Wednesday, September 15, 2010

THANK YOU

Here is my long overdue THANK YOU to all of you who helped plan, donated, and/or attended my Second Annual Golf Benefit. It was all of you that made it happen! It turned out to be perfect weather and a great crowd.

It was great being able to compare my abilities at last years golf outing to where I am now. I was able to step into the golf cart, didn't have to be tied into my seat and had much more energy to get through the day! Again, along with my hard work it has been the support I have gotten from friends and family that has gotten me this far. I am hoping the money donated from this past event will help me make just as many gains in my next year of therapy.

I am very excited to move to San Diego next week and get back into a regimented, intense therapy program. Along with attending a program at Project Walk, I have also set up a weight assisted treadmill that will be stationed in the garage at my apartment. I hope to find volunteers to help pull my legs and want to use this piece of equipment five days a week. I want my main focus to be on therapy for at least one more year.

I am so thankful to those of you who showed up at the event as it was great seeing so many people before I make my big cross-country move. So, thank you so much to everyone that helped and attended the golf outing. Its success will contribute greatly to my continual rehabilitation.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Andrew's Radio Interview / Second Annual Golf Outing

Here is the link for the video from Andrew's interview on WHBY on August 17th, 2010.
http://www.box.net/shared/kkejkmotgx

This is also a reminder of the Second Annual Andrew Hippert Golf Benefit taking place on Monday August 30th. We encourage everyone to come to the High Cliff golf course in Sherwood, WI to golf. 10am shotgun start. People will be in groups of four playing best ball. It does not matter if you are a golfer - come join the fun anyway! It is $65 to golf and a meal is included. After the golfing fun is done there will be a silent auction as well as other activities such as a 50/50 raffle, jail and bail, band, etc.

If you can't make it to the benefit but have items you would like to donate for the auction or are able to contact local businesses that would be willing to help as well please contact either Andrew's sister Laura or Sarah.

Laura: 920-740-3287, laurahippert@yahoo.com
Sarah: 920-428-7341, iamshe1030@sbcglobal.net

The money being raised is crucial for Andrew to continue on to his next step in this long journey of recovery. He will be moving back to San Diego and will be participating in a therapy program through Project Walk. Project Walk is not a hospital setting, therefore insurance will not cover any portion. Project Walk is one of the best spinal rehab facilities around and is right near his home in San Diego. Andrew is currently still walking with forearm crutches and wants to be pushed to the next step - canes, then walking without any assistance. Walking is great but it is still frustrating and difficult when you can't carry anything because you are relying on your arms for help. Let's help him reach his goals!

We hope to see a great turnout just like last year! We can't wait to see everyone!!

Thanks!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Working Hard in Atlanta, GA



Hello Everyone! Boy, it's been a long time. Time just seems to fly by when you are busting your butt to walk again. As many of you know, Kalli and I have been living in GA with some friends while attending a therapy study called NRN (Neurological Recovery Network). The program is going very well and they never cease to amaze me how many ways they can figure out to make you sweat. The program here has me up on a weight assisted treadmill five days a week along with guided over ground walking with new and more difficult devices than the loft strand crutches I am currently using.

Just recently we have switched up our therapist to a great guy named Brian. It has been a good experience for after 60 days we just needed a change of pace. It is amazing how every therapist has a new twist to throw into the therapy and our daily work out routine. This change gave me another positive surge of energy and renewed Kalli's and my excitement and determination to stay with the program for a longer period of time.

Even though it is harder than heck, I have been walking with loft strand crutches for two and a half months now for the most part everywhere I go. I guess the only way I could explain how it feels is like having a 500 pound gorilla on your back lugging him around everywhere you go. Luckily, this gorilla seems to be on some sort of diet plan and he keeps getting a little thinner and trimmer each month. The latest and most difficult walking device that we have tried in therapy has been a pair of downhill ski poles with little rubber stoppers on the bottom. They are more difficult because I am not able to put nearly as much weight through them as I can with my crutches. Attached is a video of me using them for the second time just this week.

An interesting thing that we are looking into this coming week is the possibilities or options that may be out there for my hands surgically. The Shepherd Center has a great specialist that works with spinal patients on achieving more functionality of their mitts through surgery. We don't know any information and have a consultation planned in the upcoming month to learn more to see if I am even a candidate. This has been something that I have been curious about and wanted to pursue. Even though my hands are continuing to get stronger, it is still very difficult for me to get complete extension and it seems as if this may be something that I could get help with surgically. Not only am I looking for something to help functionally, I also am hoping to find some relief of the pain I am often experiencing in my hands as a result of them being so tight.

Over the course of the last year an important part of our progress has been a wonderful ability to prepare for the next step. NRN has been a wonderful stepping stone where we have seen great progress but there will come a time when we will be ready to move away from this endeavor as well. I have applied to a program in California called Project Walk. This is a great spinal cord facility that is cutting edge and incredibly intensive. The program has been around for quite some time and consists of mainly personal trainers opposed to most facilities being more of a hospital setting with physical therapists and occupational therapists. The down side is that Project Walk does not have any studies to participate in, nor can you use any insurance to cover your sessions. At this point I don't have any insurance coverage for physical therapy left anyway since at the rate I was doing it I used up my sessions by the beginning of February. Since it is not billable through insurance, all sessions are charged by the hour and you can only imagine how expensive a specialty clinic such as this will run. We are incredibly excited for Project Walk and ready for the next step of this journey. One of the best things about Project Walk is that it is located only twenty-five minutes from our old apartment in San Diego. So, Kalli and I are thrilled to be quite close to picking life back up where it was so abruptly taken just over a year ago. Wow, it has been an entire year.

The next few months will be busy because not only will we be continuing therapy we also will be trying to plan our move back. Moving back will entail getting our stuff moved from GA to WI and then from WI to CA. We also need to start the apartment hunt, I need to go car shopping and Kalli needs to find a job. As overwhelming as all of this feels, the excitement to get back to life in CA gives us motivation to figure it all out. If anyone has any connections near San Diego to help Kalli find a teaching or nanny position please let us know!

In order to make my next step in this journey possible, my family and friends have decided to throw a Second Annual Golf Outing to help finance Project Walk. The only information I know of so far is it will be held at High Cliff on August 30th with a shotgun start at 10am. There will be more details soon. If you would like to sign up now please contact Mark Lee at mrk3525@gmail.com or call him at 920-851-3037. I really hope people will be able to make themselves available that day so I can strut my stuff with my new walk hopefully even more improved by then! Last years was so fun and much appreciated because it allowed Kalli and I to focus on therapy over the last year as our full-time jobs. I am truly excited to walk over to a golf cart, sit down, and ride away whereas last year around that time it took two people to lift me into the cart where I was then strapped in with belts in order to help me stay sitting up straight. Wow, how far I have come.

Can't wait to see all of you!

video

Monday, January 11, 2010

January 11th, 2010

Hello once again. It has been a busy busy month since I last posted. With all of the holiday activities, Christmas, New Years it has been a jam packed month of family, friends, doctors and too many Christmas cookies. Kalli and I enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with both her family and mine which was great and I feel like I got everything I asked for. Health, happiness and a dehydrator for making beef jerky. A lot of things are going on right now and there is quite a bit to come in the next few months. But first, I would like to thank a few people.

First off, there has been an incredibly wonderful group of individuals that have been following my every move throughout this journey over the last seven months. Wow, seven months! They call themselves The Prayer Group. With kind words through what feels like hundreds of thoughtful cards they have continually been there showing their faith, support and love. And now, they have gone beyond and continued the support with a gift that will provide several new therapy pieces of equipment that will continue to help me reach my goals.

It is one thing to walk up to someone in front of a whole group of people and give a large gift while at the same time receiving recognition from each and every person who knows how much it costs and that you gave it to them. For this group to stay anonymous to me means even more knowing that they are doing it truly just from their heart. So, thank you very much for the love and support you have given Kalli and I through this very difficult time in our life.

I also want to thank the many others that have also physically, financially, and emotionally supported me. There is no way to go through and name each and every one of you or this blog would be ten pages long. So, thank you as well for everything.

So, in between family gatherings, Christmas parties, and holiday fun there have been a few other things going on that I would like to share. One of those is that I have decided to reach out to a group called DVR which stands for Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. DVR basically tries to help individuals who have become disabled get back into the work force. One of the services that they can provide is to help outfit a reliable vehicle for you to get to work on your own. So, I set up a meeting with one of their counselors and filled out all the necessary paperwork to get into the system in order to receive some services. After meeting with my counselor she informed me that with my situation I would be eligible for assistance on outfitting a van with the necessary equipment in order for me to drive it on my own. Their view is that everyone has to purchase a vehicle in order to drive but not everybody has to invest twenty thousand dollars on equipment in order to have the freedom to drive. So, that is where they will step in and help out. So, right now I am waiting on their decision of when services will be rendered. This is a great opportunity for me to get a reliable vehicle with new equipment professionally installed. So, I will be needing to invest in either a brand new van or a used fully equipped van in which the vehicle cost would then be subtracted from the total purchase. So I am hoping I can find a good used minivan that DVR will approve and co-fund.

Over the last five and a half months I have had probably one of the worst customer service experiences of my life which is so unfortunate because it just makes me wonder how many people have had to go through this same exact thing considering that National Seating and Mobility, my wheelchair distributor, is the largest wheelchair distributor in the country. The last week of the year, Monday morning I gave a call to Chris, NSM's corporate operations manager, who was now heading up the delivery of my chair, asking her "so this is it, this is the last week, are you guys going to be able to deliver in 2009?" Chris continued to assure me that she was doing everything under her power to make it happen. The chair was to be next day air freighted from Quickie manufacture to Chicago on Wednesday and would be there at 2:00. So, Wednesday afternoon I called Eric, the technician that would be putting the chair together, to see if it had arrived. Once again, something had gone wrong and the chair didn't make it on the plane. Mind you, Thursday is New Years Eve, the very next day. Eric responded with a new date and time of Thursday at 10:00am. Instead of the chair being shipped to my local rep and being delivered to my home like it should be, Kalli and I decided we had to drive to Chicago for there was no way that they were going to make it happen if we didn't. So we arrived at NSM around 1:00 and there Eric was putting together my chair. After three hours of patient measuring and screw turning in order to make the chair fit me just right it was finally ready for me to fill out the paperwork and sign off on my new chair.

So, at 4:00pm New Years Eve, I signed and dated 12/31/2009 on my delivery, the very last day of the year, one hour before close. Of course, even though I signed, there were still four things that were wrong, or screwed up about this chair. Even with a member of their corporate team being intimately involved in this delivery they could not get it right. Amazing. With that said, I love my new chair and the power assist wheels have given me an incredible new found freedom. The way I can easily move on carpet and any surface outdoors is truly a blessing. I used to push on tough surfaces or long distances and end up with incredible pain through my shoulders but now with these new wheels most of that pain is eliminated.

Insurance looks at any injury as plain and simply as though you broke your arm whether you broke your neck, or your arm, you receive the same benefits. At the rate in which I am doing therapy, which is only three times a week, I will eat up all of my physical and occupational therapy sessions within the first two and a half months of the year. First off, three days a week isn't even enough in my mind. Second, what do I do with the next nine and a half months? A spinal injury needs so much more attention and time to heal than virtually any other injury. As a result, it is imperative that I seek more. After searching for what to do and where to go for outpatient assistance is $500/day out of pocket and an inpatient setting is closer to $2,000/day we have decided to join a study in Atlanta, Georgia.

In Atlanta there is hospital called the Shepherd Center which is rated one of the top ten hospitals in the country and is probably the largest spinal program in the country. Shepherd is participating in a program called NRN (Neurological Recovery Network) which is an intensive walking program affiliated with the Christopher Reeves Foundation. The study is trying to change the industry by developing a large enough data set that shows distinctly that if an individual with a spinal injury such as mine is given a more intensive amount of therapy they will have an incredibly higher rate of success in rehabilitation. There was a fairly strict criteria for entering the program and my situation, function, and injury level fit exactly what they are looking for. The program works solely on ambulation for an hour and a half five days a week in a specific gym dedicated for that reason. Not only will I be able to participate in the programs activities being part of Shepherd will give me access to their activity center which is basically a YMCA for wheelchairs. Between the study, full access to the NRN program's gym, and Shepherd's activity center Kalli and I will be able to fill each and every day with therapy. Luckily, I know someone in every major city throughout the country, haha. We will be staying with one of my best friends since I was a kid, Bob Schmelzer and his wife, Bethany who have recently moved to Atlanta. There house is only twenty minutes away from the Shepherd center which is absolutely amazing and we couldn't have asked for a better situation. Oh yeah, so I forgot to mention, the way the program works, is that you have to come with a handful of insurance covered sessions of physical therapy and as soon as they run out the Christopher Reeves Foundation will then sponsor me for the program. The program wants you to dedicate at least one month initially, and then if you progress in any of the four specific categories that they are evaluating they will ask you to continue another month. Many people in the program will go on for three, four, five months. This is an amazing opportunity for me to get the best professional guidance all while being sponsored. As of now, our plan is to pack lightly and move around the 21st of February for our new home with Bob and Bethany who have so wonderfully opened up their life with open arms and are already hoping that we love Georgia and never leave.

Even though we are moving to Georgia in a search for an intense schedule of guided therapy it is by no means because we aren't working hard here. Here is our new years schedule: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays Kalli and I wake up at 6 or so and go to the Y to walk for an hour in an open gym time that we have found. It works perfectly to use the basketball court for it is such a nice big open space and there is usually no one there early in the morning. After walking, Kalli helps me get into the pool and she heads to a Yoga class held right there in the Y. I swim, do squats, and many other exercises in the water while she is forming long, lean muscles doing yoga. We then head home, have lunch, and work out in the Platinum Gym here at home until 5 or 6. Tuesdays and Thursdays I have therapy at Theda Clark. We have decided to cut back from three times to twice a week to manage how many credits of therapy we enter the NRN program at Shepherd with. After therapy is basically the same routine, back home for lunch then to the Platinum Gym. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I also do a longer swim with my brother every Tuesday night as well. So that is four days a week of swimming, I might just turn into a big prune.

As far as updates things are going really well. The new record for walking distance is over 700 feet and hard to even keep track of anymore. I believe the last time I blogged it was right around 470. Everything seems to be getting stronger especially my weaker right leg. In therapy I have even gone as far as unlocking my right leg brace at the knee while walking with the walker. After I came back from Mexico I got on the mat at Theda Clark to do some leg strengthening. Usually when I get on my side and do a set of exercises I need a leg skate with wheels to eliminate friction in order to perform the exercise. My therapist, Chris, immediately was shocked and excited saying "You don't need this skate on your weak leg at all anymore." It is moments like that that truly put a smile on your face, knowing that you are getting better. My parents bought me a set of 15 lb dumb bells for Christmas and it is truly amazing that I am using them to do curls with ease. I will never forget looking back only 4 months ago when I couldn't even hold a two pound dumb bell and I needed wrist weights in order to do curls. Between working at Theda Clark and a ton of therapy with my favorite therapist, Kalli Laflin, we will make sure to work as hard as we can so as to be ready for this up and coming new part of our journey in Atlanta.

All in all, things seem to be going well. Now, goodnight and farewell.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December 16th, 2009

Dear Prayer Group,

I just got back from Mexico celebrating the blessed sacrament of marriage with one of Kalli's best friends. We had an absolutely wonderful time. It gave us the break that was long needed. Now, sorry to keep you waiting, my Christmas wishlist:

Therapy bolsters, which are vinyl cylinders about two feet long and about 8 to 10 inches in diameter. They are used mainly for putting underneath my knee while laying on the mat to do knee extension to strengthen my quads.

Half Moon Bolster, which is the same thing but cut in half so it is no longer a cylinder but a half circle.

Examples of both bolsters can be found at this website:
http://www.zearth.com/Earthlite-EARTHLITE-BOLSTER-Massage-Table-Bolster-Pillow-Massage-Therapy-Bolster-Pillows-by-Earthlite-P248.aspx?utm_source=ZFF245&utm_medium=ZBuy&utm_campaign=ZE245

Natural Fit Balancing Disk, examples can be found at this website: http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=balance+disk&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=4307659997&ref=pd_sl_dr4uajjpp_b

Dumbbells 12lbs and 15lbs, preferably coated in rubber

Large free standing mirror for checking position and posture while standing, walking, or doing any number of exercises

AAA membership

YMCA renewal membership (received a six month membership that will be up in December, and I need a new membership so I can continue swimming once or twice a week for therapy with my brother. It is also a great place to practice walking longer distances, especially with the winter and all of this snow.)

Spinergy wheels for my new wheelchair, if it ever comes. Insurance doesn't want to cover spinergy wheels.

Digital Camera with video record - to take pictures of my therapy and video for me to watch to see my posture and positioning. Also, for posting updates.

WiiFit, a Nintendo Wii fitness game.

Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory

2009 xstar Mastercraft Wakeboard boat for when I am back up on my feet

I don't know what you guys have in mind but thank you for even the thought of filling Kalli and my Christmas with a little more cheer.

And for all of my readers, I had a week long break from therapy while vacationing in Mexico. I will give an update sometime soon after Christmas on my progress and what's going on in my life.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 20, 2009

November 20th

I'mmmmm baaaaaaaaaaack!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am sorry I haven't spoken in a while but believe me it was not for any reason but being very busy. So, for some of you worry warts out there sit back and just read all of the following which will fill you in on the entire last month that has been nothing but positive recovery.

So lets start from the beginning, last time we talked was right before I left from RIC. So, the day before I left in the middle of the night I came down with a fever and wasn't feeling that well. I broke the fever but ended up feeling a bit crummy which was no fun for my last day at RIC. So this is how it went down: I was supposed to leave on a Saturday but since I woke up feeling crummy on Friday Dr. Kim said "with the symptoms that you have, if you were an outpatient of mine I would tell you to go home, drink lots of fluids, and get some sleep. But, since you are here in inpatient we are going to need to do blood work, move you to your own room and make a bigger deal out of the little bug that you have than we probably really should. So, why don't we just discharge you now, today, since you are done with all of your therapy for the day and just basically waiting to be discharged Saturday morning." Kalli and I thought about it and it really made the most sense. So we went around and said our goodbyes to all of the wonderful therapists, nurses, and new inpatient friends. We packed up our things and headed on our way home.

Since I had been hitting it hard for a solid four and a half months I decided to quickly kill the bug and give my body a little break by taking at least a week or so rest from all therapy and exercise. Kalli and I headed to the cabin for a few days, relaxed and enjoyed home cooked meals and a warm fire with my parents. Our next goal was to really get my home gym and therapy program put together.

After a lot of hard work and dedication from many of my friends and family Andrew's Platinum Gym is now ready and open for business. What I will do to allow you a true visual of the gym is basically give you a written virtual tour which will walk you around the gym as if you had a membership. Since winter is coming my remote control garage door entry, though convenient is no longer suitable due to the incredible heat loss of opening up the overhead door. So, the Platinum Gym now has two wheelchair entrances - one from the street, and the other straight from the kitchen where I designed a quick little ramp that my dad built and installed. When I go down the ramp it is truly a trip down memory lane. When the screen door is latched I have to slowly ease down the ramp holding my chair on the downhill slope up against the door pulling my hand off the tire in order to unlatch the door. This makes me feel as if I were a pinewood derby car from my days in cub scouts being released down the ramp hoping for the win. Now, mind you I did take first place one year and third another.

When you enter the gym, immediately on your right is the handmade wood and tile bar that I had all through college so that visitors can sit and socialize, or possibly celebrate a good week of therapy with a cold beer. Next to the bar is a pedal bike with hand assist that I got from the Lion's Club and has been a great cardio tool. Immediately after the bike, is a hand crafted work out mat made by my brother, my friend Houli and myself. The mat is slightly larger than a queen size bed, made from marine vinyl, two inch foam, and a frame that is so sturdy Shamu could lie beside me in a deep stretch. The mat really turned out awesome. It even has the ability to flip up to the wall like a murphy bed for it is hinged at the wall. Towering above the mat is a really great trapeze that was also hand crafted and painted by my family. Next to the trapeze and mat was a great place for the "toddshaw" which was a machine inspired by a piece of equipment at RIC and then created by Todd Laflin, Kalli's dad. Spanning ten feet long and about four feet wide is a wonderful tool designed by me, built by my dad, and painted, stained and varnished by Kalli and my sister Sarah, a set of parallel bars. This is basically a walking path with railings on both sides for me to go back and forth in so I can safely walk at home. The center of the gym is kept quite open so that we can set up a card table for hand therapy or use small platforms to simulate curbs for wheelchair skills. When you walk across this space you reach the other side wall of the gym where a massive double stack crossover cable weight system is located. This highly adjustable piece of equipment allows me to work out doing countless different exercises. This piece was donated by my cousin and his good friend who own an anytime fitness in Plymouth, Wisconsin. The crossover is a good ten feet long which leave a large space in the middle where a black leather chair mounted on casters usually sits for people to relax in. Mark mounted caster wheels on it so that it was easily moved throughout the gym. Just to the left of the crossover is a backdoor to the gym coming from the outside. Just in front of this back door is another incredible machine donated by the Lion's Club, a standing frame. It is a hydraulic tubular steel structure that uses a harness to pick me up and allow me to stand for a good half hour to an hour most days. This back door to the gym has a window with a lake view making my time in the standing frame much more enjoyable. Hopefully after this counterclockwise tour of Andrew's Platinum Gym you get a good visual of what is going on each day and understand why we have been so busy.

After returning home, putting together an intensive home program was one of our main goals to accomplish. Kalli and I gathered all of the information that we have learned over the last several months and developed it into an entire binder worth of exercises with pictures and definitions of each. Before we left, we also asked each of my therapists to give their top 10 exercises they feel I should be doing once I was home. A good five therapists put this together for us which gave us another fifty exercises to add into this weekly plan. So once it was all said and done I had a great document to work out with keeping me focused and supplied with more activities than I can even accomplish in a week. Never have I had a specific document that tracks what I have been doing each day. So, after a whole week of doing this program last week, I went back and counted up all of the activities that I had done throughout the week that were marked down on the sheet. This calculation came to a grand total of 62 hours of therapy from Monday-Friday. This quantitative presentation of my own therapy really gave me a boost of confidence that I am trying my hardest and doing what I need to be doing to get where I want to go. It is so hard to ever feel like you are doing enough with as slow of a recovery as a spinal cord injury is. If I were being paid for therapy my god I would have twenty two hours of overtime on the books and be making a killing.

Like every good gym there needs to be members. So, as of about two weeks ago Andrew's Platinum Gym received its first member. I met a young man, about my age, at therapy here in the valley that was also a spinal injury and after talking with him for a short while I offered for him to come do therapy with me in my gym. He was getting two forty-five minute sessions at Theda Clark each week and that was really it. After I had talked and met with him we exchanged numbers so as soon as I got back in the car after therapy, I called and left him a message explaining to him how welcome he would be if he wanted to come and fight this battle together, any time he wanted. Sure enough, he is coming twice a week and I really feel like his experience with us is going to change his eventual outcome. Kalli and I have been able to share many therapeutic exercises with him and his family that we learned from RIC that they had never heard of. For instance, he had never done e-stim which is on our list to get him going with.

Once we came home and finished our week of rest I started my outpatient therapy sessions for both OT and PT at Theda Clark. We had this lined up before we even left for RIC. When we first signed up for therapy there we were given a schedule that basically had us going there every day for just one forty-five minute session which at this point I felt I would be wasting more time traveling than it would be worth for a quick forty-five minute session each day. So I got a hole of the outpatient therapy manager and expressed my concern which he completely understood and was able to change around my schedule and double up each day making it so that I go three days a week for two hours each which works much better. For OT I have chosen to mainly focus on a electronic therapy system that they use called bioness. Bioness is basically a large arm and hand brace that you calibrate locations for electro pads which you then save those locations so you have consistent placement for each time. Having it so controlled saves time setting it up each time. You know what you need, hook it up, allowing you to get stimulation the entire forty-five minute session. With PT I have been working with several different instructors focusing on building leg strength and walking practice.

About half of the sessions that I do for PT mainly consist of putting on my custom made orthopedic leg braces and then roaming the halls with my walker. My latest records from this week are an initial walking distance without stopping of 110 feet and a grand total of 360 feet with only five stops all together. Other very exciting updates are that all of my muscles are moving in some way or another and now it is truly a game of strengthening and achieving full functional motion. One way I am strengthening my legs and core is by continuing to swim with Tim weekly at the downtown Appleton YMCA. I am actually going to start kicking to twice a week for the Theda Clark group brings people swimming every Tuesday at the Neenah Y so next week I will try to swim with Tim on a different day so that I can go twice each week. The strength and safety that the water provides is truly an amazing tool that I have to continue to take advantage of. One of my favorite things to do is squats in the water. I have gotten to the point where I can stand and hold it in water to about my belly button. When we where at RIC we learned an entire packet of water exercises which Tim and I bring into the water with us to follow. This really makes my legs burn like crazy by the time we are through each of the exercises.

In between trips for therapy at Theda Clark and constant therapy at home in Andrew's Platinum Gym, (which by the way, besides a witty play off Gold's Gym, Platinum Gym comes from the fact that most of the hand crafted therapy equipment is painted with a special platinum colored paint) I am still looking for a wheelchair accessible van with the following criteria if anyone wants to help: hand controls for driving, either a low profile mini van with simple flip down ramp or a full size van with a hydraulic lift, power doors so that I can enter and exit on my own, in a price range of 5 to 10 thousand, closer to five. An old beauty is just fine.

Lastly, yes I am still rolling on a rental chair and really have not gotten any word as to when I may expect my own.

The saga continues day in and day out dealing with odd nerve pain, difficult moments, and great accomplishments but Kalli and I continue to try and look at the entire situation as best we can. Many times when I meet new people in my situation or simply realize what I have accomplished I see how lucky and blessed I have been as this situation continues to unfold.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October 21st

Hello Everyone! Had another great day yesterday and today. Yesterday one of my biggest accomplishments was pushing the overall distance, without a break, of 70 feet, fifteen feet further than my past record of 55. My Tuesday schedule was packed full of walking, which was really great and the whole reason why I stayed. Kalli and I ended it by going out to eat together at a neat little sit down place, right next to the John Hancock building.

Today started out right away at 9 with the lokomat. It was finally fixed! It took them a couple days but they did it, not only did they work the bugs out of it, they actually gave it a whole new updated version of its software. It seemed to work quite well. I had a great walk on it for about an hour. After, I headed back downstairs for I had another session right away at ten working with Emily and Adrian on the mats doing both exercises with and without the slings strengthening my legs. Every exercise we did pushed me right to the end of my muscle strength, basically to the point where the leg just stopped moving and needed full assistance to carry out the action in each specific area.

Right after working with Adrian, who is the therapist assistant who helps everyone out in the whole gym, constantly coordinating exercises and handing out and cleaning up equipment, I had a session with Piper and her student therapist Tina. Tina ran to get my other leg brace, for she wanted to practice doing some walking and standing in the parallel bars. While I was standing basically until I couldn't and using the full length of the parallel bars to walk forwards and backwards, Kalli was gathering all of my things up from my room on 6 and bringing them upstairs to move in to a room on 7. We had just gotten the good news that after two weeks, they got things figured out and moved me to the right floor. Now, it seems ridiculous that it took them that long, but the reason why is because right now there are so many people on this floor that have such a high bacteria count that they label them DRO (Drug Resistant Organism) that they require them to be in their own room or paired up with someone that has the same thing going on. So, this makes it very difficult for admitting to juggle the patients. So, now my good buddy Connor and I are roommates.

After lunch, we had an appointment with Denise, from National Seating and Mobility, to re order a new wheel chair. After lots of research, demoing of other chairs, and knowing more so what we want, Kalli and I had put together a very specific set of guidelines for ordering the new chair, which made our meeting go very smoothly. We basically sat with Denise and went item by item over the order form to get it right.

After the chair was all said and done, we quickly scooted to the twelfth floor thinking we would just watch Connor swim for I was already halfway into the half hour that was scheduled due to my wheelchair ordering. The therapists felt confident enough in my swimming abilities that they had no problem with me running around doing my own thing while they worked with Connor. It was really cool because it wasn't even my fault that I was late for Denise pushed back our appointment because she was running late. So I swam around, working on many different new exercises and workout routines that I had learned from Sara the week before. An hour later, Kate, the therapist had me jump out of the pool, right before Connor so that the chair lift would be ready for when he got out.

Right after swimming we all got changed, ready to go, for we wanted to go visit Maurice, at Northwestern Hospital where he had been admitted the night before. Maurice was my roommate when I was here at RIC the first time and had an unfortunate accident during his wheelchair basketball practice the night before. His foot got banged up pretty good during a drill at practice which was enough to send him back in the hospital. Due to the nature of our injuries, any kind of wound to the lower half of our body truly needs to be properly taken care of immediately or it can result in deathly infection or God knows what because our circulation is so weak due to the limited movement that is going on in the lower limbs which makes it very difficult to heal. Our visit with Reece was really fun and it was good to catch up with him again. It was also very beneficial for Connor to meet Reece for the pure fact that the guy can bench 315 pounds in a wheelchair is unbelievable. He is a very athletic and active guy which shows you that even living in a wheelchair can be fun and exciting.

After our visit with Reece, Connor, his mom, Kalli and I headed to a nice Thai restaurant nearby and had a delicious authentic meal that sent us all home a bit more full than any of us wanted to be. We all headed back to the RIC to take care of our nightly routines and get some sleep. It was a full, long day but it was really nice to get my wheelchair ordered and take a dip in the pool. Till next time, peace out!

Monday, October 19, 2009

October 19th

An interesting Monday here at the RIC. It almost seemed as if both therapists and patients were running low on energy and morale. But, of course, this didn't affect me for I had a therapy and exercise packed day from start to finish. In fact, my first therapy was OT and began at 7:30 in the morning. I tried my hardest to get my exercise routine done and get out of bed before they came but it just wasn't possible. This seemed to work just fine for the therapists for part of OT is getting dressed, brushing your teeth, putting on deodorant, so they simply observed while I rushed as fast as I could so we could get upstairs. My OT was Rebecca, a six month along pregnant therapist, looking like she was ready to pop. We went upstairs and decided to start it off with e-stim, working my hands specifically. We did this until 8:30 where I then headed to the canary room where Kalli had my breakfast tray ready.

After breakfast I had a few minutes so I decided to call and email a few people about my chair order, and several other random tasks involving this whole situation. These daily emails and calls working on all different aspects of the injury almost seem like they may never stop, but I know at some point it has got to be all figured out.

My next therapy was PT group where Kalli and I set up a sling for my leg and went through specifically strengthening one muscle at a time to all of my leg muscles. Doing three sets of ten on each muscle easily consumed the entire hour. I was then scheduled to be on the lokomat with Carey.

Unfortunately, the lokomat was still down, needing repair, so we decided it would be good to do some overground walking. Carey, for over a month now, has had an assistant intern helping her with all of her patients here at RIC. Emily, Carey's intern, had to call in sick today for she was not feeling well at all which left Carey with a very full schedule for she had doubled up most of her patients assuming she would have help. So, since Carey had me scheduled alone on the lokomat she took the opportunity to actually go downstairs with me and walk on the sixth floor. It worked well because not only were my leg braces down in my room but it also gave Carey a chance to get away from all of the craziness and clutter going on up on the seventh floor. The sixth floor is almost always really chill with a lot less going on. Carey proclaimed that this was her best hour of the day and it was like taking a break for her - being able to get off of the floor. It was nice for me too because I had Carey's undivided attention, for people are normally budding in left and right asking questions that we all have. So, we went ahead and walked well over two hundred feet and then went into the sixth floor gym parallel bars to practice many other muscle building leg exercises done while standing.

Like a flash, the hour was over and it was time for us to grab our pills downstairs, get some lunch and head upstairs to eat before we started the afternoon. 11:00 was actually my last class of the day, so I immediately jumped back in the gym to take advantage of a clear afternoon schedule. First, I jumped on the ricshaw, then I lifted cable weights using each and ever station like I always do. After that, Diane, my full time OT last time I was here, had an open hour from two until three so we began working on a second brace for my left hand. Adjustment after adjustment the entire hour flew by as Diane heated and cooled my brace to my every need while I sat on the power bike pedaling away.

After an hour and five minutes on the pedal bike, we decided to jump on the standing frame to get a little more weighted exercise in for the day. While on the standing frame Kalli and I played King's Corners, which she dominated. I stayed on it a little over an hour.

After the standing frame it was a little after five o'clock so we headed down and got food then went into the 7th floor canary room to eat our dinner. While we were eating there was a group of parents and two patients forming a circle around the other table. They were all talking about what is the best way to get return and figure out how to walk again. Sitting outside of the circle, listening to them, I just wanted to scream "there isn't really much you all can do, it comes down to each individual patient has to take this on, full steam ahead, and work their brains out." So, slowly after most of them had made their comments I rolled over there and entered into this conversation. After not too long I found myself explaining to them how and why I felt like I was getting the return that I am. Everyone seemed very interested and it turned into a conversation between mainly me and Robert, one of the fairly high level power chair patients. I always see Robert sleeping and looking like he is in a daze, just moping around. I basically ended up calling him out on it, but in a way that was telling him "hey we only have so much time, and it is really hard to get through what we are doing here but you can't just sit around. You have to take every minute that you can and use it productively, for it is like an hourglass that has been turned upside down on us and we are fighting for our own functionality as the sand continues to pour down into the bottom." Robert rolled away for he had to go and get his six o'clock pills and after he was gone his father looked at me and thanked me saying "That's what he needs. He is in shock right now. But, we can't say those things to him, for all he says to us is you don't know what I am going through." I really do think that our discussion lit a fire, or at least maybe a small candle in Robert's mind and attitude, for the glazed over look in his eyes truly did show some hope. Shortly after he had left for his meds, he came right back to the conversation with more questions about what I was doing to fight this battle.

After all of these good conversations we headed back downstairs for I had some pills that I needed to take as well and we wanted to get my nightly routine and blogging session out of the way so that Kalli could get home at a decent hour tonight. Alright everyone, I am excited to jump in the shower and get ready for bed so that's all I have for today. Another great day filled with muscle building, strength training, influential conversation, and good company for I can't say enough how lucky I am to have sweet little Kalli here by my side helping me along day by day. Goodnight.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

October 17th

Hello everyone once again life at RIC has filled itself with more activities than there is time in a day. It has been a while since I have blogged, but here we go, lets get you all updated for a lot has happened in the last week. The last update that I gave was last Friday so lets start out with the weekend. Saturday I got up, worked out in the gym, exercising and muscle building until about 1:00 when the gym closes for the therapists just come in and work a half day. After that Kalli and I went to Navy Pier to walk along the harbor with a good beer while enjoying the hustle and bustle created by the mix of people scurrying about. We decided to get some food at a cool restaurant called Bubba Gumps which was mimicking the movie Forest Gump. The restaurant has great shrimp and we enjoyed it thoroughly. Sunday my parents came down to visit for it was going to be the last weekend that I was here since my last day of therapy was going to be Friday the 16th. They came down in time for us to head to lunch and then drive to Shedd Aquarium. The aquarium was very wheelchair accessible using elevators to explore each floor. After some neat animal shows, beautiful fish aquariums, and much much more we headed back to the RIC to grab my evening medication and meet up with one of my good friends Mike Hanson, his girlfriend, and another friend Dennis. The seven of us decided on a restaurant called Ed Debevics for dinner. Ed Debevics is a very neat sixty's style diner with an unusual twist where waiters are humorously rude and quick tempered. They purposely short you menus and silverware so that you have to ask for more which they then make a huge deal about. Of course, my dad loved this routine and took it to the next level, giving it back to them two-fold. At one point my dad even threw an empty ketchup bottle clear across the table and onto the floor near one of the waiters demanding a new bottle. It was really fun and the food was greasy and delicious. We headed back to the RIC where my parents took off to get back home for it was already getting kind of late and they had a three and a half to four hour car ride ahead of them. My friends stayed and we played cards for a little over an hour until they parted ways heading back to Milwaukee.

Now onto the week's therapy and exercise routines which many are new and will be great to add to my arsenal of therapy skills in order to battle this injury. Using my custom fitted braces I have continued to work on walking through the halls with assistance of not only a therapist but a walker. Now I don't want everyone to just think that I am nonchalantly walking around, here is a visual of what it entails for me to take these first steps. Suited up in the braces, left leg fitted from below the knee to the toe, right leg braced with the knee locked from the groin to the toe, I wheel into the hall in my chair, getting lined up for a good fifty foot stretch of hall. I wear a heavy cloth strap, called a gait belt, for my therapist to control my body and help lift me. With Kalli behind me, in order to bring the wheelchair along, for when I need a break to sit in and my therapist along side of me we get ready to stand. In order to stand I have the right leg with the knee locked stretched out in front of me while I am sitting on the edge of my cushion and the left leg bent at about ninety degrees ready to push with all of its might to get me in standing position. With a count of one, two three, the therapist gives a solid upward hoist on the gait belt while I use my arms and left leg to push me into a full stance. Once we are stable, I begin stepping first with the left leg and then hiking my hip and swinging the right, meanwhile advancing the walker with each step. After about fifty feet, my forehead is beaded with sweat and my left leg is pushed to the limit at which is almost unable to support any weight at all. This is when I so gracefully collapse back into the chair for a two, three minute breather and water break before I do it all over again. Walking almost every day I have gotten myself up to the longest stint of 55 feet without a break and in one session of walking with five breaks making it 327 feet. I didn't quite reach my goal of 500 feet but that was aimed pretty high for the reason of simply pushing me as far as I can.

Since I have been here I have gotten the chance to use the lokomat five times which is such an amazing machine and I would contribute a percentage of my recent success to its unique form of therapy. I believe I have described it many times but here is a quick recap. Basically, I get suited up in a heavy duty rock climbing harness which hangs me above a treadmill where a robotic machine comes up behind me, strapping in my legs at each joint in order to assist them in a natural walking pattern. As you get better and better the lokomat allows you to increase the amount of weight your legs are holding. First time I rode the lokomat we put a maximum of 36 pounds, but by the last time I rode it I was up to 90 pounds of pressure coming down onto my legs and feet. This is almost half of my body weight which really shows the increase in strength and endurance.

Probably one of the best ways of strengthening my legs is using pulleys and slings in order to harness my legs creating a zero gravity experience in which to strengthen specific muscles using exercises that target them directly. I am so glad I was able to come back for last time all I had was a toe wiggling and I was not involved in any sling groups, or individual training. We will be going home with a much greater knowledge on how to do these properly. Over the two weeks I have already seen leg strength increase while doing these exercises. Kalli is such a huge part of this type of training for she now knows how to assist me in order to target even the weakest muscle movement which is where they all start. I feel that I have been so lucky and blessed that my body has not really rejected or lost large amounts of muscle mass. My physical size of all of my limbs have virtually stayed the same whereas many of the other patients have seen between twenty and fifty pounds worth of muscle loss which is so difficult to build back when you are already dealing with just getting the muscles to fire first.

Again this week, I have been able to find time to not only do all of my therapy but also go around and use all of the equipment in order to get a full weight lifting, muscle building workout program in each and every day. I squeeze it in between my classes and different things going on, which usually keeps me working in the gym right up until five o'clock or so when the therapists have to lock up and leave.

Most of the things I am doing are physical therapy activities focused on strengthening my legs and getting my walking. But, one of the other main focuses that I have is bracing my hands in order to rebuild extensor strength and normal hand movement patterns. So, we have been working with both Piper and Diane to create braces that strap on with velcro in order to block my bad habit movement. The right hand has seen very good improvement allowing me to open my hand much further than before.

Kalli and I have reserved an e-stim machine of our own in order to continue to e-stim my ankles, legs and hands throughout the week in between therapies and different scheduled events. Both Piper and Carrie have taught us different placements so as to isolate the proper muscles so that we can continue to retrain the nerve connection where it has been lost. After using this machine it has become a very high priority on our wishlist for the machines that are specifically for e-stim, tens, and pens, which are all different types of electronic stimulation seem to elicit more results. We have not researched how much they actually cost, but I am sure, like all other medical equipment, they are probably a pretty penny.

Also this week I had the opportunity to go into the RIC therapy pool which seems like a glorified bathtub after having been going to the YMCA's Olympic pool for eight or nine weeks with my brother. Although it is small, and I can't condition with laps, or swim down into twelve to fourteen foot depths, I do have professional guidance teaching many new exercises and techniques which I will be bringing home with me. I have learned pedal biking, kickboard seat balancing, squats, side step walking, stair climbing, tall kneeling, and much much more. It has been incredibly beneficial to learn how to take greater advantage of the safety of water exercising and muscle strengthening. It is definitely one of the best ways to go when you are just starting to walk. Walking overground is definitely an excellent practice but while I am still weak, building strength in a pool is such a wonderful way to maximize muscle growth without any potential hazard of hitting the floor. I talked to my brother and we both decided it would be important to kick it up to swimming at least two or three times a week, especially in the beginning here until I am really strong enough to walk safely.

My PT, Carrie, was involved in a meeting where a group of research engineers had requested any volunteers for a study they are doing in developing a new revolutionary ankle muscle return robot. Carrie immediately thought of me, telling them "I know somebody who would be perfect for your study." So I have met with them three times now and am going to be involved in their study for the rest of my stay and then continuing six weeks after that. Basically, they have developed a simple arm connected to a boot that you strap your foot into that is then hooked up to a computer which monitors and controls your every movement the machine can both assist and resist the slightest or strongest movement. Your ankle movement is then hooked up to and programmed for many video games in which you sit and play while strapped in using your ankle movement. They even asked me if I had any requests for specific games that I enjoyed. They would then go ahead and program them to work with the device. I was very interested in the study for my right ankle has movement but is very slight and any sort of exercises like this would be great for its development. It is such a perfect idea to incorporate using your mind along with your movement so that you are continually correlating what you are doing versus just moving it up and down aimlessly. The machine also goes through a complete session of stretches before and after the games. It isn't absolutely positive yet that I will be taking my own unit home for the six week study, but it seems very likely. From experiencing return in all of my muscles throughout my whole body and understanding what seems to work best I know that a program like this will be incredibly beneficial.

On Wednesday I finally had my appointment with National Seating and Mobility to get my long awaited custom made wheelchair with power assist wheels and all. I excitedly went up to the 15th floor ready to transfer into my new ride. Unfortunately, it only took one look and I realized there were many problems with the chair. So many problems I decided not to accept the chair from the company. First off, the on/off switch for the power assist wheels was installed directly behind the break for my right wheel. This was not only completely unfunctional as well as a safety hazard for when I went to put on my break it turned the power assist wheels on. Second, the arm rests were a completely different design than I had ordered. In fact, they were the type of armrest that I could not even take off myself due to some of the limiting functions of my hands making me feel completely trapped in the chair, for every time I transfer they need to be removed. Third, the degree of angle of the front footrest was 70 degrees when we ordered it to be at least 80 if not 90 in order to fit into the bathroom at home because the 70 degree angle creates an additional three or more inches of overall wheelchair length. Fourth, the back canes, also known as the handles we use to push the wheelchair, were a foot too tall making it difficult to store, transport, push, or turn around and access my bag. Fifth, I specifically ordered break locks that you push down when locking the chair so it is not a battle to get over them during transfers, but of course they were installed the opposite resulting in four inch breaks sticking up alongside each leg when in locked position causing a chance to be pierced when transferring. All in all, this chair should not have passed manufacturing inspection, National Seating and Mobilities technicians inspection, or my reps own personal inspection. It most definitely should not have gotten all the way to me where I then have to be the one to show them the multiple malfunctions and safety hazards of this chair I have waited three months to get. So, now imagine, Mark, Kalli and myself sitting with this rep and a counselor from RIC frustrated and heated up to say the least wanting to explode knowing that my options were either to hope and pray they would somehow be able to fix all of these issues or wait god knows how long for another try. So, Mark, Kalli and I decided to ask them to wait a moment while we stepped into the hall and discussed what was going on before we made any decisions. The three of us sat and talked about all of the issues and came to the conclusion that no one in their right mind would accept this chair knowing the headache it would involve in order to get everything redesigned and fit to meet my needs. So, we reentered the room and I basically explained to Denise, my wheelchair rep, that I was not willing to accept the chair and that I would be rejecting it completely. She too was incredibly frustrated with the situation and totally understood the basis in which I made this decision. So, as a group, we then began trouble shooting the issues we were having with this chair and came to a general consensus on a new Quickie GT rigid frame chair that would fit many of my needs much better. So, the waiting game begins again but all in all we learned a lot about what will really work for me and I think I am going to end up with a chair that I enjoy as the end result.

As if all of what as going on wasn't enough stress and complications I also was given a strict discharge date of Saturday the 17th which I did not feel was long enough of a stay to feel strong enough in order for Kalli to assist me walking alone. So, Kalli decided to call Mark, our roommate back home and asked him to come for a day in order to learn the techniques needed to safely assist a big guy like me while walking with a walker. Mark, of course, being the good friend he is, also saw the importance of having someone stronger than Kalli educated in these techniques needed to assist me. So, he checked his calender and work schedule, as well as talked to his boss and headed to Chicago that day. Along with getting Mark to come and learn and help we began another battle with insurance. Many times in this entire process of recovery I have been told "no" in one way or another but each time being the fighter that I am I have decided that there is nothing to lose in giving it one last try to appeal certain decisions. My gosh, the worst thing they can say is no again. So, the reason I was being discharged was solely because my insurance coverage of sixty days of inpatient had come to an end, but even insurance deemed it medically necessary for me to continue to work at RIC towards my new goal of running a marathon. So, I decided to pull out the big guns and go to the top for help. A couple months ago when I was staying at RIC the president of my company and several others came to visit me and Dennis, our president, asked me if there was anything he could do to help me, let him know. Right there and then I told him that at some point or another I will reach the end of my insurance coverage and I very well may need to fight for an extension. So, here we are at the end of my coverage and that is exactly what I did. I called and emailed Dennis, the president of Sheffield Plastics, and Denise, the HR director, and several other key people that I thought would be important in this process. After two whole days of an incredible roller coaster, up and down, I was basically told that Blue Cross Blue Shield does not make an exception on the sixty day coverage and it has never been done before. Then, after sending my medical recovery status notes to Dennis, which he had requested in order to have some data and real facts to share with his counterparts, somehow right at the end, literally hours before the last night of my discharge my case manager gave me a call letting me know that insurance had just called and there was an extension granted. Sometimes, you have to climb out of the box and fight against the norms for the greater good of your own care. It also helps to take a good look at your support team and reach out to those who may be able to make a difference. I now get an entire extra week which may not seem like much but it is probably worth another $14,000 to $20,000 of therapy. Choked up with joy and so thankful for all the efforts everyone involved put forth I began calling everyone I knew sharing the good news and thanking those who had helped make it happen. Interestingly enough when I heard that I was going to be able to continue working on walking I was actually in the middle of one of those breaks, catching my breath, ready to stand and take another fifty steps. Once again, I will push as hard as I possibly can to make every minute here at RIC worth the effort and energy people put in to keep me here. Not only was I grinning ear to ear thrilled that we had beat yet another huge roadblock so were all of the therapists around me for everyone erupted with cheers and clapping the moment we got the news.

So everyone keep the positive energy and prayers flowing my way and I will hold up my end of the bargain by pouring blood sweat and tears day after day in this amazingly fought for last week of therapy here at the best rehab facility in the country.

Friday, October 9, 2009

October 9th

Day five. Another full non-stop day of therapy, working from start to finish. This morning my printed schedule didn't start until ten o'clock but I figured I would get up early anyway and try to get up there by 9 for at least one more hour before my first class of recreational therapy. So at 8:00 while I was doing my routine out of no where my wonderful PT, Carey, comes flying in the room cheery as can be saying "I don't have anybody at nine so get your butt up there by then". I think it is really impressive that all of my therapists here care enough about me to go out of their way to keep me busy on their off hours. Not only could she have taken the easy route and pretended to do paperwork or something else she jumped in the elevator, came off the floor she was on, came down to my room and found me at 8 in the morning an hour ahead of time to make sure that I was out of bed and ready to go. Even though I was planning on it, it felt really good to see how much she cares. So, I got dressed, out of bed, teeth brushed, old spice pure sport on, and wheeled upstairs for my nine o'clock session with Carey.

I got up there and jumped on the power assist bicycle and pedaled for a good forty-five minutes. After that, I went into the main lobby area to join my recreational therapy group led by Mike. Mike had a good half dozen state of the art wheelchairs, tire samples, the latest and greatest tools and several other things incorporated in wheelchair maintenance. He showed us some of the new designs that are out on the market from tippy bars to fold-able hidden wheelchair breaks. It was great to learn what is out there and how to maintain your wheelchair.

After the session, Sarah, one of the other PTs, had a PT Group in the gym. I jumped on the mat and she had me time myself as I broke down my chair all by myself. I broke down the chair and then put it back together in five minutes. After that, I jumped back in my chair and went over to the ricshaw pumping out 6 sets of 15 slow and controlled of 90 lbs.

After I was done pumping it out on the ricshaw it was time for lunch and my noon medication. So, we stopped by the sixth floor, grabbed my pills and then went down to the cafeteria to get some food to eat back up on the 7th floor.

After lunch in the canary room with a whole new group of buddies filling solid elbow to elbow one of the large oval tables Kalli and I headed back to the gym for some more therapy. I didn't have any sessions at 1:00 so Kalli and I grabbed the wrist weights strapped in and did five sets of 15, both horizontal and vertical on each hand. After thoroughly exhausting both of my wrists, which I really need to strengthen in order to have proper extension of my fingers, I ran to the bathroom and took a quick pee before my two o'clock psychology group with Dr. Wilson put me in again.

On my way over to psychology group Ed, my 6th floor case manager, stopped me and told me some great news. Ed has the same position as Rose, who was my case manager last time I was here, which is the communication between RIC and each person's insurance provider. Ed had put together all of the Dr. and therapist's recommendations and field notes to present to Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Now, Carey had mentioned that she was fighting her hardest by putting together a great set of notes explaining my progress day by day. So, Ed explained that he had reported all of this to Blue Cross Blue Shield and they came back with a different tune than we have heard in the past. First off, they approved me for nine more days of therapy which brings us to the 19th and he also talked with my benefits group and they assured him that there was no limit on my inpatient therapy as long as it was medically necessary and I was seeing progress. Of course this news lit up my face and excited Kalli and I immensely.

Whistling dixie I rolled into the canary room for the psychology group. We went around the table and talked about progress that we have seen in the last week and what our goals were for next week. My goal was to walk 500 feet by the end of next week which everybody seemed to think was maybe a bit high but I knew was totally achievable at the rapid pace I am seeing right now. We ended the session with a breathing exercise that Dr. Wilson felt would be very helpful for any of us and that proper breathing is definitely important in a lot of situations.

After the psychology group I headed back into the gym to meet up with Sarah, another PT, who I was scheduled to be with from three to four. Sarah and I decided to start out in the parallel bars for she had not seen me standing yet and wanted to get a feel for where I was at. As I started wheeling towards the parallel bars, Vari my orthopedic consultant showed up with my KAFO for my right leg. A KAFO is a leg brace that is custom fit from my upper thigh all the way down to my toes. So, I slipped it on for its first fitting and it felt like a nice leather glove, the kind a limo driver would wear on a cold winter day. So we did a couple steps with both my braces on and then decided to take it out into the hall where we would have a lot more room to play with. We got out a measuring wheel that looks like a blind persons tapping stick with a four inch wheel that counts the number of feet you roll along. I got up between the walker with Sarah's guidance and started trucking along. With several breaks in between I crushed yesterday's top score of 140 feet by walking a whopping 229 feet before total exhaustion!!! It was really a pretty fun trek for along the way I had Kalli and Sarah and there were several PCTs, like Given and Zebe, my Drs, Dr. Kim and his resident Sam, and then at the end Carey, my primary PT cheering me along. For those of you that have been here, you realize that the floor is a big rectangle with the main reception desk in the center. 229 feet is achieved by starting in the middle, on one side by the reception desk and walking all the way to the back, around the nursing station, and back to the center reception desk area on the other side. So, basically, half of the loop. So, Wednesday I walked 52 feet, Thursday I walked 140 feet, and today I walked 229 feet. There you go Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield - how's that for progress?

After I caught my breath I headed back into the gym to pump some iron, starting with the bench press, military press, peck deck, lap pull down which brought me to 4:30 which is all the time I had for we had a 5:30 movie to catch and I still had to go downstairs, grab my sweatshirt and take my pills.

It was kind of funny, while I was working out a couple of the therapists commented "after all that walking you still have energy to pump iron? That's amazing" Then, Rose, my old case manager said "You get results when you work hard, he is a great example of that". We headed to Couple's Retreat for it was the opening night and we had tickets reserved. After the movie, we came home, blogged, and got ready for bed for I was tired and we had some fun plans in store for tomorrow.

Again, a full day from 8 to 4:30, solid therapy, workout and exercise. It has been really great being here and it just supports what I had mentioned yesterday when I was talking with Sarah I had told her how happy I was to be here and her response was "not only is it for you, but it is great for the whole floor to have you here. For I have seen some of the other guys picking up on how hard you are working and pushing themselves a little more than before." Probably more than anyone, I have seen Connor, one of my buddies here from Las Vegas, putting in the extra time between e-stim and pushing it on the ricshaw just like I did during my last stay. I can't wait to see his progress as he moves forward.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October 8th

Hello Everyone. Day four at RIC, once again hardcore from start to finish. Unfortunately this one started a little earlier than normal. Kim came down to my room while I was in the middle of my morning stretches and exercises at 7:30. So, I jumped into my chair, put on some deodorant and headed upstairs to work on getting my boxers and shorts on and off while sitting on the royal throne. So we went into a mock up bathroom that they have on the 7th floor that is jammed full of every bathroom assisting equipment you can think of. Kim was really amazed how well I was able to dress with shorts on and asked me to please wear pants tomorrow. After I was done with my therapy session I headed into the canary room where Kalli had my tray waiting for me to eat some breakfast. One of our friends Mac, Adrian, Kalli and I all sat talking and putting down our breakfasts.

As soon as I was done I went into the gym to do a session of wrist exercises which I am really trying hard to do twice a day and I am realizing now that I forgot to do the second set, so I will have to make sure I get that in tomorrow.

As soon as I was done working my wrists it was time for my 10:00 Lokomat appointment with Carey. So, Kalli, Connor, Carey and I headed upstairs to get harnessed up. Connor is an 18 year old kid from Las Vegas who is really cool and positive all of the time. We have been sharing a lot with him since there are a million questions in the stage in which he is at so it seems pretty fun to be able to help him out and actually have a lot of the answers. Connor wanted to come up with us to see the Lokomat for he is also incomplete and has hopes of getting his legs moving. I rode the Lokomat for a good fifty minutes with a little more weight on me than I had the day before. My doctor told me today that the Lokomat also really seems to help people with their spasms and I honestly think that I already am noticing that a little bit.

We headed back downstairs for it was time for my OT Exercise at 11:00. Kate was our instructor and she really worked us the whole time. It was really cool to actually be able to go just as fast as Kate and use five pound dumbbells versus the three pound wrist weights that I was up to when I left. The exercises were still really hard and got me sweating nicely.

After OT Exercise group we headed downstairs to the cafeteria to grab some grub in order to come back upstairs and eat on the 7th floor. Right after lunch I went back into the gym and started working out by first pounding away six sets of fifteen with 90 pounds on the ricshaw. After that I moved over to the crossover machine and began doing bench press and military presses. As I got about halfway through Piper came over and asked me if I wanted to work on some e-stim. So, of course I went with her and e-stimmed my hands in two different places. While doing that, Justin came over for we had a two o'clock PT walking session.

First, we put on my AFO for my stronger left leg and then a metal forest gumplike KAFO for my right leg for only the AFO was done at this time. We stood up and I immediately could notice how out of balance the two were since the KAFO was made to wear without a shoe and had its own fairly tall heal to it whereas you put on the AFO and slip right back into your tennis shoes. This severely threw off my walking abilities and it was difficult to advance the right leg. I then remembered that I had seen a custom made KAFO in the corner of the gym the day before and wondered how well it would possibly fit me temporarily. Justin went and got it and sure enough it fit alright, just a hair too big. So then we did a couple steps in the parallel bars to test out the new set up finding out that it wasn't too bad, definitely better than the off kilter forest gump brace. So we headed to the hall where we had some more room to roam. I totally blew my walking distance from the day before out of the water! This was really a great feeling. The day before I only walked 54 feet and was tired as can be. Today, with much better form and a lot less weight on my arms for both days I have been using a walker, I walked an astounding 140 feet!!! The best part is I just KNOW that tomorrow, Saturday and Monday will be more and more and more, but today walking three times as far really seemed like a HUGE improvement. I was telling Justin before we walked that I definitely was feeling stronger already for this morning it almost seemed natural the way I was turning over in bed, using my lower body to help me flip. After walking with Justin I was thoroughly exhausted but felt that after a really good leg workout like that it would be good to get on the mat and stretch out my legs.

After stretching out my legs, Kalli and I stayed on the mat and began a whole series of e-stim on both my hands and my right ankle on our own. Earlier in the day, Kalli went down to the sixth floor and got an e-stim machine for me to check out and put in my name for the remainder of my stay. It is a really easy machine to work with and we were getting pretty good results from what we were doing. So, after zapping up everything that we wanted to work on I decided to get back on the weights and finish up my workout. I went around starting off with the bench press and military press then moved over to the peck deck doing three sets of ten on most machines. After the peck deck I moved over to the lap pull down followed by a one arm pull down across my body exercise that I really don't know the name of. That one I do three sets of 25 which really gets me sweating.

Once I was through with all of that it was five o'clock. So working seven to five we both felt that I had a good nine hours of work out in and I could probably call it quits. Plus, the girls were all going home and we needed to get out of the gym anyway because they wanted to lock it up. We ran down to the cafeteria, got some food, ate dinner with Connor and his dad and then headed down to the room to take my pills, blog, and catch the long awaited episode of The Office where Jim and Pam are getting married.

Today was once again balls to the wall, non stop therapy which is exactly what I came here for and I am so excited to be getting that kind of attention. Once again I will be sleeping like a baby. With this intensive therapy and the amount of weight bearing exercises and walking practice I am getting Carey told me to be ready for some great return. It is so exciting to see myself getting stronger and stronger each day that I am here. The way my left leg is really naturally walking along I really have no doubt that I will walk again. For the last two weeks I have not been thinking about walking I didn't want to make that my goal all I can think about is that I am going to run. I had a long talk with one of the PCT's that has worked here for over ten years and I asked him how many people have you seen come back that can run - he looked at me funny and said that's a really good question. He sat there and thought for quite some time and then answered "honestly, there has only been three." He began telling me a little about each and strangely enough they were all C7 spinal injuries. So I know that it is possible and definitely not out of reach and I can't wait to make it four. So, don't worry everyone I am still busting ass and trying my absolute hardest in everything I am doing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

October 7th

So day three begins just the same as every day ends - with stretching and exercises in bed. So, I have to wake up around 6:30 for my first session is at 8:00 with Justin one of the newer PT's. Justin had me get on the mat in the gym in order to stretch a few muscles out quick that I hadn't covered in bed already before he had me strap into some braces and go for an early morning stroll. Unfortunately, my stroll didn't go quite as well as the day before for one, I think the braces were strapped on a little funny, two, I felt quite fatigued from the previous day's intensive workout and three, who really knows. We did several short jaunts, sitting back down in my wheelchair taking breaks in between until our hour was up.

I again didn't have anything for the nine o'clock hour, but of course, one of the girls jumped right in and asked me to work with her. The group of therapists on the seventh floor have done such an awesome job of giving me extra attention on their free hours since they all know I have so much potential and have such a short visit. So, Kate got out the e-stim machine and we worked on a new part of my hand that I have never shocked before. It was really great and I can't wait to do it again. After we were done working on the hands, I asked her if we could please work on my right ankle for I would like to see it to become as strong as the left which basically has full range of motion now and has become incredibly strong. She let me know that she is really an OT and has never worked on anyone's legs and really doesn't know how. I told her that's not a problem I happened to be an expert and would be more than willing to teach her for free. She looked over at Carey, my PT, as if asking for permission and Carey right away said of course, go ahead, he knows what he is doing! So we hooked up the machine and got really great muscle contractions which Kate was really excited about, kind of freaking out every time the ankle would pull back all the way.

After working with Kate I had a PT group so I was able to just stay on the mat where we began a whole series of leg exercises and stretches. All of these different exercises are really great and totally new to me because when I left RIC last time I had just gotten some good toe wiggles and definitely not the full leg movements that I am having now. After thoroughly exhausting every movement in my legs we went and found a wrist strap that you add weight to and began doing exercises in the canary room that will really help my hand movements. But, while we were working on the hand exercises, in came Emily, one of the therapists, who had worked with me earlier that day asking if I wanted to work with her for she had some free time because one of her patients actually refused his session of physical therapy. It is crazy and almost maddening when you hear people refuse therapy. It makes you think my goodness there are people trying so hard to even have a chance to get in here and bums like that are sitting around taking for granted where they are and the talent they have to work with here at RIC. So, of course, I went with her and she strapped me into one of the motorized pedal bikes where I also continued to do my hand exercises simultaneously. Emily really pushed me to pedal the machine on my own as much as possible and it was really amazing how much more I was able to pedal on my own without the machines help compared to just the day before. Another example of what such intensive therapy can so quickly do for you.

After working on the bike with Emily we ran down to get my meds and lunch tray from the sixth floor just to bring it right back up and eat with everyone on the seventh floor. We sat and talked with everyone while eating our lunch until one o'clock where Carey came and got me saying "it's lokomat time again!" We went up to the 12th floor, strapped me in, and again I started walking with the assistance of this amazing machine. When we get back home, Kalli will post videos, unfortunately the internet connection is a little too slow here. Because we didn't have to measure me and work out all of the kinks I was able to walk even longer this time, almost an entire hour.

After working on the lokomat we went back downstairs for another PT group. I got strapped into a standing frame to do around 50 minutes of standing. These are such cool machines where you basically get strapped in and a simple hydraulic arm picks you right up, holding you very steady and secure so that you can practice having the pressure on your legs for extended periods of time without getting so tired. While I was standing Adrian stood there with me continually whooping my butt in Kings Corners four games in a row. After an hour of standing I got my daily session of ricshaw, bench press, military press, peck deck, lat pull down, and a few other exercises that you can do on a really nice crossover machine that they have in the gym. Now, thoroughly exhausted after a full day of therapy and lifting weights Kalli and I headed down to the cafeteria to get her some food and go eat dinner in our room.

After dinner, we got a pass to leave so we could run over to Treasure Island, the local grocery store, and get a little present for JJ, a very high level C3 who has been in hospitals and RIC for three years now. Tomorrow he is heading to his own home, a four bedroom, three bathroom ranch that is finally ready for him to live in with twenty four hour nursing assistants. He is an amazing guy with a great attitude and I wish him all the best. I think I have talked about this in the past but JJ is one of those injuries where he will be on a respirator for the rest of his life and is in a power chair in which he steers with an air pressured straw since nothing moves for him from the neck down. Good luck JJ. It is injuries like JJ that make it easy for me to keep positive and realize how lucky I am, to not only be alive, but as functional as can be.

October 6th

Tuesday morning started as every day does with my entire routine of stretches and exercises that I do in bed. As I was in the middle of my morning stretches in popped Carey to let me know that I had the lokomat scheduled for 9:00 since it was not printed on my schedule for some reason. So, at 9:00 I headed upstairs to meet up with Carey and together Carey, Kalli and I went up to the 12th floor where this amazing machine lives. Once again, Kalli assumed the position and pulled out the camera for this was truly a photo worthy event. Carey began measuring me in order to calibrate the machine and strap me in for the ride of my life. Once again, the lokomat is a million dollar machine that I call a giant johnny jumper placed over a treadmill which also has robotic legs that you strap on in order to magically walk all on your own. As wonderful as the harness feels digging in to your groin and abdomen it truly feels exactly like a natural walking stride. As I get stronger we will continue to increase the amount of weight in which is put on my legs while I walk. For some reason or another I kept saying "Here I go, I am just walking to go get a doughnut." It was quite funny and Kalli, Carey, and I had a blast as I walked along for a good 45 minutes. Amazingly, my blood pressure is 100% under control and I didn't once get light headed while using the lokomat.

After the lokomat we headed back downstairs where I had leg slings with Adrian. This is where you lay down on the mat and hook up ropes, pulleys, and slings from the ceiling in order to do zero gravity exercises with your legs. This is exactly what I have rigged over my bed which my dad, and Todd, Kalli's dad, helped me create at home.

After slings, I was with Carey again where we put on braces and went into the hall to do some more walking with assistance and a walker. Although my legs were tired we had a good session of walking which brought us into lunch.

Right after lunch, I didn't have anything so Adrian again asked me if I wanted to work with her where we did some more slings. After the slings, I got on a bike and did some pedaling and then I went throughout the entire gym from machine to machine and worked out until two o'clock where once again another therapist, Piper, jumped in and grabbed me because her schedule was open. Piper and I worked on two really great exercises. One being mat to floor and floor to mat transfers which got me sweating like a pig and two, sitting and balancing on a giant work out ball which is not easy at all. While we were sitting on the ball Piper had said she had actually never seen anyone balance on a ball as well as I was. This is really an amazing comment since these girls see hundreds and hundreds of spinal patients week in and week out.

After working with Piper for an hour I then had on my schedule a 3:00 psychology group. Dr. Wilson, a wonderful psychologist, had asked me on Tuesday if I would be willing even though I didn't need it, to sit in on a psychology group and tell my story in order to motivate and inspire others that she was working with. The group was a table of about 8 people of all different levels of injury both power chairs and manual. Dr. Wilson asked me to start out the group and explain a little about myself and what all I have been doing for therapy rehab. I probably talked for fifteen or twenty minutes trying to explain and inspire the others in our group to work hard both physically and mentally as they go through this very difficult experience. I explained to them how important work out routines, reaching out to the community, and staying positive is to getting return and good results. Everyone seemed very interested and happy that I had shared my experiences for a lot of questions came out of the group from what I had shared.

This stay at RIC has been very different than that of others, mainly due to the fact that now that I have returned I am realizing how far along I have gotten and how strong I really am. I remember when I had my roommate Maurice who was a twenty year spinal injury strong as an ox, benching 315 lbs, and moving around like he wasn't injured at all. I remember the way in which everyone looked up to him, thinking and feeling I hope I can be like that someday. Strangely enough, that is exactly how I feel now as all the other new patients ask me questions, and make comments about my recovery. This sounds really arrogant but there was one point where Mac, a fairly high level spinal patient, was sitting next to me while the therapist came over to him and said "Mac, we need to go downstairs you have a lifecenter class on the first floor." He looked at her and said: "No, I just want to get on the bike in the gym so I can be like Andrew and get out of this chair." I looked at him and said "Don't worry Mac, you just have to keep on working and you will be, but you should really go down there. They are going to teach you all about different ways of re-entering into the community, how to modify your home, get wheelchair parking passes, and find ways for financial assistance." He immediately changed his attitude about the lifecenter and went right down with her. It really made me feel good, showing me that the second time around I am almost like a role model to a lot of these kids and I have to work even harder so I don't let them down either.

So, Kalli and I quickly ate some dinner, came down to the room and got ready to head north of town where we were going to meet up with my old roommate Maurice who is on the RIC wheelchair basketball team. The team was having a scrimmage against another team in Chicago for the season had just begun two weeks before. We went to the game which was absolutely amazing how quick and athletic all of the players were even with being stuck in a wheelchair. We headed home, Kalli went to her friends house where she is staying and I headed to bed so I could get some sleep for I knew I was going to have another full day tomorrow.

October 5th

Hello Everyone. Another week at RIC starts. Unfortunately, I didn't get very much sleep last night because my roommate is not doing well - he had a 101 fever and needed to be checked on every hour. If there is one thing I could change about night time nursing it would be to teach them to use flashlights, or some sort of small dim light source to come in and check on people. Every time they come in they feel as if they need to turn on every high powered light in the room which pulls you right out of your sleep and makes it very difficult to fall back into your slumber. The next morning started with nurses, doctors, and a group of paramedics coming into the room and making the decision to bring Dave, my roommate, back to Northwestern's hospital for more intensive care. Although this is terrible and I hope Dave the best, it is definitely going to help my sleeping situation which is important for me these next couple weeks for I plan on going 110% all day every day during this short stay.

In order to assist me walking and one of the main reasons why I wanted to come back to RIC we need to have a set of leg braces custom made to fit me. So, Vari and her orthodics crew met with me first thing in the morning to cast my braces. It is a really neat process where they take a roll of fiberglass mesh to wrap around my legs and create a cast, as if I had a broken leg, they immediately cut it off while it gets hard to use in order to form the pieces of the leg brace which then become a perfect fit. While we were casting Vari was so impressed with my movement on the left leg, my stronger of the two, she wanted to make sure Carey came down to make the decision with her to only make a shorter AFO brace for the left leg. An AFO is a brace that only goes from below the knee to the foot. On the right leg they are making a KAFO which goes from your thigh all the way down to the foot giving you even more support.

After the casting was complete, I headed upstairs with Carey to show Vari where I was at with walking with a set of temporary adjustable braces. While showing them with a walker and some assistance with my therapists I was able to walk about 18feet, three separate times, taking rest breaks in between. These are not just simple stroll in the park type strides they are pushing, pulling, forcing everything I've got fighting gravity like a ninja warrior step after step, but an amazing beginning to this saga. After walking for a little bit, we went into the gym and practiced standing up and sitting down time after time in between the parallel bars. This concluded my PT session from 10 to 11.

After that I really didn't have much on my schedule until 2 o clock so therapist after therapist began filling in my time with all sorts of exercises and strength training. We then had lunch, worked out in the gym, and then met up with Piper for an OT session. My main concern with my hands for OT was a hyper-extension that I was doing due to over compensation with my wrist. After explaining what I was dealing with and what was happening, Piper devised to great hand splints that I am now wearing on each hand. They basically block the movement that I was doing, creating the hyper extension in my hand. I wear these all day unless I run into an activity that they hinder.

After working with Piper I did a few more activities and then Kalli and I got some food and did my nightly routine in order to be done and ready so I could watch the unfortunate Packer Game up on the seventh floor 50" plasma.

After the game, I went to my room to be left alone for a good nights sleep.