|(Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The bedside clock read 6:11 AM, and my brain had engaged, so there would be no falling back to sleep. Being the adequate husband that I am, I didn’t forget that this was Kim’s birthday – her 49th.
Almost every morning for the past several months I have needed Kim’s help to transfer from the bed to my wheelchair. Once in a while I’ve been able to complete this task myself, but it’s become rare. Given that this was her birthday, however, and she seemed to be sleeping so peacefully, I thought I’d give it a try.
I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to swing my feet off the bed and sit up with ease. The next step was for me was to lean forward as far as I could, almost kissing the wheelchair seat which was directly facing me. I marshaled the collective strength in my arms, my torso, and my legs, and in a coordinated if not graceful movement, I raised myself upward. I was standing, so to speak, with my knees against the front of the wheelchair. One hand was gripping each wheelchair arm rest. I took a quick breather and prepared for the grand finale.
This culminating movement requires me to pivot 180° counterclockwise and gently fall back into the wheelchair. In perfect synchronization with the body pivot, I have to move my right hand to the opposite arm rest and move my left hand to the bed. This may seem like a relatively complicated and risky maneuver, but when I’ve made it this far in the process I’m almost always successful with the final step.
I’m not even sure where the failure occurred. It all happened so quickly. I may have missed the bed with my left hand or missed the armrest with my right. Perhaps my legs got twisted or my knees buckled. No matter the cause, I found myself sinking into the gap between bed and wheelchair. I was as helpless as if I had stepped in quicksand on a 1970s TV show.
|Front view of a Hoyer lift, used for lifting patients into/out of bed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
A fall to the floor is not a good thing. First, I can injure myself. Second, even if I stick my landing (all 10.0’s except a 9.9 from the Russian judge) there is no easy way to get me up off the floor. Our recovery procedure calls for Kim to use an old, portable Hoyer lift that we inherited from my quadriplegic mother. We’ve only done that once before, and it wasn’t pretty.
But on this, Kim’s birthday morning, I hadn’t sunk all the way to the floor yet. If she could help me quickly enough, my transfer might be salvaged, although Kim’s blissful sleep couldn’t.
I yelled, “Code Red!”
Kim groggily responded with, “What?”
Only half awake, she had no idea what unintelligible sounds I was assaulting her with in the early morning darkness. Unwilling or unable to alter my communication strategy, I mindlessly repeated , “Code Red, Code Red!”
If time had not been of the essence, and copious amounts of adrenaline had not been coursing through my veins, I may have used my words to remind Kim of the meaning behind Code Red. A couple of months ago I was transferring from the shower seat into my wheelchair and I was having difficulty, so I called for Kim. I heard her talking to someone on the phone in the next room. After 30 seconds or so I determined that she wasn’t responding to my first call, so I added some urgency and volume to my request. “Kim!”
“Oh,” she said. “I heard you the first time, but I was on the phone and didn’t realize that it was urgent.”
Obviously, we needed a better system – one that didn’t rely on her interpretation of the level of panic in my voice. Here’s what we came up with. If I need Kim only at her earliest convenience, I will simply shout her name. If I need her with some urgency, but it isn’t a critical situation, I will shout, “Kim, code yellow.” When she hears this she will calmly, but without undue delay, stop what she is doing and walk over to assist me. If it is a real emergency, and I’m in danger of falling or in some way becoming injured, I need her to drop what she’s doing and run to my aid with reckless abandon. In this case I will shout, “Code Red!”
It seemed like a workable system. But then, as good luck would have it, no Code Yellow or Code Red situations arose for a long time- until Monday morning at 6:11 AM.
Finally, my urgent calls of “Code Red!” began to register in Kim’s head, and she sprang to action. With athletic prowess, she slid across the bed and wriggled one leg and one hand underneath me, and prevented me from falling further. She and I then began to work in unison to overcome gravity, maybe a quarter inch at a time, until my butt was on the wheelchair seat. “Great save, Kim!” I said in thanks.
I think this incident left a sufficient imprint in Kim’s mind so that when I invoke Code Red or even Code Yellow in the future, she’ll react immediately. In that sense, this near miss wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
Maybe part of the problem is that we need more creative terminology, instead of Code Red and Code Yellow. Suggestions?