Three steps forward, two steps back. I’ve come to realize that this is a big part of the life of someone with a life-changing diagnosis. Sometimes it can be disheartening, but I’m trying to work on embracing the whole picture and what it means in my daily life.
I will reach 6 months post-injury in two days. It’s crazy to think about. I’ve spent half of a year recovering from paralysis and trying to live my life as best as I can in the midst of the greatest trial I’ve ever known.
This past weekend I went on my first road trip post-injury. Our whole family drove to Irvine, California for a Messianic conference. I knew the trip would be a test of my ability to sit for an extended period. Like I said in my last update, when I flew for the first time, I really struggle with pain and spasticity in my legs when I can’t move for a period of time. Even just working at my desk for a couple hours causes a fair amount of pain. 15 hours in a vehicle was guaranteed to be difficult, and we were driving through the night with minimal stops to get there in time.
What I didn’t know was that I was going to fall full-force onto my tailbone a few hours before leaving town. Yikes! Not a fun experience. I didn’t break it, and felt okay afterwards (just a bit off-kilter), but over the next 15 sedentary hours in the car the effects of the fall settled in. I also forgot a dose of my spasticity medication, and the two together really messed me up. I arrived in California exhausted, in pain, and struggling to walk.
Over the next few days, my mobility and pain level gradually improved, and today as I’m writing this I’m feeling pretty much back to normal. We arrived home from our trip last night after splitting the drive home into two days. I’m so thankful to feel myself again!
That’s the negative part of my update, but it’s very restricted to just the events over this past weekend. In the past few weeks before this weekend, I have been experiencing some exciting small victories! One of the things I have not been able to do since my injury is to jump. That might not sound like a big deal (not many 40-year-old women spend a lot of time jumping around anyway, right?), but it actually impacts my abilities in ways you might not think about. The core function of jumping is the ability to land heavily on your feet without your ankles or knees buckling. This is a required function for jogging and running, as well as catching yourself if you trip. As someone whose general mobility is less-than-awesome, not being able to catch my footing is especially scary.
Well, one of the exercises I’ve been doing for some time now is attempting to jump. My right knee always buckles and shakes like crazy, but one evening a few weeks ago it just didn’t! I took my normal little jump and landed like normal! I was so excited – I called Mark in and showed him, doing it over and over again. 😀 It’s funny how exciting such a simple movement can be!
When I went to physical therapy last week, I showed her that I could jump at last, and she said that it was time to try running – something I obviously haven’t done at all yet, or even tried. She hooked me into a harness and lifted me in a contraption over a treadmill that took a bit of my body weight off and supported me in case I lost my footing. In that harness, with 80% of my body weight on my feet, I ran at 4 mph for 4 minutes!! It felt amazing. It was invigorating, and felt so freeing! Now we have a new goal to work towards in PT – slowly lowering the harness until I can run with 100% of my body weight!
So, six months post-paralysis. This past weekend I met a man who many, many years ago had Guillain Barré – the syndrome I was first wrongly diagnosed with. He shared how he was completely paralyzed from the neck down except being able to move his index finger. He is completely fine now and was impressed with my recovery 6 months after paralysis. Obviously our diagnoses are different and the recovery process looks different, but I am still so thankful for the improvement that I’ve made. I am consistently reminded that it could be so much worse. Plus, I am surrounded by incredible friends and family who lift me up and breathe life into my spirit on a regular basis.
Setbacks or small victories, I am so blessed.