The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Michele Bender

April 2, 2011

MICHELE M. BENDER | Adventures in therapy

— For the past 10 years, I’ve struggled with a handicap. You’ve heard the saying “Use it or lose it,” referring to strength and fitness. I spent most of last spring and summer stuck in a hospital bed. By August, I was the “poster child” for atrophy.

“You need therapy,” Doc insisted.

An ambulance deposited me at a rehab facility. On any given day, I can be opinionated, outspoken, ornery, and probably a few more O words. However, when I’m sick and frustrated, I can be a major pain in the dupa.

I was a weak and wobbly hazard, prompting the staff to raid the equipment vault and provide me with a bedside commode. High and sturdy, it was the “Cadillac of crappers.”

Even though I’d used them during previous hospitalizations they insisted that I practice until I scored an 8.5 on my “dismount.”

“We’re going to walk down the hallway. Laurie will follow us with your wheelchair,” announced Bill, a therapist.

The hallway was roughly the length of Market Street. It took me three months to conquer it, but I was thrilled when I could navigate it nonstop with my walker. The therapy suite was the size of the War Memorial. 

The large exercise room, filled with weights and machines, had a slippery linoleum floor that scared me to death.

My knuckles turned white when I hobbled along in my gripper socks, clutching my walker.

The suite also featured a kitchen and dining room where, theoretically, we would hone our housekeeping skills, anticipating our homecoming. Fortunately, no one was harmed when I scrambled my egg.

Some walkers have wheels. I successfully avoided those for eight years. I’m not ready for “fuel injection.” Plus, they don’t have brakes. But Bill insisted that I try one. He thought the experiment went well. Pushing my wheeled cart, I felt like a hot dog vendor.

Bill, of course, wasn’t the only therapist. Laurie, Britney, Bobbi, Debbie, Terri, Lee, Aaron and John coached and encouraged me, too.

My road to recovery was long.

I met other folks along the way, and I’ll share more of my adventures next time.

In the meantime, it’s good to be home.

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of  The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.

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