THE WALKER DERBY
When my son reached his 17th birthday, he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. The doctor put him on a diet, and we hoped for the best. By the time he was 19, he was rushed to the hospital with severe anemia. His colitis began to cause bleeding ulcers. His hemoglobin was down to a count of 7 when it should have been 13. Two pints of blood later and a seven-day stay in the hospital, he was released with a hemoglobin count of 11. The rest was up to us. He had been placed on one medication after another to keep the colitis under control. For a while, everything was working, not great but at least tolerably. At the beginning of 2011, the colitis took control and the decision was made. My son would have a colostomy. He wasn't happy. After all, he was only 45-years old. A colostomy bag was the last thing he wanted. Yet, on June 1 of that year, that's what happened. He had a full ileostomy. However, that wasn't the end of the problems – only the beginning. For the next three years, he was in and out of the hospital with one procedure, or surgery, or infection after another. Finally, his health began to stabilize and he seemed to be getting better but still hated that colostomy bag. In December of 2011, my mom had an accident which forced her to reassess her living conditions. She realized that she could no longer live alone, so in January of 2012, she packed her things and moved in with me. After we cleared out her house, we put it on the market. Mom was recovering nicely from her accident but still needed a walker to get around. My son's house was about three hours away from mine, so we were able to visit often. It didn't matter that I am his mother and my mother, his grandmother. He was mortified every time the colostomy bag began to fill. He would leave the room and hide in his bedroom until the sound and odor dissipated – which often was about 30-minutes. Early in 2013, a friend began doing research on colostomy bags and found a doctor who specialized in a different kind of procedure. It's called the Barnett Continent Intestinal Reservoir Koch Pouch – or B.C.I.R. At that time, there was one doctor in Florida who could do this surgery. My son made the appointment and it was determined that surgery would be scheduled for August of 2013. The procedure is a reconstruction of the small intestine using about two feet at the end to create a small internal pouch. The stoma is no wider than a #2 pencil which enables the pouch to get emptied a few times a day using a catheter. No noise, no smell, no mess. My son was thrilled. His stay in the hospital was about seven days but he insisted during that time we bring his grandmother for a visit. “Mom, I want grandma to see that I'm ok. After all I've been through and all her prayers, she deserves to spend some time with me, and I really want to see her.” I loaded mom's walker in the car and helped mom climb in the front seat. The hospital was two hours from my house and mom and I past that time easily since she had many questions about his surgery. Once in the hospital, we pulled a chair closer to his bed and while holding hands, grandmother and grandson spent the next hour, gloriously talking about health and family. The nurse came in a few minutes later and reminded my son he needed to get out of bed and walk. Lying in bed wasn't good for anyone so I encouraged him do follow the nurse's orders. He was still hooked up to an IV, the urinal bag, and a heart monitor. Anytime he left the bed, the pole with all the bags went with him. Looking at the pole, my son spoke up. “Hey Grandma, since I have to walk for exercise, why don't you come with me? I have my pole; you have your walker. We could race up and down the hallway.” My mom laughed. “I don't know about racing, but I'll take a walk with you.” For the next fifteen minutes, grandma and grandson walked the halls of the hospital, chatting, and enjoying each other's company. Once back in his room, he sat in bed, my mom sat in a chair and they talked and laughed about how they must have looked, with him pushing his pole and mom pushing her walker. Our visit lasted another 30 minutes and my son looked as though he was about to fall asleep. I suggested we leave since mom also looked tired and I had to make sure she had the strength to withstand the ride down the elevator and the walk to the car. We still had a two-hour drive home. We left the hospital and walked slowly, stopping periodically for mom to regain her strength and her breath. After all, mom was 92 years old and her stamina wasn't what it used to be. As soon as we got in the car, she perked up and said, “Can we stop at McDonald's? I'd love a cheeseburger!”. That's mom! My son was released a few days later and the first thing mom wanted to do was visit him at his home. They walked around his house for exercise and while she still used her walker, he no longer had a pole to push around.