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.

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.