by Missy Price Lee
There are plusses and minuses to life in the quasi-hospital setting known as rehabilitation. The plusses: a capable, pleasant staff and generally good meals. (At Dresher Hill in Dresher, you get to choose what you would like to have the day before; i.e., a chicken platter or simply a multi-veggie platter, or platter-versus sandwich.) If you are what’s called self-propelled wheelchair-mobile, which I was not initially, there are activities in the dining room, like a “happy hour” with a pianist and lemonade or iced tea — no wine! (There must be a special place in Heaven for rehab entertainers.)
What of the minuses? Some noise is inevitable. Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT), though beneficial, are exhausting. The atmosphere is arid, closed-in, especially to someone like me, temporarily immobile without a wheelchair and assistance. (While I was there, I had — and still have — a broken leg in a cast so heavy it feels as though six books are piled on it.)
In the five weeks I was there recently, the feeling persisted that I was going nowhere, and in truth, I wasn’t, except to PT and OT every weekday. Of course, I was going somewhere, and eventually arrived: home!
There is a sameness to the days that after a time in residence made me think twice about which day any given day was, except for weekends with NO THERAPY! Otherwise, each day is one therapy in the morning and the other therapy in the afternoon. With that said, I have to give therapy its due: clearly, it got me functioning sooner and more steadily than I could have hoped to do on my own. I owe this largely to my OT and my PT, Witney (yes, spelled that way).
Witney, originally from Haiti, was tickled to know that I, too, spoke French, and I’m sure we set the PT room back a few notches with our back-and-forth Parisian and patois conversations. (These chats almost made up for the French Conversation I was missing at the Chestnut Hill Center for Enrichment.) The French made Witney’s oft-inflexible (if healing) commands easier to perform.
To milk the French connection further: our great friend, Claudia Beechman Cohen, of the Beechman vocal and performing aristocracy of Wyndmoor, met Witney when she came to visit me. She was kind enough to sing “The Last Time I Saw Paris” for us. The result was sensational: everyone in my room clapped — and clapped.
As a patient, I had one huge plus that is far from guaranteed. This is a two-to-a-room facility, and in that situation, one’s roommate is the luck of the draw. Or is it? I suspect the staff matches roommates’ compatibility to the extent possible. Matched or no, I drew an ace, a nifty roommate, Margaret Broomall, not from Broomall, PA, but Secane, which is close enough. We traded necessities back and forth, using my tray table as neutral ground: her sugar packets for my egg-shaped salt shaker. We often suffered PT and OT together, although our exercises differed. We met — and enjoyed — each other’s families.
And thereby hangs a tale. Missy Matchmaker tried to pair our daughter, Monika, with Margaret’s son, Sean, but no go: Sean already has a girlfriend. And did I read!! At home in Flourtown I never read in bed and barely finish the daily Inquirer, but in rehab, I devoured the paper, and books like Gore Vidal’s “Lincoln” and Edith Wharton’s “The House of Mirth.” I even re-read “Little Women” and “Treasure Island,” which, of course, I’d read as a child. I gave my Dover Thrift Editions to our darling Denise, for her grandchildren. She’d bring our food trays and promote as she served: “Hey, ladies, how about chicken in sauce, homemade mashed potatoes and apple tart dessert?” (This for lunch!)
My faithful family kept me going with many visits: husband, Dick; children Rick, Barbara and Monika; Barbara’s husband, Rick Stechert; and granddaughter, Katie. Katie, now 11, is a whizzbang in school, loves to dance as part of a troupe and sings with her church choir. With other children from China adopted at the same time, she and mommy and daddy visit a different site (such as Williamsburg) each year. Since the girls all came from Hunan Province, home of hot-style Chinese cooking, they call their yearly get-together the Spice Girls’ Reunion.
The Stecherts’ pets, kitty Natasha and good ole dog, Cooper, did not visit, but our fat cat, Sebastian, did — with staff permission in advance. Looking like an all-black circus lion, he rode in, kindness of Dick, in a cage so big we had to put wheels under it! (“I bought it online and miscalculated,” is Dick’s weak defense.) Once within, kitty exited the cage and roamed my room with the door closed, then snoozed contentedly on my bed. He scared the daylights out of the one staff member who popped in the room at that moment; she popped right out again.
Now that I’m home, who am I to complain? To recall the movie of the same name, this has NOT been My Favorite Year. I will say that rehab was a positive experience and let it go at that.
Dresher Hill Health and Rehabilitation Center is at 1390 Camp Hill Road (at Susquehanna Avenue), Dresher, PA 19034. 215-643-0600, www.dresherhillskillednursing,com. Missy Price Lee, 79, reads and writes in Flourtown. (No ‘rithmetic, though). She and her husband, Richard, have written more than 20 books, as well as many feature articles for the Local.