Friday, March 3, 2017

The Art of the Transfer

One of the most daunting questions I faced after Jeff was injured was How in the world am I going to get him in and out of bed?

I mean, the man is twice my size.

While he was in rehab, a team of nurses and CNAs would march into the room every day and perform the transfer. They worked without speaking. Each one had a job. One was in charge of the vent tubes. One held his legs and made sure his feet didn't flop down when they lowered him into the chair. And the other two flanked him on his sides and would catch him and push him back into place when he would begin to melt over the side. I watched them with a mixture of wonder and trepidation. My stomach turned over at the thought of having to hire this many people to help me once we got home. There's just no way I am ever going to be able to do this alone, I thought. I remember tears of anxiety and worry spilling over my eyes when I would try to sleep.

Then one day two therapists took me into the rehab gym and told me that over the next few days, they were going to teach me how to transfer Jeff using a manual hoyer lift. Once we got in the gym, they reassured me that transferring didn't require the army of nurses and assistants that were currently mustering around my husband every day. That what I needed was training, practice, and confidence.

First, they put a sling under me, and made me lie on the padded table so they could transfer me to a wheelchair. It was the first time I experienced all this from the patient's point of view. Then they each took turns being the patient and I would help with the transfer. They taught me how to put a fabric sling underneath a person who was lying down. They taught me how to operate the manual lift up, move it into position, then engage the lever just enough to make lowering my husband into the wheelchair a smooth ride rather than a crazy carnival experience. They taught me how to pull my husband's torso forward and position my body against his so he wouldn't crumble to the floor. They taught me how to pull the sling out from behind him. Then they taught me how to do all of that in reverse. But mostly they taught me that it would indeed be possible for me to safely and confidently transfer my paralyzed husband, who was 9 inches taller and 100 pounds heavier than me, in and out of bed.

We used the manual hoyer lift for the first year Jeff was home. I performed the transfers with my mom's help most of the time. But my dad, Jeff's parents, other family members, a caregiver, and sometimes even friends would step in to assist as well. The manual hoyer lift was cumbersome. It didn't break down easily, so we just left it fully assembled. It lived in and took up most of the space in the office/junk room. Every day we would maneuver it down the hall, around a tight corner, and into the bedroom where it would do the heavy lifting of the transfer. Then we'd wheel it back. We did this twice a day, every day. The floorboards were smattered with dings and dents.

Then we had a big opportunity open up for us. We moved to a new state, bought a house, and began setting goals for how we wanted life to progress for our family. One of the first things we did in our new home was arrange for the installment of an overhead lift in our bedroom. We purchased it with the generously donated funds in Jeff's Help Hope Live account.

It was just like the overhead lift used in the rehab hospital where the mob of nurses would rally around Jeff for the transfer. But this time, it was just me. Me, Jeff, the lift, and the green sling. It was something Jeff and I had envisioned for ourselves - a milestone of progression and establishment: me being able to safely and efficiently transfer my husband by myself.

At first, that gap between his wheelchair and the bed, the gap we had to traverse every day, twice a day, may as well have been the size of the Grand Canyon. There was a lot of frustration, a lot of trial and error, a lot of learning and growing that happened in the span of that gap.

But eventually we developed a routine. And today, we're able to perform it pretty smoothly.

The art of the transfer may sound a little silly, but it is indeed an art. It's something we've performed over and over and over. And over again. My muscles have memory in them like a dancer's. My hands move in rhythm together gripping, pulling, holding - sometimes simultaneously, sometimes in succession. My feet make the same steps in the same spot on the floor every day. If I put down those sticky footprints that are used to help people learn to dance, I can guarantee I'd hit my mark more often than not during the transfer.

So I made a video of this unique dance my husband and I perform every day. I made it to give people a brief glimpse into a daily routine in our life. I made it to show what practice, perseverance, and the right tools combined together can produce. But I mostly made it for that scared, anxious, overwhelmed woman who is sitting in rehab with her injured husband wondering how in the world she is ever going to be able to get him out of bed by herself.

Here's how I do it:

You can also check out the original post where this video appears on AbleThrive!

1 comment:

  1. Kristen, there is a special place in heaven for people as wonderful as you! You make the transfer look so simple and effortless. God bless you and your family.