There is something oddly liberating about being able to pee in a bottle during the middle of the night instead of having to put on my prosthetic leg. “That’s one advantage you guys have,” a number of women have pointed out in recent conversations.
While emptying my bladder into a bottle felt quite natural in a hospital setting, it took a bit of mental adjustment to do it at home, in the comfort of my own bed. But when I weighed the alternatives, which could have included wetting the bed, it became as routine as possible. And I didn’t have to worry about maneuvering around curtains or obstacles.
Yes, I am finally back home.
On my first night, a dear friend stayed with me. In an attempt to make things as normal as possible, we decided to dine at a local Vietnamese restaurant and visit a nearby bar called Nocturne for a glass of wine. The bar owners had been following my journey on Instagram and were genuinely thrilled to see me return. They shouted us a glass of wine each. Even one of the regular patrons came over for a chat.
We also ran a few errands, like picking up some diabetic supplies from the pharmacy, and I scheduled an appointment with a doctor at the nearby practice.
I haven’t had a regular GP for quite a few years, usually opting for whichever doctor was available at the time. However, given my new circumstances, both the staff at Sacred Heart and my friends have recommended establishing a more consistent relationship. I have an envelope of discharge papers to share with them when I visit on Monday.
The clinic’s location is extremely convenient, just a couple of hundred metres from my home. I hadn’t noticed it before, but their entrance isn’t wheelchair-friendly. Luckily, the receptionist provided a portable ramp. I also noticed that one of the three local pharmacies isn’t very wheelchair-friendly either.
Since I live alone, many people have been checking in on me to ensure I’m okay. I deeply appreciate the love and concern expressed in these messages and phone calls.
On several occasions, however, I’ve missed calls because I couldn’t reach the phone in time, causing unnecessary worry. For instance, this morning, I had just prepared breakfast and was sitting on the balcony when I realized I had left my phone inside. After a few minutes, I called the person back, and they said they were concerned that I hadn’t answered. So, a message to my friends, family, and colleagues: If I don’t answer the phone right away, it’s more likely because the phone was out of reach rather than me having fallen over.
During my first meeting today with a physiotherapist outside the hospital, she emphasized that there will be a high risk of falls for some time. Having previously worked at the hospital, she had a good understanding of my experiences so far. We will be working together over the next few months to improve my mobility, focusing on aspects like balance and navigating challenging terrains, such as uneven sidewalks.
In the coming days, I have scheduled visits from an occupational therapist, the prosthetist, and a cleaner.
Friends have also been reaching out to arrange lunch and dinner catch-ups, or offer some help. I’m planning to attend ABBA Drag Bingo as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival, but in all these situations, I’ll need assistance from friends to pick me up and take me home. Even though I can wear the prosthesis, I’ll still need to use my wheelchair.
“How’s your mental health?” the physiotherapist asked me this morning, and I genuinely replied, “pretty good.” In recent months, I’ve been mindful of how much worse things could have been. As a white man living in a first-world country with an excellent medical system, I’ve received exceptional care.
Now that I’m back home, I continue to receive strong support from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and from friends who are always there when I need them.
On my first night at home, I felt some apprehension. As I settled into bed, the darkness was different from the hospital, and the sounds outside were unfamiliar compared to the past few months, even though I’ve lived in this neighbourhood for almost 30 years.
Even with a friend just metres away, I panicked a little and shed a few tears.
“I don’t want everyone to worry about the tears on the first night,” I told my friend. “I don’t want them to think I’ll fall into a deep depression now that I’m home after the safety of hospital life”, I added.
“The tears are perfectly normal,” she said. Maybe there will be more tears in the future, and likely there will be difficult days. But if I can focus on the positive aspects of my life rather than dwelling on what happened and the challenges I’ll face in the short and long term, I believe I’ll be just fine as I begin the process to get back on my own feet.