Recently I went back to Craig Hospital for an annual spinal cord injury re-evaluation and the results were very positive. It was really nice to see some familiar faces of the people for whom I have such deep admiration like my doctors, physical therapists and administrative staff. My doctor and therapists were quite surprised to see how well I am doing, especially given that I'm still seeing improvements three years later. Mainly because so many spinal cord injury patients have serious issues even years later. I am so lucky to no longer be taking any medications and to be walking again.
It has also been nearly one year since I have been back to Craig Hospital and it seems like such a different place to me now. Being back there again feels odd for a couple of reasons. First, due to the extensive construction/remodel, the amount of change to the hospital makes it seem like a different place entirely. It used to be much smaller which encouraged more close interaction between patients and staff. Now the place is so big (i.e., big hallways, larger individual rooms, etc.) that patients can have more privacy if they want or even avoid some forms of interaction. Second, although I am comfortable being around so many folks who have been so severely injured (not everyone is), I have noticed that some folks are confused by me. I can tell the way they look at me that they are wondering what I am doing there because, outwardly, I do not appear as someone who has experienced a spinal cord injury. I have been lucky enough to make it out of the wheelchair and to walk on my own. Though my feet are still paralyzed, I wear flexible, carbon fiber AFO braces on my legs and walk with one arm crutch, the braces are covered by my pants so it's puzzling to many people.
The folks who I wish I could see more are the nurses and techs. These are the folks who helped me the most when I was so vulnerable and confused and to whom I grew very attached. To understand just how attached I was, simply moving to a more independent room as I was getting better was upsetting to me because I was so emotionally attached to them. I learned that these people are cut from a unique cloth and possess very big hearts to do the work they do every day. Because they are so involved with the acute care of in-patients, they are very busy during the day and not available for much socializing as past patients come through. Luckily, there was one of my nurses who I ran into and was able to spend some time speaking with him. I really enjoyed catching up with him and hearing about new adventures in his career. He was one of the folks I was attached to at the time and he really made a difference in my experience. I will be eternally thankful for having met these wonderful people during such a traumatic time in my life.
Today I am walking nearly 100% of the time with the leg braces and have been for over two years. I am working to rebuild my calves and my glutes, but this is a very, very long and slow process due to severe muscle atrophy after not being able to move my glutes for five months and my calves for two years. Although my feet are not responding yet, we will see what the future holds. I still feel so very lucky to be alive and continuing to make progress.
Although I cannot run at all or cycle the way I did previously, I am very thankful to be able to work out as much as I can. I am now riding the stationary bike regularly, using my Total Gym (yes, I have a Chuck Norris Total Gym) to build my calves, using a Bosu to work on balance and strength in my lower body, doing ab roller workouts and walking as much as I can both indoors on a treadmill and outside. I'd like to make time for swimming laps again, but all of this can be time consuming (and tiring!). I am not nearly as fit as I was at the time of my injury, but I continue to work hard and to see noticeable improvements for which I am truly thankful.
Thank you to everyone who continues to stay in touch and check in on me from time-to-time. You may not think it's much to send a quick message, but these messages have meant a lot to me through this process. The support from family and friends has been what has truly kept me going. The patience displayed by Bailey, Jade and Janene is pretty amazing.
Later this month, I will mark the three year anniversary of my injury. It seems so far away and yet it continues to affect my life every day. My life will never be the same but I do believe I have found peace with this entire ordeal.