Two weeks ago I awoke to the discovery that I can squeeze my butt again! Those of you who read my last blog post know that I have paralysis across my butt and down the outsides of my hamstrings and that in that post I said:
'Even if the movement of my feet does not return, I really wish that I could regain the feeling in my butt and the ability to squeeze the muscles so that I could build them back up again.'
Well believe it or not, I got my wish! I could hardly believe it myself! I was still lying in bed on Sunday morning when I made the discovery. I was in such disbelief that I laughed out loud and woke up Janene. As she heard me she bolted upright, bleary eyed and said, 'Are you OK?' Still laughing I told her I can squeeze my butt and we both could hardly believe it. Even though it was a very small squeeze, it's a sign that the healing is starting to take place.
Technically the muscles in the butt are the gluteal muscle group as shown in the diagram comprised of the glueus maximus, gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus. The ability to squeeze these muscles is controlled by nerves that connect impulses sent from the brain, down the spinal column to the muscle to cause a contraction. The fact that the nerves have healed enough to allow me to squeeze them is a really good sign, it means that my body is healing itself.
The squeeze was very small and quite weak but it was a start. Because these muscles have basically been dormant for five months means that they are terribly atrophied and therefore extremely weak. But even in the two weeks since this movement returned, I have been working the muscles to build them back up and the squeeze has only increased. At this point, it's not a huge increase, but as my Mom always told me growing up, 'Slow and steady wins the race.'
Who thought I would be so happy for such a minor thing. But when I experienced such a devastating injury that forever changed my life, I learned very quickly to be happy for what I still have, as I have mentioned before. Now it's just a matter of working these muscles regularly via rehab to bring them back to life. Speaking of rehab, I also made a big change on this front last week.
Changing My Rehab
Since being released from Craig Hospital in June, I have been going back to Craig for rehab. After all, it is a world-renowned hospital for spinal cord and brain injuries. When I was first released from the hospital, my Dad was still in town and was driving me wherever I needed to go including to rehab at Craig Hospital. At first, I was going to rehab at Craig three times a week. It helped a lot to be in close contact with my physical therapist and to continue seeing my friends there. But it didn't take long for me to really get tired of making the 90 mile round trip and sitting in traffic for 2.5-3+ hours each time we made the trip. Remember, this was when I was still exhausted all the time and this drive only made things worse for me. I also got wise to the fact that insurance companies only pay for a certain number of visits. So I decided to keep doing my rehab at home and only check in with my PT at Craig once a week to more or less maximize my PT visits. For a while this worked, but because I am now back to work full-time, even making the trip to Craig once a week sunk a lot of time and I didn't get a lot of benefit from a one hour appointment once a week. So I began looking into other options including the Boulder Community Health's Mapleton Center for Outpatient Rehabilitation and also a company what specializes in spinal cord injury (SCI) rehab named Project Walk.
Project Walk was especially compelling to me because it focuses on rebuilding the muscle mass that SCI patients lose from the injury and hospitalization. The professionals at Project Walk help patients to design a workout specifically for them and their situation to focus on their own goals. My ultimate goal is to walk again without the need for braces and crutches, and although this is dependent upon my body and its ability to heal, there's a lot that can be done in the meantime to get my body ready for more movement to return. I applied to Project Walk and received a call back within a day and began talking to them. Everything sounded great and was very much in tune with the way that I have always enjoyed pushing myself in my physical fitness, but there was one catch -- they wanted me to come to their San Diego office for three weeks. The problem with this is that I am just too busy at work right now with recruitment duties for open positions and I don't feel like I can put this on hold for three weeks. Because of this, I decided to look into a more local solution in Boulder for now.
Boulder Community Health has an outpatient rehabilitation clinic called the Mapleton Center. A dear friend of mine who experienced a spinal injury a couple years ago went here for his rehab and told me that they really helped him. So I paid them a visit and got an evaluation by a PT who worked at the Spaulding Institute in Boston prior to coming to the Mapleton Center. Spaulding is a rehabilitation clinic out east that is well-known for its SCI program. So this week I began doing rehab at the Mapleton Center to see if this PT can help get me to get on the road to a more rigorous workout that will help me work toward my goals. This certainly doesn't mean that I have ruled out Project Walk, in fact, it is still very much on my mind.
In speaking to Project Walk, I have learned that this place is a premier rehab clinic for SCI patients. Based on 10 years of medical research and partnering with hospitals and universities, Project Walk is like not other rehab clinic I have discovered. And although they originally wanted me to come out there for three weeks, in speaking with them they suggested that perhaps we could condense it to a week and just work a lot more hours while I'm there. Furthermore, I also learned that they are opening a clinic in the Boulder/Denver area in March 2015. So I'm kinda thinking that I need to see how things play out at the Mapleton Center before traveling to Project Walk in San Diego. If I can attend PT in Boulder for a while and then go to Project Walk in San Diego, perhaps I can be ready to take on even more when the Project Walk clinic opens here in the Boulder/Denver area.
Dinner With Gareth and Mike
This past week I had dinner with my coworker Mike O'Donnell and his buddy Gareth who helped me as I laid suffering in the street right after the accident. Not only was it was wonderful to see Gareth again, but this time with a clear head, it was also great to have dinner with my co-worker Mike who I really like. I learned a lot about both Gareth and Mike that night and I really enjoyed our time together. Spending some time with Gareth in a social setting really clued me in to who he is and I discovered that we have a lot in common in terms of the way we look at the world. Gareth also told me about a fascinating book that I'm just beginning to read now.
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm constantly reading something. I'm always on the look out for new books to read and, in fact, I even keep a list of books in a notebook in Evernote (which I use for everything now). The book Gareth told me about is titled, Biology of Belief. This book is about how new research shows that our DNA does not control our biology, instead our DNA is controlled by our positive and negative thoughts. Certainly this topic is of extreme interest to me right now because of my medical situation. I don't have much to say about this topic yet because I haven't read the book yet. But suffice it to say that I am reading and trying everything I can get my hands on at this point to help heal myself.
When I told Janene about this book, she said it sounded similar to one recommended recently by a co-worker titled You Are the Placebo. This book is about how one's brain and body are shaped by their thoughts, their emotions and their intentions, not the other way around. Again, a captivating topic for me right now so I plan to read this book next.
Perhaps these two books will help me move from the hope of more movement to the real belief that I am going to get movement back and I am going to walk one day. After all, I did tell Project Walk that my goal is to walk, but my dream is to one day cycle and run again.