Today was Marilyn’s 8th day at Beth Israel’s Cardiac Care Unit in Boston. It was also her most active since undergoing 5 surgeries including a bypass, valve replacement, pacemaker implant and inflation of collapsed lungs. Cherrie Welburn and I arrived just after lunch and Marilyn was in a fairly upbeat mood aside from some disgruntled comments about the food. Marilyn said her breathing was better than yesterday but that her pain level was still high with the smallest movement causing “discomfort”. Marilyn was about to experience some more physical challenges.
Mid afternoon and physical therapist Rory arrived. Rory was a very affable young woman and, attractive, I noticed. She outlined for Marilyn what her physical therapy program would be and WHY she would be doing the exercises. Marilyn nodded with a cynical aside glance at Cherrie and me. Marilyn has been fairly inactive for the past week and a day and her muscles need attention, shoulders to toes.
Over the next 40 minutes, Rory gently but persistently put Marilyn through a series of exercises with Marilyn flexing her right arm (her left arm is very tender because of where the surgery was done to implant her pacemaker), she swung her legs up and down, and her feet left to right a number of times. The biggest test was ahead.
It was time for Marilyn to walk. Rory rehearsed the procedure – something we take for granted – several times. Finally, with obvious effort, Marilyn stood up and moved slowly ahead, using a walker with Rory’s help. Out of her room and into the hallway. It was very difficult for Marilyn. Rory repeatedly emphasized Marilyn needed to walk upright not slouched so that she could breath correctly. No easy task. Even with the walker and Rory’s help, Marilyn was having difficulty as she slowly moved down the hallway away from her room. Finally they stopped and Marilyn sat down to catch her breath. She and Rory talked quietly. I think it was a pep talk. A few minutes later, Marilyn got up and, with renewed effort, walked down the rest of the hallway at a faster place, her body upright.
Cherrie and I watched from the door of Marilyn’s room as she turned around and walked back towards us. Her pace was faster, a smile filled her face as we cheered her on. When she reached her room, Marilyn was still smiling as we gave her thumbs up for her effort. Inside her room, she slowly sat in a chair and took long breaths. A few minutes later, she declined Rory’s assistance, moving from the chair onto her bed, all by herself. Crank up the applause!! Marilyn was clearly fatigued by her walk but proud of her efforts. Cherrie and I could see Marilyn needed some rest but she wanted to chat and catch up. She briefly scanned her tablet, checking the blog I wrote last night and the impressive number of “hits” and comments. I gave her my best “Garry Armstrong – Star” look and she smiled broadly. It was time to order dinner now. Cherrie and a staffer took over as Marilyn scanned the menu hoping for something different. No such luck! That was our cue for today’s long Jewish goodbye.
Cherrie and I blew kisses to Marilyn as we left, telling her we hoped tomorrow would be an even better day.