Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday July 27th

Hello Everyone- I finally got out of rehab and was able to head back home. Thursday morning RIC asked me to be packed and ready to go by 10 so they could begin cleaning my room for the next patient. So Kalli and I packed up everything and had it ready so that on Thursday morning we were able to all jump in the car and head to Menasha where I would be living with my good buddy Mark Lee from now on. Thursday morning I walked around and said my goodbyes to everyone that has been there for me over the last two months. As I walked around there were so many people to give hugs and goodbyes to, it was slightly overwhelming... but yet I was excited to go. You can only stay in a place that isn't your own home for so long before you get a bit antsy to get back to a normal life. So after saying goodbye to everyone we jumped in the car and headed back. The drive went really well even though the car was packed to the gills with each of our things. Once we got to Mark's house the working crew (my parent's, Kalli's parents, and Mark's parents) were all just finishing up odds and ends in the bathroom and throughout the house so that it was ready for me to live in. We moved in all of our things and re-arranged my room so that the hospital bed and a futon would all fit and it turned out just fine. Things are going really well and each day we continue to adapt to the new surroundings which change the way we do my nightly routine and many other daily tasks.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing in the blog each and every day. Now that I'm back to what is a fairly normal schedule and living at home, I'm going to try to just blog once a week, usually on Sunday, so that I can give highlights of what is going on. Now when really exciting things, such as wiggling my toes occur, I'll most likely jump on the blog and make sure everyone knows. Thank you everyone for following my progress so intently, but it's a bit more difficult to stay on a good therapy schedule and live in a normal household, so my time seems to go by even faster. I would love to keep up and continue blogging everyday but I think it's time to just move back to once a week. I wanted to make sure everyone knew that, so that people weren't worried or thinking that something was wrong when they didn't see a blog for days and days.

I'm going to be living at Mark Lee's house, as you all know, and his address, if you need to send anything, is the following:

Andrew Hippert
1124 Lakeshore Dr
Menasha, WI 54952

Please continue the prayers- I have an extremely long road ahead of me and I need all of the support I can get. Also, because everything takes a bit longer to do and people have been asking if there is anything they can do to help - Mark, Kalli, and I are always looking for a hot meal. I can't thank everyone enough for all of the support that they have shown through prayers, charity outings, and helping me in endless ways. Thank you all!

I also want to thank the whole group of individuals that put together a special rehab program by getting me a handful of games and a Nintendo Wii. A couple weeks ago, Mark had called me asking me if there was anything that I would like for people had been asking what they could do to help. I told him that RIC had a Nintendo Wii and it truly was a great way to rehab. So Mark and several others put some money together to go and get me exactly that. I can't thank you enough for I have already played it and it's truly a great work-out, and really fun.

So, I look forward to talking to you all again in about a week, where I will again give an update of the weekly highlights and ups-and-downs in my new life back in the Fox Valley.

Love you all,

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday July 23rd

I woke up immediately wiggled my toes and moved my leg to make sure it wasn't just all a dream. Checking my phone it was flooded with text messages and emails from friends and family expressing their excitement for the night's events. The word had truly spread like wild fire and I was far from experiencing this wonderful event alone even though I may have been the only one in the room I felt like the whole world found out as quickly as could be. I put down some breakfast and in walked Carey for someone had mentioned that I had something to share with her. I showed her what had happened and she of course freaked out feeling my legs, making me do it again and again, bubbling with joy, sharing the moment with me. She then decided "You are not going to hand group, you are coming with me for we need to teach you as much as we can today about how to exercise and strengthen these legs." I got out of bed and headed straight to the mat in the gym where we went through several exercises that I could do with my new found movement. She put me in a leg sling hanging from the ceiling to eliminate the gravity and allowed me to move my leg back and forth to strengthen these wonderful firing muscles.

After my session with Carey I met up with Diane who just returned from her two week vacation from Montana. She had a great time with her sisters and was happy to be home. Diane was also truly excited for me for all the improvements she could very easily see having been gone for two weeks. My fingers have also come a long way and increased their own movement drastically. She showed me a bunch of new skills and we figured out a couple of tools that my dad could easily build to work my hand muscles to the fullest.

After working with Diane, we ran to the room, continued to pack up some things and then headed to the canary room for some lunch. After lunch I headed to the gym to go over some more stuff with Carey about my care in the near future. Then for the next few hours I ran around just finishing up odds and ends so that we would be ready to leave tomorrow.

At 2:30 I had a swimming appointment up on the 12th floor which I had been looking forward to all day. I ran up there, jumped into the swim chair, got put on the lift, dropped in the water and began swimming. Swimming is unbelievable and really really fun! I could float on my back, swim under water, and even do laps. It is truly quite amazing. After about an hour in the pool, we headed back downstairs to the 7th floor where I got dried off and changed just in time for my next appointment which was another massage. It felt like another spa day between swimming and massages, how could you ask for more? Truly, the perfect ending to my last day of therapy at the number one spinal cord Rehabilitation Institute in the country.

After my massage we finalized the first ordering of my medications I will be going home with. While on the phone with Walgreens in walked Pat Keagen, a good buddy from high school that now lives in Chicago. Pat, Kalli and I decided to walk over to Walgreens to go pick up my new prescription. We then headed to subway, got some food and came back to RIC, ate dinner, talked about the latest and greatest then headed to my room to start my FINAL RIC nightly routine.

As excited as I am to go home it is going to truly be hard to say goodbye to all of the people that have gotten me this far. RIC is truly an institute that allows you to learn all the skills needed to help yourself and get back on your feet. I have learned SO much about not only myself but every facet of my injury; from training sessions to therapy this place is the total package. I feel completely confident to leave and begin my journey towards an independent lifestyle and there is definitely no way I could have done it alone. There are endless amounts of people that have created this new found confidence in which I will never forget. Thank you all.

Tuesday July 21st

My day started awfully early today with a 7:30am PT with my favorite physical therapist in the whole world, Carey. She came in my room, made sure I got out of bed and we headed right for the bathroom to practice a tub transfer for what was my very last attempt before the real deal over at Mark's house. The transfer went well and I used some leg loops that I had made with my part time OT, Katie. They are basically some straps that you velcro around your ankles and thigh so you have a place to grab and lift from so you can use your wrist power opposed to my non-existent grip in my hands.

After PT I headed back to my room to eat some breakfast before my next hand group session which was done by the recreation therapists as they have done in the past. We headed upstairs to play some pool. In the group was just Anthony and I and we went back and forth shooting the balls as best we could. It is strange these last couple days because I've gotten to know all of the employees here at RIC really well and you never know if they are going to be working the next day and you don't want to miss being able to say goodbye for what seems like the very last time even though I plan to return. Our game of pool took so long we weren't able to actually finish it but it was another great feeling for it was twice as easy as the last time I had played. I remember playing with my sister Sarah and breaking into a full sweat only about half way through the game whereas this time, it was pretty nonchalant due to all the muscles I have gained.

After pool, I had a little break so I began to finalize a bit of paperwork and decision making that needed to be done to establish a local doctor in the Appleton area. Kalli and I researched a handful of doctors that were recommended by friends and family coming down to Dr. Jason Revolinki at Theda Clark. I set up an appointment with him for August 3rd and by that time I was twenty five minutes late for my last OT Exercise Group. So, I quickly scurried off to it. I threw some four pound weights around my wrist and finished it out with excitement.

After exercise group, we grabbed some lunch. I ate quickly for I had a examination that I needed to be in bed for at one o'clock. So I jumped in bed and a group of three doctors came to do the same test they had done on me the day that I arrived at RIC. It is basically a sensation test where they use needles and q-tips to prod and poke all over my body while I gave a rating of what amount of sensation I was having in that particular spot. The doctors had the initial results with them as well so it was interesting to see what areas had gained back sensation and movement.

As soon as the examination was done, I had an OT session as well as a very special visitor. Kalli babysat for the cutest little girl named Ellie in Milwaukee all through college. Ellie and her family are moving to Baltimore very soon and really wanted to make sure they saw Kalli and myself before they left so they took the train and came to visit for the day. Probably almost two years ago Ellie, Kalli and myself were sitting down by the beach in Milwaukee. Kalli was babysitting and I met up with them for a little lunch. All I brought with me was a cucumber some salt and a little knife to cut the cucumber into thin slices to be eaten. I showed Ellie how much I liked the salted cucumber and got her to try it. She absolutely loved it and ate over half of my cucumber sitting down by the beach. So as cute as can be Ellie walked into my room with a beautiful drawing and a bag with a humongous cucumber. It was so cute and it was really fun to see her, her mom and her grandmother I had heard much about.

After the quick visit, I finished up a simple session of tying my shoes, putting my clothes on and convincing my OT I needed a few more tools before I left as backups incase I was to lose or break the ones I have. As soon as our time was up I had an appointment with my wheelchair distributor and the RIC representative for wheelchair seating and positioning. We all got together on the 15th floor to hash out all the decisions that needed to be made for a different chair because of my decision on which power wheel brand to purchase. We went through all the Quickie brand options and came upon the Quickie2 with an 80 degree front. I think it will work out just fine. One of the main decisions was to get a collapsible chair versus a rigid frame so that I don't run into the chair not being able to fit into someone's car. After all of the decisions were made it was practically 5 o'clock and time to go grab some food.

I went to the room to take a leak while Kalli went and picked out some food from the cafeteria for us to share. Now comes the much more exciting part which all of you heard about last night. Kalli and I began blogging in bed when all of a sudden I got this urge to move my toes. She took off my socks and sure enough those darn little buggers just started moving for me just like I knew they someday would. It was absolutely amazing but it gets even better yet...

We finished up our celebration and Kalli headed home while I sat in my bed just wiggling away my toes and watching TV and calling people to share the news. But then, around 12:30 I all of a sudden got this other sensation running through my leg where I said to myself "oh my gosh I think my leg is going to move!" Sure enough, I put my mind and everything I had into it and my left leg up and picked right up sliding my knee into the air! I did it about three times until the entire leg was thoroughly exhausted and couldn't move. I thought for a minute that it was just a fluke but then I waited about five more minutes and sure enough I did it again! I yelled for the nurse and she came in and said "What is going on?" I explained to her the situation and she immediately exploded with excitement and took off my night time booties which prevent foot drop. We took them off and again I began moving my leg as my face flooded with tears of joy.

During my injury I always told myself that I would try and try until I walked but never was I just filled with the overwhelming feeling that I truly will walk as I did this evening. Between my toes wiggling and my whole leg moving I knew that moment that I would prance around once again.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


JULY 21st, 8:15pm.

After explaining to the blog how wonderful everyone was to me at the golfing event the love and support just now blessed me with the most amazing thing ever, a true full on toe wiggling, foot moving amazing sweet action of my fat feet!! Kalli and I were sitting here in bed and had just finished writing today's blog when I got this feeling, like my feet might move. Now, prior to this all I had ever gotten was my middle toe on my left foot to just barely at all wiggle the smallest amount. Whereas, just now, all of my toes on my left foot and about half on my right foot were able to do a full-on wiggle. It made me want to scream from the highest mountain "I'm gonna walk!" Kalli recorded it on her camera and as soon as we can we will try to add it to the blog.

Monday July 20th

Today was a BIG day. Not your normal big day, a life changing kind of amazing big day. I woke up around 3 to take a leak. I was really excited about my upcoming day but knew that I should try to get at least another half hour of sleep before I got it started. I had set an alarm for 4am so that I could be ready to just head right down to the car once the girls arrived at 5am. I finished up all of the last minute touches for leaving for a whole day, pills, passes and cathing supplies. It is a little different than normally just running out of the house like I used to. Everything went smoothly and we got to the car to load up. I transferred into the front seat of Alex Wilhelm's car, a tiny Saturn. The girls then broke down my chair and began attempting to fit it in the trunk. Because the chair that I use at RIC is a rigid frame it doesn't break down like a folding chair would. The beautiful lime green frame wouldn't fit in the trunk, so my mom and Kalli had to ride all the way back, four hours to Appleton, with it between them in the backseat of the car. This was a good learning experience for it made me realize that I definitely have to get a fold-able chair when I go to pick my own.

We arrived at Reid Golf Course where an amazing charity golf outing was being held for me all day long. A few people had already arrived and more and more just kept showing up as we got closer to the ten o'clock shotgun tee time. We ended up with ninety-seven golfers making up 24 teams which dominated the entire golf course for almost the entire day. Kalli, Mark and I rode three across in our own golf cart so that we could run around like a marshal and harass all of the teams on the course. Not only was it an amazing turnout out on the course, but the clubhouse was also filled all day long with friends and family showing their support. We had a ton of fun going from group to group, handing out snacks, beers, and taking pictures.

Every hole had a fun contest to partake in from closest to the pin to shortest drive, everyone had a chance at some prizes. After a full day out on the course everyone began piling into the clubhouse where there were tables and tables filled with many different prizes and packages for a silent auction. I can't say enough to thank all the people that made it possible by donating prizes, services, and so much more!

There was a spread of food surrounded by a sea of conversation which filled the room as everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time for it was truly a perfect day. The weather was great, the turnout was amazing, and I couldn't have asked for a better way to come back to Appleton for my first time. After rolling around talking with so many great friends and family I hadn't seen in years I got a plate of food and mowed down as quickly as I could for I had to get back to RIC by around 8:30 or so. After eating, I snuck off into the back locker room to take a leak when no one was looking, it is pretty funny the places you can take a leak when you are peeing into a catheter bag.

The silent auction continued to be a great hit as the people circled the tables bidding on their favorite prizes. You could see people keeping an eye on things they wanted, going back and outbidding to make sure they got what they wanted. After a while, Jill Long, Mark Lee and David Lee began announcing the winners from each hole. Prizes were handed out and it was fun to see who was beating up the course and who was letting the course beat them up.

The giving spirit of the entire group was absolutely unbelievable. The whole time I rolled around in the club house speaking with different people I was so filled with love, support, and comfort it was hard to keep it together. At one point, I took a quick stroll around the tables filled with all of the silent auction prizes and each item made me think how much everyone loved me and was willing to do so much to help me get back on my feet. I couldn't believe how much was donated and offered towards the cause of the day.

After all of the prizes were announced, grand prizes were awarded to Brian Much and Bob Rodesavich for several hundred dollars each. Without blinking an eye each of them took their winnings and stuck it right in the donation box making the clubhouse explode with celebration and emotion. Choking back the tears at this point my heart started beating faster and faster for I don't think I have ever experienced such a rush of love in my whole life. Shortly after these tremendous acts of selflessness the crowd all placed their eyes onto me for I wanted to try to thank everyone with a few words. Although there aren't even words in the english language to describe emotions that were flowing through my body I tried my hardest to speak from my heart. With tears running down my cheeks and my voice continuing to leave me I professed how grateful I was to be surrounded by such wonderful people that beautiful summer day. I can't thank each and every one of you enough. Thank you, thank you, and yes I am going to say it one more time, THANK YOU.

After saying goodbye Kalli, my mom and I got into the car to head back to the RIC. On my way back I thought about how excited I am to move back to Appleton and to be near so many of my family, friends and everyone that is supporting me. It truly made me realize how far my rehab has already gotten me and that I am ready to move on to the next step towards an independent life.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday July 19th

I woke up in my room all to myself around 8:30 which is probably the latest I have ever slept in yet and I didn't have anything until 10 so there was still plenty of time to have breakfast, get ready, and head to hand group. In hand group, I started out with a man's wallet, thank goodness, for last time they stuck me with a ladies wallet. I practiced pulling out all of the money and credit cards that were inside. The first time I did this drill I slightly struggled and it took a couple minutes. This time, I had every credit card and drop of money out and back in, in probably about thirty seconds or less. Again, this is always the most encouraging, when you do an activity, then experience it again a week or two later and truly see the improvement due to the ease the second time around. After the wallet, I grabbed my favorite bucket of putty and puttied my way through part of the hour. Once again, I got every bean out. Next, I finished up the hour writing a birthday card to my Big Bro Tim. Which, as long as I am saying it in here, I will be giving it to him tomorrow at the golf outing.

After hand group I made sure everything was settled and ready for my day pass for the big golf outing tomorrow. I am so excited to see all of the people which consists of friends and family and people I haven't seen for years and years. It is truly going to be a really fun event.

We ate lunch, took pills, drained the dragon, so that we could head out for a movie at 1:30. Kalli, my mom and I walked over to the local AMC just a few blocks away and watched Public Enemies with Johnny Depp. It was neat seeing the scenes from Chicago, Oshkosh and Rhinelander but really all in all thought the movie was too long, a bit slow, and not really all that good. I am not trying to discourage anyone from seeing it but it just wasn't quite worth the nine bucks to me. Either way, it was fun. On the way home Kalli and I walked passed a sushi restaurant right next to the theater and some people were out on the patio where we saw a couple of rolls they were eating which looked delicious. We looked at each other and both felt the urge to go try it out. My mom headed back to the apartment to make some food while Kalli and I decided to give it a whirl. We ordered a couple rolls, edamame and were not disappointed at all! One of the rolls that we ordered had ten pieces in it which for any of you that enjoy sushi know that is a humongous roll! The food was great, we paid our bill and headed home!

Once we got back I decided to transfer into an armchair we just recently got in the corner of my room. The chair is pretty comfortable and actually turns into a bed for patients visitors to stay the night if they so desire. While sitting in the chair Kalli and I decided we really needed to catch up with our blogging for again, we have been really busy and kept not having time to keep everyone updated. So we did four days of blogging until about 8 o'clock at night where it was then time for me to start my nightly routine and try to get to bed early for Alex Wilhelms is coming tonight to pick us up and drive us to Appleton in the morning, really really early. Can't wait to see you all tomorrow. Just a reminder again, it is a 10 o'clock shotgun tee time and a 9 o'clock check-in time. We have around 100 people signed up so please everyone be there on time or early so everything can be started by 10! Sounds like the food, silent auction and activities are all ready to go and I am so excited to get out of here and see all of you in the AM! Again, wonderful day full of fun and activity. Normally, when you are done with a day and you felt fine all day you don't sit back and think how great it is that I felt fine today. But, now, with this new injury it really makes me think at the end of a good day how wonderful it is to be healthy, feel good, and have another great day! See you all tomorrow, Love Andrew.

Saturday July 18th

Saturday morning I sat in bed eating breakfast and talking with Kalli as she set up Maurice a Google email address so that we could keep in touch. Maurice is going to buy a computer within the next week for while he was here he had decided it was time that he finally had one of his own. So, we set him up with his first email address while he finished packing up all of his things. We both got out of bed and headed out to the canary room to get a couple last pictures with my big black bodyguard which is what he called himself. It is interesting how while you are here you create these great friendships that unfortunately will become difficult to keep up due to the fact that in only a couple days I will also be leaving and heading back to Wisconsin. Maurice lives right here in Chicago and promises to come visit me on Tuesday before I leave.

Around 11 o'clock all of Maurice's papers were signed and his ride was here to bring him home. We said our final goodbyes where I gave him a big hug and promised to stay in touch; which I definitely plan on doing. I can't wait to get him up to visit the valley and get him in a boat for his very first time. For, somehow, after 42 years he has never even been in a boat at all. So, as soon as I can I am going to have him come visit for a guys weekend.

At one o'clock I had a PT session with a guy named Vince, whom I have never had before. Vince turned out to be very knowledgeable and taught me several exercises that were really great for strengthening my core. After my session with Vince, I decided to sit down and draw some very detailed diagrams of my beloved rickshaw. With all the dimensions down on paper I really think it is going to be a fairly easy piece of equipment to recreate. Now, I haven't really mentioned this to Mark yet, but I am hoping he is down for creating a workout/gym somewhere in the house or garage so that both of us can get buff.

After completing my drawings, I of course needed to make sure the rickshaw was still working so I pumped out another six sets of fifteen. After pumping iron, I came back to the room where Kalli and I pulled out my Uncle's E-stim machine and did another session of therapy on my hands. While we were shocking me, Mike and Ruth Schmelzer, the parents of my good friend Bob, stopped by for a visit. We all decided to head out for dinner at a local restaurant called Timothy O'Tooles. Again, it was incredibly interesting the way in which we needed to enter the restaurant being that I am in a wheelchair. In fact, this was probably the most interesting entrance that I have experienced yet. Basically, we went into another building's ramp, through a tanning salon, into a back beer keg storage room, where we then entered a 140 year old freight elevator filled with fruit flies. This very interesting elevator then brought us to the restaurant's level where we entered in through some back secret entrance. Finally, we appeared at the table where everyone else was already seated. The food was great and we all had a cocktail and then headed home.

On our way home, my mom once again parted her way and Kalli and I headed back to the RIC to start my nightly routine. This was the first night without big Reese which was kind of strange and a bit lonely, but I had absolutely no problem passing right out for really I was only working on about 3 or 4 hours of sleep from the night before.

Friday July 17th

I woke up feeling great as I have now for the last couple of days. My mom showed up and began helping me get ready so that I could get to hand group on time. Today was Maurice's last day for he will be leaving on Saturday. Maurice has again been a wonderful roommate as Joey was. He has had a lot of great insight and suggestions for he has twenty years of experience in a wheelchair. Him and I over the last two weeks really bonded, learning so much about each other. It is going to be hard to see him go as well. We got me up and going in my chair and I headed to hand group. In hand group we had another fun Friday and played Uno. In hand group today was Anthony, Matt, Paula and myself. Matt won the first game and there wasn't quite enough time to finish the second.

After hand group I had an hour break so I went into the gym so that I could pump some iron on my favorite piece of exercise equipment, the rickshaw. After six sets of fifteen at seventy pounds, for I upped it another five pounds, it was time for exercise group.

Leading the group was Margaret, another one of our wonderful OT's here on the seventh floor. Margaret's approach to exercising our arms was a much slower but very effective workout. Again, for our group really enjoys playing with the beach ball we began bouncing it around trying to keep it up for as long as we could for the second half of the session. The group hit an all time high of 46 touches before the beach ball hit the ground. For a bunch of people in wheelchairs, with limited arm and hand motion, I would say that is pretty darn good.

After exercise group, we ate some lunch, I took a leak and fooled around until two o'clock when I had PT with Carey. When I did my fitting for my wheelchair, which I will actually not receive for two or three months, I was able to test drive a set of Quickie Power Assist Wheels. While I was test driving the Quickie wheels, my distributor and wheelchair representative from RIC, both kept telling me how much better another brand, E-motion, was and that will actually be what they should order me. Because the power wheels are such an expensive purchase, I let them know that I would really like to try the E-motion wheels before I made a decision on which to get. So, today was the day that the manufacturer's rep from E-motion brought by a demo-wheelchair for me to test for the weekend. Carey promised the rep that I would be formally trained on how to use the wheels before they were handed over for the weekend. So, her and I went upstairs to get briefed on how they work and what to do to activate all the functions. After the briefing, we brought the chair back downstairs and I jumped out of mine and into the demo. We then headed outside to see how this baby worked. First, I took on some grass and wheeled all over. Then, we found a ramp across the street and I practiced going up and down. After all this test driving I came to the conclusion that I actually really liked the Quickie Power Assist Wheels better than these fancy dancy E-motion brand Power Assist Wheels. I liked the Quickie's better for the following reasons: 1. They have an extra battery that you can keep on a charger and then swap out when your batteries die, opposed to the E-motion where the batteries are in the frame of the wheel and once you die you either have to sit and plug in or hop out of your chair and just wait. 2. The E-motion comes with an enormous remote control which they expect you to either hang around your neck, hold between your legs, or strap onto the chair. This remote is the way in which you switch the wheels speed from high to low, which they call indoor and outdoor speed. The problem is, the low speed seems a little too slow while you are indoors and the high speed is a little jumpy and out of control for tight spots outdoors. And, why would I want to have to stop, hit a button, and switch speeds whenever I want to go a little faster? So, the Quickie wheels basically have more of a automatic transition between low and high, which is activated based on the amount of pressure you apply to the wheels and a nicely mounted on and off switch on the side of the chair. So, with this conclusion of wanting to purchase the Quickie's over the E-motion's it creates the need to choose a different wheelchair for the one I had chosen is not compatible with the Quickie wheels. From what I have been told, Quickie and Invacare are the two best brands in the wheelchair game. So, it really isn't an issue and there are lots of great Quickie chairs as well.

For my last night with Maurice we decided to eat dinner in bed and sit back with our ladies and watch the new movie Hangover in the room. One of the front desk ladies had a pretty good bootleg that we borrowed. We watched the movie, relaxed in bed and began our nightly routine. After the girls left, Maurice and I began some great conversation, like we do most nights. Unlike other nights, we ended up talking until 3 in the morning going back and forth telling stories about our lives. We then finally realized how late it was and said our last goodnight and headed to bed.

Thursday July 16th

I woke up got dressed, ate breakfast and hopped out of bed to head to hand group with Kalli. Kalli had a pile of thank you cards that she wanted to work on from her birthday while I joined the hand group. I began working on my putty, pulling each and every bean out of it that I could find. The putty is really starting to do the trick for I am noticing more and more things that I can do with my hands. This is encouraging me to think that I will get full use of my hands at some point or another. I definitely still have a very weak grip and a long way to go on this road towards fully functioning hands but I can see progress and that is just a wonderful feeling. Adrian, one of the assistants - who I have definitely not talked about enough throughout this blog, she is such a wild character and really creates a great energy throughout the entire 7th floor. She is the only therapist assistant on this floor and has worked here for 29 years. She has the funniest laugh that is more like an explosion than a giggle and you can hear it coming a mile away. Adrian brought over a bag full of cloth and string for me to work my hands by sewing. Mainly, just to be funny, I grabbed some beautiful pink silk material to match my pink thread and began to sew a small hand purse. I really don't think the hand group expected me to go as far as I did and actually produce an entire beautiful little purse that Prada will soon be after me for the design. I cut a red rubber band to use it as a very stylish handle, which really completed the small hand bag. As silly and metro as it may have been creating the bag, it really was a good exercise for my fingers.

After hand group I had an hour break so I ran to my room to fill the cute little bag with M&M's so that I could give it to Carey, my PT as a thank you gift. She of course loved it to death and asked me where I got it for the craftsmanship was exquisite.

Next I had exercise group led by Katie, a floater, fill-in OT that has been filling in for Diane while she has been on vacation. During exercise group we worked our arms with many different movements and then gathered around in a tight circle to play catch with a beach ball again. This activity is really fun and involved everybody quite well, working your shoulders and arms all together.

After exercise group we went into the canary room to throw down some lunch where I came close to losing my life. In the canary room they have these very heavy tables that are oval shaped. We all sat down to have some lunch and sitting with us at the table was a gentleman we have come to know as Crazy Larry. Larry must have at some point bumped his head a little along with his spinal cord injury. He pretends as if he is a child calling all of his nurses "mama" and in general always just a bit strange. So, on this special Thursday, one of the PT's came up with this crazy idea that Larry was ready for a power chair; even though by no means should he ever be trusted in a powerful vehicle like that. So, every time they park Larry in some place or another, they go and turn the power off so that he doesn't try to take off by himself. But, at lunch, whomever parked him didn't throw the off switch that's down below that he cannot get at. So, we were just sitting there eating lunch while Larry is getting more and more impatient and upset that no one had come to feed him yet. It also didn't help that he has this enormous obsession with snacks and Joey's mom brought a couple dozen cupcakes for everyone to share on Joey's last day. These cupcakes are sitting at a table next to us and Larry is just dying to have another one, for my mom had already fed him one because she felt bad that no one was coming to feed him. So, in Larry's rebellion and frustration of not being fed he began just pushing any buttons he could to try to make his chair work. Well, sure enough he figured out how to put himself into a pressure break which is where the chair tips backwards and lays him on his back. Now, Larry is sitting on one end of the table and I am on the other. He's underneath the table just like I am. So, as he leans back into this pressure break he begins picking up the entire table pulling it probably about two to three feet into the air. Meanwhile, smashing my legs and dumping my entire food tray into my lap trapping me under the table. As he goes up I am yelling "Larry, stop! Stop Larry! Stop! Larry stop!" but of course, being Crazy Larry he just continues to yell "no! no! no!" Kalli quickly jumps up and helps pull me from the table to my rescue, like superwoman. Luckily, the table, which is literally at least 200 pounds, didn't bruise me at all and I was fine. But, it definitely frustrated me a little bit that they put Crazy Larry in a power chair and didn't have someone to feed him. All in all I was just fine and looking back at it it is kind of funny and really crazy.

So, next I had a one o'clock OT with Katie. We created a pair of leg loops which are straps that you velcro to your ankles and thighs so that you have loops of webbing to grab and help move your legs around during different types of transfers. I don't think I will need the leg loops very long but there are definitely certain things they will come in handy to help me do. So, after the leg loops we ran upstairs to the fifteenth floor where they have a humongous sewing room where a couple people sit and create different tools and devices to help out patients. By the time we came down from the 15th floor, it was time to meet up with Carey for an hour long PT session.

For our session of PT, we decided to do several different kinds of transfers practicing all over the 7th floor. First, I did a floor transfer and then Carey taught Kalli how to help me back into my chair if I was ever to tip over or fall out. It is a fairly interesting process and it takes pretty much two people to tip me back up. Next, we went into the canary room and I practiced transferring on to the yellow couch they have in there. Lastly, we jumped back into the gym and I got on the mat to do some side crunches and stretch myself out.

After PT we went back to my room to make some calls to HR Direct for we had a couple different questions for insurance and disability. We then ate dinner and after that jumped into bed for that night I was going to try doing my bowel program directly over the toilet for the first time. The process was extremely successful and a great step towards an independent nightly routine which I will need in order to really feel independent.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday July 15th

I woke up this morning feeling much better than the last two days! Although it is strange, even when I feel good, getting up in the morning is truly such a task. So, I ate some breakfast which actually ended up mostly on my shirt for I dumped my cereal bowl onto my chest and ended up having to change my shirt quick before hand group. I got to hand group and again Sarah and Matt were both there. I worked on putty for it really seems to be the best therapy for my hands that I have found so far. After hand group I had an hour break so I went over to Joey's room and talked with him for a little while for he never gets out of bed until 11 o'clock or later and he is leaving tomorrow so I just wanted to say hi.

At 11:00 I had an hour long PT session with Carey. So, I quickly wheeled from Joey's to the gym where Carey had big plans for me. She really wanted to work on working on getting up and down to the ground from a chair or mat just incase I was ever to fall. Getting down off the mat was fairly easy and well controlled. Getting back up is really pretty tough. I have seen people that have five, ten years under their belt make it look so easy. But, for me right now, it is still an incredibly difficult task. There are several different techniques that Carey showed me and we worked on which one was best for me. I was almost able to get back up by myself but Carey did have to help me a little bit.

After PT I ate lunch, then headed out to the center room, near the reception desk to do a OT exercise group led by Margaret, one of the other OT's. Margaret has a very nonchalant, fairly easy style of arm exercise. So, we did that for about 25 minutes and then really changed it up and tightened the circle of wheelchairs by each of us moving forward a bit so that we could throw a blue ball around the circle; practicing hand coordination by throwing and catching. After we threw the blue ball around for a while we tightened the group up even closer and got a beach ball out where we had a really fun time tossing it around the circle, counting how many times we could hit it and keep it moving without it hitting the ground. With all the different levels of function and ability it was absolutely hilarious to watch us all struggle and try our hardest to keep that ball moving. One of the new patients, named Matt, has a halo neck brace apparatus in which is literally screwed into his skull, holding his head incredibly still. This makes is so that he can't look off to the sides at all so it was really funny watching him taking basically blind swings at the ball as it came flying at him. We all have a great attitude and it was really fun. Everyone was laughing and having a good time.

Once exercise hour was over I headed back to my room to take care of some paperwork and make some calls that were needed. Unfortunately after about an hour and a half of paperwork my eyes started shutting and we decided it was time for a little nap. My nap turned into staying in bed for basically the rest of the night. Kalli went and got me dinner and we ate and started some blogs. I had a great first attempt at doing my bowel program independently. For, I put to use the tools that Katie found for me the day before. I have to give props to whoever invented the arm extension that I used for my bowel program. It was designed perfectly and I got it on the first try! That is about as much as you all need to know for I could get pretty graphic when it comes to this subject.

After my nightly routine, Kalli and I finished up some much needed blogging. The last couple of days were just too difficult and by the end of the day I was so tired it was right to bed. It feels good to be caught up with the blog for I hate to keep all of my fans on the edge of their seat waiting for an update. I look forward to all of your responses and I just wanted to make sure you all know I read each and every one. I am also incredibly excited for my trip home on Monday to see so many of you for there is close to 100 signed up for the golf outing on Monday. Just a reminder - Tee Off is at 10, but check-in is at 9 so we can get everything moving on time with such a large group. It would probably even be helpful if some people showed up earlier than that. We have tons of wonderful silent auction prizes and all the people involved with planning the outing have a ton of fun things in store for us! One of my good friends, Alex Wilhelms, is going to be picking up Kalli, my mom and myself. She is coming down to Chicago Sunday night so we can hit the road nice and early Monday morning. My doctor says I have to be back all in one day so shortly after the outing I will be heading back to RIC, but don't worry soon there after, on the 23rd I will be heading home to live with my good buddy Mark in Menasha.

Today was a really good day and I can tell already tomorrow is going to be even better. My spirits are up and I feel like I have everything back in order physically throughout my body. I will try to keep blogging each day so you don't all have ten pages at once to catch up on with my crazy new lifestyle. See you soon and I love you all.

Tuesday July 14th

I woke up in the morning unfortunately feeling more awful than I had in a long time. This weekend I sat in on a bowel program hot topics lecture where they talked about how nice it is to eventually teach your body to do your bowel program every other day. Since I only have about a week left here at RIC I wanted to try to get my bowel program going every other day here before I went home. So, last night I skipped the program hoping to easily start an every other day situation. Unfortunately I woke up with this bad stomach ache and just an overall crummy crummy feeling. After discussing with Kalli we both felt that it was probably a BM sitting inside me that just wasn't going to work. So, I called in a PCT and requested to start a bowel program right away that morning. I had things to do and was desperate to start feeling better. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later I had a nice BM and some relief followed. With all of this going on I definitely missed hand group and rushed to get out of bed so as not to miss my 11:00 PT with Carey.

Carey and I worked on the next important task on my getting home checklist. This was transferring onto a shower bench. There is a bathroom that is filled with different style shower chairs so people can figure out which is best for them and practice on them. We have a certain style picked out that seemed to work well. We began practicing the transfer and you wouldn't believe how difficult it is to lift my legs over and into the tub. This is mainly due to spasms that I am now experiencing and have increased over the last week. Carey and I decided that I definitely need what they call leg loops. They are simple straps that you put around your legs that you can grab with your hands to better lift your legs. Later this week I will be working with my OT to create these. After we got me in and out of the tub, which is such an important skill to master because it can be incredibly dangerous to be slipping and falling in a porcelain tub.

After PT I went into bed for my next therapy was another massage from the volunteer massage school. Kalli and I each received a massage from the students around 2:30 for a good half hour. I fell asleep almost immediately for I am still getting used to the baclofin, which is the muscle relaxer I take to help with my spasms.

After the massage I headed straight upstairs to the 15th floor, which is wheelchair seating and positioning. Up there they have brand new wheelchairs everywhere and a neat area that is set up just for going through the measuring or your body and chair in order to order a chair in which you will go home with and live with for possibly the next four years. A representative from RIC and a wheelchair distributor that has access to all of the best wheelchair lines in the country met with me for two hours of talking over each and every detail of my new chair. The distributor brought in several different wheelchair brands and designs for me to look and and test drive. The best part of the whole fitting was test driving a pair of power assist wheels. Because of my level of injury and the stress that pushing a wheelchair will put on my shoulders it makes me eligible for insurance to cover power assist wheels. Believe it or not, but this amazing technology of amazing speed and gentle slow touch costs $8,000. Let me say that again, $8,000. Unbelievable, that is like a nice used car. It just blows my mind. So, I transferred onto a table and then into the chair with the power assist wheels on it that they had there for me to demo and test drove it up and down the halls. It was the most exciting and unbelievable thing I had experienced since my accident. It created this incredible joy and new excitement to explore life. I can't explain the enlightenment and freedom that I felt with the speed and power that it put at my finger tips without placing me into a humongous bulky heavy power chair. With these wheels I will be able to go on grass, run through gravel, and climb ramps with ease. I don't know if any of you have ever hopped in a wheelchair and actually tried to push yourself up a wheelchair ramp but it is far, far from an easy task. These wheels even have technology built into them so that while you are going up a ramp you could let go and it will hold your position opposed to flying backwards which is what would happen without them. I was literally so excited that for a moment I was happy that my legs didn't work and I got to now drive a go cart around for the rest of my life. Which is what I loved doing every moment that I could as a kid, in my dingo by manco 5 force go cart. We finished up the fitting and I was really excited about the wheelchair and wheels and all the accessories I had picked for my new chair. Unfortunately it takes two to three months to get the chair and I will be in a loner for quite some time.

After the fitting we went down to go get food for I had a voucher for The Red Tomato. We ate dinner and it was pretty much time to start my nightly routine. Again, my day started rough as can be and I was able to fight through it and end with a glorious go cart ride on my new wheels.

Monday July 13th

I woke up in the morning after a rough night and struggled a bit with blood pressure, slight stomach ache and just overall ache body. I was able to eat a little bit of breakfast, get out of bed into my chair and get to hand group about ten minutes late. During hand group I worked with some putty, pulling beans and little pegs out of it. This is a great workout for my hands. Two new people were in the hand group; a girl named Sarah and a guy named Matt. Both are right around my age. We all chatted and continued to work on our separate hand group activities.

After hand group I got together with Katie, a fairly new OT. She is filling in for Diane while Diane is on vacation in Wyoming with her sisters. Katie and I hooked up the e-stim machine to work no getting hand extensors which are the muscles that stretch your hand our flat, pulling the fingers back. Usually, we work on pulling the fingers into a fist; totally different muscles. The hand extensors are a much weaker muscle and it is difficult to find them. It feels a bit different. We targeted different areas and were able to get some good reaction. After working on each hand, one at a time, back and forth, we left about 20 minutes of our hour long session to go over in the gym and strengthen my wrist muscles. Once we got in the gym we strapped on some weights and I did several sets of strengthening exercises. After that Katie searched in large cabinets in the gym filled with different types of tools and devices to help with all kinds of functions different people struggle with. Katie found two different tools that would help me start doing my bowel program on my own. We threw them in my backpack for later practice and use.

I headed out to the middle area by the reception desk for some hard-core exercise group with Kate as our leader. After going to town, sweating my butt off and again using 4lb weights in the second half I really got a great workout. This was good because I wasn't really feeling very good the first half of the day and a good exercise like that always helps me get back on my feet. Kind of a funny phrase to say now - get back on my feet - since there isn't much walking going on as of late.

After exercise group my mom, Kalli and I ate lunch in the canary room and then went to take a leak. After I was done cathing Kalli came in to my bedroom and Maurice and his wife Abby and I all gave Kalli her birthday presents. Maurice and Abby got Kalli some world famous Chicago cheese and caramel popcorn which is unbelievably good along with another bag of chocolate covered mixed with caramel popcorn. I also presented the second half of her present which was some nice pieces from Victoria Secret which she had been needing since most of her clothes are still stuck in California.

We sampled some of the wonderful popcorn and chatted for a while. Then, I headed back out to the center area where I looked for Dr. Wanda Grant Knight for a while. We had a 2:00 appointment, but with no luck finding her, I decided to go hit the weights. After pumping some iron for a while, I met up with Carey for our 3:00 PT session. One of the important things that I need to work on is making sure I can do a good car transfer. So, her and I headed up to the 12th floor to practice. I lined myself up to the 92 dodge spirit with a beautiful silver paint job which has been used and abused by all the apparently drunken wheelchair drivers lining up to practice. I had the best in and then out transfer that I have ever had, doing everything completely on my own. Doing it on my own is truthfully not even necessary, for if I am transferring into someone's car they are definitely going to be there to lift a leg or pull a butt cheek if needed.

After the very successful transfer I felt good and as if I had really accomplished that portion of my checklist for going home. After PT I headed back to bed to lay down and take a quick nap before we went out to dinner for Kalli's birthday. Once I refreshed myself a bit Kalli, my mom and I headed to a nice tapas restaurant nearby called Emilio's. The restaurant had indoor and outdoor seating both wheelchair accessible. We decided to sit inside because the tables were larger and easier for me to tuck underneath and get close to the table. Strangely as it seems, getting underneath restaurant tables is one of the more difficult things for a lot of restaurants have a table leg set up that just doesn't work well for a wheelchair. We picked a handful of different tapas plates and each got a different flavor of sangria to sip on. Enjoying some nice bread and wonderful butter, the plates began to come and we slowly enjoyed sharing each of the very interesting combos we had chosen. We cleaned just about every plate and then shared a piece of flan for dessert. The dinner was very enjoyable. We paid our bill and headed home.

My mom headed back to the apartment and Kalli and I went to RIC to start my nightly routine. Another unfortunately fairly difficult day from the start but again, I learned that the only way to pull yourself out is by forcing yourself out of bed and getting your blood flowing with either some exercise or activity of some sort.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Friday/Saturday/Sunday July 10th-12th

It's been another great weekend with of course lots of visitors, good food and fun. Friday started off with some breakfast while hurrying to get to hand group. At hand group there were four of us gathered around the table in the canary room fighting for the championship title of the classic American game, UNO. The game went round and round, people throwing draw 4's, skips, left and right and somehow or another, Beverly pulls out this crazy win. No one saw it coming. Most Fridays the therapist try to make it fun and simple, giving us a little break. Truthfully I would rather they didn't and we just work on stuff that is as hard as possible, but nothing wrong with having a little fun too.

After hands group Kalli and I stayed in the canary room but moved to a different table to work on some E-stim together. After having a couple therapists look at my Uncle Paul's electro-therapy machine, we got the okay to go ahead and use it on our own. Kalli and I have a system down that seems to work really well. We mark my arms with a sharpie when we find a good spot for the electrodes to be placed. That way we save a lot of time looking for the right spot. Basically, we go through about 4 5-second cycles of electro-massage, then a 20-second break and then repeat this process for about ten minutes per hand. After I am done with the E-stim my hands feel really good, loose and functional.

After working on both of my hands, I headed to my next therapy, OT Exercise Group. One of the therapists, named Piper, was leading the group. It's interesting how every therapist has a very different approach to the OT Exercise. Some go faster with more reps and others slower with less reps but more control. Both are very effective and wear you out in different ways.

After sweating like a pig and working my muscles I was ready for some lunch. We ate lunch in the canary room and had three hours before my next therapy. So we took advantage of this nice long break to get some paperwork done. We posted up in the canary room with Kalli's laptop and my personal information binder we had put together here at RIC so we could start applying online for Social Security Disability. The application is much like a financial aid, hardcore, long as heck, asking more questions than you could ever believe type form. It was really a pretty interesting form to fill out because it made you explore and think about all the different ways this injury is affecting me for those are the type of questions they are asking. They want to know how my situation truly affects my ability to provide for myself financially. And, the way in which it will affect my performance.

As we were filling out the form, my mother's sister, my aunt Marge, arrived and joined us as the group worked on the form. Marge lives in Florida and her daughter Francee and her are visiting for two weeks. We got as much of the form done as we could without the assistance of my case manager Rose. (Portions of the form wanted to know who worked on me, what specifically they did...) Over this process there has been so many names and assessments, it would be difficult for us to get all of that correct.

Three o'clock presented itself quicker than I thought it would and it was time to join my last therapy of the day - psychology group with Dr. Wilson. There are large curtains that can be pulled across portions of the canary room to divide it up and create some privacy so that a section can be used for group or class while people can continue to enjoy the room. I rolled into this sectioned off portion of the room and realized I was extremely out numbered - in the room were about 8 power chairs. Three of the power chairs were on ventilators and eventually in rolled my roommate Maurice and one other gentleman as well. This made for a very diverse group to talk about different issues that were going on for each and every one of us. Dr. Wilson led a very interesting conversation encouraging people to reach out and explain their successes, failures, fears, and temptations that they have encountered over just the last week. We talked about all different types of issues from fear of leaving RIC and going out to eat to realizing that not only are some of us injured and it's difficult but we need to think about our spouses and significant others that are going through a difficult and much different life change as well. The conversation shifted continuously from heavy to light making for enlightening realizations learning from each others experiences. After we had all gone around and shared successes and difficulties we have experienced in the last week, Dr. Wilson led a meditation relaxation to finish up the hour.

Before we go any further, I have been meaning to tell everyone another funny story about the fart machine. After two or three days of having my way with the entire 7th floor farting on them and playing them like puppets the staff finally became aware of the trick I was playing. My roommate was at the park with a recreation therapy group and overheard a group of therapists and volunteers talking about what they should do to get me somehelp for several people had complained and mentioned about how gassy I had been for the last two to three days. They were talking about getting a specialist involved, possibly putting me on some medication, but weren't sure how to approach it. My roommate, dying inside, finally felt as if he needed to inform them about what was going on. He didn't want it to go any further or get out of hand. So, he explained to them the situation. Immediately, all of them felt tricked as can be and wanted revenge. So, apparently, for the next several hours they all plotted as to how to get me back. The final result was the following. I am sitting in my bed and just had taken a nap, relaxing a little when in comes one of the doctors who actually happens to be in a wheelchair herself. She is a really nice lady and asked if I had a moment to talk. She said "Andrew, I know this is a little bit of an embarrassing subject but several people have noticed that you have had very heavy flatulence over the last several days. We are quite concerned about your situation and we have made a decision to give you a colonoscopy. We are going to bring you downstairs in just a couple moments on a bed so they can perform the procedure." I immediately looked up at her thinking, oh my gosh this is going a little too far. Now they are trying to stick things up my rear end for no reason! I said to her "okay, okay, about this gas it has all been a joke. I have this little machine and I have just been messing with everyone. Here I have it, I will show it to you." As soon as I fessed up in ran my therapist, my roommate, all laughing so hard saying "We got you! We got you! You son of a gun! We got you!" The whole situation was quite hilarious. They really did get me, for after the doctor had said it I was a little embarrassed thinking I had let it go that far. But, actually, this was the best way for the whole situation to end because had they not found out everyone would have continued to just think I was that stinky kid that could not hold his gas for the life of him. I mean, literally, no one was aware that it was a scam and I must have tricked thirty, forty people. So, for the rest of that day everyone on the floor began learning and there were jokes to be told every where I went.

Now that I got that great little story out we can continue on with the rest of Friday. I just felt that everyone needed to know how my little fart machine ended. So, after therapy group I went into the gym to pump some iron so I could get as buff as Arnold. After working like the Schwarzenegger it was time for dinner. My mom, Kalli, Aunt Marge, and I looked up a Thai restaurant nearby, made sure it was wheelchair accessible and headed there for dinner. The food was great. After we were done, we all went our own ways and I began my nightly routine.

Saturday morning I was running a little late, mainly because right before I was about to get out of bed I had the sudden urge to call my old roommate Joey to see how he was doing. I talked to him for a little while, jumped out of bed and got to hand group about ten minutes late. During the group I played with play-do, pulling little game pegs, kind of like the people pegs that you place in your car in the board game LIFE. After finding each of the people pegs, I then had a pile of beans in front of me and worked on picking them up and holding them in my hand as I picked up more and more, trying to keep the beans in my hand at the same time. I got to ten beans in my hand, then there was just no way I could pick up another one without having one fall out. You will all have to try it sometime it is pretty tricky. We had some good conversation around the table for it wasn't just patients. One of the other guys here, Anthony, had four of his buddies from out of town joining him for the day.

After hand group I headed to the gym to work out and once again pump some iron! After doing several exercises I left about ten minutes to cool down and catch my breath before OT Exercise Group. Exercise group was led by Kate on this fine Saturday. She is by far the most intense leader. Her style is fast and furious, balls to the walls, don't stop until you drop! I am now using four pound weights which has been an exciting improvement. Moving from twos to threes and now fours which is twice as much as what I started with. Today's exercise was no exception for Kate worked us to the point of dripping sweat and pure exhaustion.

Once she was done having her way with us, in came my entire posse. People must think I pay strangers to come and visit with me just so I look cool. For in walked Marge, Francee, Camilla, Margaret, Rose, and my Mom and Dad. They joined Kalli and I and we headed downstairs to the cafeteria to get some food for lunch. After eating we decided to break into groups and all enjoy the day running around downtown Chicago. The girls broke into two groups and my dad and I took off on our own for there were several things that I wanted to go and get, especially a birthday present for my little sweetheart Kalli Ann. So, once the girls all took off my Dad and I sat and looked up as many jewelry stores as we could up and down Michigan Ave. so that we weren't just running around like a chicken with our heads cut off. Him and I had a great time rolling up and down Michigan Ave. purchasing all the different things on my list. We probably went to eight or nine different jewelry shops, searching for that perfect promise ring that I wanted to get for Kalli. Her and I have been dating for four years and I love her so much but the hospital is no place to get engaged and there is just a lot going on in our lives right now but I wanted her to know how much I love her and appreciate everything she has been doing for me in these last four years.

After a long search my dad and I found ourselves at Tiffany & Co. one of the nicest jewelry shops on Michigan Ave. There, I found myself in love with a ring that shouted out promise ring and matched the beautiful pendant necklace that I had given Kalli about three years ago. I purchased it and headed to the Water Tower Plaza to pick up some of our last items on the list. On the way home, I was so excited to give the ring to Kalli and could barely wait or stop talking about it. The plan was to all meet back at the apartment around six o'clock for dinner. We pulled out several days of leftovers and covered the counter with a schmorgus board of options. Almost like a China Buffet right there in our apartment. After we ate, mainly due to my own excitement, I asked Kalli if she wanted to get her main birthday present now while everyone was still here to celebrate and that way my dad could also give my mom a neat ring that he found and purchased while we were out and about. For, she too, has given up so much in this last two months and my dad and I wanted to thank her with something. Knowing Kalli so well, I knew there was no way she would turn up the chance to open a present early. So, out of my backpack I pulled the beautiful little blue Tiffany bag which she never saw coming. My sister Margaret was just joking, saying "Kalli I think I saw them at Tiffany" as if there was no way she would really get something from there! She opened it up in front of all of us and you could tell that she really loved it. She gave me a big kiss and whispered in my ear "I love you so much".

We all talked as my sister Margaret trimmed people's hair and I lounged in a couch for I had transferred out of my chair for a change of pace. After a while, it was close to my curfew and it was time to go. I headed back to RIC to start my nightly routine.

Sunday morning came and it as time to just be lazy. I laid in bed until 10 or later and was basically forced out because everyone began arriving, piling up in my room, staring at me like "hey get out of bed, we are here to play". So we headed to the canary room and snacked on some fruit and other food that my mom brought while we just sat and chatted. I then got a haircut and we all decided to head outside and throw around the bean bag. The whole gang needed to be leaving around 1:30 which came quickly and they all said their goodbyes.

Kalli and I then headed to Tiffany & Co to go and get a different size for her hands were tinier than I thought. After that, we came home, took a nap, went to Chipotle for dinner and came home to blog.

Sundays are always kind of a just a nice cool down, lazy day getting you ready to bust your buns during the coming week! We came back to my room so that we could blog about the weekend and start my nightly routine. Over this last week we have made the decision to implement a strategy that we have been thinking about for a while. Basically, my insurance covers 60 days of in-patient rehab, so I am going to save two weeks of that coverage so that I can come back in a couple months without a neck brace and hopefully more leg movement than I have now and all around more healing simply due to time. With that being said, my discharge date it now July 23rd and I will be kicking it in high gear in order to take advantage of the little time that I have left. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the visitors and support that I have received over the last five weeks here but am going to encourage people for my remainder of my stay to possibly only come on the weekends. This way, I can take every moment in between therapy to work on the the handful of issues in which I need to improve in order to be independent when I leave this facility. By no means, do I want anyone to take that the wrong way, I just simply want to focus all my time and energy towards these tasks that I have to learn in order to go live with my buddy Mark. Which, by the way, is where I will be living - in Menasha Wisconsin, with my good friend Mark Lee.

Once again, it was a wonderful weekend and I look forward to celebrating Kalli's birthday tomorrow because she is going to be a whopping 24 years old!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thursday July 9th

This morning started out like every morning does. Some good breakfast in bed just before heading to hand group. This morning's schedule threw me for a little loop in a positive way. Before I could get out of bed my PT Carey came in and said "let me see your schedule, lets get rid of this, this, and this and you are going in the pool!" I was really disappointed yesterday when I found out that there were no therapists scheduled to help in the pool and my session got canceled. So, this was great news and a wonderful way to start off the day!

During hand group I got the wheelchair boys to fix the back of my chair for there were some screws loose and missing. So while I sat at the table playing with staples and paperclips for therapy I was being worked on like the number 4 car in a Nascar race. As soon as hand group was done I did a good long pressure break and then my mom and I decided to just head up to the pool early.

We got to the pool room and in the back they had an area with a miniature elevated exercise mat similar to the ones in the gym but about half the size. I transferred onto the mat and they brought a pool chair over to the mat for me to then transfer into. This chair hooks right into a small lift at the edge of the pool that swings from the edge and then lowers you down into the water. Once you are in the water the chair stays put and off you go! There were two other people in the pool with me that were also working on different forms of therapy. The instructor was a very knowledgeable and kind lady that you could tell had a lot of experience with all different kinds of injuries. The first thing she did was flip me over to my back to see if I could float. The many years at Sunset Beach, as a lifeguard and swimming instructor, really paid off for this moment. I immediately pushed my belly up into the air and pulled my chin to the sky floating like a champ. I used my arms to do some beautiful sculling action on each side which kept me afloat and allowed me to maneuver around as well. Once she saw my floating skills she said "boy you're going to make this really easy for me aren't you? I'm not going to have to do anything at all." After floating for a little while she put me in one of the corners of the pool and gave me several different exercises to focus on strengthening my abdomen and torso. We also worked on standing and moving all the different muscles in my legs. It was really amazing because on land I can't get any movement and it is really hard to see if the muscles are twitching. But, in the pool she said she could feel all kinds of muscles throughout my legs working which felt so good. Swimming in the pool has got to be one of the greatest therapies I have experienced yet. After the stretching and strengthening she said "why don't we work on a little swimming." Now, without my legs I thought my gosh I am going to sink to the bottom of this glorified bathtub. The pool was plenty large for me and two other people to all be working in, probably 35 feet by 20 feet, but was truly just a huge stainless steel tank about four feet deep. She taught me the best way to roll from my stomach to my back to get air each time I was to run out while double front stroking, two arms at a time, with my face down in the water. It was the weirdest feeling but once I would get my arms going and enough momentum my legs would lift up to the surface of the water and I really was swimming. I did several laps back and forth across the pool until I was so tired that my last lap was almost completely underwater and my mom right away when I came up at the other end and grabbed the side said "I think that's enough." The instructor gave me a really cool pair of goggles to wear while swimming. She mentioned "it's been a while since we have had any swimmers. You did a really great job today." After catching my breath and just screwing around a little bit, dunking under water and pretending to snorkel, I back floated over to the chairlift and got plucked right out of the pool. We showered to get the chlorine off, dried me, and got me back in my chair. We headed back downstairs to get me in bed for I was ready for a nap. The pool worked so many muscles and was so incredibly tiring yet satisfying. It makes me want to have a very small, at the least, therapy pool somewhere in my house someday. So, if anybody has experience (Uncle Peter) in building tile pools I think we could take that on as an awesome project and turn a spare bedroom into a pool therapy room someday.

I ate lunch in my bed and relaxed until my next therapy which was a therapeutic rec massage. A local massage therapy school is associated with RIC and many of their students put in mandatory hours with the patients all throughout the building. Basically, your therapists just request that you get a massage every once in a while and they come right to your room and rub you down. Lucky enough two students came and my mom and I both got a 40 minute massage. Both girls were in their last week of the program and really seemed to know what they were doing. It felt great, especially after working so many muscles in the pool earlier.

After my massage we headed straight for the gym for my last class of the day, PT with Carey. Carey got me onto the mat right away to go over trying to take my chair apart piece by piece as if I was going to break it down to put it in a car. The cushion comes off easy and the back was just two little clamps that you flip, but the wheels were pretty hard for me to release. The wheels pop off by pushing a button into the center of the room and pulling them off. Carey let me know that there are special center release mechanisms made just for quadriplegics that have limited hand function. So, when I order my wheelchair that will be one of the bells and whistles that I have added to it from the factory. I definitely feel as if I will get full strength and a great grip back but until then these adaptations will help me cope and once I get the grip back I will still be able to do it either way so I might as well have it added to help me now.

After working with the wheelchair Carey wanted to put my legs in slings hanging from a steel wire grid that is mounted above all the workout mats. She made it so my legs were just floating as I laid on my side. We then proceeded to check each of my leg muscles to see how they were firing. Several different areas were easier to tell if there was anything yet or not. After working each leg she then started checking some of my muscles in my abdomen and love handle area (medically known as my quadratis lomborum). Carey was really excited to see that my side (love handle) muscles were obviously active and much stronger than she had anticipated. She kept making my mom and Kalli come and feel the muscles as I performed different sit ups or side crunches. The presence of these muscles now working made me quickly realize why my stability and balance has increased over the last few weeks because as soon as we were done I felt a bit wobbly with those muscles having been worked to the max. Our time was up for the session but I figured since I was already on the mat I should definitely get my legs completely stretched out using the newly learned self stretching methods. Once I finished stretching out I hopped back in my chair and went to the rickshaw to do a quick 6 sets of 15 with 60 lbs pumping up and down. Endow, I will definitely be moving up to 65 or 70 if I can manage tomorrow. Tonight 60lbs became just a hair too easy.

We then headed back over to the canary room for some dinner and fun conversation with Joey and his mom. After dinner we headed back to my room to do a little blogging and start my nightly routine. Today almost seemed like I was living in a spa, a little therapy in the pool, then a massage, followed by a good stretch session. Life isn't too bad at the RIC!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday July 8th

I woke up to what was going to be the gassiest day of my life. I ate breakfast and hopped out of bed. Kalli put the toot machine in my backpack which hangs right at my butt on the back of the wheelchair creating the perfect set up to make people think the noises were really coming from my rear end. So I headed out to my first therapy with my remote control between my knees, easily accessible to trick anyone.

My first therapy was PT group. Sally had several different activities set up all over the main center area by the reception desk. One of the activities included bending over to pick up horse shoes and plastic rings. Every single time I would bend over created the perfect situation to let one rip. This poor volunteer girl that was working with me and trying her hardest not to laugh at this poor boy in a wheelchair with incredible gas he could not control each time he bent over. This went on and on every moment I could I would pull the trigger and get an incredible reaction from someone or another. In the hospital is by far the best place in the world to have such a device because everyone thinks "oh he can't control it" or "don't worry, that is fine, that is natural" and the therapists don't let it get to them as if it is out of the ordinary at all. We worked on wheelies, hopping over obstacles, keeping your momentum, and also time to ourselves to find out how much distance we were comfortably covering with our normal wheelchair pace. After making probably twenty some people on the floor think that I had the most amazing gas I headed to the canary room for my next session.

We had set up a meeting with Rose, my case manager, in order to discuss all the questions from yesterday. So Kalli, my mom, and Mr and Mrs Lee and I sat down and went over everything from top to bottom as to where we need to be, what we need to do, and how we do it in order to successfully provide for my future.

After that, I headed to the gym to work with a neat piece of equipment I had requested Carey to reserve for me. RIC has a electronic sensor mat the size of your wheelchair seat pad that you place on your wheelchair and then sit down on. This mat shows where your weight is distributed on the chair. The mat hooks up to the laptop and shows your pressure points in a color sensored map of the seat. This allows you to perform different pressure relief breaks and see which ones work the best to get your weight off your tailbone. I really wanted to work with this piece of equipment because there is no way for me to really tell how well I am relieving the pressure when I do the pressure reliefs on my own. For in the beginning, Kalli and my mom would almost always tip me back to do them for me. Now that I am stronger I am totally able to do them myself in a couple different ways.

After the mat we ate lunch in the canary room. Next, was OT exercise group. Once again, this incredible gassy-ness overcame my body. Almost every time I moved I was having terrible flatulence. The guy sitting next to me was about ready to move and several people kept laughing as I continued to play it off as if I couldn't stop and definitely couldn't control it. My roommate now because of last night was the only one aware of the machine and was sitting next to me while we were exercising. He could not stop laughing, especially knowing that it was fake and that no one else knew. It made for quite a bit of fun.

After exercise group Maurice and I had a double PT scheduled with Corey a physical therapist I had never had. Corey put us both on a mat together and we worked on different stretching which felt good for due to the bladder infection I was experiencing increased spasms in my legs, so stretching them out felt really good.

After therapy,I stayed in the gym and did several sets of exercises on a couple different weight machines. Everyday I will continue to build up my arm strength which makes everything so much easier as I begin to feel lighter and lighter.

After a good workout we went and hung out in our room for a bit and then all went to get some dinner and eat it in the canary room. Of course, a couple good toots were released there as well and still people just laughed and understood because I am just a guy in a wheelchair that can't control it.

After dinner Kalli and I headed into my room to do a little blogging and start my nightly routine, which I am sure will include some gassy bowels and a lot of laughter. I don't think I could have pulled off an entire day of fake farting anywhere else and it definitely helps that I am in a wheelchair. For some reason or another people are just a little more understanding and it is absolutely hilarious. I wouldn't doubt if I got a funny look from over 40 people today from a good toot! Throughout all that laughter and funny looks not a single person, except my roommate, the nurse and PCT from last night know that it is all just an electronic machine.

Tuesday July 7th

Finally I received a full schedule! For it felt like it had been about a week or so since I really had five or more things on my schedule. But, of course today started out with hand group. I ate my breakfast, jumped out of bed and headed for hand group. Thank God, the medicine they got me started on to fight my bladder infection worked like a charm and had me feeling so much better already! We got out into the main area and Mike, the activity coordinator, stopped us to tell us hand group was actually going to be upstairs again on the 9th floor. He also let me know that one of the other patients, a young punk like myself, named Matt, was having trouble getting out of bed and was supposed to be in our group but saying he wasn't going to make it. So, I rolled right over to his room to go harass him and see if I could help him fight whatever he is going through and come and join us for our activity. I got into Matt's room and began asking him what was going on. He also had a bladder infection and was feeling bloated. He mentioned that between the bladder infection and his pain he just wasn't feeling like eating or even getting out of bed. I encouraged him to try as hard as he could to fight it and explained to him I had a bladder infection as well and yesterday was a tough day for me but I just MADE myself get out of bed. I told him by noon or so he would probably be feeling fine. Next, I explained to him that Kalli had gone and gotten me some cranberry pills and those are supposed to help quite a bit as well and asked him if he would like to take some. Right away he said yeah that would be great so I buzzed over to my room, grabbed a handful, and brought them over to him. Continuing to encourage him not to let his poor condition get the best of him. I could tell he wasn't quite going to just pop out of bed and I needed to get going, but I left him with one more thing. I said Matt, don't let the multiple symptoms pile up and all get you down. I was referring to not eating. He was planning on not touching his breakfast at all and I told him if you don't eat then you are going to be hungry and not realize it and you are going to think it is urinary infection and then also you won't have any energy which makes it even harder to try to fight anything. I think coming from me, who had already gone through that, it kind of clicked for him. He said "yeah I will try to eat". So, I just encouraged him to try his best and that I was going to head up there and if he was able to get out of bed in the next half hour or hour he should come upstairs and try to join us.

Kalli and I headed upstairs and when we got up into the activity room, Haley, Mike's intern, was running the activity today. She had purchased several small plants for us to transplant into some nice pots. We used soil and decorative rocks to cover the top. I think I picked the nicest two plants in the whole bunch. It was fairly enjoyable to shovel the soil and decorate with the rocks creating two nice potted plants for my room. After getting my green thumb on we headed back downstairs for an OT session with Diane.

The two of us wanted to focus on a tub transfer so that I could move from my chair into a bathtub for a shower. Unfortunately someone was in the therapy bathroom at the beginning of our time together. So, we sat in the canary room and talked for a little while until the bathroom was available. Diane is actually going to be leaving on vacation for two weeks and I won't see her for a little while. The tub transfer went really well. I was quite easily able to slide board onto the tub chair. Then, the most difficult part was lifting my legs over the tub in order to get them both inside. It pretty much took all the energy I had and was really a great accomplishment.

After I thoroughly exhausted myself in the tub, it was time to push the limits even further with Kate, by far the toughest OT exercise group leader I have had. She pushed and pushed us as we sweated through each move and weight lifting exercise. After a great heart pounding workout it was time to get some chow. While I was in my exercise group some very good family friends of ours, David and Patti Lee, arrived for a two day visit. They decided to get a hotel two blocks away so they could stay overnight and visit with us. So, we all sat down for lunch in the canary room and caught up on how everyone was doing.

My next therapy was to go down to the life center and I asked my mom to come with me with a notebook and pen to take some notes for me. I have been meaning to go down there for a while to get some answers on questions I have pertaining to financial assistance, home re-entry, social security, disability, etc. During the meeting with some of the advisers down in the life center we basically found out our first point of contact needed to be addressed with my case manager Rose.

After the life center I needed to take a leak and I was a little bit past my scheduled time so I was actually breaking into my next scheduled appointment which was with Dr. Grant with psychological services. The meeting was only a half an hour and by the time I got out and done with my business it was almost 3 o'clock, the time in which our meeting would have concluded. So, soon there after I headed down the hall to see if I could find her and she came walking down the hall and said I am so sorry I missed you I was in another meeting and it went much longer than I thought with some pressing issues. I said no problem, no problem I actually needed to take a leak anyway and it sounds like that person needed you more than I would have. So we left it at that and quickly talked about how each of us were doing.

Starting then, I had my last therapy with Carey for a little PT. It has been a week since my last encounter with the tilt table and I certainly wasn't willing to take it on yesterday with the slight lull that I was battling with my bladder infection. But, today I was feeling very strong and said bring it on! So, Carey strapped me to the table and began tilting me up ten degrees at a time. Our session was only a half an hour long and normally we dedicate an hour to getting me up in about twenty five minutes Carey had me at 90 degrees, standing straight up. Our goal for the week was to be able to withstand 10 minutes without losing blood pressure control at 90 degrees. So, once I got all the way up, the clock started ticking. I of course was swinging my arms, doing tai-bo, and acting goofy in order to keep the blood flowing up to my head. I hit ten minutes and we were five or more minutes past our scheduled time. So, even though we didn't go until I was light headed I had hit my goal so I told Carey just let me down I don't want you to be late for your next appointment. It felt great to get one step closer to be able to use the lokomat, which sounds like an incredible machine.

The tilt table was the last activity of the day so the rest of the night was open for whatever. The Lees wanted to take us all out for dinner so we burned some time playing cards in the canary room and headed to Kamehachi, a nearby sushi restaurant that we enjoy. We had a great meal and it was fun to be able to spend time with the Lees. Kalli and I headed home and my mom and the Lees headed to the apartment.

When Kalli and I arrived back at the RIC up pulled Steve, Barb and Anna Wilhelms for a quick visit. They were passing through and took the time to come visit. It was really great to see them again. As we walked inside the RIC Steve asked where is the bathroom I really need to go and proceeded to have one of the largest flatulent I have ever heard come out of a person. Then, we got back from the bathroom he continues to impress us with his trumpet behind. Then, we went up the elevators to show him the 7th floor and all of a sudden Steve's flatulence felt like they were practically coming out of me! Slightly confused and dying in laughter for I couldn't believe Steve was just letting them rip like he was the Wilhelms finally let me in on the joke they were playing with me. Steve had slipped am electronic farting machine with a remote control trigger for making it toot. It was absolutely hilarious and I was so excited to start playing tricks on people here at the RIC. We had a great visit and they headed their way so I could start my nightly routine.

So, I got in bed and Kalli placed the toot machine underneath my bed. Now I had the trigger in bed and for the next 45 minutes I tricked my PCT, roommate, and nurse into thinking I had the worst flatulence a human being had ever experienced. My roommate after 45 minutes of letting them rip became incredibly concerned of my safety and ordered the PCT to get the nurse to help me. Soon thereafter the nurse came with medicine in order to help my gassy situation. Now, the nurse actually had to call a doctor in order to get the pills prescribed for this kind of situation. So, when he started trying to make me take them I finally confessed and showed him my toot machine. The nurse just about shoved the pills down my throat anyway and everybody couldn't believe that they had been had for forty five minutes of me pretending to be in incredible pain from some bad sushi. The whole thing was incredibly hilarious and made for an absolutely hilarious end to the evening. Steve, Barb - thank you so much for the great toy. I know I will have more fun with it tomororw!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday July 6th

I woke up and began sitting in bed trying to get my blood pressure under control as I slowly worked myself upright. I could tell something was a little off today and I was not feeling 100%. After I took my morning leak I noticed that I still felt as if I had to pee after I had already gone. Also, my legs have slight spasms, usually triggered by some sort of movement or touch. These spasms seemed to have increased significantly. They don't hurt at all, just a strange uncontrollable feeling. Both increased spasms and the constant urinary pressure are symptoms of having a bladder infection. So, I reported these symptoms to my nurse and asked him to please do a urine culture so that I could get the situation under control. It is very frustrating because the system that I have down for cathing myself is incredibly sterile and has very, very little chance of infecting myself. But, in the middle of the night there is one cathing in which I have to wake up from a dead sleep in order to perform it myself. So, in that weak moment, tired, usually under-dosed in pain meds, I allow the PCTs to cath for me. Most of them are tired, don't have a very sterile conscious outlook on the process and when it comes down to it, what do they care? It's not like they are going to get the bladder infection. It is very frustrating and from now on I am going to make an incredible effort to slap myself awake and start taking care of it myself. Eventually I will have to anyway and for now I can't afford to get another bladder infection and allow it to put a damper on my therapy.

So, I got out of bed eventually about ten to fifteen minutes late for hand group with a cold sweat and just a crummy feeling all around. I worked with some nuts and bolts, threading and unthreading them to start off as a warm up. Then, I was engaged in a game of connect 4 with my buddy Anthony who is also a high level C injury. He has less mobility than myself and he rocks a power chair. Taking the pieces and dropping them in to the connect 4 game board is a good workout and struggle for Anthony but for me it is very easy and not a challenge at all. So between feeling crummy and being bored with a much too easy task I let that sun of a gun beat me.

After hand group I had an hour break so I went back to my room to try to relax. My mom offered to put me into a pressure release, where I lay back onto her lap. We ended up both taking a 45 minute nap in that position. After the nap it took a second to get myself to wake up and head out into the main lobby for OT Exercise Group. As soon as I got into the group Kate, the leader, took one look at me and said "Are you feeling alright Andrew?" I told her that I had a bladder infection and wasn't feeling up to par. Somehow or another I was able to push myself and keep up during the whole exercise session.

Afterward,we went into the canary room to eat some lunch and socialize a bit. After lunch Kalli and I decided to go outside to try to get some fresh air. It was beautiful out and really the perfect temperature. But even with the beautiful weather I wasn't able to kick the way I was feeling. I've always known since the beginning that there were going to be days like this. Times in which, even the strongest person in the world, can't help but break down a little. As we were sitting outside I began thinking about how it is so strange any time in life when you break an arm, or catch a cold you know that it is just temporary, whereas this is something that is going to stay with me for life and that became difficult to think about, especially in a moment when I was already down a bit. Kalli, of course, hugged me and let me know that it was all going to be okay. She made me feel a lot better and we headed back inside.

Once we got back inside we had a bit of time before my two o'clock appointment with Carey. So, we went to my room and Kalli and I set up the E-stim I am borrowing from my Uncle Paul to do a little electro therapy on my hands. First we did the right and then the left, imitating the same timing in which the machine RIC uses controls on its own. It worked great and I got some really good movement out of my fingers.

Once we were done, we headed for the gym for my last therapy of the day. Carey also could tell that I wasn't my same cocky, jolly self. Her and I love to joke around. She said well, why don't we take it fairly easy and just do some stretches on the mat. She said you can work on the ones we learned last time where you stretch yourself. So, I transferred from my chair to the mat and followed the exercise packet Carey had given me and stretched myself out one page at a time. The stretching felt good and I was beginning to feel better than I had earlier. After stretching for the whole hour I decided that I wanted to get some weights in as well. So, I went over to the corner of the gym to my favorite machine that they call the rickshaw and worked on my triceps. I bumped the weight up 10 pounds, from 50 to 60 because it was becoming too easy, which is always a great feeling. I did six sets of fifteen and called it a day while my mom sat and watched, doing some bicep curls of her own. Most of the exercises I do really work my shoulders as well. So, I asked Carey if she would mind hooking me up with the heat pack for my shoulders, for they were pretty sore from the rickshaw. There were a couple other people in the gym and we all sat and chatted while I relaxed with heat on my shoulders for 15 minutes.

Several people are leaving this week which is making me realize that I too am going to be going home eventually. It really is not that far away, could be as soon as three weeks from now. This place teaches you a lot, but also cares for you quite a bit. It is exciting, yet interesting to think what it will be like back in my own home.

After we left the gym we headed to my room for it was time for me to take a leak again and then figure out what to go get for dinner for I had chosen a voucher for tonight's meal. My mom, Kalli and I headed downstairs to the second floor to get some food from the cafeteria. My mom and I got gyros and Kalli picked delicious looking pepperoni pizza. We brought it upstairs and ate it all while watching this crazy show on Animal Planet that was basically about when animals turn on people. It was amazing from crazy elephants to arm swallowing alligators we couldn't believe what we were seeing.

After dinner I gave my mom a hug and she headed home. Kalli and I headed to my room to do a little blogging and get ready for bed. Today was probably the most difficult day that I have had in the last three weeks or more. But, truthfully, I am still really proud of myself because even feeling crummy I didn't miss a single therapy and I did three or four extras with Kalli or on my own. Most of the people in here would have either just laid in bed all day or maybe made it to half of their classes. In fact, while I was sitting in the gym working my triceps on the rickshaw there were two other people just sitting and chatting and one person working with a therapist but the rest of the gym was empty even though any one of the 27 people on the floor could have been in there working on other things, putting in a little extra credit. But, of course, I was the only one in there working out and I have a fricken urinary tract infection. It blows my mind how some of these people feel like they are forced to be here and in a way they fight it as if it is punishment. But, what they do will not affect my therapy for I have a plan and many goals in which I will continue to strive for, even if every couple weeks I get challenged with a day like today.