My therapists have finally caved. Sort of.
There has been an ongoing discussion over whether to use a leg brace to practice walking. I have been highly in favor of using one, while my therapists wanted to wait as long as they could before using a brace. They do have good reasons for this: once you brace up a leg permanently you risk stopping the return of function to the leg. Since I have slowly been getting return of function to my left leg, I bowed to their experience, if somewhat reluctantly.
But now I've started using a brace as temporary tool. Since we only have limited options of what we can do in therapy (see my post on my surgical restrictions) they felt it was a good tool to use. They emphasized that we wouldn't be using it all the time, so as not to limit the return of function. It does strengthen my hip as well as get me more time standing upright, both of which are important.
I have been in favor of using a brace this whole time because it gives me another degree of freedom and mobility. When walking in the parallel bars without the brace I have to have someone manually move my left leg and hold the knee so it doesn't buckle (landing me on the floor). Since I've started working with the brace, I've needed a walker to help me with balance, but other than that I need no assistance. The brace isn't fit for my leg (since it is the center's, not mine) but it works close enough. I've been able to walk 3 or 4 times around the gym area (not sure how far that actually is, but its tiring enough for now). I can feel my body getting more used to being upright. Being able to get up and go places, that's worth more than words can convey.
It's not unlike after the accident, when both my arms were broken; I could hardly move, had to be pushed around everywhere, lifted into bed. The day when I was able and allowed to push my own wheelchair was a day when the world opened up again. It was a rush of pure joy. I've seen that feeling in the eyes of fellow patients; many were stuck in power-chairs for the longest time. When that little bit of control is yours again, your whole world shifts.
My next goal is to be able to walk well enough so that I am able to walk into the office of my original surgeon. A great doctor, he did fix me after my vertebrae were shattered. Where I take issue with him was his view on my progress after 1 month. Since I had not gotten movement back yet, he told me that I would be ambulatory in a wheelchair, but statistically speaking I would never walk again. Since I'm already walking, I should ask what my chances of doing cartwheels are. Give me something to do the next I see him.