The day had finally come where Joey and I were going to be off on our much awaited adventure sailing out on Lake Michigan in the afternoon. Breakfast came as usual around 8 o'clock. Guillermo and Kalli showed up in my room shortly after the food arrived. We sat and chatted as we ate breakfast. Guillermo has been a really great help over the last two days that he was able to spend with us. It was time for 9 o'clock hand group and Guillermo spotted me as I used my slide board to transfer into my chair and head to the canary room. Oh yeah forgot to mention, as my torso has been getting stronger and stronger, I was able to free myself of the silly velcro strap that I had around my upper chest to keep my balance while in my wheel chair. The strap was very limiting, making it difficult to do several tasks such as pulling my breaks off lock, leaning all the way forward, or side to side to do my own pressure break and many other tasks in which I would want to lean over in some way or another.
At hand group I was given some old wheel chair parts and allen wrenches and was asked to start taking them apart. This was fairly simple but worked the hands well as usual. Next, they had a device made where five threaded rods about 20 inches tall were positioned vertically with a nut on each rod. I was asked to thread the nut all the way from top to bottom, not by just simply spinning it with my hand but actually grabbing it with my fingers and twisting it half a turn at a time. By the time I got through about three of these rods, my hands were really buzzing and they switched me to the next task. I'm not really proud of the next activity they asked me to do, it felt a little strange but I'm going to share it with you guys anyway. I was given a woman's wallet full of monopoly money, fake credit cards, and seventeen pennies. The purpose was to pull everything out of it and then put it all back in. So, I did one step up and not only pulled it out, but counted every single piece of money in the wallet. I ended up with $657.17 and a sack full of credit cards. By the time I was done with that the hour had flown by and I had a half hour break.
My PT, Carey, stuck her head in the canary room and said "hey want to learn a little more about the weights? I've got some extra time." So, I followed her into the gym and she showed me several of the different pieces of exercise equipment and how to use them properly. This was not only educational but incredibly tiring. The weight machines really tucker me out and I can really feel the burn.
After a half hour of demonstrations on all different kinds of exercises with Carey, it was time for my next appointment which was an OT session with Diane. Since a day or two ago I discovered a very slight amount of movement in my left hand for the first time we concentrated on doing E-stim therapy on that left set of digits. It's interesting, depending on where she puts the electrodes we either usually get a couple of my fingers moving, or the thumb. We did several different positions about ten minutes each and then it was time to head to the next thing on my schedule.
At 11 o'clock I got back together with Carey and she continued to show me how to use the different weights and machines in the gym to strengthen my biceps, triceps, and shoulders. The wheelchairs here get some pretty heavy use, patient after patient, adjustment after adjustment needing to be made to fit each individuals body, size and shape. So, once again we had some issues with the wheels moving around and rubbing and we needed her to get into the shop. So, Carey adapted our session and moved me to my room and into bed so that they could take my chair and her and I could work on some stretches that I needed anyway. After stretching for a while, the wheelchair returned and my session was up so we transferred into the chair and unbelievably, the wheelchair had the same freaking problem, but now on the other side. I don't know what these wheelchair guys up on the 12th floor are smoking, but they were definitely off their game that afternoon. So, I was supposed to have exercise group next, which I did join and got a couple reps in but then I saw one of the wheelchair guys walking by and flagged him down, expressing my emergency. Normally, it wouldn't be that big of a deal to struggle through a rubbing tire or some sort of issue, but at 2 o'clock I was about to be heading off on my sailing adventure and I really didn't want to be dealing with a problematic chair, not knowing exactly what all we were going to be taking on. So, I flagged down the guy, had him come into the gym with me, I quickly transferred onto the mat, explaining to him what the problem was and laid there doing my own exercise routine while I waited for the chair to be fixed for the second time (that day).
About 25 minutes later, the chair returned in a good working order! The boys had finally gotten it right and I was ready to go sailing. Then, as soon as I felt like I got my wheelchair fixed and everything was ready to go I looked out the window and saw black clouds as I heard the rumble and crack of disappointing thunder. I headed to the canary room, where Melissa, another one of the patients was on the computer. I asked her if she would please check the weather and see what the radar was showing, for just ten minutes ago it was perfectly sunny and beautiful out. She types in the zip on weather.com and the radar came up showing just a small blimp over our area that looked like it was going to pass quite quickly. With incredible relief, for I had been really looking forward to this opportunity, we decided the show must go on.
Mike, the activity coordinator, went and got the van and Joey and I loaded up to head to Judd Goldman's Sailing Center for our fun-filled afternoon. We got down on the dock and one of their instructors gave us a brief "how to" on sailing. He asked us if we had any experience and I let him know that I own a 25ft sailboat and ran a sailing school for five years. We loaded up into the boat with me positioned as the skipper, in the back of the boat so that I could steer with the tiller, and Joey placed as crew towards the front of the cockpit to be able to reach all of the many lines for adjusting the sails. In the boat, we had Mike, his intern Haley, our instructor Paul, and Joey and I. The five of us pushed off the dock and headed through the harbor under motor zigzagging through the docks and out into the open water. Once we got out of the harbor we raised the sail and very slowly sailed along in a light breeze. Even though the weather was warmer than necessary and the wind was light, Joey and I were grinning ear to ear being out on this Freedom20 that was amazingly being provided for us to use. I just kept thinking I cannot believe that just three and a half weeks after I broke my neck I would be a mile and a half out into Lake Michigan with a tiller extension in my hand sailing away. The Chicago skyline from that distance out is absolutely breathtaking and there is no where in the city that could even give it a run for its money. After about an hour and a half of cruising around, we found ourselves back in the harbor. The second half of our voyage the wind had kicked up at least five or more miles per hour, making the whole experience just perfect. Paul, our instructor, must have had pretty good confidence in my abilities for he didn't blink an eye when I said I want to take it all the way into the dock, just please throw the engine in neutral when I say. Coming in at a perfect thirty degrees from the dock, I placed the hull number five, Freedom20 just one inch from the dock, gliding to a perfect stop. The docking was worthy of a round-of-applause and I couldn't have done it better, even before my injury. We transferred out of the boat and on shore was an older gentleman, in a wheelchair, who was in charge of the racing portion of Chicago's quadriplegic sailing teams. He was gung-ho about getting more people involved in racing and wanted to get me started training for their Olympic team. Unfortunately, I don't know how long I will be in Chicago and although everything in me said wow that would be pretty amazing to be a part of, but right now there is just too many questions and more important things to be focused on. We loaded into the van and headed back to RIC.
Back at RIC, Kalli her mother Mary, their neighbor Karen and her three girls were waiting to see me. We ran down to the cafeteria to get me some chow and we all visited while I put down a sandwich, bag of chips and a frappucino. After dinner, we said our goodbyes and I headed to bed to start my nightly routine. All evening, I just kept going back to that same thought of wow I cannot believe I got to go sailing already.