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!

One year later

One year ago today was the day that changed my life. Was it the worst day of my life? No. I still consider that to be March 27, 1991. That was the date of my first major back surgery, and the date that my grandpa died. Despite the fact that that surgery saved the ability for my young self to walk and regain a normal lifestyle, that was the worst day of my life. One year ago today, I lost the ability to walk. It sounds weird to phrase it that day, but I think it’s appropriate. It’s not gone completely, it’s just hiding somewhere within my inner being. According to 5 O’Clock Shadow, my nerves are like a congested freeway and we just need the lanes to open up for the traffic to go freely. It may seem weird when people break things down like that, but that’s where my comprehension level is. When it has to do with medical issues and my body, my brain turns into that of a 10 year old. I can wrap my mind around that. Other PTs try telling me in their scholarly fashion “nerves regenerate at 1 millimeter per month and so far you’re showing excellent growth patterns.” My eyes will glaze over. Freeways and traffic I can relate to! I grew up driving in the traffic mecca of the world: Los Angeles. Traffic I get.

I keep thinking back to last year. I wonder if there was a precise moment when my legs went limp. This time last year I was under the knife. Had it already happened? Was it happening around now, as I sit hear one year later, eating left over pasta from last night’s dinner and typing this blog? If the doctors had ended the surgery now, would I have been able to skip out of the hospital? It’s a weird thing to think about.

I don’t know how to feel today, other than amazed at the fact that it’s already been a year. Am I sad? Indifferent? Optimistic? I don’t know. Is it possible to be all of the above? Obviously I’m bummed. I don’t think anyone hopes that one day they’ll get to have a permanent seat from now on. Though, to be fair, that is a perk: I never have to worry about finding a place to sit in public. But am I that bummed? It’s not like life is over. I’ve still been able to work, although it definitely took some figuring out as far as logistical planning goes. But, I’ve actually had my best year yet at my firm. So that wasn’t impacted. And I just got back from an amazing two week road trip with the hubs (more on that to come in a different blog). So I can still travel. I’m still able to swim. I can drive now. I have a new wheelchair coming any day now, so I’ll be 100% independent. I plan on ordering an attachment for said new wheelchair which will turn my wheelchair into a tricycle, so I can go on walks easier with the hubs and the dogs. Then there’s the weekly pain in the butt sessions with 5 O’Clock Shadow which keep me hopeful for the future. And the therapy I do at home helps me keep fighting to be back on my feet. So, is life really so bad?

This past weekend was my baby niece’s second birthday party. I watched other people running around playing with her, or carrying her and that made me sad. There was a pony ride involved and I couldn’t help her. I can honestly say that not being able to keep up with her or do all the things other people can with her has been the hardest part of this whole thing. But then I look for the positive: at her birthday party, I was like home base. I was seated in my wheelchair in a particular area out of the way of all the playing children, and she knew I was there. She would periodically make her way over to me with a toy or a blanket.

Maybe being non-mobile isn’t a terrible thing. Maybe it’s taught me that it’s ok to sit down for a while. That you don’t always have to be moving about. It’s definitely taught me patience. I know how frustrated clients can be when it seems things are taking forever and they don’t understand why. It’s taught me empathy for that frustration. It’s taught me to be resourceful and how to figure things out. This past year has taught be to get over my stubbornness and to ask for help. That’s it’s ok to need people. It doesn’t make you weak to not be able to do something 100% on your own. It’s definitely taught me to trust and who I can trust. It’s taught me who is truly there for me and who my real friends are. It’s taught me to meet challenges. It’s taught me that gravity can be really fun when rolling down hill and the wind is in your face. It’s also taught me that gravity can be really scary when rolling down hill and the wind is in your face. It’s taught me that sometimes life just sucks for no apparent reason and you just have to keep rolling.

One year ago today was the day that changed my life forever. And I don’t think it was in a bad way.

Bionic legs

Yesterday, I received a gift.  Ok, well, I paid nearly $3000 for this gift, but it’s a gift nonetheless.  I got my bionic legs.  These legs were custom made by this amazing prosthesis guy near my house.  My mom and I went to his office two weeks ago.  He put molding stuff on my legs.  It was similar to the stuff they use to make a cast when you break a limb.  The molds went all the way up to my hip.  Very awkward.

WP_20140312_003

He told me they would take about a week and a half to make them.  He wasn’t lying.  At exactly a week and a half, I got a call that they were ready.  We made an appointment that coincided with physical therapy, so I could pick them up and then take them exactly to 5 O’Clock Shadow (my physical therapist’s new name, since he always sports a very well manicured stubbly beard) to show me how to use them well.

I showed up at the office, a little nervous.  I’d been hanging my hopes on these braces.  In my mind, these would be a game changer.  Once I get braced up, I’d have no more excuses.  But, what if they didn’t work right?  What if my legs still couldn’t hold me up or work?  Rolling into the office, I was so nervous I was almost in tears.  Thank goodness for large sunglasses and beautiful Southern California weather that necessitates the wearing of said glasses!

Then I saw the braces.  They were awesome!

WP_20140328_002

The braces were put on me, as it’s kind of awkward to do it myself.  Granted, I will learn and get better.  But for the first time, they were put on my.  I stood up.  It was amazing!  I stood better than I had in months.  My legs felt straight.  My back felt straight.  I decided to go for it, and took off walking along the parallel bars.

Obviously, I got tuckered out pretty early on!  But it was a great start.  The prosthesis guy said that I had more determination than most people.  That made me happy.  I’m a sucker for positive feedback!  I then went to PT with new legs in hand.  5 O’Clock Shadow seemed happy with them.  We spent the whole session playing with them.  He’s going to try me on arm crutches as well as the walker to see what I do better on.  He said I’d have more independence with arm crutches.  So, it seems like a no-brainer to me!  Harder but more mobility seems like the way to go!  I do love a good challenge anyway.

V__0BFA

5 O’Clock told me to practice standing at home this weekend.  He also told us to get a gait belt for if we practice walking.  The hubs could follow behind me with my wheelchair and grab on to the gait belt if I started to fall.  We obviously listened:

If you’ll notice, my wheelchair is far behind me, and the hubs is in front of me filming.  Oh, and no gait belt.  Whoops.

Now, I am more motivated than ever to walk!  It’s going to be hard.  But, what about this journey hasn’t been hard?  But at least I’m feeling progress.  And that speaks volumes!  And my new mini-goal (cause my mom said I have to have one) is to walk into my neurosurgeon’s office next time I see him in July.  I think he’ll be awfully stoked to see me cruising in.  I know I’ll be stoked!

I also know that with my new bionic legs, there’s no stopping me now!