Erick and Crystal find there's a lot to learn about her new limbs
|Chapter 28 - Off and On
”OK, you two,” Candice said as they entered her office. “Time to learn how to take care of these so they last you a long time. But before we start, I have to say one thing. We didn’t cover walking today, so don’t try that till we do. You’ve both already noticed that many of these motions are not as easy as they look. Walking is one of those. We’ll cover it tomorrow but until we do, don’t try it, OK? All you’ll be doing is asking for trouble.”
”Got it, Candice,” Crystal said firmly. “I’ve already decided I’m not going to jump the gun on this. It’s too important to me.”
”Good, Crystal. I wish more of my patients could be that level-headed about it. OK. Now. We’ll start with the leg so Crystal can see clearly what goes on. Better view than trying to see your own arm,” Candice said, smiling. “You’ve both probably already noticed that the limbs are slightly padded on the ends for comfort, right?”
”Right,” Erick and Crystal said together.
”Be very careful taking these on and off so you don’t disturb those. They’re replaceable but not the cheapest things in the world. And you have to get the proper replacements when they do wear out because they’re a special design. See those little holes in the top of the padding? They’re there to let air get down through the padding so the skin on your stumps can still breathe, even when you’re wearing the limbs or the caps. That allows you to wear the limbs or caps for extended periods without depriving your skin of oxygen and without causing sores or irritation from too much contact. Once a week, under normal conditions of use, you should take the pads out of the limbs and caps, rinse them thoroughly by hand, let them air dry for about 2 hours, then put them back. That’s because the normal process of losing dead skin cells still takes place and you need to make sure the vents in the padding stay open. Now. While the pads are drying is a good time to gently but thoroughly wash the stumps like giving them a sponge bath. Since they need to be covered when Crystal’s in the shower, this is the time to wash them. But make sure you don’t have any excess water running down over the contacts. That’s why I said treat it like a sponge bath. Do you follow me so far?”
”Yep,” Crystal said.
”OK. Now. You were both likely too occupied with your own responsibilities during the surgery to notice, but watch carefully.” Candice slowly peeled back a thin but wide Velcro strap that encircled Crystal’s new leg, about an inch below where her stump began to show at the top. “This strap helps secure the limb in place. It’s intended mainly as a safeguard, but it fits snug enough that you have to undo it to take the limbs off. Crystal, hold the arms of the wheelchair to keep yourself from moving as I pull, and watch carefully,” Candice said. “And yes, use your right arm for this if you want. I’ll watch. Just be sure you watch the fingers and stop them when they’re tight enough against the chair arm. You can tell easily. If you can slide your right arm up and down the arm of the chair even with your fingers closed, they’re not closed far enough. I’ll wait. Go ahead. That’s what we’re here for.”
Crystal gripped the left arm of the wheelchair, then slowly began closing the fingers of her right hand around that arm of the chair. “Shoot,” she said, laughing as her first stopping point was too loose. She closed them a little farther. “Nuts,” she laughed. “This stuff does all take practice like crazy, doesn’t it?” she laughed. Then, a few seconds later, “I got it!” is what Erick and Candice heard. They smiled.
”OK, you two. Now hold on Crystal so you don’t let your leg move when I pull, and watch carefully.” Intent on her every move, Crystal and Erick watched as Candice slowly pulled the new right leg off Crystal’s stump. “Be careful to do it straight out from your body until the end of the limb is away from your stump. Same with the arm. Notice that the upper few inches of the leg are designed to stretch a little to fit snugly against your stump.”
”I noticed that it contracted a little when it came off,” said Erick.
”Exactly,” said Candice. “That’s so it’s not able to move out of position and break the connection by having the contacts not line up between the stump and limb. So it takes a bit of force to put them on and take them off. Crystal, do you want to try this or do you want Erick to? I want one of you to put it back on.”
”I think Erick should go first, Candice. Can I.. do it myself till I can use this arm better?”
”You could, but it would take you longer than Erick. So we’ll let Erick do it till you feel comfortable enough with the arm that you want to try. I’m okay with that.”
”Thanks, Candice,” Crystal said, relieved. “You don’t mind, do you, honey?”
”What kind of a question is that?” Erick said, smiling. “Not at all, darling.” He moved around in front of her and took the leg from Candice. As Candice and Crystal watched, Erick slowly, carefully pressed the leg back into place on Crystal’s stump. “Hold tight, baby, here comes the push,” Erick said, smiling at her.
”I’m ready, honey,” Crystal said, smiling as she watched.
As Erick felt the leg tap against her stump from that push he'd told Crystal was coming, he gave it one more firm shove. “Perfect, Erick,” said Candice. “I was about to tell you to do that. God you two make my job easy this time around, and I love both that, and watching you two work so well together. You’re making my day,” she said, grinning.
”Thank you,” Erick and Crystal said together.
All three of them laughed as Candice continued. “THAT’S just what I mean, she laughed. No one that hasn’t met you two would ever believe this, and I love every minute of it!” As soon as they’d all calmed down again, Candice went on. “Remember the Velcro strap, Erick.” Then she saw he was already fastening that too. “Geez,” she said as all three of them caught the humor in her “once again too late” instructions and laughed again. “OK. Now the same principle works with the arm, and I suggest that when you’re removing it that the elbow be fully extended so you’re working with a straight object. Much safer in handling than an odd shape. And you definitely don’t want to be dropping these,” she said smiling. "They cost about $68,000 each."
”OUCH! Got it,” said Crystal.
"You've got THAT right, baby! We're going to be VERY careful with these," Erick said, smiling himself.
”Any questions?” Candice asked.
”I have one,” said Crystal. You said we should wash my stumps once a week. Can we do it more often if I want it? If I feel more comfortable?”
”Sure, Crystal. Every night if you want. The once a week thing is strictly a minimum requirement. The main thing is to rinse those pads at least that often to keep the air passages in them open. Any other questions?”
”Is there any minimum or maximum amount of time I can wear the limbs at one time?”
”Good question, Crystal,” said Candice. For about a month, you should wear them at least a half hour a day even if you’re not going anywhere and just being lazy. To get your skin on the stumps used to the contact of the pads so it doesn’t get irritated from the rubbing and get yourself used to feeling the added few pounds on your body that come with them. That will help you stabilize your movements a bit faster. There's no maximum limit, though you should remember not to push yourself too hard when you're obviously tired. Now. After that month, whenever you’re having fun being totally lazy,” she said smiling at Crystal, “and want Erick to pamper you a bit like old times you can leave the limbs off and use the caps and let him carry you around.”
”I love that idea!” Crystal all but shouted as tears quickly filled her eyes. “God, Erick, I’ve been so excited about having the limbs I didn’t realize till Candice said that how much I’m going to miss having you carry me around! God I loved it in your arms!”
Crystal couldn’t stop the tears this time. As he stood up once again, Erick saw Candice’s eyes tear with emotion at the thought of that simple gesture that so defined the relationship between these two people she saw before her. The simple act of carrying Crystal around for so long had become the defining gesture of their relationship. And it hit them only when Candice had said those words: “let him carry you around”. Erick slowly walked up to Crystal, knelt down, and tenderly removed the leg again. Without a word, he reached nearby, picked up the cap for that stump, and pushed it into place. Smoothing out its Velcro strap, he walked around to Crystal’s side. “Straighten out your arm, baby,” he said softly as she sobbed. She looked at him quizzically as she did as he’d asked. Erick saw the question on her face. As he removed the arm, he said, tenderly, “You’re not wearing these anymore today. I’m carrying you anywhere you want to go.” He saw Crystal's face become distorted with renewed sobs at his wonderful words, and her eyes take on that now familiar look of total love and devotion. He quietly picked up the cap for her arm, pushed it into place and fastened its strap. Then Crystal saw his eyes fill with tears and heard his voice noticeably crack, more than once, as he said lovingly, “I’m not letting you miss those times, baby. I loved carrying you around. You know that. After that month is up, you leave these off any day, every day that you want and I’ll gladly carry you anywhere and everywhere you want or need to go. Because I love you!”
"Thank you, sweetheart," Crystal sputtered through her tears. "I love you!" Erick kissed her tenderly.
As they had so many times before, Erick and Crystal both broke down in a flood of happy, loving tears. Erick leaned down, put his arms under her shoulders, and hellped her stand. She knew immediately why, and smiled widely at him, through her own river of tears, as they quickly embraced each other, holding each other as tightly as they possibly could while they cried themselves out. And Candice’s own sobs could be heard in the background, a warm, tender smile on her face through her own tears as she watched Erick and Crystal cry themselves out. She silently told herself she was going to have a nice, warm, loving talk with her husband that night about getting a bit of this kind of romance back in their relationship.
When they dried their eyes a few minutes later, Erick kissed Crystal deeply, and tenderly, and gently seated her back in her chair. Turning to Candace, he said quietly, “I’m sorry, Candice. But at least now you have seen for yourself the real depth of the love Crystal and I share.” He tenderly leaned down and scooped Crystal up into his arms, holding her close as she lay her head on his shoulder and smiled up at him lovingly. Erick kissed her deeply.
”I fully understand, Erick, and I thank both of you for allowing me to see this kind of wonderful feeling in your relationship. You two truly are very special people.”