in Italy can pronounce Karen properly. It comes out something like "Ca-reeen". The therapist handling my 11:30 pool session was the one yelling my name. This felt like coming home again!
I love my water therapy sessions. The time goes way too quickly, I could stay in there for hours. My knee feels different in the water-it does things I cannot get it to do otherwise, without pain. Yesterday it felt great to be back.
I had about 20 minutes to dry off , change clothes and get to my next session, which is with the same therapist I had during my 3 week residence. When I saw Blaga we did the two kisses on the cheeks routine, and a big "Ciao, how are you??". We got caught up on our holidays since we hadn't seen each other since before Christmas, and then we got down to work. Physical therapy is no picnic. For me it is more like what I imagine torture to be like. For 45 minutes Blaga somehow works some magic and gets my leg to do more than it wants to do. She hadn't been massaging my leg for more than 10 minutes yesterday when she said," This is a miracle, your muscles are relaxed and doing great. I am going to call the doctor right now". For me, that was a miracle, as regularly my muscles are like rock and don't want to cooperate at all. This was huge progress. The part about calling the doctor is a running joke we have. Blaga knows my doctor snapped my leg in two, and that made me be scared to death of that doctor. Blaga always jokes about reporting my progress- good and bad- to the doctor.
Somewhere during this session, another therapist walked past where we were, recognized me and said hello. It really did feel like old home week. She went on about her business then turned around and walked away. Two seconds later she returned, and walked right up to me. This time she said, in Italian, "I remember you. What did you do?" My response was " Huh???". She said, " You are thin. How did you do it?". I laughed. "How did I do it? I was here for three weeks. I lost 12 lbs!". (Note: for being a hospital facility, Fate Bene Fratelli served excellent food. It's just that during my stay, I didn't have much of an appetite. What I did eat was really, really good!). I didn't realize the weight loss was that noticeable. Evidently it is.
Mike met me when my sessions were over, and we made the trek back home. By the time we reached our apartment, I was ready for one thing only- a nap. I was whipped. Physical therapy for the next two weeks was going to be one heck of a challenge for me, especially since the plan was that after the first day, I was going to get there and back on my own. That alone would be a huge challenge. First things first though, I took that nap.
Today, it was more of the same, however I had two big accomplishements. First, I made the trip there and back all on my own! That's was big. Even bigger was the fact that I did the entire return trip WITHOUT my crutch. I carried it, but didn't use it. During today's session Blaga insisted that I would put the crutch away and walk without it from now on. I wasn't sure I was quite ready for that, a little afraid I would fall. Her way of proving to me that I would be ok was pretty interesting. She had me walk the whole length of the therapy room, and every 3-4 steps she would give me a pretty hefty shove, either on my left side or the right. I didn't catch on what she was doing at first, I thought she was trying to get me to stand up straighter and quite wobbling. When I asked her if I was not standing straight enough, she grinned and said " You aren't falling down, either!". I got it then. I had no excuse now, and she is not someone I want to piss off. I agreed I would walk without the crutch, and she threw in a compromise. I could carry it, and use it at a boat dock, or on a stairway or bridge that didn't have any hand rails. Mission accomplished. I got home in one piece.
And now there is tomorrow to look forward to.
Buona Notte, tutti!