No Longer An Outpatient

The countdown started in earnest when there were no more weeks, but only days. Boxes of books were sent off to the UK, dry cleaning picked up. Packing wouldn’t start until the last minute. I was gradually crossing off tasks from my priority list. The number of appointments were also dwindling. One of the last before I left was outpatient physio and hydro at Calvary Rehabilitation Hospital. Since being discharged as an inpatient back in July, I have been attending the rehab hospital as an outpatient at first for twice weekly sessions, but this was gradually reduced to once a week so that I could increase my pilates work at a different rehabilitation clinic. This last appointment at the hospital was when I would finally be discharged as an outpatient. I was aware that I was being discharged not because I was physically at a point where this was the next step, but because I was leaving the country. But for me, it was time to say goodbye, at least for now.

There have been a number of other specialist appointments in the past couple of weeks that I have not written about, there are just some things readers ought not to know. But as I attended each appointment, the desire to shed myself of all specialists and appointments grew stronger; life felt like being in a tug of war match with some specialists on one side and others on the opposing side. But in the midst of uncertainty, not only in the past month but also in the last five, the Physios that I have worked with at Calvary Rehab have been patient and kind voices of sanity. At too many points that I care to recount, they have advocated for me. When medical problems were not being addressed by doctors and surgeons, they sourced help and went beyond their job descriptions to do so. These Physios also put some pieces together that others had missed. Yes, there are parts to this story that are missing and one day I will tell them, when the time is right to do so. But that time is not yet. Suffice it to say, I’m grateful for their persistence.

When I went to this last appointment on the Tuesday afternoon before I flew away, I knew exactly what was going to happen. My walking ability would be assessed and recommendations would then be made to the Physio who would take over in Cambridge. I was surprised though to see my first outpatient Physio meeting me at the door. While I have worked with the same Physio in hydrotherapy for the whole time, the first outpatient Physio who was overseeing my case went on leave in August and a second took over. The point where this first outpatient Physio went on leave was when I had experienced a major setback in my recovery. So seeing my first outpatient Physio meeting me for the discharge assessment was fitting; she hadn’t seen me since going away, and seeing her smile at how well I was walking made me smile as well. She put me through the five minute walking test and I had doubled my walking speed since July. We talked through the other issues, the tug of war between specialists, and the future surgeries I, in all probability, will be facing. The difference between this point at the end of November and where I started as an outpatient in July was stark. My entire case was now being managed, unlike when I was discharged as an inpatient, and I was moving forward. There is so much to be grateful for, even when I’m tired of having to balance and weigh up the contrasting opinions between specialists.

With the discharge assessment complete and the last hydrotherapy session done, I finally walked out through the sliding doors of Calvary Rehabilitation Hospital. I wished that I could write that I was walking out of those doors for the last time, at least as a patient. But walking out of those doors, I was conscious that, in all likelihood, no matter how hard I might try to avoid it, I will be undergoing at least one more round of major spinal surgery in the future. The weakness of my lumbar-sacral spine still being a problem. If major back surgery is in the future, so will intensive rehabilitation be. But for now, it is good bye.