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

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Boot Camp - Summer 2013

This the long overdue account of what happened my second week of bootcamp. We did a lot activities that challenged me physically but were often a ton of fun.

1.Jenga balance
Anyone who grew up with the game Jenga knows how tricky the game at the best of times. As a balance exercise, they removed the brace and put me on a foam square to throw me often... and then we played Jenga. It was a blast but it is one of the hardest games I've ever played. To make things even harder, my therapist would occasionally try and push me in different directions.

2.Just Dance
I'm now in the process of getting a Wii for one simple reason: Just Dance. This video game forces me to move in ways that my body hasn't moved in years (if ever...). The music is upbeat and fun and the movements are challenging. Plus it's always fun to challenge other patients to a dance battle.

3.Turtle Races
Every year, in the courtyard you can find the Johns Hopkins Turtle Derby. The event benefits the Department of Child Life at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and Perkins Day Care Center. $10 enters in a turtle with your name on it. Last year I was in the hospital when the Derby was going on. I named my Turtle "Calypso", after the 3 legged turtle that was the inspiration for this blog. Suprisingly, she won first place. This year I was all excited, hoping for another victory. I named turtle "The Doctor", but my racer decided not to move out of the starting circle until the race was well underway. Needless to say he wasn't a victor that day.

4.Vibration Plate
A relatively new piece of equipment challenges balance by shifting the left and right up and down. When increased to a fast pace, the machine will make your entire body feel like it's vibrating.

5.Splitbelt Treadmill
A simple concept, this treadmill has two narrow tracks instead of the one rubber track of a normal treadmill. This allows my therapists to set the speed for each leg differently, slowing my left leg down and allowing me to balance my step length on both sides.

Going up stairs is a continual challenge for me. Though I can handle them worlds better than I used to, going up stairs still require that I take one step at a time. My new brace allows me to go step over step when going down stairs but even that required training of stabilizing muscles.

7.Gait Maping Gaitrite
The Gaitrite is an interesting contraption that maps out on a computer my step length, the pressure I'm putting on my foot (and a picture of where I'm putting that pressure). Though improved from last year, the gait mapping program illustrated a few things to work on, such as evening out my step length.

The Therastride is a magnificent machine, a treamill that supports your weight as you walk. I used to require 4 different people helping me to move my legs and stand up straight; now I only require 1 person to make sure I don't trip over my own feet. Improvements asides, the therastride allows me to practice proper walking technique without all of my weight.

9.Meeting With My Therapists
I had the privilege of meeting with a few of my old therapists. Both lovely girls, they were the first ones who encouraged me to challenge myself. I was able to congratulate both of them on their upcoming weddings and give them updates on my progress.

10.Volunteer Appreciation
I was able to attend the appreciation dinner for volunteers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Though there are many ways to volunteer, I participated in the Patient Ambassador program. This matches me with potential patients who could use some advice on what it's like to reenter the world, newly disabled. I have a phone call or two with patients giving advice on things like what it's like going to college/a new city in a wheelchair or how to get involved in adaptive sports (it's so easy!). The dinner was tasty and the other volunteers were a cheerful motivated crowd with lots of interesting stories and good advice.

11.Walking to the Barn With My Cousins
During a trip to my Aunt and Uncle's house, bored with some of the conversation, I decided to join my cousins in the backyard. We walked across the grass to the barn that lies near the back of their property. Apparently while we were walking conversation stopped as everyone looked on, marveling at the improvement in my walking. Though I could manage with my wheelchair, I much prefer this mode of transportation as well.

12.Meeting Old Friends and Meeting New Friends
Coming back to Kennedy Krieger is always great, partially because of all the people I get to see again. I'm always happy to see old therapists, doctors, techs, nurses, volunteers, patients, and families that I've seen off and on since my injury. We celebrate accomplishments, commiserate failures, and share our dreams for the future. These random assortment of people are now part of my family and I love them all.

13.Underwater Treadmill Playing Volleyball
The underwater treadmill is one of the parts of my boot camp experience I look forward to the most. Like it sounds, the treadmill allows me to walk with water supporting much of my body weight. To challenge my ability to walk with distractions around me, they had me walk while hitting a beach ball to all the techs and therapists in the room. A fun game, it forced me to keep my technique while engaging in the next game after my Jenga battle.

14.Working On My Art Journal 
The newest art form I'm experimenting with, I traveled up to Baltimore with only pencils, a sharpie, and box of highlighters. Here are some of the pages that developed. I've since added to many of them. Here are a few samples.

A Walking Poem

So I took about an hour break from studying and explored the area. It's a really nice area but this was forming through my head as they finally turned on the streetlights. Which were bright white and way too bright. While this was going through my head I tripped. I got back up right away but that made it in here too. I liked it enough I wanted to get it down before I lost it:


I walk along, under the streetlights.
Bright new city, strange new sites.
Strange new air, strange new nights.
And the streetlights burn.

The memories flood back of biking in the night.
Long runs in the cold, warm yellow light.
The long shadows of Fall,
That cause me to fall.

Falling over memories, falling over pain,
Falling over memories of utter loss and gain.
 I get back up like I always have
And yet its not the same.

I walk along, under the streetlights.
Bright new city, strange new sites.
Strange new air, strange new nights.
And the streetlights burn.

Different path through the streets, long rides back to home.
They look completely different from the ones I've always known.
I'll walk them still with confidence but inside I'll always know
Each step was fought for, as steps they slowly grow.

I don't know where these steps are leading me, looking for their path.
They don't know how far it is, don't want to do the math.
The lights are all on way too bright and the shadows are all wrong.
But I'll keep walking on and on, strides confident and long.

I walk along, under the streetlights.
Bright new city, strange new sites.
Strange new air, strange new nights.
And the streetlights burn.