Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Lookin' ahead

At the Co-op today, while picking up what will be the last bag of hen food (chickens anyone? they are quite nice birds and are wise to wild dogs and raccoons) Theo, on impulse, bought a $25 (on sale) box of firecrackers. You see, our people from "the 6" were here for a visit, and he thought that there was no better way to show them some fun country life (when there is no snow) other than a good fireworks display. And, it was our way to welcome winter and celebrate the solstice, hooray for days getting longer!

It was perhaps not the best night (I mean weather) for a good display - some slipped away in the fog - but you could not beat the temperature and the darkness for fireworks.  In the summer we go to the Greig-Clark's for July 1st and we get home so late it is practically the next day, celebrating winter is way easier on the sleep schedule, and this winter they don't melt away in the snow half exploded. Anyway, it was a bit sad for me, as I had decided to stay inside and watch through the family room window. This turned out to be the wrong decision. You see, I was tired, mostly from swimming, and I didn't think I had enough energy to get out there.

The first set of crackers went off to the left of my vision, my chair was out of reach, and my phone on the kitchen table. Theo came in to see what I thought, and he was full of remorse that I could not see them. So off he went saying "I am going to go light the rest of them". And so he did. The kids loved it, I saw some, but most of them went over the top of the window and all I could think was if we burn down this house we have nowhere to go. But it didn't burn down, and the kids had a blast - they looked like a bunch of pagans dancing around the fire - certainly not observing the safety rules we observe in July :)

So that made me feel better. It also made me think that we really should make the winter solstice our new year. When we were at my parents' house on Sunday, my father made a toast "to a better New Year" and it didn't strike me until later what his true meaning was. A better New Year, for us all, because what happened to me shook everyone in my family to the core. And now, I realized tonight, that I have to get back into life. I can not sit and let the fireworks happen without me.

Although recovery is my full-time job right now, I have to do more than just that. I have to cook some food, help out others, do things with my kids, go for a hike. I need to seek out those in a similar situation to me because my life must go on and I have a lot of questions about what that life looks like. I have gathered some sage advice from the people that I have met so far; mind my skin, snow sucks, I'll give up my slider board and training wheels soon and laugh a lot. All great advice for the start of my new year.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Oh, my aching...triceps?

I feel like I am getting everyone's hopes up by posting these pictures, but I decided I should anyway. What the pictures don't show is the work that has gone into getting me into that standing position. Ever since I was at Parkwood, my therapists and I have been working on the motion and muscle action of the core that leads a person from sitting to standing. At first, I didn't understand the importance of the movements that we were doing, but then Bill made it clear - that this was all a part of a progression. And here you see it - standing. What you should also be able to see is Mark and Bill holding onto my hips, butt and knees. I can't feel how much pressure they are putting on those locations, but I know it's there, otherwise I would still be sitting on the edge of the plinth. 

There is a progression to these photos to (taken by my brother David) where you can see in the first one, my butt quite far back. The second one shows that I am trying to bring my hips more forward, and the last one is the end result before I say "I'm done". I lasted about 20 seconds - which Bill may tell me is an exaggeration - but I'll go with it for now. My triceps were screaming at me because they were basically holding up the weight of my entire body. I am going to be getting a fancy piece of equipment called a standing frame - maybe I should spare the expense and just hire Mark and Bill to hold me up at the kitchen counter so I can make supper...

I asked Bill today when I could expect my arms to not be crying out for pain relief at the end of the day and in the morning when I wake. He said "never", but then changed his mind and said "not for a long time". It's almost been five months, but as I do more, they take more strain and are worked harder than ever to carry my body around. I was beat just rolling around the mall last week, and that is the smoothest surface that there ever will be. 

Monday, 14 December 2015


Nancy and I were up at the school today after physio and while I was in the office a very polite young man introduced himself to me. His name was Austin, and he said he would be in my class next semester. I asked him what grade he was in and (clutching his iPad in his hands) he said grade 9. I said that I was pleased to meet him, but that he would be having another teacher next semester, that I would not be there. He said "oh, that's okay" and "it's good to see you here at school". Such a nice kid. I wish I would be well enough to be back. I look well, but for now my full time job is recovery.

I know I have said before that I am tired, and everything I do makes me more tired, but even I forget how all the little things add up - and sometimes I slip back into my old ways of I can do it all! So last week at Parkwood I did my catheter twice on my own - no big deal right? Well I didn't want a repeat of the week before [Jane had to go and get Barry to pick me up off the bathroom floor - Barry's first words were: "Well, does she have her pants up?" I did, and I only injured my pride.] so I was careful and decided not to transfer to the toilet, so just stayed in my chair. Think of it this way - try pulling up your pants while sitting on them in a fabric covered chair. Get them up to your knees, sit in a chair, and then try to get them up to your waist without using your feet, legs or hips to boost you up. Try it and you'll see that three hands would be, well, handy, and you'll understand why I have bruises down my forearms. Here's another - swim for an hour, then try getting out of a wet bathing suit while laying down on a bench - again - no use of muscles below your armpits to help you out.  All these "little" yet very essential things add up.

So last week I did my regularly scheduled therapies: Monday and Wednesday physio, Tuesday in the pool and Thursday to Parkwood plus we had a meeting Monday afternoon, I watched the kids swim and we went to Subway, Wednesday we went to the Hulett Christmas concert and on Thursday Steve and I added an hour long stop at Motion Specialties in London. By Friday I was more than tired. I was done. Finished. Exhausted. Spent. I did not get out of bed on Friday until 2 pm and then only to have a shower (which is also exhausting) and go back to bed!

Everybody expresses themselves differently when they are tired. Lara and I have invented words like hangry (hungry and angry) and tungry (tired and hungry) to apply to our own kids, well my new word would be tweepy - tired and weepy. Because by the end of any one of those days, when I have added in too many "little" things, that is how it ends. Usually in tears. Poor Theo, because there is nothing he can do or say. By this point everything is awful, nothing will ever get better and there is nothing he can do but put me into bed and cover me with the duvet.

I put on a good show when I am out - that is I look and sound okay- but inside, my body is still healing, and spinal cord kind of healing takes a long time. Funny that I write this now, because people in the know have been saying that to me all along. But now I write it to remind myself, as well as others. I see it as a part of my job now, to teach others what it is like to have a spinal cord injury. And one of those things is the amount of time needed for healing - that although the injured person looks good, that is a short window, and boy you don't want to be around when that window closes.

So today I leave with this quote, because I was inspired by a friend who sent me a message that I only read today. Thanks, Duff - that is when I cry, and this is how I keep going.

"Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is." --Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Things that make me sad

This has been brewing in my head for a while now. Sadness comes when I am tired, sick, and sometimes at odd and unexpected times. A couple of weeks ago I went to Goderich for the first time since July 29th, and as we drove right past the spot where I was hit, I was not sad. I was flabbergasted. In my mind's eye I had pictured the stretch of road where it happened and knew it was flat, but I had not pictured it correctly. It is straight and flat for at least three kilometers. Unbelieveable, but it did not make me sad, just fueled my fire of frustration. I'll save that for another day. I have plans for it, you know.

Dancing. About two weeks prior, the kids and I went to the tent sale held by the shoe store in Wingham. I found these lovely high heeled dancing shoes, and since they were only $10, I bought them. I decided that Theo and I would start dancing again! We had taken dancing lessons before we got married 16 years ago, and we had talked about doing it again. I even stopped in at the QB to show Les. Last weekend those shoes made an appearance...on Ella's feet. Seeing those made me sad for all the dancing that we may never do again.

Jeans. A few weeks ago Lara came to help me sort my clothes and put them on shelves that I would be able to reach - no more sending Theo up to find a specific t-shirt. So Lara, being the clothes-hound that she is, found a few gems in my piles. One of those was my favourite pair of jeans that Lara and I had found at "Bibles" second-hand store back in the spring. Silver jeans, for $5, that fit beautifully. These jeans fit, snug, just right, and had shiny buttons on the back pockets. Neither of these things work with my "new" body. My lack of abdominal muscle function means that my once flat-for-a-forty-something-mother-of-two stomach is no longer. Tight jeans are pretty hard to get up, I would have to roll back and forth in my bed a lot before I would be able to get them up, and even then, they would likely not do up. And the buttons? Can't do those either, they create skin issues. The bling I can do without, but the shape of my body I miss. Immensely.

Snuggles and holding hands. I lost three months with my kids, and a future not clouded by life with a wheelchair. So now, when they snuggle in beside me in bed it brings tears to my eyes. What I missed and what I almost missed - the rest of their lives. And how about going for a walk? So now I roll along, and sure the kids can walk beside me, but I can't roll and hold hands at the same time. There is just something so special about walking along holding your kids hands, their's so soft and comfortable in your's. Perhaps it is because you know that they won't want to hold your hand forever.

Flutter kick. Being in the pool last week felt a lot closer to normal then ever before. I was able to stretch out my stroke so that my speed also increased. Doing this helped bring my legs up closer to the surface of the water instead of just dragging along in a bent position. But that is all they do, just drag along behind me. I may never be able to do flutter kick again. That may seem weird to you, that I would miss that, but it really is the one activity that can not be replaced by something else. My cool-down flutter-kick-and-chat with my training partner in the pool will be no longer.

Feeling skin on skin. This is so incredibly personal. To not be able to feel Theo laying beside me sends my mind to some dark places. We all know about the healing power of touch...how can I heal my body if I can't feel? This is where my soul aches the most.

There are undoubtedly many other things that will make me sad over the course of the next weeks, months and years. Talking about them helps, and so does crying. Grieving the losses will not end any time soon.