Flexing the truth…

My next destination after being released from the hospital was a rehabilitation center approximately eight minutes away. The doctor sent me there because I was weak and had moved very little in my fourteen-day stay, causing my strength to dwindle significantly. They explained I would live at the rehab residence for two weeks and receive continual physical therapy. I should have stopped the plans when I later discovered the physical therapy would only be twice a week for an hour each session, but I thought I knew better.

Bill from the kitchen staff brought me a surf and turf dinner with lobster, New York strip steak, green beans, and freshly baked bread, or so I hoped. Unfortunately, this two-star hospital actually brought me a chicken casserole, a dinner roll, and a jelly roll for dessert. Upon taking my second bite, the driver, Jan, arrived to take me to the rehab ranch, reminding me while she stood hovering that there was no need to rush. I quickly threw the food down my gullet like I was back in Marine Corps boot camp while the staff assembled my stuff for my speedy split.

Although I like to be independent and self-sufficient daily, Jan needed speed to get me out to the van. So, before leaving, she pushed me to the nurses’ station to get my discharge papers, and we completed any last-minute orders. Then, rolling out the hospital door, we pulled up to a side load, professionally painted rolling advertisement for this rehab residence. Oddly, they strapped me down sideways in the accessible van, whereas I have always faced forward. As a result, I felt like I was riding side-saddle on a horse as it walked along; I stared to the right, not seeing where we headed or had been.

It was still daylight at 7:07 p.m. when we arrived at a square nondescript building that looked like my high school. Jan pushed me through the double doors, and everything looked like a school after hours, with hard surface floors and generic art on the walls. Yet, it was a relatively clean environment with the smell of an antique store and the faint aroma, as if they had cleaned twelve hours ago. Next, we walked past the kitchen, where everything looked like old stainless steel beaten down from years of heavy use.

When Jan wheeled me to my room, to an untrained eye, it looked accessible, yet to me, the tiny room was only accessible with significant help. Truth be told, I do not know how they got away with these awful amenities that were absolutely an accident waiting to happen. All the surroundings in my room looked dilapidated, and even the baseboard was coming out from the wall. Likewise, the paint on the walls looked old, dingy, and like it would come off the wall any day. Yet, the staff was amiable and offered me sugary snacks at 8 p.m. I try to eat healthily, so I graciously declined.

The following day, I awoke bright and early at 7 a.m. and heard the sounds of breakfast service as plates clinked together. I got up and dressed as the smell of bacon cooking and voices conversing filled the air and made me excited about a meal served at a table. Unfortunately, I moved slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter, making getting dressed tricky. Luckily, there was someone to help me. However, when I entered the eating area, what I saw frightened me to the core, as it looked more like a nursing home than a rehab center.

There were plenty of older people with walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, and canes around the tables, which I expected. However, I could hear Susie; the orderly, tell Gretchen, the patient, that she could not stand and Bob, the orderly, tell Carrie, the patient, that she could not eat someone else’s food. I also saw Janine, the orderly spoon-feeding Gwyneth, the patient, as I sat and waited for my food. I sat across the table from an older woman named Dolly, who told me her life story and how she could not leave until they found her a place to live. This building did not say a place of rehabilitation, but screamed as if they crossed a nursing home and a mental hospital. Simply stated, I did not feel it was the right fit.

After eating my morning meal, I had to figure out who to ask about leaving because I felt uncomfortable in this place. As I opened the door to go, Lisa, the physical therapist assigned to me, was there, and I requested to see the decision-maker. Ms. Kaufman showed up so that I could plead my case and ask for a discharge, and after a handful of questions, she consented. Although I was happy that they allowed me to leave, I was a little fearful of the nightmares of what could have been.

The VA must have better options for rehab.

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