Sunday, August 08, 2010

Shopping Adventures With Mr. AOW

(For any readers who may not already know, Mr. AOW had a brain hemorrhage on September 15, 2009. Previous posts about Mr. AOW's stroke and his struggle to recover are HERE)

Every Monday after the neuro-therapy session, I have taken Mr. AOW grocery shopping in one of our newest and biggest grocery stores near our home. Mr. AOW loves to go shopping in this particular grocery store because he gets to use an electric shopping cart much like the one pictured in this post. I transfer Mr. AOW from the car into the transport chair, a small wheelchair I carry in the trunk of my Hyundai Elantra, push him into the store, then tranfer him into the electric shopping cart. Such carts have hand controls, and even though Mr. AOW has the use of only his right hand, with all his background in riding motorcyles, he can operate the cart just fine.

Most of the time.

The problem? Left neglect:

Neglect is a syndrome in which the patient fails to recognize one side of the body and the environmental space surrounding this side of the body...Neglect is considered a deficit in directed attention....
I first began taking Mr. AOW on those Monday shopping trips on July 19. The first time, I stayed with him all the time and prevent him from taking out shopping displays on his left side. I'm ever the teacher, I suppose, and I've done enough research to know that left neglect will improve over time with sufficient practice. Furthermore, if Mr. AOW is ever going to be able to operate an electric wheelchair with safety, the issue of his left neglect has to be minimal.

In all honesty, my having to correct Mr. AOW before he made any driving errors occurred only rarely during that first shopping trip on July 19, so on the second shopping trip a week later, I let him begin shopping on his own while I took the transport chair back to the car. When I returned to the store to chaperone Mr. AOW's driving, I heard a big clatter: Mr. AOW had taken out the weighing scale in the produce department. Store personnel came running, shouting, "Are you hurt, sir?" You see, this particular store is located in an elite area where many lawyers live and shop, and the customer can do no wrong. Therefore, there are no recriminations when Mr. AOW makes a mistake with his driving.

On our third shopping trip on August 2, we had quite an adventure! This time, Mr. AOW insisted that I transfer him to the electric shopping cart in the foyer of the store, thus requiring him to go through the store's doors on his own while I took the transport chair back to the car. When I returned to the store, what did I see? All the hand baskets sitting on the left side of the door were toppled over, and Mr. AOW was nowhere to be seen; he had hit and run. I had to smile, particularly as I heard the store's loud speaker blare, "Service personnel to the front door."

The August 2 shopping trip was a big shop, and we had the basket at the front of the electric shopping cart filled to capacity – and then some. As we were getting ready to head for check-out, I noticed a pained expression on Mr. AOW's face. "Do you have to go to the bathroom?" I asked. He nodded, and I nearly had a meltdown. How would he get that electric shopping cart into the restroom?

We headed to the restroom area. Mr. AOW had to navigate rows and rows of wine bottles. I cringed, but he made it without incident and reached the restrooms. No way to get that cart into the bathrooms!

I looked across the hall and spotted the employees' lounge. More importantly, I saw a rolling office chair – one without arm rests. I said a quick prayer that Mr. AOW's sense of balance would be good enough for him to stay on that chair while I rolled it into the bathroom.

We made it! Oh, it was dicey. Mr. AOW had to pull forward with his right leg while I pulled his useless left leg forward. But we made it and with time to spare!

At that point, solicitous store personnel were hovering around to see if they could help and to make sure that Mr. AOW didn't get hurt. Meanwhile, I was concerned about another matter. How were we going to get the electric shopping cart dislodged from the restroom area? That cart was wedged in!

I boarded the cart, which won't operate unless someone is seated therein, and tried to move it. Unfortunately, I know only two speeds for that cart: full throttle or stop.

Of necessity, I had to back up the cart to get it back into the shopping area of the store. "Beep, beep, beep!" went the loud back-up alarm. But I couldn't go very far. I slammed into the water fountain, setting off a geyser of water. I'd go forward and slam into the wall. Back again, "Beep, beep, beep!" and another water geyser. More store personnel hovering, none of whom knew how to drive the cart. Never mind that the store was freezing cold, I was sweating bullets by now!

Finally, I gave up and retrieved Mr. AOW from the rest room, with him pulling forward with his right leg and me pulling forward his left leg. I transferred him back into the electric shopping cart. He maneuvered the cart out of the restroom area with no trouble at all! Back we went through the rows of wine bottles and to the check-out stand.

Our fourth foray to the same grocery store is scheduled for Monday, August 9. I'm sure that the store personnel will be pleased to see us again.

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posted by Always On Watch @ 8/08/2010 06:47:00 AM