Pain Management

Imagine spraining both ankles a day before you had plans to run a marathon. Now, imagine having no choice but to still run that marathon. Even though your doctor told you that all you should be doing is relaxing, you have no choice in the matter.

Now, it’s the day of the race and your ankles are swollen and in excruciating pain just barely baring any weight on them. How do you find the the encouragement to still race? Every step you take feels as if you’re going to collapse on the floor. This type of struggle is where you’ll truly find out how much inner strength you have.

Over the last year my biggest struggle in this recovery has definitely been my neck/back pain. Because I have to compensate for my lower extremities with my upper body so much, the pain in my neck has gotten to an all time high. Any physical activity I participate in causes neck pain. You’re probably thinking.. Well just go take a pain killer. Touché. But when I do take pain killers it numbs my body, leaving me unable to move my legs. So me being the stubborn human being I am, I would rather not take them and endure the chronic pain just to be able to participate in therapy and continue to make noticeable progress.

That didn’t have such a great outcome. My neck pain got so bad that my doctor told me to “take it easy for a week or so”. The first day or so it was nice to just relax in the cool air conditioning but after that any person would go a little stir crazy. Before the accident I was always on the go. Rarely would I spend a whole day laying around doing nothing, it’s just not the type of person I am. During my downtime in the last week I’ve looked into a lot if different pain management options. The best option for my pain is steroid injections into my cervical spine. Let me just say I am not a fan of needles. But if it will help the pain like the doctors are saying it will then it will be worth every tear I cry when the needle (which is the same size as an epidural) pokes into my most tender spot.

If I have learned anything in the past year, it’s that nothing lasts forever. I’ve faced many of my fears throughout my recovery process, and this is just another one of my fears that is meant to be overcome. Once my pain subsides, I personally think that’s when we’re all going to see some incredible progress. Once the pain is gone there literally will be nothing holding me back from reaching my full potential. Although I’m afraid of this whole process I know it will be worth it!

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Aqua

As a child and young adult I’ve always loved the water. I was on a swim team for four years when I was younger. My grandpa practically raised my brother and I on the lake skiing and tubing. On the day of my accident I experienced one of the most horrific things a person could imagine; drowning. It was the scariest moment of my life and will always be. Needless to say water and swimming is a touchy subject to me now. I have gone in water twice since my accident, both times I floated on a raft. As much as I put on a brave face and tell people “I’m fine” every time I see the water I have a playback of that day. I feel my body floating. I feel the waves sucking me in as I have to helplessly endure that terrible moment once again. I’ve been told by quite a few people that I need to get over my fear and move on. The best way in my mind to do that is by reconnecting with the water through therapy. If the water starts to help my recovery then maybe my memories in it will change for the better?

Next Friday I have an appointment at St. Joseph Provena Hospital (where I had my surgery and was hospitalized initially before starting inpatient rehab) to meet with the aquatic therapy director. They will be taking me on a tour and evaluating my therapy needs. Hopefully this will help a lot, I’m nervous but also excited to move onward with this subject and gain more confidence in the water once again.

God sometimes takes us into troubled waters, not to drown us, but to cleanse us.

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First Blog

Don’t be fooled by your emptiness, there’s so much more room for happiness

Hello! First blog, a little nervous. I’ve been wanting to share my story and day-to-day life via blogs for a while now, but in all honesty I wasn’t mentally ready to talk about it with the world until pretty recently. But I’m finally ready and excited to start putting it out there, because I don’t think people can fully grasp or even try to understand the gravity of this type of injury without hearing it from someone in that situation in that exact moment. So, hopefully my blogs can not only inspire other SCI patients but give more understanding to others who aren’t very familiar with the injury.

Here is my story in my own words from about 6 months ago :

“On Saturday, June 9, 2012 my life was forever changed. Prior to my accident I worked as a cocktail waitress every Friday and Saturday night until 3 am for 2 years straight, so when I had one of my first Saturday’s off in years I planned to have as much fun as possible. I was going to go spend my beautiful summer day boating with some friends. We arrived at the Kankakee river at 1:00, dropped the anchor, and started enjoying our day. When it came time to leave the owner of the boat realized that somebody had run over our anchor line. So, in the midst of all the chaos to try and find the anchor I got the sudden urge to take one last dip in the river. Throughout the day everyone had been exiting the boat from the back, but I thought it would be a good idea to dive off the front. Not one of my brightest ideas.

My head hit the bottom of the lake with so much force that my body automatically went into shock. I remember floating face down unable to move any part of my body, fighting to move my neck enough to the side to take a gasp of air. I was unsuccessful. As odd as it sounds, I was at peace. Within those couple of minutes of drowning I went from a state of sheer panic to complete acceptance of death. I was going to die. I started thinking of all the people that were going to be devastated when they found out I was gone. I started praying. In that moment I saw a bright light in the distance, and until this day I’m not sure whether it was heaven or just the sun. Suddenly I was out of the water and in the arms of my friend Kevin.

Before I knew it I was in a hospital bed surrounded by friends and family. My surgeon broke the bad news to me. “You broke your neck”, he said, “both your c5 and c6 vertebrae are fractured and you need immediate surgery.” The seriousness of my condition still hadn’t hit me. “Will I ever be able to walk again?”, I asked with desperation. He looked down at his feet, then back at me. He didn’t even need to say anything at that point, I saw the answer in his eyes. “I don’t know”, he replied. That’s when it hit me, I started bawling uncontrollably. My life was over.

The next few days following my surgery were a blur. All I really remember was crying. I cried for days, pleading with God that if He made all of this go away I would do ANYTHING. I also remember meeting a doctor who would turn out to be my mentor and give me more hope than ever imaginable, Dr.Cheema. After two weeks of being in intensive care I was transferred to Illinois Masonic for inpatient rehab, where I would get the basic treatment to relearn how to sit, balance, feed myself, etc. I would soon be introduced to a new found outlet of hope.

It was after a month of being in rehab when I was spending time with my mom and friend, Ewelina. They were giving me a pedicure when all of the sudden my little toe wiggled. This would bring me the one gift that would keep me fighting with all my might, hope. Once a person gets a little glimpse of hope it gives that person that much more reason to fight as hard as they can, and so I did. Before I knew it I was moving both legs. I loved showing off my new movement to my therapists, nurses, and most of all my doctor. They couldn’t believe it, this in their eyes was not supposed to happen and especially in that short of time. A month later I was discharged from the hospital.

After returning home I began outpatient rehab at RIC, where I would participate in a more intense level of therapy. It has been a month since I started at RIC and I can proudly say that I have given it my all, and then some. It has definitely paid off, because on September 14, 2012 I took my first step. Something that seemed nearly impossible three months ago is now my biggest achievement in life.

If I can pass any sort of message on to others, it would be to never lose hope. No matter what obstacles stand in your way, hope is the one thing that will always guide you through that obstacle. I’ve been to the depths of hell and had to climb myself out. I’ve had numerous doctors tell me that I will never walk again, and I can proudly say that I proved them all wrong. Although I have had my bad days, and may I say there were A LOT of bad days, I kept fighting, and I will continue to fight every second of every day for the rest of my life.”

Since then, I have continued my physical therapy at Next Steps Chicago, which has been one of the best experiences of my life. They are truly amazing there and I would recommend them to anyone looking for a very intense level physical therapy rehabilitation center in Chicago! Anyway, since starting at Next Steps I have seen major improvement. Which for me to say that is pretty big, because its harder for me to see my progress than others, since I live it every day. For example, I have much more upper body strength. (I could barely even push my own chair when I first began therapy there). I’ve gotten a lot more function in my legs from weight barring and am now, 6 months later, walking with just one person guiding my hips and right leg! Doctors and therapists say that my progress is incredible and that I should be so happy for all the return I’ve gotten thus far, and don’t get me wrong I’m beyond grateful for how far I’ve come, but in my mind I’m not nearly as close to where I want to eventually be. I have always had very high expectations for myself, and that clearly hasn’t changed!

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