Friday, August 28, 2009

Sunday August 30th

Hello everyone! It has been a while since I last blogged and I am excited to report many new changes and updates to my life and physical recovery. First off, my cervical collar that has been choking me and limiting my turning radius for three months now is GONE! The morning of Monday August 24th was Dr. Yazbak's recommended last day for wearing that horrid contraption. The entire week before hand I slowly and carefully removed the brace for an hour or so at a time to ease into taking it off all at once for good. This method worked really well to eliminate feeling like a total bobble head Monday morning. My neck feels really good and it seems as if I have full normal rotation from side to side which is really a big relief since that was one thing I wondered about quite often.

After being home for about a month I had a follow-up visit scheduled with Dr. Kim and my PT and OT at RIC. Kalli and I decided since the appointment was at 12:00 in Chicago we would go down the day before my appointment and stay in a hotel about two blocks away to make the whole ordeal much smoother and simpler. Otherwise, I would have to wake up around 4 or 5 in the morning in order to get everything done and drive down by noon. So, we stayed at The DoubleTree which had a wheelchair accessible room for us with a walk in shower and extra high toilet which worked out just fine. Wednesday morning we arrived at RIC early for our appointment so that we could talk with some of the people still left on the 7th floor. Once we got up there we were kind of surprised that in only a month we only saw five patients that we really knew from before. Now, we didn't go room to room to see who all was there but it just had a different feel with a different crowd of spinal injuries. It was nice to see all of the therapists, nurses and doctors, giving them hugs and filling them in on how things were going. We met Carey, my PT, and Kim, an OT in a evaluation room on the 3rd floor to show them all of my new movement before I met with Dr. Kim. I transferred onto a mat without a slide board and began showing off muscle by muscle what all was now working that was not when I had left. Just so that you all know here is a list of what is either new movement or strengthened movement:

Left leg: hamstring, quad, hip flexer, toe extensors, ankle, toes, and God knows what else is in there
Right leg: toes, slight ankle movement, quad, trace hip flexers
Torso: abs, side muscles (love handles), pecks, back muscles
Arms: increased strength, able to do a seated push-up for 45 seconds
Hands: grip is much stronger, finger movement doing well but beginning to get bad tendencies over using wrist to compensate weak finger extensors

After Carey and Kim went through full analysis of all my muscles that were working they both expressed their thorough excitement with my progress. Both of them felt as if my home program was definitely being successful and I should continue to work as hard as I can the way I am. After the evaluation Carey felt that I was ready to stand on the parallel bars that were in the eval room to see how I react upright for the first time. So, I wheeled over in between the bars, locked my breaks, and Carey helped me stand up. Once I was up I used my arms down to my sides holding each bar to steady myself and carry some of my weight. The majority of my weight was being held on my legs which felt so weird for it had been three months since they had carried a load of their own. With the improvements that I have continually had over the last four weeks in blood pressure control I really didn't get light headed at all. They had me standing for about two minutes and then I was ready to take a seat. It is amazing that just two minutes of standing really tuckered me out from head to toe. Now, mind you, I wasn't just completely standing on my own with no support at all - Carey was supporting my knees, back, and butt so that they were not giving out. But once I am fitted for braces Carey was confident that even at the level I am at right now I would be ready to start practicing walking.

We said our goodbyes to Kim and Carey letting them know that we would see them again soon and thanked them for their time. After that, Dr. Kim came to discuss how we were doing and where we were at in order to have a proper recommendation for re-entry into RIC in order to use up my last two weeks of insurance coverage in an inpatient facility. Dr. Kim had extensively talked with Kim and Carey right before we saw him to get their recommendations after the examination. We talked about the way in which I was dealing with my bowel and bladder programs, pain control, and physical recovery. After talking through everything Dr. Kim seemed happy with the way we were taking control of our own rehab. I asked him what is your recommendation for when to begin the last two weeks I have coverage for 2009. He felt that although I have gotten great return so far, which most of it has come back in the last two and a half weeks, where would I be if I went back home and did another three weeks of strength training before being re-admitted into RIC. I thoroughly agreed with this thought process. So, as a group, we made the decision to set-up another follow-up examination on September 16th at RIC where the plan is to have me readmitted the following Monday, the 21st. Due to insurance, being readmitted needs to happen within two weeks of an examination. So, in order for him to make a recommendation for me to come back we have to do a full evaluation again at that point in time.

Lastly, I was contacted by a friend of ours, Erin Frawly, who has an aunt who also recently experienced a spinal cord injury. Her aunt was dealing with all kinds of nerve pain similar to mine and researched the drug lyrica to manage the pain. I brought lyrica up to Dr. Kim and he was very familiar with it and felt that would be a good idea and possibly a way to get off oxycotton which is one of the more drowsy pain meds out there. He gave me a prescription for lyrica and it may take a while for me to experience results, so we will see in the coming weeks how it goes.

A huge part of my recovery is restrengthening muscles throughout my entire body. In order to do so, I have been creating all kinds of workout programs. In the garage we have set up a wonderful professional grade cross over machine donated by my cousin Bill and his business partner, Brett. This has been great for working just about any muscle. With a crossover machine you can change the angle that the weighted cable is used in order to simulate almost any exercise out there. Also, Kalli's dad, Todd, has taken a set of blue prints that I made while at RIC of a machine called a ricshaw that works your shoulders and triceps really well, in order to re-create my own version of it. I just received the "toddshaw" this past Thursday and it is truly much nicer than the one I was using at RIC. Todd did such a great job welding, carpeting, and painting the toddshaw. I have used it every single day since receiving it and don't plan on breaking that pace. We also have hand weights, work out balls, and different tools to work with out in the garage. I really have to thank Mark and his old roommate Dan for taking the time to completely clear out and clean up the garage in order to transform it into Lee's Gym on Lakeshore Drive, the valley's newest full workout experience. The final touch that really brought the gym together was a rockin' stereo system that gets your mind and body tuned in as one as you pump iron to the beats.

Along with working out lately in the gym I have started a daily workout routine which is done both when I wake up and before I go to sleep. When I get into bed and once I wake up I have developed a set of stretches and exercises that include several leg stretches, ab crunches, love handle crunches, and back exercises in order to relax my legs, keeping them limber and stretched and strengthen my core in order to reduce the back pain I had been experiencing daily. The whole routine takes a little over an hour and really has been helping reduce the back pain I was experiencing. I can tell already when I bend over to pick something up the strength that I have built in only the two weeks I have been doing this. It always feels great to see and feel results from hard work in order to feel like it is truly paying off.

In order to work with return that is so weak that the body weight of its own muscle is too much to move it I have been swimming with my brother weekly. We go to the Heart of the Valley YMCA every week. We usually end up swimming for two hours or more and it is a full body workout. The last two times I have worn a life jacket in order to be able to work on my balance and stretching my back easier in the deep end. Swimming is a wonderful way to experience the movements that I am getting back. I can't thank my brother enough for taking the time to do that with me each week. It has been fun and a great workout.

In order to get my hands back into shape I have been working with several tools we have either created or gotten from RIC. Pieces of foam, therabands, putty, velcro blocks, rice buckets, and much more have helped me strengthen my hands. My good friend, Andy Houlihan, built me a wonderful black walnut board that has velcro dowels and blocks positioned all over it in order to help strengthen my wrists and finger extensors. We got the idea from RIC and again, took pictures in order to give him a good idea of what the piece looked like so that he could recreate this tool. Also, to begin retraining my hands and strengthen my finger extensors I have ordered a pair of hand and wrist braces to wear during the night so that my hands don't naturally curl into a fist by morning. I received the braces about a week and a half ago and they seem to be helping as well.

The latest tool in my belt is a trapeze harness that was donated to me by the Lion's Club and then rigged up by my dad in order to make it work above my bed. This tool is basically a harness point that has a large footing underneath the bed to support a bracket that reaches up at the foot of our bed and over in order to place my legs into a sling to create zero gravity exercising experience. This is something that they did at RIC in order to develop very weak leg muscles that have started to fire. Between all of these exercises and workout programs I am feeling stronger every week which is definitely the goal.

I have a wonderful update on the situation of my vessels. First off, I had to figure out what to do with my twenty five foot sailboat which is in Mission Bay on a mooring in San Diego. This was something that was heavily running through my mind. My good friend John Horan made the decision to help me out and purchased the sailboat. He has always wanted to have a sailboat and has sailed with his parents his whole life. His plans are to keep the boat in San Diego until March which is when my mooring spot comes due and in the Spring, buy a trailer and bring it back to WI. I can't thank him enough for taking it off my hands and having the intention of bringing it back so that we can use it in the future. For the ski boat, I have different intentions. Since Horan purchased the sailboat I have decided to take those funds and bring home my ski boat which needs to be moved from the situation it is in now. Kalli and I have been looking all over for other boats that we could possibly afford with the sale of our ski boat and have not found anything that really compares in our mind and would be useable in my condition. One of the deciding factors that made it possible for me to bring the boat back was the generous offer Kalli's father, Todd, made to me. He said that he knew how much it would mean for us to have our boat back and that he would not mind taking care of it, storage, docking, and winterizing. That made me feel so good, knowing that someone incredibly knowledgeable would be helping me take care of the boat and keep it in the great shape that it is in. Kalli's neighborhood is such a big family environment, where everyone helps each other with everything in their lives. It also makes me feel better that I know the whole neighborhood will in some way or another pitch in and even Todd won't be alone with the burden. The Lion's Club once again came through with another great piece of equipment that will make my boating experience incredibly safe and fun. The last time my therapist was there she was able to pick up a Hoir Lift that someone had brought in for me to use. The lift is basically a system that will mount to the dock and to the boat lift creating an i-beam like structure above the boat that I will be power lifted in a hammock chair like harness over and into the boat. We set the system up in the gym so as to test it out to make sure it will work for this function. It is an amazingly well engineered device and will work out just perfect. It is all aluminum and plastic making it completely weather resistant and easily used outside all summer. The motorized lift portion of the unit is about the size of a toaster and actually comes right off and in with you each time for it is cordless and battery powered so that it is not left out in the weather at all. Truly, an amazing find and another example of how God is looking after me throughout this experience.

One of the only things that I could not do for myself and was something that Kalli had to help me with was pulling my shorts back up and on after going to the bathroom. Just yesterday, for the first time I was able to complete this task. It took me almost twenty minutes but I did it all myself! I would accredit all of the strengthening I have been working on to being able to get just enough lift in order to accomplish this. This is definitely worth a "thatta boy" in my mind, for it was one of the last tasks that I was dependent on others for.

One of the things that really affects my sleep at night is having to use these medical booties called prafos which prevent foot drop. Without using them, your toes will start pointing down which causes you to tip backwards once you begin working with leg braces, training to walk. Because of my continual strength in my ankles i have been instructed that I will only have to wear them every other or every third night from now on. This will help out tremendously. If you don't understand what I mean when you go to sleep tonight go into your basement or garage and get out your ski boots or snow shoes and put them on before you crawl into bed - see how well you sleep tonight!

Over the last two weeks, I have also been sleeping better because with the return in my bladder usage I am now able to wear a texas catheter at night. This is basically a condom with adhesive on it that you wear so that you can go when you need to opposed to waking up and cathing every couple hours which takes a good ten, fifteen minutes. Can you imagine waking up and doing a wonderful task such as that every three four hours throughout the night? How well would you sleep? Using a texas cather I now only have to get up once during the night to take my pills and to turn.

I am sorry that I haven't kept up as promptly as I had mentioned on the blog but I hope this update helps everyone understand what I am up to and how things are going. Between the therapy, eating, sleeping, showering, and going to the bathroom each and every day seems to be packed to the gills. I have to once again thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the donations and consideration that everyone has given to me which has helped me be able to get the gym set up, allow Kalli to be here with me helping me through the tough times and given me the strength without having to worry as much financially about my situation. I can't wait to see everyone at the next benefit on September 11th at the Wave in Appleton, WI. My family and friends have been doing a phenomenal job setting it up. It should be a really fun and exciting event for us all to get together with music, food, raffles, games, fun giveaways, silent auction, and much much more! I truly cannot wait. Hope to see everyone there! Have a great week and I will try my hardest to blog again soon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday August 12th - Week Three at Home

Thank you everyone for the wonderful responses about my needs for eventually getting a wheelchair accessible van. Many people have gone out of their way to locate local vans for sale. After going and seeing one of them and having been surrounded by constant pick-ups with wheelchair vans at RIC I now understand that it is going to be quite a learning process to figure out what the best set-up will be for me. It's going to take a lot of research to determine what is all available for there are many different set-ups on the market. I really need to determine what type of lift or ramp makes me feel the safest and most comfortable using it independently. This is going to be one of the most important aspects of the van. So, thank you to all who have been helping me on this search. I appreciate the help!

It really has been wonderful all of the meals that have been made and served to Kalli, Mark and myself. Saturday morning my cousins Josh and Bill Hippert and Josh's girlfriend came over and made one of the most amazing breakfast I have ever had served to me. Josh has his own chickens, so of course we had farm fresh eggs which were delicious. When I was at RIC I went 47 days in a row eating bacon, because I was able to choose each morning what I wanted to eat and it just appeared. Knowing this, Josh brought what I now know as the world's best bacon which is created at Newton Farms somewhere between Manitowoc and Kohler. This bacon is close to a quarter inch thick per slice and truly nothing but meat. One of the neatest things that they did that morning was bring a juicer that made delicious fruits and vegetables into a succulent nectar for us to partake in. They also put together some wonderful homestyle potatoes and cinnamon rolls. We had breakfast sandwiches, omlets, scrambled surprise and more! You would have thought there were over a dozen people eating in our kitchen but really it was just the six of us making complete pigs of ourselves! What a wonderful morning.

After partaking in possibly the best breakfast I have ever had we looked out onto the lake and noticed that on that particular morning it was almost glass. I had been wanting to get into Mark's ski boat for some time and it seemed like there was no better time than right then when the water was nice and we had three strong men to pick me up and put me in. So, we went down to the dock, wheeled me down the stairs to the lower section for Mark's dock is bi-level. From this lower area we then lined me up about 45 degree angle from the boat and assumed three positions. Mark down in the boat holding underneath my knees and around my legs, then Bill and Josh each around an arm, cupping me underneath the armpits. Between the three of them it was one of the very first times I really felt light. With everyone preparing for a massive load it made each person's around 65lb lift feather light. Each of the guys seemed to be looking at each other after I was placed in the boat saying "who had all the weight?" "that wasn't too bad". As we were moving me down into the boat Josh's girlfriend grabbed my roho cushion from my wheelchair and got it down into the boat so that I could sit on that for the ride. The cushion is by far the best in the industry and gives really great cushion support throughout your entire tush. After getting me comfortably positioned we all loaded into the Red Dragon, Mark's 15 1/2 foot tri-hull speed machine. We took a nice ride around the lake, looking at all of the beautiful houses and then headed back for we had a full day ahead of us of family events.

One of the best forms of therapy that I was able to do at RIC was getting into the water on the 12th floor in their pool. I really want to continue this therapeutic activity here in the valley. So, I looked into getting a YMCA membership in order to take advantage of all the pools in the area. Of course, once again with all the people that are supporting me Betsy Lee was able to step up and donate a six month membership to the area YMCA's. With my brother being a member it made it very easy for him and I to begin what will be our weekly swim night. So, Tuesday night my brother came and picked me up, along with my godson Sam, so that the three of us could get me signed up for my membership and take the first plunge. With the Heart of the Valley YMCA being the newest in the area it has the entire layout on one floor so to make it very easy for me to get around. All of the Y's in the area actually have lifts to put you in the water which is a crucial part of the whole process. So, we jumped in the pool, swam around for over an hour which was a really great way to move all of my new movement that I have gotten in the last couple of weeks. On a normal night, I get my leg to bend and pull up maybe four or five times and then the muscle is pretty much exhausted from its own weight. In the pool that evening I was able to bend my leg probably a good forty times which is truly unbelievable. Zero gravity of the water is really great for new incredibly weak muscle movement. I can't wait to go again next week and keep up the great progress!

Today Kalli and I were able to finally cross off our to-do list DMV. We have been meaning to go for probably two weeks to get a wheelchair parking sticker so that we can take advantage of all the great parking spots that are available. The new DMV was really quick and we were actually in and out of there in twenty minutes or so. While we were there we also learned that in order for me to drive again while in a wheelchair I am going to have to take a written test to get my temps, then take the driving test to prove that I can use my hand controls well enough. This was a little bit disappointing that I have to go through all of that in order to drive again but I understand where they are coming from and why they would need to make sure people are safe enough to be on the road.

After my visit to the DMV we rushed over to the Neuroscience Group's new building out off CB for my first follow-up appointment with Dr. Yazbek. We showed up just on time, checked in with the receptionist at the front desk, and then waited very briefly to be x-rayed. After being x-rayed we went over a couple questions with a nurse and then met with Dr. Yazbek. He reviewed the x-rays, letting us know that they looked great and there was nothing wrong with them, for he was really checking to make sure there were no major problems because it is really too early yet to be really checking for full fusion. We went over several aspects of the surgery and learned more about what actually went on that crazy night under the knife. Dr. Yazbek is a great guy, easy to talk to and very down to earth. We met for maybe fifteen minutes then he was off to another meeting. Then we quickly met with the scheduling nurse and headed on our way. One of the coolest things that we learned when going over the surgery with Dr. Yazbek was that the bone that they used to replace and fill in my C7 vertebra was actually a piece of fibula from a clinic down south. The fibula is a very strong and hard bone that works great for this type of procedure. Crazy.

Everyday, along with all of these great adventures, I also have continued a constant regiment of exercises and muscle therapies on my own. Thedacare at Home is providing great in-home PT's and OT's that also continue to come two and three times a week. Most days are non-stop from morning to night filled with muscle building therapy. It is really exciting seeing constant improvement in my hand strength, leg and feet movement along with continual improvement in my daily activities such as showers and my morning routine.

I am going to keep on fighting day in and day out to rebuild and teach each and every muscle in my body so that I can simply just walk in to that DMV and get a new license without them telling me due to your wheelchair you will now need to retake all of your testing. How is that for a goal?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday August 5th - Week Two at Home

Hello everyone! It's kind of weird not blogging every night, but with everything I have to do on my own now because I don't have 24 hour nursing and PCT staff here to help there just isn't as much down time. Living at home has been really great being able to see friends, family and people I haven't seen in years. A lot of things have been going on over the past week so I better just get started.

I'll dive in to this weeks blog starting off with the new OT and PT staff. I am using Thedacare at Home for my first physical, occupational and nursing needs in the Valley. Thedacare at Home seems to be a good organization that is linked with Theda Clark which will be my next step in rehab. Twice a week I have PT and OT visits here at the house. My PT Lynn is a really nice lady and has been working on stretching and e-stimming my legs each time she visits. Lynn has not worked with a spinal injury in thirty years but seems very willing to try to help me out. On our first visit together she made a real effort to call around and see if anyone else had more experience with spinal cords that could possibly help her shed a bit more light on my situation. Our main focus has truly been e-stimming and movements that are occurring in my left leg which has shown great improvement and probably one of my most exciting advances in the last week. First we e-stimmed my ankle movement pushing down which I now can freely do on my own with a decent amount of movement range. Next, we e-stimmed the muscle that controls pulling the ankle up and back towards my knee. Just this morning I realized that I can on command pull that muscle now which is really neat that as soon as you notice a movement on a muscle if you do a good e-stim session on it it most likely will then begin to move on my command.

I also have been working with OT whose main concern is working with my hands and making sure that different functions such as dressing, shower programs and bowel programs are under full control. First I had a temporary OT for the OT that was in my area was on vacation. We worked on a couple different sessions. She put together complete notes for the local area OT. I am now working with a lady named Shelly. She is really energetic and excited to work with me. Thedacare at Home works with elderly home bound people ninety percent of the time so when I work with Shelly I get the impression that she is excited to have an ingenious young man with lots of potential on her schedule. Just in our first session, I already was asking her to push her own comfort limits by learning to use e-stim and any other treatments that are available for spinal injuries. She mentioned a type of arm sleeve that was also electronic that you would wear and was going to look into it for me.

One of the main objectives with OT for me is definitely a pressing issue that has been giving me a lot of grief since I moved home. Lately, my hands have been giving me trouble because of the way my muscles are contracting and giving me a very closed fist hand position. Every morning when I wake up my hands are completely closed as if they are ready for a boxing match with Muhammad Ali. Throughout the night, I unconsciously close my fists and this action makes it so that when I wake up it takes a half hour to an hour of stretches and different finger extensors exercises to get my hands open. Because of this change going on in my hands I came up with the idea of talking to my doctor about getting a prescription for hand splints that I could wear every night to keep my fingers straight and extended while I am sleeping so that it isn't this constant battle I have been going through. Each night I wake up and I almost feel that I am stepping two steps backwards with my hand function. It is odd with as much trouble as I have been having with my hands lately, there have been different improvements in their function as well. My grip is probably close to twice as strong as it was three weeks ago. Also, there is an exercise that I do quite often to keep my fingers moving where I touch the tip of each finger to the thumb one finger at a time. This exercise has also become easier.

The next large discomfort that has occurred since I moved home has been terrible back pain that is happening from two different agitations. One, is the hospital bed that was provided by Walgreen's. This bed is adjustable but probably thirty years old. The mattress is warped and flexible as can be making you feel like you are stuck in a hot dog bun and the motors that bring the head and foot of the bed up and down are louder than a Mack truck. When I go to adjust the bed I literally wake up the neighbors and most certainly my roommate which I share a bedroom wall with. And secondly, is the back of my wheelchair. The new rental wheelchair that I got from National Seating and Mobility has a back on it that is giving me crazy lower back pain every day now. The combination of these two is creating quite a monster in my lower back. So, in order to try to eliminate this problem I have been getting a hold of the chair company so I can meet with my local distributor to have the chair modified and Kalli and I have been searching for a new bed. This leads me into one of the best things that has happened this week.

The other day Kalli and I went to VanVreedes and a couple sleep shops in the mall looking at tempur-pedic, sleep number and very nice latex and flexible mattresses that will work on an adjustable frame. These types of mattresses are the only kind that bend enough so that the adjustable frame can lift up your head and feet. Of course, the frame is expensive and so are these type of mattresses that work on it. But, Kalli and I came to the conclusion that my sleep is really one of the most important parts of my recovery. For me to be able to do therapy during the day I need to be well rested so that I can stay awake and focus on what I am doing, especially because I am in so much pain and needing to take a regular schedule of pain medicine which makes you sleepy as well. The combination of bad rest and pain killers is enough to put anybody in a 24 hour nap. So, after online searching and a full day of running around to different stores to lay on mattresses we had researched we decided to do one last test drive and then it was time to pull the trigger. We were on our way to VanVreedes to pull the trigger on a Donald Trump flexible mattress and adjustable frame when I said to Kalli before we walk in there lets call American and WG&R to make sure they don't have some cool deal going on right now where I could get a free TV as well since we are spending quite a bit of money on this bed. So, we realized as we pulled up to VanVreedes that WG&R is right next door. Kalli ran in to talk to the salesman there as I called American from the car to find out if there was anything special going on right now. No more than two minutes later Kalli came running back out of the store, excited for sure enough exactly what I had hoped for was the deal going on at WG&R. With the amount of money we needed to spend on our bed, we were going to be able to get a free 42 inch LCD, HDTV. Ecstatic, Kalli and I began transferring me out of the car into my chair to get inside to see what they all had available. WG&R has a HUGE inventory and great display of mattresses for us to choose from. The salesman that worked with us was truly a well informed mattress extraordinaire. He made us feel very comfortable and educated about our purchase. After an hour and a half of transferring onto half a dozen beds or more so I could lay and really try them out we made a decision on a particular latex cushion top bed that was really comfortable, the right height for transfers and queen size. Amazingly, they had both the power frame and the mattress we wanted in stock and could deliver it the very next day. Kalli and I drove home incredibly excited about our new purchase of a bed and the fact that WG&R was going to throw an awesome $600 tv on top of that.

Meanwhile, while we were shopping I had my cousin Bill and Mark working at the house getting rid of the horrible bed Walgreens had sent to try to slowly kill me. So, when we got home the room was cleared out and Kalli and I had to sleep down in the basement where Mark has a guest bed. So, the only ways to get down there are have two people slowly let me down the stairs, or, go outside and roll down the steep backyard and go in through the bottom basement door. Mark's basement walks out to the lake as well. I was convinced that Mark and Bill could fairly easily let me down stair by stair using the staircase. So, I convinced them to give it a try. This idea was one of my worst that I have had so far. Mark ended up being dragged stair by stair fighting for both his and my life. His staircase is not built to code by any means and has incredibly short treads so the wheelchair wheels were not able to stop on any of them. It just wanted to keep going down. Being around 200 pounds didn't help the situation at all, but we made it down with only one monster rug burn all over Mark's ankle. I, on the other hand, was just fine.

Along with new OT and PT's I also had to choose a new local primary physician to help me with drugs and any other needs that I would have. I had an appointment this week with Dr. Revolinski at Theda Clark. He turned out to be a really nice guy, young, patient, and very understanding. He seemed to be one of those doctors that really sits down and listens to what you feel are your needs so that he is able to help you the best he can. To me, that seems to be probably one of the best features you can have in your doctor because so much of your care is based on what you take into your own hands. A doctor is never going to know what is going on with you and how he can fix it if he doesn't listen to what your needs are. After sitting down and talking with him for a while we made several small changes to my prescription and I got him to write me a few prescriptions for my hand splints, a power bed for tax reasons, and a longer lasting pain med to trial. Before we left, we also got his signature for my disabled parking pass which we will be going to go get at the DMV today.

Before we left the hospital Kalli and I decided it would be smart to go look at the 6th floor so that we knew what to expect for my outpatient therapy that I will be starting at Theda Clark after I am done with homecare. The sixth floor is theda's brain and spinal therapy inpatient floor. Much to our surprise, the 6th floor was very similar to the 7th floor of RIC. They also had a workout gym with mats and several pieces of equipment that would be helpful when I am there. Everything was a little older looking but definitely still functional. We left the hospital feeling confident in our decision to use Theda Clark as our next step of therapy.

Every week a wonderful organization, called Lions Club, is open from 10-2 and 6-7 on Tuesdays. Yesterday I went there for the first time with a good family friend Larry Plia. Last time I saw Larry he had explained to me that he recently retired, had been following my recovery and was more than willing to help me any time with a ride or whatever I would need. Larry is a great guy and I have always enjoyed the little bit of a time I have spent with him over the years so I took him up on the offer. He is a close friend of my father's and lives only a mile or so away, basically just across the lake. So, Larry picked me up Tuesday morning around 10:30 so that him and I could investigate this highly spoke of Lions Club. The club is in a small unincorporated town called Larsen, just a few minutes out past Willie Beamons, west of Neenah. We pulled up to a pole shed with a big Lions Club sign on the side. A few old dodgers approached our car as we began transferring me out. Friendly as can be, they began asking us what we could use to help my situation. The Lions Club is a group of old, retired men that take in donated medical supplies and rehab equipment so that they can turn around and redistribute it to anyone that is in need. The equipment is free of charge and there for the taking. As I rolled around the large pole shed I felt like a kid in a candy shop. They had so much great stuff that was exactly what I was looking for. I had a handful of different items on my wishlist that I was hoping they would have. Virtually, every single thing I was looking for was there and they were more than willing to let it go. Basically, they put a number on all of the items you take and record simply that you have them. They ask that if there comes a point that you no longer need them that you just return them so that someone else could benefit as you did. But, if it is something that you will continue to need it is yours forever. What an amazing organization. There is so much equipment that people receive which is paid for by insurance, they use it, get better, and don't have a clue what to do with it after that. Here is the list of all the wonderful things that I was able to find in this handi-cap play land: adjustable bedside table on wheels, shower wheelchair, space heater, portable aluminum ramp, trapeze set-up for leg exercises, small support cushion for my back, power lift for transferring into a boat which will swing out off the dock, exercise back wedge, toilet seat extension. All of this equipment would literally be thousands of dollars and I can't wait to put it all in use. Especially, the power lift so that I will be able to use my ski boat once I get it back from CA, which by the way is a HUGE need that I have right now. So, I am going to just throw it out there to see if anyone would be willing to help me out - I will pay for a plane flight from either here to CA, or CA to here and rent the vehicle to tow the boat back. I have a twenty foot ski boat that I would like to be able to have while I am home because it is one of my favorite things to do and is something that I still can do since power boats are set up for a quadriplegic. There are no foot controls, the steering and throttle are both done with your hands.

I mentioned on my last blog that food was always appreciated. Several people came through with some wonderful dishes. I just wanted to say thank you, thank you! With everything that is going on, therapists coming and going it has been so nice to have good meals in the fridge that are easily heated and enjoyed.

Another important part of my therapy is to exercise and continue building muscle strength. Mark and I have taken a section of the garage and dedicated it to this cause. My cousin Bill and his business partner Brett have donated a piece of equipment from their anytime fitness in Plymouth to get us started. Bill, Brett - thank you so much. I can't wait to have the garage all put together and start working out in there. If anyone else has useful equipment that they are not using right now I would love to add to our Lakeshore Gym here in Mark's garage. Things that I could use are: peck deck, curl bar with weights, pedal bike that I could convert into something where I use my arms to pump my legs. And, anything else that people feel would be useful.

In response to my vehicle needs: Getting a van is definitely at the top of my list in order to achieve true freedom. I will be searching for the next several months for a vehicle that would work for me to modify or that is already converted. I believe the best way would be to either have a quick lift that puts me into the back of the van or a ramp that is easily flipped down where I can wheel in, then have the drivers seat removed so that I can simply wheel into the driver's position, lock down and drive away. The vehicle would then need to be converted with hand controls for driving as well. Any help or information that people would have on vehicles that are available would be wonderful! The time it takes to break down the wheelchair and load it into the car is what I am wanting to avoid. With this style of vehicle this way I can just roll right up into it and drive away. With as long as it takes to break down the wheelchair and transfer in and out, it becomes so common for me to take the easy way and just say why don't you just run in I will just wait in the car. I really hate that concept which is one of the main reasons why I want to be able to just quickly roll in and out of the car.

Upcoming events:

August 16th
THE GIG: 1132 East Wright Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212
*Noon to 5pm
*LIVE MUSIC: Nick from Delta Routine, a local band, will be playing along with possibly a few other great bands.
*Cheap Drinks
*I WILL BE THERE! My good friends Ski and Nolen are helping put on this event and I can't wait to be there. I think it will be a really good time and a great way to see all of my close friends from Milwaukee. I hope you can all make it! It should be a lot of fun. Ski will be selling raffle tickets throughout the event for he has collected tons of prizes from local businesses that will all be given away through the raffle. If anyone else has something to add or that they want put into the raffle please contact Ski at 262-442-8049 or Nolen at 920-379-0214. Or, get a hold of me and I can help coordinate as well at

My family is also planning another benefit on September 11th at the WAVE in Appleton. A benefit meeting was held yesterday and details are soon to come!