Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A lifeline interrup

Even though today started with me feeling a bit better than the day before, it didn't start great. A month ago Ella called the vet to book an appointment for her kittens to "get fixed". Today was that day and it was left to me to get them there. Everyone else had more important thing to do like go shopping or Canada's Wonderland. Geez. Once both kittens were located and packed into the carrying case off we went. On the way there and then back I wondered where my phone had ended up - satisfied that it would be at home on the table. It wasn't. I had run it over, and not with the wheels on my chair, with the wheels on my car. On the gravel driveway.

It's a bit of a lifeline, my phone. I have been warned, by people more experienced in a chair than I, to always have my phone with me. You never know when you are going to get into trouble and need a bit of assistance. I do remember calling Theo from back lawn and I have gotten myself into slippery situations (remembering one particular pair of snow pants). The wheelchair makers have even taken this into consideration. They designed a little phone size pocket right under the seat and between the legs. Easy to get to, but also easy to forget when loading the chair into the car. Which is how it ended up on the driveway.

Aside from the lifeline aspect of my Samsung, like everyone else, it also stores all my contacts. I have a sinking feeling that they will not be there when my new phone is turned on. All my therapists, doctors, numbers that I will have to dig for in short order - that will take some time. I am learning a lesson in the importance of backing up information. My Google contacts only seem to hold emails - retrieving 265 numbers will take some time. I know it was that many because on Saturday I went through them all looking for people to contact about Greg's Ride.

I think when I bought this phone I must have sensed its' importance because I bought a warranty. I never do that. For the past eight months I have been paying $7 per month for protection. Today it paid off because tomorrow UPS is bringing me a new phone. I know I am not the first person to smash the screen of their phone to smithereens, I saw a lot of those in my classroom. My old Blackberry was so indestructible I never thought it would happen to me!

I spent some time this afternoon using my landline calling numbers that I still had in my head. Landline numbers that I had memorized long ago. Four, to be exact. Doing this allowed me to make some plans, for everyone else I was supposed to talk to today, sorry, I ran over my phone. Which actually made it kind of quiet. Maybe we all need to disconnect for a little while :)

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Bitter sweet

I have wanted to sit down and write for a few days now, but never have had the right time. I have to admit, I've been suffering from Olympic fever these past two weeks. Now they are done and I'll have two weeks to kill until the real events in Rio begin.

I met a lot people this past Sunday, and I shook a lot of hands. It was the Goderich Triathlon and this year I was able to get there. Obviously I was not participating, but I was able to soak in the excitement and cheer on and congratulate some friends. It was too early of a start time for me to see the racers off, but as I was driving I started to encounter cyclists just coming into Auburn.

Congratulating an old (and somewhat sweaty) friend. 

The closer I got to Goderich, the more cyclists I encountered. It was a very profound feeling, seeing so many people on bikes in the exact same stretch of road where my collision occurred. I had to really concentrate on my driving.

Seeing all these cyclists tells me that people are not afraid to ride in Huron County. I got that same feeling as I drove down the hill to the beach and into the parking area. I was surrounded by cars with I Share the Road bumper stickers. Now, these are "my people" so it should not be surprising to see so many bumper stickers, but even still, it felt good. It means that the message getting around. 

Speaking of messages getting around, I met a lot of you, people who are reading what I write. I want to thank you. For reading, for caring and for stopping to introduce yourself to me. I often wonder who you are, and why you read. I hope you continue to be inspired. 

I was glad to give a hand while I was there Sunday. Pam, Miah and Stacy wanted me to watch and enjoy, but I needed to feel useful. So I found a few jobs, but my favourite was being able to hand out the medals. It was tricky for me to do as I don't have enough core muscle strength to have both hands out in front of my body (in order to put a medal over another person's head) so I had to do it one-handed. Some people receiving medals caught on to this and helped, others didn't and just took their medal from my hand. Oh well, I tried! But the most fun was giving medals to my friends, even though it was hard. Hard because I should have been there alongside them. It brings tears even as I write this now. Maybe that is why I found getting this post started so difficult.

Medal ceremony

In fact, I had mixed feelings about going at all, but I am glad I did. I was there on my own so I had to manage the wheelchair bathroom at the beach alone. It worked out fine (except for the ridiculously heavy door that has no button so I had to ask for help). Being there, at the bottom of the hill, also made me think about how on Earth I would ever be able to do that course with a handbike. The other reason I am glad I went was that I got to see all of my friends. People I used to train and race with, and my new silent friends, you who read. Thanks for the handshakes and the hugs.

And thanks to Pam, Miah, Stacy, Erin, Chris and Trisha for my new favourite t-shirt :)

My new favourite t-shirt :)

Monday, 15 August 2016


Today, being Monday, I was back to physio with Bill and Mark. I was working on some core stuff that I was not able to do six or so weeks ago. I can now hold the bar out in front and lift it up and down. I was throwing the four pound medicine ball, sitting on the end of the bed feet on the floor, back and forth to Bill. We tried a version of "Russian twist" - but I have a long way to go before it looks anything close to real! Satisfying to know that many of these activities were not doable in earlier attempts, even throwing a beach ball was difficult at Parkwood.
Here you can see Barry holding me up from behind - the olden days.
I guess it would be a good marker to have record of what I can do now. I will have some pics taken on Wednesday.

The other great thing about today was that I got to Wingham for physio, the post office and the Family Tree all by myself. Theo was out and the kids are away at camp this week, so there was no one to load my chair but me. So I did it, and it only took me five minutes this time! I knew I would be able to do these errands on my own because both these businesses have made themselves completely accessible. No help required.

Oh, and did I mention that my bladder held too? Upon reflection of our day in Owen Sound last week I couldn't help but think about an old fashioned VISA commercial that went something like this: (cue the Morgan Freeman voiceover)

Botox injections (2 vials - the face uses only one) $795.
Watching the Dr inject the botox into my bladder. Free.
Lunch out (where I ended up eating everything because there was egg in Theo's salad dressing) $25.95
New shoes (because I just happened to find a great running shop) $75
Knowing that I now can get to physio and back without peeing my pants? Priceless.

For everything else there's VISA (which is how I paid for the botox).

Money doesn't buy happiness, but it does buy peace of mind.

Friday, 12 August 2016

New Shoes

It's a small world. Today I ran into someone that I have coached  beside for the past six years. She didn't recognize me, which was not surprising because we often have a lot of layers on at those races, especially on our heads. I told her that the other reason why she did not recognize me was because the last time I saw her I wasn't using a wheelchair.

Where I ran into this fellow coach was at a running shop in Owen Sound, and it was the shop owner who knew who I was. She remembered hearing my story back a year ago and remembered specific details, like how I had written a letter to the paper asking drivers to be more careful around cyclists. I hope there are more people out there who still remember and are changing how they drive. I have had lots of friends tell me that they (and their children) have changed how they drive, I hope that my story has had that effect on strangers too.

Theo and I were in Owen Sound for the day where I had my first botox injections. The hospital staff were lovely and very accommodating. They even let me watch which the biology teacher in me loved. After discussing it with the doctor, we decided that I would have the procedure done without the use of an anesthetic. Due to my lack of sensation we felt that the increased recovery time caused by the anesthetic might be a waste of energy. I was glad that I was awake, it made me feel better about what was going on (I can't help but feel better knowing that I can "supervise" what happens) although I was nervous.

Nervous, even though I knew that I couldn't feel the catheters that I use sometimes ten times a day, so why would I feel this one? Because it was huge! I use what is called a 12 or 14 French catheter, this one was a 17 French! The doctor assured me that the female urethra is very stretchy. So reassuring. What was reassuring was how kind the anesthesiologist (spelled correctly on the first try!!!) was. He introduced himself and said to me "I understand you have had a tough year". Even though that statement made me cry, I appreciated that he knew what I had been through and why I had ended up there. He gave me a heated flannel over my chest and shoulders and we chatted as I watched the urologist make more than 20 injections in the wall of my bladder on the big screen. Dr said I would hopefully know that the botox was working by the weekend.

Did I mention that the botox cost $795.00? Even the doctors and nurses were shocked at that! Here's hoping that Sun Life is going to cover it. What Sun Life won't cover are my new shoes. I have been wearing those black runners with pink laces for a whole year now, and if you know me you are saying "what! only one pair of running shoes??" I just happened into this Runner's Den (Theo was going to the music store) and I just happened to find a lightweight pair of runners that were on sale. So I bought them. Just because.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

My full time job

Teachers always tell their students that if they have a question there will be others with the same question. Maybe that applies here? In fact, I am sure it does because as September looms and the back to school ads are taunting the poor children, people are asking:

"Are YOU going back to school?"

I am NOT going back to school in September, at least not in any official capacity. I may volunteer every once-in-awhile, or speak to particular classes or groups. I may help coach. But I will not be found in room 239. There are lots of reasons why I won't be back this year, or maybe even the year after that.

Reason #1.
I still pee my pants. "Um, hello office? Excuse me, but could you please send someone to cover my class so I can go and change my pants?" Awkward. Neurogenic bladder is the name given to the lack of bladder control from spinal cord injuries (as well as other neurological conditions). Although there are drugs to treat these issues, none of them have really worked for me.

I met with a urologist in July and he says I am "the perfect candidate" for having botox injections in my bladder. Botox is not just for wrinkles anymore! I have many Parkwood friends who have had Botox injections and they claim that they were life changing. Botox is a neurotoxin that comes from the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. It is the same bacteria that causes botulism! When injected in the proper doses it paralyses muscles. So the hope is that the botox will prevent my bladder from spasming when it has more than 250 ml of urine in it. Here's hopin.........................................g (sorry, cat) it works and that I can wear the same pair of pants all day long!

Other reasons.
I am still recovering - as I am still seeing improvements in my core muscle function as well as a tiny bit more sensation. Last week in physio I was able to pull myself up onto all fours on the physio bed. That is, on my hands and knees, with no help!

I started doing my own version of breaststroke in the pool last week, and yesterday I walked 2 km on the Lokomat. So long as I am still seeing gains, I have to keep making physio my full time job.

The plans for building the house got stalled last month which means we won't be starting until the spring. We are okay with that. It means we won't end up stuck with a house partly built and not yet closed in. We are building slab-on-grade which means that the cement has to be kept warm, which means we need to have a roof before winter. We were cutting the timelines too close and feeling presser to make decisions we didn't feel ready to make. So we wait. Part of me thinks that building a house is just a dream and I will have to keep working in my full-of-swear-words kitchen for the rest of my life. Please no.