Barbara H. McNeely

Author & Publisher

Conquering Stairs

This is the second landing of the stairs, complete with a folding chair.

This is the second landing of the stairs, complete with a folding chair.

We live in a two-story house. All of the bedrooms and all of the full bathrooms are on the second floor. If you want to sleep in a bed, take a shower or bath, or find your clothes then you have to climb the stairs.

Our stairs are built in 3 parts. There are seven steps from the ground floor to the first landing. Then there is a right turn and three steps to the second landing, followed by another right turn. From the second landing, it’s another 6 steps to the second floor. For a grand total of sixteen (16) steps.

I wasn’t always so intimate with our stairs. It started in 2014 with knee problems. When every step is painful, you tend to avoid stairs. It turns out that shortness of breath is even worse. The first time I went upstairs after my surgery, I climbed all 16 steps at one time. And just barely made it. I was gasping for breath, sat down the first chance I could and stayed there for ten minutes recovering.

We decided to put a folding chair on each of the stair landings. That way I could take the stairs in phases rather than all at one time; choosing to stop at either one or both landings. Don’t misunderstand me though, this did not mean that I was climbing the stairs very often. For the first few weeks following surgery, I went upstairs one or two times a day – at most. During the times that I attempted sleeping int he bed, I would make 2 trips per day. One after breakfast to shower and does and the other at bedtime. However, most of that time I was sleeping int he recliner downstairs. So, I would climb the stairs once a day to shower and dress. And I confess to having at least one day where I didn’t ever go upstairs.

I developed a routine to manage the stairs and showering and dressing. All arduous tasks at first. I had a shopping bag that was always close at hand. It contained <>. All of which, together, weighed under 5 pounds, including the current book I was reading. So I would head up stairs with my shopping bag and, of course, my heart pillow.

Nancy on the first landing of the stairs

Nancy on the first landing of the stairs

Up the first stairs to that first landing, counting out loud “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.” Turn the corner and three more steps “Eight, nine, ten.” (One of the physical therapists had suggested counting out loud because she believed my shortness of breath was caused by not breathing. My shortness of breath was not caused by not breathing, but still I would sound the stairs out loud.)

At the second landing, I would stop and sit in the folding chair. I used my phone’s timer set to five minutes and would read until the timer rang. Almost always, I had my girl cat, Nancy, with me. She tended to follow me quite a bit during those first weeks after surgery. When the five minutes was up, or sometimes later if I was in a good part of my book, I would make it up the last six steps. Then into the bedroom where I would need to sit for another few minutes.

Nancy on the second landing. Taken while I was catching my breath.

Nancy on the second landing. Taken while I was catching my breath.

So it could take me ten or fifteen minutes just to get to the shower. It’s easy to see why it could take an hour for the entire process. Everything was an effort and standing was not much of an option. Hence, there was a shower stool that got a lot of use. It rarely mattered. Unless a home health person was due or I had a doctor appointment, I had all day with not much to be done.

During this time in my recovery, I had to work hard at being positive. Everything took so much effort. Each day seemed to stretch out to double its length. And no one could tell me for sure when it would end. I saw my surgeon 6 weeks after surgery. She told me I would begin to feel better at 2 months. I was a bit dubious about that at the time. But it turned out she was correct. Shortly after the 2 month mark, I was climbing the stairs 5 & 6 times a day fairly regularly. And now, at 4 1/2 months, I don’t give the stairs much thought and am even known to take the stairs rather than an elevator!

This Is Nancy

This Is Nancy


Hi, I’m Barbara McNeely, author and publisher in San Antonio, Texas. I help heart-centered professionals share their story with the world by: coaching them through the writing and self-publishing of their book. Additional services include website creation and Facebook business page creation.

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  1. Neta Zitnik

    I’ve heard familiar stories from my friends that have had heart surgery … Most were so fragile and disappointed in the healing process taking too long. I’m so glad you did everything “in due time” and are feeling the joys of life again! Hugs from Omaha sweetie … My regards to Dick too!

    • barbara

      Yep, fragile was a word that described how I felt for a long time. And while there were times that I was disappointed in my progress, I just had faith that it would all work out. Last week, when we were walking all over the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, I asked Dick why he didn’t tell me in June and July that I would be doing all this walking in October!
      Hugs to you, Neta!

  2. Rocio Chavez

    Open heart surgery is no joke. I had it when I was a kid so don’t remember the healing process well, just that I couldn’t go outside and play, which of course is torture for kids. Happy brighter days are ahead for you!

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