Click the picture for the story of Calypso, the Three Legged Green Sea Turtle, and why she's my symbol

Monday, August 29, 2011

A New Spring In My Step

As should be evident from the fact that I'm writing this, I survived Irene. And what an interesting storm she was. I did end up walking outside, mostly just to say I could. The wind was not as much of a problem as I thought it would be. It knocked me around a little but not enough to floor me. So all in all a good experience. And now I can say I've walked through a hurricane.

Things are looking bright. In PT I noticed that my AFO (ankle foot orthosis), or lower leg brace, gives me a little extra push that I hadn't noticed before. The AFO braces my ankle, keeping it at 90 degrees. When I walk through my ankle stays in the same position regardless of where the leg is; the force I put downward at the toe transfers to the support on my calf, springing my leg forward. I have a new spring in my step!

Other positives have happened as well. In the pool I've been learning how to jump again. We've started this off by practicing bouncing over the giant lines on the bottom of the pool. It's rather fun, like I'm playing a giant game of hopscotch. Well at least when I'm forced to a high stakes hopscotch match I'll be ready.

Now I'm feeling pretty darn good at the moment. This is thanks to a number of people who surround me. I didn't get where I am on my own. These are the people who get me out of the house, get me to walk down trails I never would have seen, get me to swing on a swing set again, the ones who pick me up of the ground when I fall, and give me a shoulder to lean on when I need one. Thank you for taking me this far. I'm strong and I'm getting stronger but no one ever really gets somewhere on their own, not really. We all need support and someone to lean on occasionally.

Lean on me - Glee from JJavito on Vimeo.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Cripple in A Hurricane - 100th Post!!!

I'm writing this as I wait for Hurricane Irene to rip through the east coast, which seems as good a time as any to update people on my newest accomplishments.

Hurricane Irene

I haven't written much recently because of the start of the school year. I'm taking just a full semester of classes, all on campus this time. I took two classes over the summer to dip my toe in the water but now it's full throttle. To add to this wondrous experience I'm taking Organic Chemistry. Ich. I'll get through it. The important thing is that I get the exercise I need by walking all over campus three times a week.

My Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy teacher

Physical therapy goes well. I'm using the AFO (ankle foot orthosis), the leg brace that ends below the knee. It braces the ankle but still forces me to control the knee myself. I'm slowly building up my endurance with the hope that I'm going to be able to switch to it full time.

The newest development, my physical therapist put me on a stairmaster. There are two rails on either side so that I can brace myself with my arms while I practice stepping. I have enough muscle control at the moment to pull my left leg (the right leg is perfect) up and down on low resistance. As the leg gets stronger we will slowly ramp up the resistance. My goal is to get to the point where I don't have to hold myself up with my arms in order to use the machine, a task which even my physical therapist admitted was taxing.

All in all, doing pretty well. We'll be hunkering down tonight and tomorrow for the oncoming storm. I'm hoping it'll pass quickly, mostly because it limits my walking opportunities. Not that I mind a break from my responsibilities but I've already learned the consequences of being lazy. So here's to a quick storm and a sunny day after.

Check out the video below. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan (a tear for the end of the series) and the song below was played by a friend on my way to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. It's simply amazing.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One Small Step For Man (or Why You Should Never Tell A Therapist You've Been Lazy)

After my last post I received some mild scolding for lying out and not doing a whole lot. But nothing compares to when I admitted to two of my therapists I had been a little lazy this past week.

My first therapist Courtney is my aquatherapist. We work at the YMCA pool exercising my legs, arms, core, etc. On a normal day she works me hard enough that I collapse into a small puddle when I'm done.

It's my own fault for telling her but I try and maintain a policy of honesty with my therapists. Her response was to make we swim endurance laps, kinda like wind sprints in the water. She had me swim a lap, wait a minute, swim a lap, wait 30 seconds, swim a lap, wait 15 seconds... you get the idea. She did this with the butterfly, then made me do it with just my arms with a piece of foam between my legs so I didn't cheat. Then she had me use just my legs using a kick board. Then all together. Broken up with underwater jogging, crunches and a whole lot of evil. Needless to say the usual puddle I melt into had turned straight from liquid to vapor. (take that metaphor how you like)

On Friday, apparently not learning from my mistake, I told my therapist I had a pretty easy week. We never left the workout mat, working entirely on core and abdominal exercises. What I normally do is bridges:

They are a hard exercise that work all your core muscles. I've been doing those for months in various forms. Now to make them even more work I wasn't even allowed to have my feet on solid ground. She put an exercise ball under my feet to turn it into this:

I know I deserved it but sheesh! During the workout she warned me "you will be sore tomorrow so prepare to hurt." ...and I did! So I got my comeuppance in the end for my week off. Oh well the summer is almost over and I ended it with a bang.

Speaking of a bang here is something for those who have kept with me this whole time: my first real steps!

On Keeping Busy

Keeping busy is hard in between semesters. I'm done with my summer classes and waiting for the fall semester to start. Now normally I wouldn't complain about having some down time but this is more time than I'm used to having. My folk's "we will find something for you to do if you're bored" always has ominous undertones so it never sounds very appealing. So here I am, unsupervised and bored. I find myself lying down and lying on the couch. I'm fighting against it but my natural slacker instincts are playing against me.

My friends have helped me out by getting up and doing things like walking on nature paths and walking down town. I'm very grateful but I lack the something that helps you push yourself forward. I've always had the philosophy:
"If a therapist/friend/family member tells me to do some form of exercise or workout, I do it and give 100%."
My therapists always tell me how nice it is to have a patient willing to do or at least try everything and give 100%. Simply put I've learned that lo and behold my therapists really do know what they're talking about.

So I'm improving but I still lack that drive to push myself without someone intervening, which I will need eventually. How do people do this? I don't have the answer to that. Hopefully I figure it out before I have to this on my own.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On Biking and Puppy Tricks

As many of you know I have been experimenting with different forms of biking. I have used prepackaged electrical stim bikes, stationary recumbent bikes, handbikes...

My sister and I biking during her trip out to see me.

Stopping to pet an the neighbor's dog, who was adorable.

The view from a handbike.

To add another to the mix I am now using a stationary upright bike, the kind they use for spin classes. It is a little tricky getting on, since I have to hop, but once I'm on it's smooth sailing. I've been doing this for a little over a month and feel I'm really starting to get the hang of it.

Me on the spin bike.

My left foot stays attached using a pair of bike shoes with special cleats on the sole of the shoe. This is the type of shoe that lets professional bikers stay clicked into their tiny pedals.

I have good control over the left leg now, minus the ankle. The shoes keep my foot from going anywhere which allows my leg to use the bike as I normally would. This hints at a similar bike in the future, though not anytime soon.

My mom playing with the video function on the camera.

The bike is a vast improvement over the recumbent bikes. Though they offer more back support, the seated position is uncomfortable and not ideal. By having my back upright I can stay vertical and work on balance, keeping my legs and hips happier in the process.

The sign hanging on the wall, most likely from the spin classes. Yikes!

Puppy Tricks

Now I love my mother dearly, since she has pulled me through this whole experience. One of her perhaps less endearing habits is to say to me "hey why don't you just...", asking me to do some feat or another. She has a fond habit of doing this when we are visiting with company, passing acquaintances, when we meet random strangers... My family has taken to calling these my "puppy tricks". These tricks are not particularly difficult or bad for me in any way, but they do leave me with the odd feeling of being a show dog.

Here is me showing off that I can in fact pick up stuff off the floor: