Friday, November 20, 2009

November 20th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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