230 feet

So apparently I’m at the point in my recovery where I need to be stoked by little accomplishments.  I was able to add an additional 20-30 feet to my lap.  It doesn’t seem like a lot when I’m sitting here typing that out.  That’s barely the length of a motorhome  or a good sized sail boat.  But, when I’m walking, it seems like the length of a marathon.  My arms and abs are killing by the end.  (I threw in abs because I just recently learned that you actually use your abs when walking and if 5-0 happens to read this, I want him to see that I’m doing it right.)  By the end, my arms are shaking and I’m usually a sweaty mess.  5-0 says that walking like that for me is like a normal person running a bunch of miles.  Sometimes I think he makes things up to make me happy.  But, since I respond better to positive reinforcement, I’ll take it.  And run.  Hopefully.  Someday.  There’s a PT student who is currently working with 5-0.  We’ll call her Drill Sgt. Jr., since she also trained with Drill Sgt. and picked up some of his drill sergeanty behaviors.  Anyway, she’s been working with me too and is way better at the positive reinforcement these days.  But, just to show off and get a “good job”, I keep pushing it a little extra.  Whatever it takes, right?

I don’t have much else to say about it all right now.  But, I do have video.  [Sidenote: The hubs took this video.  I will go to jail for murder if he ever films me from this angle ever again.]  I love having video so I can compare.  Hubs pulled up video from in the hospital where I could barely move anything and I was so frustrated.  And then video from 6 months ago where I could barely lift my left foot off the floor and was beyond stoked.  When I get frustrated, it helps to see the past videos to keep me motivated.  Recovery is slow as molasses, but at least it’s still progressing.  And I’m still fighting.  And throwing out those pants in the video!  Awful.  Awful.

Keep pushing ahead!

Thursday marked a huge day for me. Momentous. Amazing. You get the idea. It was big. It was another return to normalcy for me.

Before the surgery in 2013, I used to love taking cases on Catalina Island. Yes, the sleepy little island community has a one room court house and people do commit crimes there. Excuse me. They’re accused to committing crimes there. They’re mostly low level crimes revolving around drinking. I know I’ve talked about Catalina and my love of it before. I remember talking specifically about how stoked I was to go back there the first time. Well, I’ve check-mated that stokedness. (What, is that not a word??)

I had my first overnight solo trip since the big day occurred last August. I figured that there’s no time like the present to push myself. I’m walking better. I’m driving all over by myself. Why not try going to Catalina by myself? Plus, they changed the morning boat to 6:15am which means I would have had to leave my house at 3:45am. Um, yeah. I think I’ll cruise over the night before.

Most of the hotels there are old, multi-level, not so wheelchair friendly. But, there are a few that could work. The first one, that I was excited about, was booked when I called. Whoops. Did I wait too long?? I called the night before to book assuming there weren’t that many people in need of an ADA room on a random Thursday in their off-season. Guess I was wrong. Then I called two other hotels and they both had rooms available. I decided on one (it was $20 cheaper and well, I’m cheap) and booked it.

I left work on Thursday and drove down to Long Beach for the ferry. The cool thing is that I wasn’t even nervous. I practically grew up on Catalina. I know it pretty well. And the young guys who work on the ferry are so helpful to me. I knew that I’d be ok. The interesting thing was that when I was in line to get on the ferry, a man in line came over to ask if I needed any help getting on the boat or with my bags. I politely declined and informed him that the guys who work there always help me and that I would be OK. I thought that was super nice of him to offer though! The boat ride over was peaceful and uneventful (read: no dolphin sightings and no big swells). When we docked, a random lady in a really nice suit (yes, I notice those things because you can’t beat a beautifully made suit! In fact, my goal in life is to be so successful at my job that I can have all custom suits hand-made for me by some old Italian man. Not sure why he has to be Italian. It’s just the way I’ve always pictured it) asked me if I needed any help getting off the boat. People are so nice! Have you ever noticed that we focus on the bad things people do and not the nice ones? If you think about it, most people are nice. At least, in my post-trip confidence boost glow, I’m all happy on the human race.

I rolled over to the hotel and checked in with ease. In fact, after I checked in, I noticed that I beat some other people from the ferry to the hotel. I do tend to roll pretty fast. Why not?? You can’t beat the thrill of the wind in your face.

My room was so nice! Very easy to access and get around. I may or may not have fallen once when trying to transfer to this cool lounge chair. If my mom is reading this: definitely may not have happened. To everyone else: whoops, I did. But the rest of the night was pretty status quo: rolled over to a little pizza joint to grab a slice (man, my Italian roots are really coming out in this post!!), hung out near the bay for a minute (but it was cold and drizzly, so that was only a minute), did work and talked to a client for a while. The next morning I rolled on over to my favorite courthouse in California (it was literally one block from my hotel), did my business and before I knew it, was back on the ferry going home. Nothing scary or worrisome. All very easy and great! The kind of thing that makes you want to keep on trying new things!

I guess that’s the goal in life: to keep moving forward, keep progressing, and keep pushing yourself to try new things!

Persistence

Yesterday was a milestone.  Well, let me take you back a bit to put this all in perspective.

It was two weeks ago, Sunday.  I was sitting at home with the hubs when we decided it was time to do a little PT.  I strapped on my braces, grabbed the walker and went outside.  Decided a little fresh air working out might do me some good.  I wasn’t really sure how far I was going to go, but just set out.  I walked.  And kept walking.  And kept walking.  Well, I took two little seated breaks in the midst.  But the point was, I kept going.  When all was said and done, I walked about 200 feet!  With good controlled steps!  This was definitely the farthest I had gone since this little adventure began on 8/13/13.  Normally I’ve been walking about 30-60 feet on a good day.

The day after I had my marathon walk, I went in to see 5 O’clock Shadow.  I told him about my long walk and I think he was skeptical.  I did my warm-up, kill-me-now exercises.  Did you know that standing is actually harder than walking??  Yeah, who knew!  So then came time for the walking, and I walked across the room with pretty good gait.  But then I was pooped.  Then I think 5-O was definitely skeptical.  I tried to explain that I was just tired from the mileage I got the day before at home.

This week, I had another Monday morning session.  (Sidenote: I need to stop going in on Monday mornings to see 5-O, or I’m going to have to change his name as it seems Monday is shave day. I told him I was extremely disappointed and lodged a formal complaint. I’m not creative enough to give him a SECOND name!) I purposely didn’t walk as far on Sunday to preserve my strength for Monday’s session. We started out with the same warm-ups. He made me want to kill him by making stand. He pointed out that it is actually possible to sit too straight and told me he actually wants me to slouch a little, because what I think is slouching is actually the perfect amount of straight. Another “who knew?!” moment was had!

Then came the moment of truth. It was time for me to walk. I started out with a good walk. I made it to my normal stopping point with ease. Pressure on my legs, mostly off my arm. Smooth gait. Totally showing off for a therapist he was training who happens to know Drill Sergeant. Hoping that word will get back to Drill Sergeant about how good I’m doing now, because I was a hot mess when I was working with Drill Sergeant back in the hospital. He was a good sport (and by that I mean total mean jerk, hence the name) and I want to show him that I really did listen to what he said despite what my blubbery tears may have indicated.

So I made it to the mirror which is my normal stopping place. And then I angled the walker. “Oh, you’re making the turn?!” 5-O said as he pushed the walker behind me. “I’m making a circle. All your other patients do it, so why can’t I?!” I retorted. “I think you should!” he replied. About halfway through the circle of the whole clinic I said “Why am I showing off and pushing voluntarily?? Now you’re going to make me do this every time!” I despaired. “Probably!” 5-O laughed. By the end, I was exhausted, sweaty and my arms throbbed. About 2/3 into my walk, more weight went onto my arms and I was swinging my legs a little more than a controlled gait. But I still tried. I still focused. And most importantly, I made it!

I normally don’t talk too much about my clients on this blog. But, I have a new one who I will call Persistence. He is persistent in his determination to prove his innocence. He is persistent in growth as a person. He is persistent in his questioning everything I do (which he claims is to just help me, but I think secretly he’s persistently testing me, to which I reply “bring it!”). The reason I bring him up is that he inspired me to keep pushing through. Some days I’m too tired to fight for my walking. Some days I’m just bummed out by the situation. Some days I just find it easier to roll around than try to get upright again. But, as I wanted to give in to the fatigue and sit in the wheelchair that 5-O had behind me, I thought “If Persistence doesn’t give up in his fight, how can I give up in mine?”

So I made it to the end and sank into my wheelchair at the exact place from which I started. All in all, it was probably a 100-120 foot walk. The look on 5-O’s face really made it all worth it too! He was super proud of me, and I’ve said it before and will say it again: I respond really well to positive reinforcement. The bad thing is that he’ll probably make me do it every time now. But I accept that challenge and give myself a couple weeks until I’m doing two laps!

First wheelchair bound governor elected!

I’ve been lazy with my writing lately and had planned to write a different blog post today.  But, something exciting happened in America, and I feel like I need to address it instead.  I’ll get to the other stuff a different (hopefully soon) day.

Yesterday, Texas voted in the first Governor in a wheelchair!  I repeat, Greg Abbott is the first elected Governor to be in a wheelchair.  That is so amazing!  The voters were able to look past his lack of working legs to see what he could do for them.  I don’t care how you lean politically or for whom you vote.  I just think it’s cool that a dude in a wheelchair won a big, big, big election!

Greg Abbott became paralyzed when an Oak Tree fell on him after a big storm in Texas.  The year was 1984.  He’s been in a wheelchair ever since.  And he’s done amazing things ever since!  He was a member of the Texas State Supreme Court for nearly 8 years before becoming the state’s Attorney General.  Being in a wheelchair has not slowed him down!

When I first became wheelchair bound, one of my biggest concerns was how I was going to work.  I knew that mentally and physically I could work no problem.  What concerned me was how clients and colleagues would react.  I work in criminal defense.  I already have to overcome certain stereotypes held by machismo men.  They worry that a female can’t represent them as well as a male.  But add the metal wheels??  How were they going to react to that?

Before I became paralyzed, I sometimes walked with a cane.  And I had a limp which some days were worse than others.  It’s funny that now I’m longing to be back in that state!  But at the time, I was super self conscious about it all.  It’s funny the things that are important to us at the time, which later become so insignificant.  I was worried my clients would react poorly to the cane.  But now I’m in a wheelchair.  The funny thing is that I think I notice it more than they do.  In the beginning, I would explain it away.  “I’m recovering from back surgery” I would spout out randomly.  They didn’t ask.  They never do.  Sometimes they’ll ask if I need help with something.  But they never ask about the wheelchair unless they knew me when I was upright.  I feel like it’s an elephant in the room that needs to be reassured.  But do they even think twice about it?  I guess it’s the fact that I’m good at my job that they’re more concerned about.  My record and former client reviews speak for themselves.

I haven’t been in front of a jury yet since I’ve been in my wheelchair.  I don’t worry about that quite as much.  I hate that I can’t stand when addressing the court or questioning a witness.  But, I don’t think the jury will judge me negatively for being in a wheelchair.  If anything, it might help my client.  They might think “He’s accused of (insert crime here) and she’s not afraid to be around him, even in her weakened state”.  Could help.  Or maybe it won’t even matter.

I like to think that when voters saw Greg Abbott, they looked at his policies and his ideals, rather than his wheels.  And that gives me hope and encouragement for my own wheeled future!