Baby steps

There was a joke started in my family while I was in the hospital.  Back story: my sister’s baby turned 1 the day before this past surgery.  I have a knack for having surgeries around important dates.  The surgery prior to this one was on my dad’s birthday.  The one when I was 10 was just before Easter, but luckily the Easter bunny still managed to find me there.  It’s like I ask “when is the next holiday/celebration?”  and then I plan a surgery accordingly.  Or so it seems.

Back to the joke.  So because my baby niece is 1, my mom and I started joking that there were two new competitions between me and her: 1) see who could walk first; 2) see who gets out of diapers first.  Ok, so one of the glamorous awful side effects of back surgery is that sometimes the bladder is harmed.  Luckily (and I do count this as one of the luckiest things in my entire life) is that my bladder came back quickly.  So I beat the baby girl at that one.  Booyah!

The other one, well, she has me on that one.  The little angel decided to cheat.  She decided to skip crawling and just go straight to running.  Almost literally.  My sister got her a walker thing and from her first step, she was literally off.  And that little baby didn’t go slowly and unsteadily.  She went full speed ahead.  Cut to me who can barely take a few steps.  I’m like a baby giraffe on wobbly and unsteady knees.  I’ve been walking for 31 years off and on.  How have I forgotten how to walk?  And how can this little baby monkey just be up and running?  To add insult to injury, she loves to hang on my wheelchair as if to say that not only is she more mobile, she’s doing acrobatics on my wheelchair!  What I find comforting though is that she’s into cruising around on her own and figuring things out.  And by the time she wants to walk around with me and play games, I’ll be healed.  That’s my biggest motivation in getting back on my legs.

I’ve come to a realization though: baby girl is smarter than I am!  She skipped crawling.  She went from sitting there to running.  You know why?  Crawling sucks?  I’ve just gotten to the stage where I am able to crawl.  Not to brag, but I’m pretty good.  But, it still sucks!  My knees get dirty.  If I’m not careful, I get rug burn on my toes.  Getting back up off the ground is super hard.  It sucks.  But, it’s the most mobility I have right now, so I’ll do it.  And they say it will help me walk better, so I’ll do it even more.  And I’m resourceful so I’ve found ways to cope.  Toes get rug burned?  I’ll wear socks.  (Shoes cause too much resistance and I’m not trying to make things that much harder on myself.)  Knees get dirty?  I’ll wear shock absorbent knee pads.  (Funny story: before my surgery I was falling so often that my dad bought me volleyball knee pads to wear under my pants as my knees were pretty much destroyed.)  It’s hard to get back up?  I’ll keep doing it until I get up easier.  Little baby can walk better than me?  Use it as motivation to one day be able to keep up with her.

The Quintessential Chuck Norris Post

I could write a standard holiday/new year’s resolution blog post.  But, since my resolution this year is “WALK!!!” I figured it would be a short post.  In celebration of the new year I met with two of my doctors on January 2: my urologist and my rehabilitation doctors.  They both gave me identical feedback: no accidents = I’m doing good.  Looks like 2014 is starting off perfectly!

Instead of a new year’s post, I think I need to write about the single most important topic that every good blog talks about at least once: Chuck Norris.

When I was a kid, I was really into karate.  Like, really, really into karate.  So into karate that I dressed up as a karate student for Halloween 3 or 4 years in a row just so I could wear my uniform.  My dad, brother and I all went to the same studio.  I outranked them both.  That’s kind of my claim to fame.  I went to an amazing studio.  My doctors put certain restrictions on me, and my instructors followed those restrictions perfectly.  For example, my legs were pretty weak, so I wasn’t allowed to kick when sparring.  I still sparred other kids and they could kick.  So, to win, I had to become deadly with my upper body.  My most prized move was the ridge hand strike.  Someone would come in with a kick.  I would block the kick and use their forward motion to strike with the ridge hand.  Point. Game. Match.  I win.

My first big back surgery occurred when I was ten.  This was smack dab in the middle of my karate years.  My instructor came down to visit me the night before my surgery.  Of course he was there when they came in to give me my IV.  And I HATE needles.  So there I was facing a huge predicament for a young karate ninja kid: give in to the pain or suck it up.  I went with the latter.  My instructor offered to leave, but I told him to stay.  I needed to show him just how tough I was.  The nurse inserted the IV into my little hand, and I didn’t shed a tear (something I can’t say happens now when I get an IV).  I think he held my other hand, but that weakness is negated by the no tears thing.

When I got out of the hospital and was finally medically cleared to go back, my instructor took me back at karate classes.  At first I was on a walker and then crutches.  He modified the program for me and taught me how to protect myself with my crutches.  I was literally in a chair learning how to swing around my crutches defensively.  It probably looked ridiculous, but I was beyond stoked to be back in my element!  And, bad guys don’t discriminate based on disability, so it could have been useful.  If attacked, I could have protected my entire family with a couple swift slices of my crutches.

Here’s where Chuck Norris comes in to this story: one day I was told I had a phone call.  I can’t remember now if it was while I was in the hospital or while I was at my karate studio.  I blame facebook for not being in existence at that time, as I would have definitely made a post about it.  Living without Facebook is one of those things that modern kids can’t even fathom.  How did we communicate life events, relationship status or pictures of food back then?!  But I digress.  The point is, there was a phone call for 10 year old me.  I answered it.  The voice on the other end said “Hi, this is Chuck Norris.”  The rest of the conversation was a blurry memory because after you talk to Chuck Norris, he erases your memory so you can’t recall a thing about it.  There’s just a vague and hazy knowledge that you did actually speak.  Or, I can’t remember because of excitement, shock and disbelief.  All I recall is that he had heard of me from my instructor and he knew I was a huge fan and he wished me well.

As if the Chuck Norris phone call wasn’t enough, he then sent me a ton of things: signed copy of his autobiography, a poster from his show Walker, Texas Ranger, a cast & crew t-shirt from his show, and a bunch of other memorabilia which was displayed tastefully cluttered in my room.  I wasn’t the most organized of children.  To be fair, I’m also not the most organized of adults.  For years, I made it onto the Chuck Norris Christmas and Easter card lists.  He would send me cards and candy twice a year.  It was the highlight of my entire childhood!  In fact, it’s quite possibly the highlight of my adulthood.  Graduating law school was cool.  Marrying the most amazing guy?  Yeah, that was neat.  A box of Sees hard candies in a bunny box from Chuck Norris?  Best thing that has ever happened in my entire life.  Seriously.

Now, while I firmly believe that a phone call from Chuck Norris would wake my little legs up and cause me to walk again, I cling to the memories of how he helped me as a kid.  And I try to recreate it in little ways.  For example, in my therapies now, we have to tape my feet up so they don’t drag when I walk my 100 feet.  My physical therapist said she was going to buy Hello Kitty duct tape.  While they don’t make Chuck Norris duct tape (they should!!!) I did her one better:

ninja turtles

Ninja Turtle duct tape!!

So here’s to my memory of Chuck Norris and the channeling of my inner karate ninja.  I’m ready to kick 2014’s butt!