Work anniversary

I’m in love with a new feature on Facebook- the memories feature.  Each day, it brings up my activity from years past.  It hilarious to read through to see what I was doing or thinking in years past.  Sometimes, I have no clue what things mean, but I’m sure I thought they were hilarious (poignant, important, meaningful, memorable, etc.) at the time.  It’s also fun to see pictures or posts that people put on my page.  It’s kind of like A Christmas Carol and I’m Scrooge looking to see what Facebook post ghosts will visit me.  Will I remember something fondly?  Will I wonder what the heck I was thinking? Will it inspire me for things to come?

This morning, as I sat in court waiting for the hustle and bustle to begin, I clicked to see what memories from years past Facebook would bring to me.  And this is the post that came up:

FB memory

Two years ago today was my first day back in court after becoming paralyzed!  Less than two months after becoming paralyzed, I was right back to the grind.  I remember the immense sense of relief that I had going back to the courtroom.  That moment gave me a brief sense of normalcy.  I remember being so nervous about what people would say, or about how I would be able to function.  I was worried about what my clients might think.  But as I went back, I realized that nothing had changed but my legs.  I was still me.  And actually, working was what helped me keep my sanity and get back.  Helping my clients gave me something to focus on so I wouldn’t be down on life.  It gave me a sense of purpose.

It’s funny now thinking back on that day when I got to go back to work.  Even when it’s frustrating, I still love what I do.  I get to help people when they really need some help.  What’s better than that when trying to not sink into depression or aggravation over things in your own life?  So thank you Facebook for reminding me of that joy I felt 2 years ago!  I’ll try to remember that feeling a bit more when I get angry or frustrated with life and I’ll try to channel that into all things positive.

Heels (or flats) to 2015!

I started out to write a typical new years blog. You know, talking about what I learned in 2014 and what I was looking forward to in 2015. All the things I was going to accomplish. It was going to be inspirational and motivational. The only problem is that it just wasn’t coming. All I could think of was “I want to walk” as a goal. But since that’s been an ongoing goal since August 13, 2013, that seemed kind of obvious. And easy.

I could make not quitting on 5-0 my 2015 goal. I wanted to not go to PT so badly today. I just wasn’t feeling motivated. The hubs said I could cancel if I wanted to, but that that was on me and he would not endorse or encourage that. (My mom is going to have a little chat with him if she reads this- not going is never an option on the table. She will take back her momentary lending of my rehab to the hubs if that behavior keeps up.) So, we went to Starbucks after I got done in court and then took my lazy butt to PT. I’m still not sure if that was a good decision or not. To say that 5-0 worked me today would be a gross understatement. To say he killed me would be an understatement. Let me put it this way- if my abs could jump out of my body and run away, they would. He’s gotten it into his head that merely walking isn’t good enough anymore. Now he’s focused on form. So rude, right?! The man asks so much of me. The good news is that I’m putting more pressure on my legs, so my legs, hips and abs are all dying. Well, he says that’s good news anyway. I think the good news is that I’m not putting as much weight on my arms, which means they don’t kill and hopefully will start shrinking a bit. I seriously am about to Hulk out of my suit jackets. Not cute. I suppose the good news is that I handled it like a champ. 5-0 has been playing really good music lately. My new favorite jam “All of Me” by John Legend came on and gave me a second wind.

So, tonight while I was repairing my sore muscles in a hot bath and debating whether I was going to ever have enough energy and mental power to get myself back to PT, I was flipping through a magazine. In the magazine was an article about how this writer grew to love heels after passing out due to 5.5″ heels or some such thing. She went on and on about how she used to hate flats and how now she appreciated this one famous model who wears flats. And how groundbreaking that model is.

Before I became paralyzed, if you had asked me what my biggest problem with my disability (I would have laughed at calling it a disability. It was more just my slight issues at the time.) was the fact that I couldn’t wear heels. I know that seems silly. Back then I walked with a limp. I couldn’t run and couldn’t walk long distances. Standing for too long was kind of tough. Balancing? Forget it. Yoga was not my friend. But none of that was terrible. I could walk. I could dance. I could walk. Oh, I said that already? I guess in retrospect that was kind of a big thing. My one complaint though: no heels. I’ve never been able to wear heels. At high school dances, all my friends would wear cute little heels. And I was relegated to flat sandals. In my single twenties when I tried to pick up guys at bars, it was flats. In Winter it was knee high boots which I could rock with a mini-skirt like nobody’s business! But they were still flat. My girlfriends in their stiletto boots were always cuter and sexier than me in my flats.

When I recuperated from surgery in 2006, I became obsessed with What Not To Wear. The message from Stacey and Klinton was always the same: women should wear heels at all times. They always went into explicit details about slimming and toning effects of the high heel. And about how it made a woman look sexy or more professional. Though I channeled them every time I went shopping and tried to tune out the shoe comments, it always rang through in my mind. There was also the fact that finding cute flats at the time was near impossible. The shoes I was forced to wear looked like something my grandma would have laughed at. It was a good thing I was always more of a tom boy, and learned how to dress up tennis shoes. And when it came to dating, I just hoped they wouldn’t notice my shoes. My love of dive bars made it easy to wear flip flops or tennis shoes on dates to play pool and drink beers.

The hardest shoe dilemma came when I entered the professional world. Despite all of my mother’s best efforts at pep talks, it was hard to not be envious of all the other female attorneys strutting down court corridors in their suits and shiny high heels. I often tried to hide my feet so no one would notice my lack of power heel. I loved pant suits as they better hid my feet. My suits were impeccable, and my briefcase on point. But I was always self-conscious about my footwear.

One of the best days of my life was when I discovered the Cole Haan female Oxford shoe. Not only could I wear them (i.e. they stayed on my clumsy feet and I could walk!), but they came in Rainbow Brite-esque shades. Blue with pink soles and laces. Gray with purple soles and laces. Red snakeskin with a gold sheen (USC colors- go Trojans!). So many amazing colors that looked great with a classically colored suit. If I’m wearing a black suit with a white shirt, who’s going to complain about my pink Oxfords? It’s become my thing! I specifically remember one day when I was waiting for a bus in Downtown Los Angeles to take me from the train station to the court, when a bus driver literally pulled over a bus to stop and ask me where I got my shoes. That was one of my top 5 favorite things to ever have happened to me.

But what is more important than the shoes themselves (is there even such a thing?!?!) is the feeling I get when I wear them. I’m not embarrassed of my shoes. I’m excited and confident. During a trial 2 years ago, my favorite client used to say to the bailiff “Check out my attorney’s kicks!”. Never did I think that anyone would brag about my style in footwear!

So now, reading this article about this girl finally trying to be OK with flats, like it’s a terrible thing, is pretty upsetting. The fact is that many people can’t wear certain things which society tries to impress upon us as being normal. Or sexy. Or the way to be. And it’s not OK to make us feel bad because we can’t. People are all different. If you love heels and feel better wearing them, then rock them! And if you love wearing flats, or, like me, are forced to, then rock those too!

So here is my self-motivating 2015 message: this year I vow to accept myself, flaws and all. And I will rock whatever I do. Or wear.

Happy 2015!

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.

Plateaus (or beating good enough)

My doctors have always told me to expect plateaus when it comes to my recovery. They said that it’s completely normal to have upward changes in my ability and then for a while I’ll flatten out and stay there for a while before starting to gain again. They said this as a way of encouragement. They didn’t want me to be sad or disheartened when I didn’t see improvements. They knew how I live for improvements, no matter how miniscule. I monitor my abilities (or lack thereof) so closely that I am usually able to perceive any change, no matter how slight. It’s those changes that motivate me to keep trying.

What my doctors didn’t realize is that I am lazy. Give me any excuse to not have to try, and I will take it. Yes, I want to walk. More than anything in the whole world I want to walk (mostly because I want to drive and regain normality). But, I’m also very lazy. I am still hoping that I will just wake up one day fixed. Afterall, I went to sleep and woke up broken. Why can’t it work in reverse?

But my doctors gave me an out. A reason to not push it. I would stand for 35 minutes (a target I hit 2 or 3 weeks ago) and then I sit down. Blame it on the plateau. I’m not doing any longer because there’s a plateau. I walked to a spare room in my house, about 50 or 60 feet (Note to self: measure so I know, cause that’s important!) and haven’t walked any further. Plateau again.

Somehow, plateau became synonymous with “good enough”. Am I saying there aren’t plateaus? No way. There are for sure plateaus. There are times that I try my absolute 110% hardest and I can’t do any better. But, if I’m not trying my hardest, and settling for good enough, then it’s not a plateau. My mom pointed this out in her honest-in-a-way-that-only-my-mother-can-be way. She told me the other day that I was giving up. And why was I not trying harder. I met this comment with my normal eye roll, shrug and “You don’t understand mom!” (Yes, I do revert to a twelve year old when I have no real rational argument.) She replied “No, I don’t understand. But I see what’s going on.”

This conversation started because my dad’s birthday is coming up. His birthday request is to have me to come to their house- a place I haven’t been in 10 months, because there are 4 stairs to get to the patio on the side of the house. He’s only asking that I get to the patio, because inside there are much more steps that there’s no way I could conquer. He’s asking for me to try to figure out the 4 steps. And the narrow bathroom. I think I owe it to the man to try to figure out those problems. This started the conversation with “I can’t.” My mom said that she knew this request by my dad would be like a carrot on a stick in front of a horse. At first I resented that comment because it almost seems like I want to be in this wheelchair or like I’m not trying. But, as my stubbornness left me, I was forced to realize she was right. (I HATE ADMITTING THAT!!) I had given myself solace in plateau when really I was hiding in good enough.

So this weekend, with the metaphorical dangling carrot in front of me, I pushed myself. I have 2 things I have to master: bathroom and stairs. I focused on bathroom this weekend. Because the doorway is 22 inches and my wheelchair is almost double that, I’m going to have to walk. So the hubs and I practiced. I strapped on my braces, wheeled to the doorway of the bathroom, got up on my walker and went for it. I walked the 7 or so feet to the toilet, turned around and managed to sit. When I toilet is only 16 inches off the ground, and you have pretty much no leg control, it’s hard to sit gracefully. Our biggest concern was to try to go easily enough to not shatter the porcelain. But I did it. Using as much control as I could muster, and relying a lot on my arms, I sat. It was the first time I sat on a toilet from a standing position in 9 and a half months. First time I sat without my wheelchair being directly next to me. That is a weird thing. But also a completely motivating thing! Inspiring even! But, before I could revel in that, I had to practice standing up. Standing from 16 inches with no leg control is even harder. The hubs held the walker and I tried to lift myself. Attempt 1. Fail. Attempt 2. Fail. Attempt 3. Fail. My arms just weren’t strong enough to get me up high enough to swing my legs under me. I was trying to contain my frustration. The hubs asked if I wanted my wheelchair. Every part of my brain was screaming “YES!!!” But, then, that damn dangling carrot of my dad’s party was there in front of my eyes. I had to do this. Attempt 4. Success! I was finally able to figure out how to maneuver myself so I could get halfway, muster some energy for a second push into all the way. And I did it! And then, just to push it, I walked all the way back out to the family room (about 50-60 feet). During the walk back, I didn’t even need to sit once. I took two little rest breaks, but was able to stand the whole time. Another first! I felt like Rocky at the top of those steps doing a victory dance!

So, I still have those pesky stairs to figure out. But, I figure worst case, I can always lower to the ground and scoot up the stairs on my bottom. Or I can be carried in my wheelchair like an empress being carried in a chariot. That’s the easier part to figure out. And that’s the task for next weekend. Because now I have realized that I can’t let good enough and plateau become the same thing. And I need to push as much as is humanly possible because the plateaus will come naturally. I can’t fabricate them out of laziness if I’m truly dedicated to getting back on my feet.  And I have to remember that the euphoric high that comes along with accomplishing new goals  is better than giving into (or fabricating) plateaus and good enough!

Sore. Soar.

I am sore.  Capital S-O-A-R.

Let me go back to the beginning.  A couple weeks ago, I became frustrated with my physical therapy.  I felt I was in a rut.  I’m not progressing.  The routines were always the same.  I wasn’t seeing much change.  I know that plateaus happen.  I am prepared for that.  But it seemed I was in a PT rut.  My parents came down to take me to a session.  The session started off with my therapist trying to put leg braces on me for 25 minutes.  No joke.  25 minutes.  Then I walked one lap around the room (about 60-70 feet) and then I was done.  She ended the session 15 minutes early.  I was frustrated.  I’ve been really pushing myself in pool therapy and seeing great results.  But then I have a session like that, and I’m frustrated.  There’s also the fact that I felt my therapist didn’t really get me.  She’d put a brace on and ask “How does that feel?”.  That’s hard for me to answer since I have no feeling in my legs….

I’m the type of person who lets things go.  I will just put up with things.  I put up with these sessions for months, because I just figured that’s what it was supposed to be.  And I didn’t want to say anything to upset my therapists, cause I really like both of them.  It’s definitely nothing personal.  My mom is like a pit bull when it comes to me and my health.  She will fight and protect whenever she feels that I am threatened.  She witnessed this session and she lost it.  She sees how hard I am fighting to get mobility back and was beyond livid that the therapist would be so nonchalant about the session.  She wanted me to call the boss and ask for a new therapist.  I don’t like awkwardness.  I decided to try to find a new place.

Keep in mind, I was spoiled by having the Drill Sergeant during my acute rehab.  He was seriously the best physical therapist ever.  He pushed me.  Made me work.  I hated him.  And I want to find someone as similar to him as possible.  Call me a glutton for punishment.  If I didn’t live 2 hours away from him, I’d still be going to him.

I was referred to a new facility by the pool where I do my swimming.  I looked them up and they seemed young but very educated and qualified.  I made an appointment for the evaluation with the head of the group.  He was probably about my same age and full of energy.  He seemed to know what he was talking about.  But what struck me the most, is that within an hour after my evaluation with him, he’d already contacted a prosthesis guy on my behalf.  This guy is going to make my bionic legs.  I’d been trying to get them made by a company since early December 2013 but they were giving me the run around.  I told the new therapist that and he was outraged.  The fact that he was willing to help me when he had known me for 50 minutes meant a lot to me.  That’s when I decided to break up with my therapist for good.

I’ve had 3 sessions with my new therapist now.  Each time, he has pushed me beyond what I think I can do.  He also explains the mechanics behind what I need to be doing.  He wants me to struggle and fight and do things the right way, versus sloppy movements just to get something done.  This is just like the Drill Sergeant.  With the DS, if I did something sloppy, I had to repeat it until I did it right.  This new therapist makes me do that.  With DS, I was sweaty by the end of the session.  My shirt looked like I had been doing pool therapy.  The new pt pushes me until I have broken a sweat, and then makes me continue even further.  DS was sarcastic and hilarious.  The new pt isn’t quite there yet.  But, maybe soon.  I warned the new pt that I would always try to argue and convince him to go easy on me and that he can’t let me get away with anything.  He said he never does.  So while he’s not the Drill Sergeant, he seems to be the closest I will get to having DS out here with me.  And as long as I progress and have someone who keeps me working, I’ll be ok with that.  And that is why today, after yesterday’s hour long session, I am sore.  And soaring.

Freedom Is…. My Ode to Pool Therapy

Freedom is…being in a pool.  Well, in my world anyway.  When I was younger, I loved swimming.  My brother and I practically lived in the ocean on weekends.  We had a pool that we always played in.  I was on a swim team (but really only because my sister was on it and I wanted to do whatever she did).   My family water skied as often as we could.  If it was water related, I was down for it!

In my teenage years, I didn’t swim quite as much.  I guess I just got busy with dry land activities.  I played softball in high school.  I hung out with friends at places other than the beach.  Then college and work became priorities.  And by college, I clearly mean partying, which involves liquids other than water.

But as I got older, my physical limitations got more pronounced.  While I used to play 3rd base on my high school softball, team, I found myself coaching an adult league because I couldn’t run anymore.  Dancing turned to watching dance competitions on TV.  (My friends Dr. Barbie and Mr. Dr. Barbie and I are pretty much obsessed with So You Think You Can Dance.)  My life of activity was quickly turning sedentary.  I fell so often that my scrapes were getting scrapes.  (And for the record, I still call them “owies”.)

But then I moved to the desert where I rediscovered my love of the water.  The hubs had a pool at his condo.  He would go out for walks with the dogs and I would spend 45 minutes in the pool.  There is nothing more freeing to me than to be gliding with ease through the water.  I can’t hurt myself!  Ok, well I’m sure I could hurt myself.  Sometimes I misjudge the wall when I’m doing the backstroke.  But, what I mean is I can’t fall down.  When I walk, there’s a good chance gravity will win.  In the pool, I win.  I am in my element.  Plus it’s apparently good on the joints and all that other medical mumbo jumbo.

Yesterday, I went back to the pool for the first time in nearly 7 months.  At first I wasn’t medically cleared because of my zipper.  No, I don’t really have a zipper on my body, though for repeat surgeries, that would probably come in handy.  I refer to my back scar as my zipper, cause it literally runs the entire length of my back.  Then my legs weren’t working enough where I would have been able to keep them down.  My physical therapist told me they would just float to the surface.  That sounded frustrating.  But last week they said I was finally at the point where they thought I could handle pool therapy.  The only down side is that there isn’t a physical therapy place with a pool out here.  The only one closed shop years ago.  But I did find a local pool with a lift, and I decided I could figure out the rest on the fly.

I waited for a day when my parents would be coming down so they could take me.  In case anything went dreadfully wrong, I’d like them to be there to help me out.  We drove over to the pool and I was ecstatic.  I couldn’t wait to get in.  I even bought a new swim outfit consisting of board shorts and a rash guard so I didn’t have to be nervous about being in a bathing suit in public.  We got there and were informed that the pool didn’t open for an hour.  My excitement started slowly fading into nerves as I sat there waiting.  What if I couldn’t control my legs?  What if I got tired?  What if I got stuck in the pool?  What if, what if, what if?

Then came the moment of truth.  The man who operates the lift told me it was ready.  As I transferred over to the chair, I asked him if he’d done this before.  He said he operated the lift every day.  I told him I meant, had he been on the lift and dunked into the pool?  He said he had and it wasn’t scary.  He began to raise me up and swing me slowly over the pool.  A couple old ladies watched me.  Old people love me because they have someone to feel bad for.

Then came the dunking.  My dad was recording it on his phone to put on Youtube.  I guess it could be used either as self-motivation or a way to earn a million visits if something went terribly wrong.  You can’t say the man isn’t always prepared.  I was finally lowered into the pool.  I unclasped the belt and pushed away from the chair.  My arms propelled me in the water back over to the side of the pool.

And it hit me: I was free!  At that point in time, I wasn’t the girl in the wheelchair.  I wasn’t the person with the legs who were betraying her.  I was just someone going for a swim in the water.  It was amazing!  It was liberating!  It was earth shattering!

It was exhausting!  Seriously and undeniably exhausting.  After 7 months of sitting around on my behind, I’ve realized exactly how out of shape I am.  And I realized how all of my physical therapy isn’t nearly enough.  For once since this whole mess started, I’m actually excited to be doing physical activity!  I can see where this will be beneficial, both mentally and physically.  I can work on leg movement, but then I can swim laps like a pro.  I can do work and I can be free.

I can be free!

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.

Drill Sergeant, et al

You know those people who compare everything they’re doing now to things they did before?  And the things they did before were always so much better?  (Ex: Oh, I like this bakery, but the bakery in my hometown made the MOST delicious cupcakes.  They were so fresh and yummy.  But, I mean, these are good too…….)  There’s a word to describe those people: annoying.

I hate to admit it, but I am one of those annoying people.  I hear myself doing it, and I can’t stop it.  The words spew out of my mouth before I can shut it.  Before I can even think to shut it.  But, to be fair, I find myself only really doing it (that I notice anyway) when it comes to my rehabilitation.  This is so not fair to my current physical therapists.  They’re really great.  I see them two to three times a week and they push me and encourage me.

The problem is that I had the benefit of going to the best in-house rehabilitation facility in the world.  I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere.  Possibly it was in the reviews I gave them.  But no matter, it was the best.  I was there for a little over four weeks.  I went in a crying, sniveling, scaredy cat.  (I left in a similar state, but that’s beside the point.)

Drill Sergeant:  My main physical therapist was often referred to (by me) as the Drill Sergeant.  Sometimes, when he was especially cruel, I referred to him by other names.  But, that was usually under my breath or after he was gone.  Also, besides the point.  He was seriously the best though.  He pushed me and did not let me get away with any of my normal tricks (read: trying to fake through exercises to just get them done with).  I remember one set in particular when I got stuck on the number 6 because he kept. making. me. do. it. over. and. over. and. over.  If it was sloppy, redo it.  If it was weak, redo it.  If he wasn’t paying attention, redo it.  I used my never fail trick of crying in frustration.  He let me sit for a minute to calm down.  Then he made me redo it.  I know, you’re thinking why was he the best.  It’s because even though he put the “UGH!!!” in “tough”, he was super fun and hilarious.  He cracked jokes while torturing me and made it somewhat fun.

Dr. S: Because Drill Sergeant seemed to always be on vacation or on days off, my other main physical therapist was Dr. S.  She was the complete opposite of Drill Sergeant.  While Drill Sergeant was crazy hyper and silly, she was mellow with an awesome dry sense of humor.  She pushed me just as hard and was always quick to answer all of my technical “But why?” questions.  She was a PhD which, I think she should have bragged about more.  Seriously.  If I had my doctorate, I’d probably throw that into any conversation several times.  “Would you like bread on your table?”  “Well, since I’m a doctor, yes.”  See, it works very naturally.  Dr. S and I also had a ton in common, which probably also led to me liking her so much.  We had the same first name.  We got married on the same day.  She often vacationed (and got proposed to) in the city where I live.  She’s from Chicago and I love the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  Her husband is English and mine speaks English.  See, the similarities are endless!  We’re practically the same person.

All of the other PT’s there were amazing as well.  I worked with just about all of them.  And the aide’s were great too!  They all got used to my emotional roller coaster of a recovery and were quick with the support and encouragement or with the kleenex.  I’m surprised none of them obtained stock in Kleenex.  Seriously, I cried a lot.

[Sidenote: My OT’s were so amazing that they will get their own post later on.  I mean, the people who gave me my first shower after 2.5 weeks and taught me how to pull on pants while sitting on a toilet deserve their own post for sure.]

When I was an inpatient, I was in therapy 1000 hours a day.  Ok, I think it was really 3-4 hours, but it felt like 1000.  I was always drained by the end.  OT started out fun.  They brought in Connect 4 for me to play.  Um, yes.  I can play a game.  They got more cruel from there.  Making me sit on the edge of a bed.  For a few days, that was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.  I specifically remember saying that I hang out with criminals on a daily basis for work (I’m a criminal defense attorney) and that doesn’t cause me any worries.  But they want me to sit on the edge of the bed and I was going to hyperventilate.  It’s really a very scary thing when you’re in pain, have no control of your body or legs, and can’t even feel them on the ground.  But, they got me going little by little.  They knew exactly what they were doing and how to do it.  In PT, it started out as torture.  My very first session, they tried to have me stand while strapped, buckled, barred and cushioned into a frame structure.  I stood for a “nanosecond” as that PT told me, all while crying, yelling, cussing and snot flowing.  The weird thing was that for all my freaking out, my go to reflex was to hold my breath and close my eyes.  Apparently I felt it was better to pass out blindly.  To this day, the common trend in my rehab is the command “Breathe!”  But, I eventually went from a nanosecond to an entire second to minutes.  They never pushed me more than I could do.  They mixed it up so I wouldn’t burn out.  They answered my annoying questions.  They put up with my emotions and terrible jokes.

So, it’s no wonder that at my new outpatient facility they’re going to hear repeatedly “Oh, at CS they had me do it like [this].”  Or “My PT at CS would have me do it like [that].”  You’d think they were rockstars the way I talk about them, or that they were the inventors of physical therapy itself.  But, in my limited world of rehabilitation, they are and they did.

97 days into recovery

Today I am at 97 days after my surgery.  I can’t tell if time has flown by or dragged excruciatingly slow.  When I was in the hospital, it dragged.  Sometimes I think it actually went backwards.  I felt hopeless, like I was never getting out.  I’d look at pictures of my dogs and think that it had been forever since I had seen them and forever more until I would see them again.  I genuinely worried that they would forget me.  Since then, I have days that fly by and days that crawl.  I guess that’s to be expecting.  It’s tough because I have never been a patient person.  I want to be up walking.  In my mind, I could get up and walk across this room right now.  Clearly my legs just aren’t getting the message. 

This morning I had physical therapy.  After strapping my legs into braces and ace bandages, I was able to walk for about 60 feet.  I look like a drunken sailor when I walk.  I can’t make the walker go straight.  The physical therapist I worked with today kept forgetting to move the walker for me.  The audacity to make me do it all myself.  Ok, I guess that’s part of the therapy part.  I’m always saying I want to do things for myself.  It’s just unfortunate that I kept pushing the walker into the wall, rather than walking in a straight line.  (Hence the drunken sailor remark.)  By 60 feet, I was pooped.  I’m pretty sure that 60 feet equals 2 miles.  Uphill.  In mud. 

Last week at this time, I could only walk 50 feet, broken up into 20 feet and 30 feet.  The week before that 50 feet broken up 15, 15 and 20.  Today it was 20, 20 and 20.  Beyond that, my legs were remarkably less wobbly.  Before it was like a baby giraffe trying to figure out these new stilt-like contraptions below my body.  Now they’re more like al dente spaghetti: not quite hard but not exactly a limp noodle. 

97 days in and however many more that it takes ahead of me.  Better than I was yesterday and not as good as I know I will be tomorrow.