Trust.

Today was a body part at the gym day.  (I honestly don’t know what part of the body we worked out today because somehow GunShow managed to make them all sore.  Maybe shoulder day?  Maybe bicep day?  Pretty sure it wasn’t leg day, though he did still manage to get them involved and they are now steadily twitching as I sit here typing in agony.)  He was a bit under the weather with a sinus infection and he decided to take his unhappiness out on me.  Ok, I don’t know that last part to be completely true, but it is a very likely scenario.  I told him to take the time off to rest.  He told me I wouldn’t work out if he weren’t there.  I told him I would.  He apparently knows me too well. I would have gone to the gym.  And I probably would have half-assed it in a virtual class.  I love the virtual classes.  But, I also admit that I don’t push myself in nearly the same way he does.  Hence my need for his services!

But, the conversation also got me to thinking.  I sometimes do weights when I’m not training at the gym with him.  Again, it’s not the same way.

wheelchair lat pull downwheelchair lat pull downI don’t do some weights because I would need help (i.e. a seated lat pulldown [I’m sure the “seated” ).  I need help pulling the bar down to even do the exercise.  Sometimes I lose my balance.  I’ve never fallen.  Or even come close to falling.  But it’s still a really scary feeling when you have no control.  And that’s why I like having him there.  I know GunShow won’t let me fall or hurt myself.  I trust him.

 

I know that I’m a different kind of client.  I need more attention because things that aren’t an issue for other people are possibly problematic for me.  Like sitting on a weight bench.  A normal client can just sit down.  I have to transfer off of my wheelchair onto a narrow bench.  I have to know that I’m not going to fall off equipment.  Or that I’ll be able to get back up if I get on the ground.  These are considerations that I think about nonstop when I’m at the gym.  And that’s why it has to take trust.  My trust in him has grown as our relationship has developed while I’ve trained with him.  I’m willing to try different things that push me way [read: WAY WAY WAY] past my comfort zone because of that.  If I don’t trust my trainer (physical therapist, doctor, whatever) I’m not going to push myself or let them push me.  I’ll play it safe.  It’s once we’ve established that level of trust that I’m willing to go out on the ledge (so to speak).  And I don’t trust everyone.  Or many people, for that matter.  And if I don’t have the trust connection with someone, I will completely shut down.  That’s why I left a couple physical therapists prior to joining this gym.  No trust = not pushing myself = wasting my time and theirs.  But you have to understand how scary it is doing things when you can’t feel that you’re supported on the ground by legs that are meant to stabilize you and having a core that isn’t quite up to snuff.  It’s intimidating and daunting.  Even though past therapists would tell me to trust that my legs are there and still supporting me, it’s nearly impossible to trust that when you can’t feel them.  So when I can’t trust my own body, I have to trust the person who is working with me.  I have to trust my trainer.  I have to trust GS.

Another example: today we did timed bicep curls and I set the weights on my legs for very short breaks.  I had the weights resting on my hands because it’s scary putting weights on my legs and not knowing if they’re hurting my legs or not.  GS didn’t want me to cut off circulation to my hands by holding the weights.  I told him my fear of accidentally hurting my legs and not knowing and I could see him thinking about that.  I don’t think that’s something he had thought of before.  And I could literally see the wheels in his brain turning.  And then he said “Do you think I would let you do something to hurt yourself.”  It wasn’t accusatory like how dare I not trust him.  And it wasn’t feeling sorry for himself like he was sad that I didn’t trust him.  It wasn’t even really a question. It was a statement of strength.  I know he wouldn’t let me really hurt myself.  He knows that I know that.  And I moved my hands and let the weights rest on my leg.  And I did not get hurt.

Well, My legs didn’t get hurt.  My biceps are completely on fire.  But I suppose that was intentional.

Welcome baby boy

Holy crap, I’m a mom!  That was my initial thought when we were on our way to the hospital.  Well, it was actually “Hubs, what did we do?!”  He told me it was a little late for that.  From what I’ve heard from my friends who are parents, most new parents think the same thing.  I’m glad to know I wasn’t alone there.  But still.

Surromom called us to say she was in labor around 8:30 on Tuesday night.  The hubs and I drove the nearly 2 hour drive to the hospital to meet her.  The length of the drive gave me plenty of time to freak out.  We got to the hospital after receiving a few “hurry, they’re going to break my water soon” texts and calls.  My mom was there, so I felt better.  But I didn’t want to miss his birth.  (Well, to be fair, I thought that wouldn’t have been the exact worst thing in my mind due to my hatred and fear hospitals and all things medical after all my time spent in them.  Special shout out and thanks to my medical history.)  The hubs drove like the wind, as best we could on a night where it seemed like every cop was on the freeway, thwarting our attempts!

We go to the hospital just in time!  Well… just in time to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  And not sleep.  And wait.  We got to the hospital at 10:30pm.  They broke her water the next morning at 10:00am.  The baby was born at 12:54pm.  So, in retrospect, we could have stayed home and gotten one more good night’s sleep, had a hearty breakfast, pet the dogs a little longer for their last one-on-one time and taken a shower.  All of those things sounded wonderful at 4am when we were still awake!

Sleepiness in the hospital hallway at 2:35am

Sleepiness in the hospital hallway at 2:35am

My parents stayed at the hospital all night with us (something they’re used to do, thanks again to my wonderful medical past), though my dad did abandon ship and go to sleep in his car.  But my mom, the dependable trooper, stayed with us.

Funny side story: around 3:30am we tried to go down to the lobby where they had loveseat couches to sleep.  We all chose a couch and laid down.  The security guard immediately came over and told my mom and the hubs they couldn’t put their feet up, but that I was ok.  Hey wheelchair, you finally paid off!  I get to lounge while the others have to be upright!  Score!  Screw you equality, I’m using this to my advantage.  Well, about 10 minutes later, another guard came over and said to put my feet down.  “But, the other guys said it was OK!”  I said, in more of a sleepy stammer than my normal Italian bluster.  “Put them down.” He repeated.  I was too tired to argue.  But security guard 1 then shouted across the room that it was OK.  Not wanting to cause a scene in a hospital lobby,  and sensing that my mom was getting riled up to protect my right to lounge, I I just said it was OK.  It was loud and cold anyway, and not like I was sleeping.  We gave up and went back up the room.

Another side story: Around 12:20, our surromom’s nurse went on lunch break and there was a replacement nurse tending to her.  She noticed a weird noise from the monitors which we had all been annoyed by but at this point, had become background noise.  The nurse called IT to fix the problem.  At the same time, the anesthesiologist had come to check on her epidural.  The IT guy disconnected the monitor to replace the unit, when Surromom announced that she felt pressure and that the baby was coming.  You’ve never seen an IT guy move so quickly installing equipment before, as I’m sure witnessing the miracle of life was way outside of his paygrade!  The anesthesiologist told Surromom that he didn’t want to give her more medication if she was about to deliver, which he should know better than to tell a woman who has been in labor for over 14 hours.  Suffice it to say, she got her meds and he escaped with his life.  I was texting my mom to hurry, as she had been down in the cafeteria to get some rest and give us some space.  At about 12:50, the nurse was back, the doctor was there.  The nurse made room for me and my wheelchair (which felt huge and awkward and space consuming at that time) next to the incubator.  It was go time.  And I started crying.  Holy crap, I’m about to become a mom!

And then he was here.  All 8 pounds 2 ounces of him.  And they placed his tiny, goopy body on me.  And there were no more tears.  It was just this overwhelming sense of “I’ve got this, little man.”  Well, I had that feeling until the first time he tried to move his head and I shrieked to the nurse “What do I do?!”  And she showed me how to hold him and that he wasn’t all that fragile (something I’ve heard but didn’t quite believe).  Then, the calm came back over me.  The wheelchair disappeared.  My fear disappeared.  And I realized, that I do have this.  Little Mister and I will figure this out together.  He’s never been a baby before and I’ve never been a mom.  So we will figure this out together!  Plus, it helps that the hubs is such a naturally amazing dad.  So, what I can’t do, or what is hard, he is there to help with.  (I’m mostly saying this now because last night I was exhausting and he took 2 of the 3 night feedings and got up with him this morning so I could get more sleep.  Such a good dad and a great hubs!)

So in sum, holy crap, I’m a mom!  I will get through this.  And I look forward to sharing tips and stories of what it’s like to be a mom in a wheelchair!

mom in a wheelchair

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.

I’ll figure it out

Sometimes I forget that I am handicapped. Sometimes I forget my legs don’t work. The doctors say that’s a good thing. The whole mind-body connection thing. If my brain thinks it enough, it will start making the connections. I’m not a doctor. But I am a believer. So I’ll go with that.

Yesterday, as I parked at the courthouse, my assistant went to get the wheelchair from the trunk. I sat there in the passenger seat, putting my coat on. For a brief moment, I thought I was going to get up and walk. I didn’t really think about it. That was my natural impulse. I was actually sad for a second after I realized my wheelchair was coming around. But, it’s also motivation. I’m going to get there. Eventually. Eventually….

Another instance occurred last night. A new client called to retain my legal services. She has a case and needs a defense attorney to represent her. Not a problem. I’m a defense attorney. I can represent her. Oh, and her case is Friday. Not a problem. I will rearrange my work schedule to make that happen. The case is in the Catalina branch court. Avalon. Catalina Island. An hour boat ride away. A two hour drive to the boat. I told her no problem.

The hubs mouthed to me “How?!” I mouthed back “I’ll figure it out.” That seems to be the motto of this whole journey. I’ll figure it out. In the hospital, my aunt told me I had to erase “I can’t” from my vocabulary. My aunt is a physical therapist and pushed me the way only a family member can: relentlessly, unforgivingly, lovingly. The problem is that it’s hard to forget “I can’t”. Sometimes “I can’t” feels like “I’ll never” or “I used to, how can I not now?” Sometimes “I can’t” feels like loneliness. Like despair. Like a never ending black hole.

But, “I can’t” becomes what you make it. And that can change daily. For me, I’ve made the conscientious decision to turn “I can’t” into “I’ll figure it out.” I love a good puzzle. A mind game. A challenge. Problems are something you can figure out. For me, my legs don’t work. But I will figure out how to get them going again. It’s hard to get into the car? I’ll figure it out.   It’s hard to put on pants? I’ll figure it out. Turn it into a game or challenge and I am intrigued.

A year ago, I loved taking Catalina cases. They were like little vacations for me. I’d drive out on Thursday afternoon. Take the ferry across the sea to the tiny island. Spend the night. Go to court the next morning. Catch the ferry back. It was such a nice escape from the heat of the desert. I didn’t have to worry about anything. Now it’s a bit trickier. I’ve been turning Catalina cases down. Until yesterday. It just hit me that I don’t want to be punished because of my wheelchair. I love Catalina. By George, I’ll figure out how to make it work!

I called my friend Kiki and asked her if there was any way she could get out of work on Friday. She said she really had to go. I said “Too bad, cause I was hoping you could take me to Catalina for court.” “Now wait a minute!” was her instant reply. Suddenly her work schedule became a bit more nebulous. She consulted her husband who backed her decision to skip work to help her needy friend. I’m thanking her by way of lunch and the ferry ticket.

A year ago, figuring things out was easy for me. I’m good at multi-tasking and planning. I’m good at rearranging and finessing. These days, figuring things out means I am dependent on people. And I hate being dependent upon people. (Well, except upon my family. But that’s a different story.) I hate asking people for favors, or owing them favors. But luckily Kiki is the kind of person who does things because she is a good friend. Not because she’s wondering what she can get from me down the road because of it. That’s a rare quality in a person.

There are still days that “I can’t” will get me down. But I will continue to get out of bed. I will continue making great efforts. I will continue trying my hardest. Because to me, “I can’t” will never become “I won’t.” And on that note: Catalina, here we come!