The Hard Question

The other day someone asked me a question that’s been lingering with me a bit. They asked me what the most difficult part of my injury is. Well… Where do I start? I heard a saying once that “losing a body part is just as devastating as losing an immediate family member”. So, if that’s true I lost two legs, two hands, ten fingers, ten toes, my core and my trunk. Those are all the main body parts effected by my injury. If that saying is accurate, then I lost just about my whole family and then some. I know there’s people reading this thinking well you still have some use of your fingers and hands so technically you didn’t lose them completely. This is true and I agree to an extent, but I didn’t make up the saying, it’s just a comparison. A comparison that I, personally, think is a great one.

When they asked me this question at first I had to sit there and think really hard. Which is more important, your hands or legs? That’s a pretty tough question, but I finally came up with my best answer. The most difficult part of my injury was losing my hands. If you think about it your hands are like your best friends. You literally do everything together. You express yourself using them, you use them while talking, to describe something, etc. I can go on for days about all the things you do with your hands without even giving it the slightest thought.

When my accident initially happened I had no motor control whatsoever in my hands. Lifting my arm off the bed was one of my first huge successes. My surgeon had the idea that I would forever remain a “quadriplegic” and be bedridden for the rest of my life. We know now that isn’t going to happen but the fact that I once was in such bad shape that the Chief Neurosurgeon had such low hopes for my life is still a scary thought. While still in the hospital I would spend hours just staring at my fingers trying to move them, hoping some sort of miracle would happen and a little signal would go through my broken spine to my fingers. For months my hands were frozen in time, maybe a little twitch here or there, but nothing major. This meant relying on others to feed me, clothe me, brush my teeth, wash my face, press buttons on the remote, move my pillow/blankets, hold my cup while I sip through a straw, text message my friends for me, itch my body, everything. I could not do anything for myself, literally. Because everyone has their own way of doing things adapting to this was very difficult. There is nothing in the world more frustrating.

Thankfully, I have much more return in my hands now-a-days. Although I don’t do most things like everyone else, I do most things and that’s what matters. I’ve talked to a lot of people who say hands take the longest to return because all of the muscles are so small, which I totally understand. The biggest struggle in the case of a spinal cord is the uncertainty. The time limit is uncertain and the amount of return is uncertain, leaving you feeling stranded in your own life. As you progress and become more knowledgable about your body and treatments things do get easier, but never more certain.

I didn’t make this blog to whine and complain to you all, so instead of leaving on a negative note like that I’ll end with a progression video from yesterday’s therapy session. I walked the longest distance thus far, 120 feet! (Note: we didn’t film the whole 120 ft in case you watch it and say to yourself “that didn’t look like that far”) Enjoy!

And p.s.
Never take your hands, or any body part for that matter, for granted.

Mindset

When I took my first step after being injured the feeling that I felt was indescribable. I honestly never thought I would feel what I did, and I don’t mean that as in I thought I would feel a different way, I mean the negatives got to me so much that I lost faith for a second. How do you fix something that is completely 100% out of your control. I was a prisoner in my own body and couldn’t imagine ever being happy in my skin again.

After being admitted into Illinois Masonic for inpatient rehab, where I would remain for over two months, my faith in myself was put to the ultimate test. Surrounding me were all senior citizens who mostly has suffered strokes. That was my home for the time being. You could imagine how being in that setting would not only hurt a person’s confidence, but it also really effected my thought process towards my future after leaving the hospital. What will outpatient therapy be like? Will it be all elderly people there too? Am I going to progress? What’s going to happen to my family? What’s my life going to be like? There were so many questions I had and none of them could be answered.

It took a while after being home to “adjust” to my “new life”. Honestly, I don’t even know if I’m totally adjusted still. Life has gotten better though. Physical therapy and spirituality are the two things I give most credit too. In order to physically excel, you must mentally be stable. That was my biggest challenge, and finding the good in life again was definitely the hardest part of regaining my happiness. Taking that first step was proof to me that if you mentally push yourself to your limit physically you will transcend.

The reason I’m bringing this all up is because recently I was told by doctors to “relax and not partake in any physical activity for at least a week” and was on heavy pain medication after a trip to the hospital because of neck pain. Throughout my unwanted vacation from therapy I was reminded of being in the hospital. Being stuck inside four walls all drugged out is not my idea of fun, not to mention I was very afraid I was going to lose muscle tone from being off for so long and my walking would be affected.

I returned to therapy today and GOOD news, I didn’t lose what I have been working so hard for! Infact, I did my personal best today. I had to mentally remind myself on the way to the gym this morning that if I could do it once I could do it again if I had to. Again, preparing myself mentally paid off for me physically. I took a video of my session today, which I’m really excited to share with everyone. One step at a time.

You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.

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