It shouldn’t surprise you that I’m going to talk about compression.
The last couple of weeks, I’ve been seeing a physical therapist with a certificate in lymphatic drainage to see if I can get the swelling in my right leg, which has been bad since the stroke and for which no solution seemed possible. My doctor referred me to her because he was worried the swelling would cause the skin to break down. I was already starting to see the signs of it: my leg was red, shiny, and hot.
When I was in the hospital nine years ago, they put my legs in casts for more than a week to shrink them down, then gave me compression socks to keep the legs from swelling up again, and I was afraid they were going to do that again. That would create problems, as there are stairs leading into the house and from the living room to the bedrooms (one of which is my office, where the computer is), and I wouldn’t be able to negotiate them. I explained this to Diane, my therapist, and she said that might not be necessary if she could drain the leg and find a way to keep it drained without my having to fight with compression socks.
Her approach involves wrapping my legs in bandages to compress them and having me leave them on 24/7, and using lymphatic drainage techniques to encourage the lymph to flow from my legs through the lymphatic system to my heart, where it moves to the kidneys and out through “the process of urination,” as they call it on some commercials. She wasn’t able to do the drainage my first visit, because my leg was so swollen it was hard, so she wrapped it in stretchy bandages to see if they’d soften up. That night, “the process of urination” kept me up most of the night, but I started noticing some improvement by the second session. When she took the bandages off, she noted that my leg had softened up, so she started with the lymphatic drainage.
I had gone to a lymphatic drainage therapist before the stroke, a man Mary met while taking courses in massage therapy, and remember it had helped a lot, and also was so relaxing I slept through most of the sessions. It’s a very light form of massage, where she strokes the skin from my feet all the way to my chest, giving the lymphatic system help in pushing the lymph up and out. After two sessions of that and three wrappings, my bad leg has shrunk down almost to the size of the not-so-bad one.
I didn’t realize how miserable lymphedema had made my life. It was like carrying around a cannon ball. We figured out that I had been carrying close to two gallons of fluid (that’s 7.5 liters) in my leg. That’s close to twenty pounds, just in my leg. I couldn’t actually walk; I was stepping forward with my left leg and swinging the right leg forward, and the more walking I did, the more my left hip hurt. I thought I was going to have to have it replaced. Now it doesn’t hurt.
Sorry if there’s been a little too much information here, but I’m just happy that things are back to normal. I’ve said all along that therapists should be paid well, because they work miracles, and here’s another example.
Another Stream of Consciousness Saturday entry. Visit Linda Hill for the details.