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Saturday, April 30, 2011

True Scary Story: What happened to Ruth

Ruth was never particularly athletic, though in her youth she had made a point of walking home several miles from college to save 5 cents on the trolley. And she had ridden horses. And later, in mid-life, she had played tennis fairly regularly in the summer. Her best exercise was going up and downstairs as she kept house, hung laundry in the basement, and walked from the car to the store - all the regular sorts of activities of modern life.

When Ruth was in her 70s, she moved across the country to be with her grandchildren, but it didn't increase her activity level very much. She volunteered in the school library and walked her grandkids down to the pool at her condo, but she never swam herself. When she was alone, she liked to read, watch TV, and knit - sometimes all at once.

Then Ruth was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, had surgery, and lost her eyesight as a result. Then she had a stroke. She was in a coma. She was sent to rehab, where she was given exercises to teach her to use a walker and toss a ball. She was not particularly mentally able to engage in doing these things and it looked as though rehab were going to be a total waste.

Then one day she 'woke up'. She grabbed a hold of her walker and zoomed around the corridors of the rehab center with no intention of stopping. Everyone was worried about her balance, but even after 5 weeks of being in bed, her legs still worked. She couldn't get enough of walking!

Gradually she regained her mobility. She went to an independent-living adult community and did fine, despite her blindness. She had an uncanny way of knowing where she was. She enjoyed going down to the dining room and being with her many friends. They found her engaging. She even 'watched' movies with them. She never complained.

Another stroke landed her in assisted living. Her balance was a little less trustworthy, her ability to get around a little more impaired. She was back to using a walker to get to meals.

A series of setbacks having to do with diabetes and other ills soon landed her in a group home. She could still walk, but was weak and needed a hand to steady her.

But the young employees at the group home didn't see the point of slowly walking her to the dinner table (15 feet from her room). It was far easier to put her in the wheelchair.

Soon Ruth was either in the wheelchair or in the chair in her room. That made it easy for the staff to take her to the bathroom or to meals. She had never mastered wheeling herself from place to place, and her arms were too weak for her to make much progress, so she stopped spending time with the other residents.

Soon her visits to her family required that she travel with her wheelchair, not just her walker as before. The wheelchair was heavy, the family car small. It was easier just to visit her where she lived than to take her out, except to go to the doctor or the lab, or to vote - something she insisted on doing! The visits became fewer and fewer.... She never walked again.

Ruth had never intended to give up her mobility. It had just been easier for the staff to wheel her about....

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