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

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Boot Camp Week 1

It's that time again! Every 6 months I return to Kennedy Krieger Institute to do physical therapy, known as BOOT CAMP! I go in for therapy for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, for two weeks (with an added hour in the pool 3 times a week). This grueling but necessary addition to my PT program has helped me to improve as far as I have; they help me push the limits of what I can already do and get me to try new skills. In the end I leave a step ahead of when I arrive, ready to put my new skills to work.

You and I will never be this hardcore.

Day 1
Every time I come to Kennedy Krieger, the first day is filled with tests and evaluations. These give them a baseline of my strength and balance; it's not generally very exhausting (that comes later) but it lets them have numbers to compare when they're comparing my progress. I've been lucky that my numbers continue to improve, though over the years they have started to slow. The measures that continues to improve the most are standing balance and walking endurance.

One of the tests they always do is the 10 meter test, a test of how fast I can travel 10 meters. A long time ago my dad commented that it was how fast I could outrun a bear. I said that I didn't think I was fast enough to outrun a bear just yet. He qualified his original statement, saying it was a test to see how fast I could outrun a disabled angry bear. Since then we've called it the disabled angry bear test, a name that never fails to crack up the person timing the test.

I dare you to try thinking about outrunning a disabled bear without smiling.

Day 2
The second day we really got down to work. We started off the day with various exercises for my left left (the weaker leg). After this we went off and used the Gait Rite, one of the few pieces of equipment that I hadn't at least tried before. The Gait Rite measures step length, foot placement, and the relative amount of weight you put on either foot to get an idea of how to improve your walking pattern.

The computer records a picture of your steps as well as all the associated data.

I walked over the sensor using my cane and again without my cane. The data showed that my steps were more even when I walked without a cane. Though this is exciting news, meaning that I am ready to slowly start weaning off the cane, it's hard to let my cane go. I've walked using so many assistive devices that the idea of walking without one is a little scary. It's as hard to let go as a security blanket.

Day 3
My therapists love to try different pieces of equipment out on me. I've been around for 3 years so I'd thought I'd seen most of them but I was surprised again. We worked out using the Biodex System, a machine that allows you to isolate every conceivable muscle in your leg, hip, and trunk. It has a dozen or more attachments (that I saw) and we worked as many as we could before I was exhausted.

The data generated from this machine is accurate enough to use in peer reviewed studies.

I always end up working hard but that's not to say there isn't some fun mixed into the day. There is a Wii used for different exercises, though it's largely there to distract the kids who come to KKI while they do therapy. Along with Wii Sports and Wii Fit, I'm regularly roped into a dance battle using the game Just Dance.

Nothing screams irony more than a group of disabled people rocking out to Moves Like Jaggar. 

Day 4
The pool at KKI is one of the best things about coming here. The pool has a floor that raises and lowers, cameras in the sides so you can watch your legs as you walk, and an underwater treadmill.

They also have more aquatic therapy equipment than I knew existed.

This pool session was unique in that it was the first time I was able to walk without any assistance on the underwater treadmill. I can walk without a cane on land with relative ease but moving underwater with at least a rail to lean on is always challenging. The therapist I worked with made the same observation as my therapist on land, that I walked more evenly when I didn't have something to lean on. 

All this week I'd seen people with the same T-shirts, from 3E Love. I've followed them on facebook for a while but this trip has made me determined to go and get myself a hoodie with this design. How can you not love these?

You can find different designs, different styles, different colors, T-shirts, hoodies, decals, jewelry, temporary tattoos... the list goes on.

It's the end of the week, I'm tired and I'm sore but there's already some progress made. I still have another week to go but this week has reminded me what I'm working towards. I am grateful to everyone at KKI who works with me, kicking my butt all week. I've worked hard but they've worked just as hard on planning my program and molding it based on what I can accomplish. KKI rocks!