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.

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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!

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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.

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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!