Spinal Cord Rehab Boot Camp - Week 2
Highlights: I'm no longer using a cane to walk! Plus parties and artwork!
Monday, Day 5:
On Monday I used the Therastride, a very useful (if uncomfortable) machine. The harness holds you over a moving treadmill and with the assistance of some therapists it allows those that haven't walked in a very long time a chance to step again. I no longer need much of any direct help though my therapists are still there to assist my legs and hips as needed. The harness takes a little of my weight off the ground so I can focus on walking correctly, instead of focusing on simply not falling over.
An old picture of me on the therastride. This was back when I needed someone to help with both legs (I only need help with the left leg now).
Your whole body feels like it's buzzing after you step off the vibration plate.
A large part of our focus these two weeks is on my hamstrings (the muscles behind the knee that allow most people to bend their legs back) muscle groups that have slowly been returning. In previous boot camps I focused on getting these muscles to contract at all. Now I can get the muscles to contract consistently but they're still very weak. I can get my leg to bend in the pool and when I'm lying on my side, though bending the leg on land is still a work in progress. Still, to see my leg act like it's supposed to in the pool is encouraging.
These are the hamstrings.Tuesday, Day 6
On Tuesday we went to a lower floor to the children's gym to use the split belt treadmill. It has two rotating belts instead of just the one, with adjustable speed on both belts. This allows me to work on the timing of my walking. We had planned to use it the first week but it was having mechanical issues. This week everything worked fine with each leg getting its own individualized workout.
Harder than it looks to have two legs at different speeds.
One of the strangest experiences of my two weeks but also one of the best was the "Bro-Party". There were a few other early 20-something guys there for bootcamp so someone decided to throw a "bro-party", a tradition one of my fellow patients had started at a previous boot camp. While doing our various balance exercises, we listened to "bro" music, wore cool sunglasses (I got the leopard print) with fake mustaches, while playing Gatorade pong (we're in a hospital, gotta keep it PG). It was one of the strangest experiences of my two weeks but I had a blast! My team ended up winning so that was an extra bonus.
Me at the bro-party with shades and a fake mustache. Brotastic.
Thursday, Day 8
Another group of us got into a dance-off playing Just Dance for the Wii. It was me, a young girl using a walker, and an old guy in one of the standing machines they have around the gym. It was hard to come to a consensus on which song to play, though mostly because all 3 of us were so indecisive. I don't remember who ended up winning as far as points but we all looked extremely silly so it's a draw in the end. But we had fun and I got to spend some of my exercise time dancing (badly) to some of my favorite songs.
We were not nearly this coordinated.
Friday, Day 9
The last day, like the first day, is always reserved for evaluations and tests to see how I've progressed over the two weeks. I did make significant improvements, walking slightly more even on the Gait Rite, the machine that takes a digital image of your walking pattern. I also improved my times in all the walking tests they had me do. I can attribute most of this to my therapist teaching me how to use my brace so that I get more spring in my step, which propels me forward.
They also gave me a home program of exercises that I can do from my room, such as spelling out the alphabet with my weak leg (this practices strength and coordination). It's full of exercises that'll keep me busy and challenged hopefully for the next 6 months.
AFTER I GOT BACK
When I got back to North Carolina I started putting into action the suggestions of my therapists. One suggestion was to get shoes with more ankle support. I'm pretty sure they were talking about hiking boots but since I have a sense of style I got a pair of Chuck Taylors, the old school high top Converse. Though I wasn't expecting these to make any difference, I found myself walking better and better.
I began walking so well that I decided to leave the cane at home. That first day was kinda rough but after that I just kept going. It's now been 2 weeks since I used my cane at all!
No I didn't break my canes. They're in the corner collecting dust!
I've been in kind of a winter funk and hadn't felt like writing for the last couple of weeks. I did however channel that weird mood into artwork. I've post some of my paintings up here already but you may not know I also enjoy drawing. I was given a giant sketchbook for Christmas and have been slowly filling it up ever since (plus more paintings). These are just a few examples of what's been filling my time instead of my blog (sorry internets!). I have dozens more and I will post more in the coming days. Enjoy.