Here’s another long overdue update! Honestly I’d update the blog more often, but I like to wait until there is significant news to share and not bore you with my day to day. Thankfully, I do have some exciting news!
Quick recap: In October 2009 we had two awesome and successful fundraisers in Indianapolis (Indy Half Marathon) and Denver (Halloween Party). Also, over Christmas Jake Hendershot and Company put on another great Xmas Jam in Muncie with some of the proceeds going to yours truly. THANK YOU TO ALL THE ORGANIZERS OF THESE EVENTS AND ALL THE PEOPLE WHO CAME OUT TO SHOW SUPPORT! It is incredibly amazing to catch up with people from different segments of my life who are at my back offering support and encouragement. Don’t think for a minute that I could make it through some of the grueling, frustrating, but eventually rewarding therapy sessions without emotional support from YOU (family, friends, friends of friends, etc…). Its also an impossibility to imagine me taking a hiatus from the world of 9 to 5’ers to solely focus on my rehab and recovery without the financial support you’ve provided. Many thanks, even though I feel “thank you’s” are not enough to describe how grateful I am to you all. I’m looking forward to making these events an annual occurrence. Lets GO BIG in 2010, tell your friends and rally your crew, see you soon
So here is the exciting news! I’m finally starting my LT (locomotor training) and FES (Functional Electronic Stimulation) clinical trial at Kessler. I signed up last September and have been waiting patiently to be a lab rat. Over the past couple weeks I’ve gone through many tests to ensure my body is ready for the hard work on the horizon. During these tests my therapist has determined I have muscle activity in my trunk (mainly my right obliques), which, means I have communication occurring well below my level of injury (almost 2 feet below). According to science this is an impossibility with my type of “ASIA A complete” injury. Needless to say this is fantastic news! I also have topical sensation on the skin surface in the same area to just above my right hip, pretty cool.
So on February 22nd I had my first LT session. I stood upright with a 60% of my body weight supported by a harness. With probably 99%-100% help from my therapy team I took my first steps in 17 months. There were four steps, two backward, two forward. The steps were sloppy, minimal, unsightly, uncoordinated, and almost completely manufactured by my therapy team. And they were beautiful. It amazed me to be upright, look in the mirror and watch my feet be shuffled awkwardly. I forgot I was 5’11” since I’ve been chillin at peoples waistlines for almost the past year and a half. I was able to look people in the eye at eye level. I was grinning like a mad man and so was the research team as they did not expect my body to accommodate this type of movement so well. Common challenges that other test subjects encountered are a drop in blood pressure, fainting, joints buckling, muscle spasms…the list goes on. I just stood tall. The perceived communication to my trunk/core helped me maintain my balance and stand steady, which is another impossibility for somebody with my level of injury.
February 23rd I was back for another session. After our morning stretch and data collection I was upright again in the harness, over the treadmill. I stood for a few minutes, attempted to shift my weight side to side, monitored blood pressure, all was ok. Then the doctor leading the study asked if I wanted to walk today, which was not originally in the cards for the day’s session. My eyes lit up….seriously? Lets do IT! I was thinking COOL, I get to show off for Rose The team checks and double checks all the equipment, countdown 3, 2, 1, and off I go. The treadmill starts moving. I have a therapist sitting on each side of me triggering and controlling my leg movements. Another therapist is behind me bracing me at the hips and observing my upper body response to the stepping. Another data collection engineer is at the controls twisting knobs and looking at data being fed to several computer monitors. A foreign language of scientific and medical acronyms are being tossed around the room by the team members. After a few minutes of walking my body weight being supported is diminished to 55%, then 53%, then 50%. So I’m supporting half my body weight and walking at a decent clip, smiles all around. I’m concentrating on moving my legs but it’s a bit confusing having to think about what once was such an involuntary motion. I walk for several minutes, probably cover 200+ yards and then we shut down the locomotor trainer. Any doubts in my ability to perform for the study are now absent. I’ve come to work and now my team knows it, even if I tend to crack the occasional joke just to keep it light. One of my fav’s…”why does Snoopdog carry an umbrella? (confused pause)…..FO’ DRIZZLE!!!!!!!!! HA HA! And I digress. I even surprised myself as I was anticipating some blood pressure issues (drop/low) which I’ve dealt with since the injury. That’s it, I’m brought down, taken out of the harness, the session is discussed, I receive some praise, and we’re out. See you Thursday.
And that is the gameplan for the next 7-8 months. A total of approx 120 sessions (3-4/week) with different variations for the study. Laying down with FES, standing in locomotor, walking in locomotor, walking in locomotor with FES, etc…
Pretty exciting news to be involved with cutting edge and innovative research. My own independent steps are probably still a long time coming, but this is a step in the right direction yes, pun intended.
Please pass this blog, website, Facebook Group along to as many caring folks as possible. Spam your email address book, invite Facebook friends, mass text message, send snail mail letters, bring it up in conversation, all of this helps get the word out! Donations are tax deductible and play an immense role in keeping me afloat while I focus on my recovery/rehab. No doubt that it has become a full time job for me. Also raising awareness about the SCI (Spinal Cord Injury) Community is imperative to push the U.S. to stay at the forefront of developing innovative therapies (such as LT and FES) which will one day help myself and many others like me to walk again! Thanks for all the support! I couldn’t do it without you. I look forward to catching up sometime this year.
Wishing you all the best in 2010!