Coming Back to Life

I’ve been going to physical therapy every Monday & Friday since I was released from the rehab hospital. Every month, they have to reassess patients for fall risk and progress toward reaching goals. This month’s assessment was huge – I walked 320 meters in six minutes (approximately 3.2 km/hr) without the use of any assistive devices (walker, cane, etc) and I passed all of the tests except for walking heel-to-toe and standing on one leg (I still couldn’t pass a standardized field sobriety test). This means that I’m now considered a low fall risk. This is huge for me. Now my physical therapy sessions will be focused on more specific goals, like being able to squat, kneel and get up easily, pick up Baby Loco and swing her around like dads do, and generally improve my balance by increasing my core strength. I also want to increase my walking pace to more like 5 km/hr.

This corresponds with my life outside of physical therapy. Since I was released from the rehab hospital, I’ve transitioned from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane to walking on my own two feet. When I was originally released from the hospital with a cast on my right leg, taking a shower meant maneuvering my wheelchair to the guest bathroom, using the walker to get into the bathroom while Mrs. Loco held onto a gait belt, sit down on the transfer bench, disrobing, wrapping my cast in a garbage bag and finally taking a shower. I could barely lift my arms over my shoulders, so by the time the whole process was reversed and over, I was usually exhausted. After rehab it got easier; I just used the walker to get into the master bathroom and Mrs. Loco helped me into the shower, where I sat on a shower chair. After showering, she dried my feet carefully and helped me stand to walker over to the sink, where she put a chair behind me so I could get ready. Eventually I gained enough strength and balance that I could shower on my own, freeing up Mrs. Loco to look after Baby Loco or sleep in.

Baby Loco and me before watching the Diamondbacks lose one of the last games of the season.

All of this progress comes as the result of time, therapy & treatment. I’m two weeks into an eight-week series of IVIg treatments that are being administered while I work from home on Thursdays.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been able to ease back into doing “normal” things. We went to one of the last regular-season Diamondbacks games, we’ve been out to dinner a few times and on Saturday we drove up to the top of South Mountain – I’m hoping that before too long I’ll be able to hike up again. I’ve been able to play some GTA V, but I’m only about 16% complete – I don’t have a lot of extra time in my week for gaming, but every now and then I can sneak in a mission or two.

I’ve also discontinued the use of a lot of durable medical equipment; I no longer need a wheelchair, walker, leg braces, raised toilet seat, transfer bench, shower seat, sock aid or reacher and I can probably get rid of the suction-cup grab bars in the shower. I haven’t needed narcotic painkillers in at least three weeks and I’m probably going to start stepping down off of some of the other meds.

Don’t get me wrong. I still have a ways to go to recover. I couldn’t possibly do patient care; squatting and kneeling is painful and getting back up is not easy. I still have some parasthesia in my left hand and both feet. Even if I fully regain sensation in my lower legs, I’ll never be a runner again due to the ankle injury. The best I can hope for is to be able to run enough to keep up with Baby Loco. But I can do the things that are important to me, like cooking breakfast, grilling steaks, picking Baby Loco up and carrying her and generally living a normal life with some limitations.

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