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

Friday, May 25, 2012

My story as of today.

I was 20 at the time of my accident. I've moved around a bit in my lifetime. My dad worked in the army and then the Public Health Service. We moved everywhere from West Virginia, Germany, Wisconsin, to Seattle. Not strongly connected to one place very closely, I was going to college at Colorado State while my parents lived in North Carolina. Minus a few crazy events here and there I had a pretty boring childhood and early adulthood. I had never even had a broken bone.

Me pretending I know what I'm doing on a longboard.

After spending Christmas with friends, I flew out to spend New Years with my family. We were up in Maryland where much of my extended family lives.

THE ACCIDENT - December 29th, 2009.
The plan was to spend a few days in the Baltimore area then drive home to North Carolina the day of the 29th. I've always hated long car rides, so I always tried to sleep through them. I figured I'd be sleeping the entire ride to North Carolina, so I spent the entire night before my accident playing video games on my little cousin's XBOX (Lego Indiana Jones). I was asleep practically before we left my Aunt and Uncle's driveway. I did wake-up momentarily to hug my older sister as we dropped her off at the airport but otherwise I was down for the count.

How I spent the last night before the accident. I finished the entire game about 30 minutes before everyone woke up.

I slept in the back seat up against the door with my seat-belt on. From what I'm told, my Dad was driving on the freeway when he saw the car ahead of him stop suddenly. My dad slammed on the breaks and our car started spinning wildly out of control. Our car slammed into the bumper of a neighboring truck.

My Mom was in the front seat and had been knocked unconscious. My dad, awake and unharmed, told me later that I was screaming my head off; I have no memory of this. They shipped my off to Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland. I had two of my vertebrae (L1 and L2) completely shattered, broke both arms, and had lots of other internal damage. They put two stabilizing rods on either side of my spine but the surgeons felt it was better not do any surgery that could damage potentially intact nerves. The bones in my arms were set and a metal rod was placed in each.

I broke L1 and L2(top of Lumbar curve) but my injury level is considered T10(bottom of Thoracic curve) since that was the initial line of what I could move.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Out of the Fire and Into Purgatory

I'm finally out of the hospital, which is a relief. I still have the four drains in and I'm waiting for the wound care company to send in a portable Wound V.A.C., a machine that creates a vacuum to close a wound faster. I'm allowed to walk around but that is pretty much all I'm allowed to do. I'm on spinal restrictions: no twisting, no lifting over 5 lbs, and no bending.

No bending! Doctors never let me do anything fun...

I'm mostly just bored. Summer vacation is finally here and I have nothing to do. I'd normally not complain but we're staying in Baltimore for an extra two more weeks. It doesn't make sense to go home yet with all of the doctor's appointments and checkups I'll need. This leaves me in a small apartment with with nothing to do. I can catch up on my favorite shows, read a book, take a few walks here and there, etc. I'm not itching to get out of here yet but I can feel it coming.

On a more cheerful note I was the winner of Johns Hopkins Annual Turtle Derby! Proceeds go to benefit the Children's Center at Johns Hopkins. It's a $10 fee to enter a turtle into the Derby. In my last post I mentioned I was entering a turtle and had named her Calypso. I was never expecting to hear about her again but she won 1st place! Sadly I wasn't able to attend because I had been put on bed rest but I won a cool blue ribbon and $100! Since the initial seed money was from my mother I owe her that back but that means I earned a cool $90 from turtle racing. Who knew turtle racing would be so lucrative?

This is from last year's Turtle Derby. I haven't been able to locate any pictures from this years. :( If anyone is able to find any send me the link.

I'll get back to my old self again soon enough. I'm already moving around better than I was and improving every day. Assuming that I actually heal up right this time I'll be back to limping around at turtle pace before you know it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Back to Surgery. Again.

I'm getting really tired of saying this but I am back in the hospital for surgery again. For those who have been following my progress, it was noticed last Friday that I had a part of my back that was swelling upward. It was not exactly a bubble just yet but there was a good chance it was going to be. By Sunday it was clear that it really was another bubble. It was expanding and it was very squishy.

Sunday we went to the new Johns Hopkins ER. As expected we spent almost the entire day waiting around. They kept the patients occupied by providing cable on a big screen TV and a less than comfy bed. They did finally move me to a room of my own at 4am the following morning. This was the new addition to Hopkins that they have been working on for months. It is really pretty cool. They have a new ER, MRI machine, operating rooms, and tons of different floors for every occasion. I'm on the 12th floor and get a really cool view of Baltimore. The building itself is remarkably pretty.

They just starting moving their staff over here about 2 weeks ago.

The surgery was virtually identical to the last one I had in March. They went in and flushed out the whole area, sucking out any pockets of puss that the bacteria would have caused. Plastic surgery closed me up, pulling flaps of muscle from either side, filling in the space. This will hopefully prevent bacteria from growing as they will have no room to grow. They are putting me on different antibiotics to hopefully get rid of the bacteria that may have escaped the surgery.

My surgeons and myself are worried that the bacteria managed to find their way into the hardware in my back. There is some evidence to support this: the fact that these infections on my back crop seemingly for no reason and they've returned 3 times now. It is curable but it very difficult to remove once they've found their way onto the hardware. In the meantime all we can do is to keep clearing out any bubbles that form and try various antibiotics.

For now I'm waiting to heal and see what happens. I have four JP drains in this round. After the last surgery I had three drains in and said I was turning into a horse. Now I've got four drains and a central vacuum drain pump. I don't feel like a horse this time but instead feel like I'm turning into Doc Ock from Spider Man.

All the surgeries fortunately haven't turned me evil... yet.

On a more cheerful note, I'm entering a turtle into John's Hopkins 81st Annual Turtle Derby. It is a turtle race held by Johns Hopkins every year to  benefit Child Life at Hopkins Children’s and the Perkins Day Care Center, a nearby Johns Hopkins affiliate. When my mother passed by the booth for the Turtle Derby she immediately thought of me. It is a ten dollar donation to enter in a turtle which you are allowed to name. I named mine Calypso.

First one that makes it to the edge of the circle wins. Click the picture at the top of the page (or here) to read about Calypso the three legged Sea Turtle. 

For now I'm on bed rest while my back heals. I'll make sure to keep everyone in the loop as things develop. All I can really do at this point is wait; waiting of course is the most annoying, tedious, and essential part of the process. Wish me luck and root for Calypso in the Turtle Derby.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Boot Camp Day 2-3: Exciting Possibilities

Days two and three of Boot Camp have gone pretty smoothly. There are a few things that are exciting, ignoring the grueling exercises to build strength and endurance. The two most exciting were getting to trial a new type of ankle brace and getting to work on one of their high-tech treadmills.

Carbon Fiber AFO (Ankle-Foot Orthosis)

This model has a ton less material compared to my old AFO.

The carbon fiber AFO is made of stronger material than the soft plastic one I'm using now. This allows them to use less material. My real one most likely won't look exactly this; it may have more straps, more plastic along the sides, and I will likely need some kind ankle stabilizer to keep it from rolling. Regardless of what it end up looking like it is something to work toward. I will likely be trialing a few different models in the coming week and a half. I won't be ready to switch to the new brace full time right away but just having a goal will help me push myself forward.

Split-belt Treadmill

The model in the PT gym had belts that looked like tank treads. I secretly hoped it transformed into a tank and would run down its enemies. Sadly it was not and did not.

This is essentially just a treadmill with a bunch of extra functions but it was cool to test out some of these "fun" features. For instance, the two belts are capable of moving at different speeds. The treads can also move backwards, and at an incline.

Okay it's not really all that exciting but it beats walking in place and staring at a wall. These different features help to challenge my balance, strength, and coordination through walking.It's simply another tool in my therapist's arsenal.These will include different walking devices, leg supports, electrical stimulation units, and a wii (I have played it during past trips though not during this one. Yet.) We'll see what I end up using and what I will take away and use in my PT program at home.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Boot Camp Time Again

It's that time of year again. BOOT CAMP! For any who doesn't know, Boot Camp is the name given by the staff at Kennedy Krieger Institute for a two week booster shot to my therapy program. Twice a year I go for two weeks to work 5 days a week for 3 hours a day. While this is not a substitute for regular PT, it allows my original physical therapists to see my progress and point me in new and exciting directions.

The first day is always evaluations, tests, and the like. I don't generally do a whole lot of work the first day, being the object of intense scrutiny by my therapists. After the initial tests we spent most of the rest of the session brainstorming possible goals and ways to achieve them. This sounds simple but if you have ever tried to write down a list of concrete achievable goals you will know how hard this is.

My widest goal is to walk without the need for my cane. I can already do this for short periods of time. The problem is that if I do this for more than a couple minutes the muscles holding me up get fatigued. I simply don't have the endurance to walk around without the cane just yet but I'm getting there.

Along this vein there are various strengthening exercises we will fine tune. We'll also be working on balance, which has improved greatly over the past year but is still not where I want it to be. Finally we'll be working on gait, fixing my walking pattern so that I don't waste energy or trip and hurt myself. There are various ways these can all be done, using some tools that I've used before and probably some that are new to me. I deliberately told my therapist to try any off-the-wall ideas she may have, that I'm willing to try most anything. This tact has yielded successful, if somewhat odd, results in the past.

I'm not sure of everything I'll be doing in the next two weeks. What I do know is that it'll be insanely hard work and will help me improve in the long run. I have no illusions that it'll heal me overnight but if it kicks me off my butt and spurs me on to bigger and better things it's worth every second.

One last thing. When it came time for lunch we decided to try a new restaurant. On a sidepath off the parking lot we found a rock garden that had been decorated with giant stone turtles. Thanks to the wonders of the internet I learned that a group of turtles is called a "bale of turtles."Who knew?

Turtle awesomeness.
Me, overwhelmed by the turtley awesomeness.