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Redefining luxury

Published February 15. 2014 09:00AM

After an absence of almost three weeks, I am finally home from my stay at the rehab center. I still have another month of inactivity with limited weight bearing allowed as I use a walker and wheelchair.

But I will tell you this: Despite the confinement and physical restrictions, I am surrounded by luxury.

I used to think luxury meant having a big boat waiting at the dock or staying at an incredible villa in Italy.

But that was before my surgery to remove an inflamed hip bursa and repair a five-inch tendon tear. As you may remember going into the surgery I asked everyone to pray for me because I was afraid of having a bad reaction to pain medication. Unfortunately, it was even worse than I feared.

I'm not being melodramatic when I admit there came a point when I feared I was about a minute and a half away from death. I now wear a red hospital bracelet that says "allergic to narcotic pain medication."

Tack that experience onto four nights in the hospital and two strange weeks in a rehab facility to understand why I am redefining luxury.

Now, for me, luxury means being home with all of its many comforts.

Luxury means a hot cup of wonderful coffee in the morning and an attentive husband offering to get me a second cup.

Luxury means a comfortable bed where I can sleep all night without having anyone wake me in the middle of the night to check my vital signs. Once an aide woke me at 5 a.m., saying she was there to take me to the bathroom.

Now, luxury is doing things on my schedule, not anyone else's.

It means having what I want for breakfast and indulging in fresh fruit whenever I please.

As I laid in bed counting the days and the hours until I could go home again, I knew I would benefit from the experience in many ways.

One major benefit is that it changed my standard of appreciation. Like a lot of people, I don't like what age is doing to my body. But after being in rehab, I am appreciative of what I once disdained.

If I can walk with two legs, even if it means using a walker for support, that's luxury.

If I can swallow and eat what I want, that's luxury.

All around me in rehab I saw people who could not do those simple things we all take for granted.

There was one moment that was especially sobering for me.

I was propelling myself in a wheelchair, maybe having a little private pity party as I wondered how in the world I have been reduced to a wheelchair.

They took the leg braces off the wheelchair and told me to use my feet to better negotiate. As I was peddling to the dining hall as fast as I could, I looked like a duck on steroids.

All of a sudden I heard the woman in the wheelchair behind me asking the nurse how come I could go so fast and she couldn't.

"Because she has two legs and you don't," the nurse said.

I swallowed hard and resolved to give thanks for all the things I can do instead of thinking about what I can't do.

The sights you see in a nursing home rehab center can make you resolve to take better care of yourself and to be grateful for every moment you have.

When I came home from the rehab center, I looked around my house and was filled with emotion.

I was home home with all of its comforts and all of its little pleasures.

David is doing a superb job in his role as caregiver. Because I can't so much as bend down to pick up something that fell, he is kept busy picking up after me and getting me whatever I need.

He is firm in saying there are plenty of things I can do, such as grocery store shopping. I was leery about driving one of those handicapped buggies because I never did it before. I've seen people in those buggies banging into others and I was afraid I would do the same thing.

David doesn't believe in the words "I can't" so off we went to Wal-Mart. He told me to wait at the deli line and get milk and yogurt in back of the store while he shopped for the other things.

When it was my turn at the deli, I wondered how I could manage to reach the high deli counter to retrieve my things. At that point a perceptive older gentleman came up and offered to help me. He looked quite old and frail but he stayed with me, putting everything I needed into my cart.

"Thank you for letting me be a blessing to you," he said. "I'm the one who always needs help from others. It makes me feel good to be able to help someone else."

It was impossible for me to reach other things I needed as I wheeled through the aisles but others generously offered to help.

If you're ever in a position to help someone in a wheelchair, do it. I know from experience how much a little help can mean.

My recovery is teaching me new lessons as well as renewing my sense of gratitude.

It is also renewing the beautiful meaning behind three words: home sweet home.

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