17 May 2015

Check Out My Latest X-Rays :: Bruce Snyder's Status

On Friday, I paid a visit to my neurosurgeon and I have x-rays to show off! 

My neurosurgeon was happy to see me because it was the first time that he had seen me walking. He happily greeted me at the front desk which doctors almost never do, he just happened to be there when I walked in. It made me feel pretty good that my surgeon was so happy to see me. After all, this guy sees lots and lots of people who have had surgery. He said he was happy to see me walking because when I last saw him in November I was still in the wheelchair. 

Below you can see the two sets of x-rays -- one from the back and one from side. From both vantage points, you can easily see the hardware that was inserted. Even though I can feel the hardware in my back, it's still crazy for me to actually see it. Especially when I see how deep the screws go into each vertebrae. In the view from the back, you can also see the curve in my spine because the hardware is crooked. Oh well, I've been told that spinal surgery is more art than science -- sounds like writing code. 
Also, if you look closely you will see some little dots in between the L3 and L4 vertebrae. This is a plastic spacer and the dots are metal so it will show up in an x-ray. It's typical for the surgeon to insert a spacer in between the vertebrae in place of the disc that had to be removed (the disc was so badly damaged that they had to scrape it out). The spacer keeps the vertebrae the proper distance apart as the bone grows and fills in the space. According to the surgeon, the bone growth between the two vertebrae looks really good.

Based on  my recovery and the state of healing in my spine, the surgeon told me that he doesn't want to see me for a year! He said that he feels that I'm ahead of the curve and that I should keep doing everything I'm doing. Yay! 

09 May 2015

One Year Since My Spinal Cord Injury :: Bruce Snyder's Status

On April 24th, my family and I marked one year since my spinal cord injury and I was so totally shocked and very humbled by the surprise that Janene arranged for me. What an amazing wife!

We had made plans to go to a friend's birthday party at a place here in town. That afternoon my youngest daughter had a track meet and afterward I had to pick up my oldest daughter from her school in Boulder. These activities kept me busy until just after 6pm when I showed up at the location for our friend's birthday party.

As I crutched to the door and opened it, I saw my youngest daughter holding a big sign for and a huge crowd of our friends from the community screamed, 'Surprise!' It took me a second to realize that all of these people were here for me. I was so shocked by this thought that I almost lost it right there. Even now I get emotional thinking about it. I was so humbled that all of these friends showed up for me. I have been on the giving end of such support for others in the past, but I have never been on the receiving end.

It's hard for me to believe that it has been a whole year since this horrible accident took place. Early on, my good friend Greg, who has experienced two spinal cord injuries in his life, said to me:
'Just make it through the first year and everything will seem so much better.' 
He was right and this advice was poignant, though it took me a long time to really put it in perspective.

At the time, this seemed so far away that it was difficult to imagine. For a while, I even had this perception that I would actually return to what used to be normal for me. But, over the last year, I have come to realize that I need to get used to a new normal. The most difficult adjustment is my inability to run and cycle like I used to do so often.

Current Status

At this time, I am still paralyzed below the knees but I am hopeful that my body will continue to heal. I have so much more feeling in my feet after one year and I'm very hopeful that I will regain movement over time. Because of the paralysis, I wear leg braces to be able to stand and walk, and I also use arm crutches for balance. I am lucky enough that I can get around at home without using the crutches and at I have even started using only one crutch in places that are level and familiar to me.

Most people have no idea that a lower spinal cord injury like mine (L3-L4) often affects a patient's bowels and bladder function. Your digestion slows down due to the nerve damage and your ability to empty your bladder on your own can be affected. I still deal with some issues in both of these areas, but not to the extent that I did through the first eight months. I'm lucky that my body has healed the way it has and that there is medication to help things along otherwise.

For some time now, I have been riding a stationary bike, doing lots of leg presses and walking much longer distances. I still see a physical therapist, but only for guidance and direction. All of the PT related activities I do are driven by me alone. I have experienced the need for PT previously from knee injuries so I already understood how it important it is to have the drive to push forward on my own. Luckily, all of these activities have helped me to recover from a fair amount of the muscle atrophy that took place from being stuck in a hospital bed and a wheelchair early on. But I still have a long way to go.

Riding a Bicycle 

In addition to riding the stationary bike, Janene recently purchased me a 3-wheel bicycle. While it's not the same as riding a road bike or a mountain bike like I used to do, it is very similar and it allows me the freedom of being on a bicycle. Strangely, we had a difficult time finding a shop that was willing to assemble the bike for us. I guess lots of shops aren't familiar with them and each one can be so different that they cannot predict the time it will actually take. Luckily, the Bikesmith in Boulder came through and was happy to do the job.

While riding, I do have a hard time keeping my feet in the proper place on the pedals, so I am thinking about putting some toe clips on there. Also, the seat is not very comfortable on my sit bones due of the muscle atrophy in my butt. I'm also hunting for some other seats to help me tolerate not only sitting for a longer period of time but also the bumps on the streets.

As I mentioned it's not the same as riding my road bike and climbing steep mountain roads like I used to love doing so much, but it's the best thing I can do at this time. I'm so grateful that my wife is encouraging me to do something that I love, even if it isn't exactly the same as it was before.