Archive | October, 2012

Tic Toc

15 Oct

Hello All,

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the fall colors and smells. Last week I rolled around Lake Harriet with power assist wheels and in between nearly striking children and running over small dogs I was able to inhale the fresh autumn scents (my power assist wheels were aligned horribly).

As I have done in the past, today I will allow someone other than myself to populate your screen. This person, having championed a mix of both physical and mental puzzles of my design, now owns his rightful place in these annals.

This person is Michael Hromadka, a good friend from college and a bueno amigo de Argentina. He spent his fall break from the University of Tennessee Law School visiting my new digs in Minnesota and being the rigorous documenteur that he is. On Friday, he followed my daily routine to the minute and will now share it with you.
In all sincerity, I truly appreciate my best friend coming to see me and sharing parts of my life that I tend to overlook, even though he’s a Brad. Now open the open door and take a step into my life . . .

Friday October 12, 2012

8:56 am – Jackie arrives. Jackie is one of Thomas’ PCAs, or Personal Care Assistants, who helps him with personal, physical mobility, and therapeutic care on a daily basis. Jackie is young and easygoing, two traits that mesh well with Thomas. Thomas only requested young female PCAs from his PCA provider. He assures his family that the reason for the request is that young female PCAs are superb caregivers. His family suspects that there might be ulterior motives.

9:02 – “Cathing” begins. Thomas uses a catheter to drain his bladder. It’s not fun, but Thomas is pushing a lot of liquids as his body recovers. He gets especially thirsty after strenuous exercise and therapy sessions.

9:12 – Stretching begins. Jackie stretches Thomas to improve his flexibility, mobility, blood flow, and muscularity. She starts with his ankles, then moves to his hamstrings and quads. The stretch routine is a combination of pushing, pulling, rubbing, turning, and repeating. It resembles a yoga session combined with a pre-football game warm up. Jackie then massages Thomas’ shoulders and hands. The massage is largely therapeutic, since Thomas is experiencing some muscle pain now that he is exercising rigorously in therapy and trying to master his manual wheelchair. Thomas is working on improving his muscularity even when he is in bed by performing upper body stretching and flexing exercises while watching his super awesome, brand new HD TV.

10:17 – Breakfast is served. Thomas’ choice: two strawberry Pop-Tarts, one sliced banana, one blueberry muffin, and one pineapple orange juice.

10:53 – Daily mid-morning bathroom break.

12:00 – Thomas takes his noon meds. The drugs include antispasticity, muscle relaxers, and neuropathic pain control.

12:16 – Thomas transfers from his bed to his wheelchair. Thomas sometimes uses a hydraulic sling lift called a Hoyer to make the transfer.

12:18 – Thomas gets dizzy from the transfer. He immediately reclines in his wheelchair to alleviate the sudden change in blood pressure.

12:26 – Second cath.

12:46 – Thomas loads up in his wheelchair accessible van. The red Chrysler Town and Country van has a retractable ramp and no middle seats so that Thomas can cruise in and out with ease. An added bonus in the van is that Thomas always rides shotgun.

12:55 – Thomas navigates Jackie to the hospital for his physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) appointments. He gives directions while texting his high school buddies about the horror movie they all went to see last night.

1:05 – Thomas starts his PT session on the electrical stimulation bike. Riding the bike starts with the physical therapist attaching small pads to Thomas’ quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Small electrical pulses are sent through the pads to the leg muscles to stimulate the nerves and cause certain patterns of motion. The electrical pulses force his legs to pedal while prodding nerve cells that have been asleep since the accident to start firing again. This exercise will rebuild muscle Thomas has lost since the accident.

1:51 – Thomas gets off the bike.

2:02 – Thomas heads across the rehab gym to start OT. OT is therapy that encourages rehabilitation by performing the activities of daily life. During this particular session, Thomas works on bed to chair transfers and taking his shoes off.

Thomas shines during OT. Anyone who knows Thomas knows that he works hard. Nowhere is that work ethic more apparent than during OT.
Taking off one’s shoes requires maximum effort three months after a major spinal cord injury. The occupational therapist on this day had only worked with Thomas once before, and he did not expect Thomas to be able to successfully take off both shoes after completing a strenuous chair to mat transfer. After all, Thomas has lost a lot of muscle since the accident.

Thomas completes the chair to mat transfer quickly. The occupational therapist is bewildered; Thomas completes the task much quicker than expected. Now on the mat, Thomas turns to taking off his shoes. His arms shake and flex as he places his hands palm down on the mat behind his back to support his upper body. He walks his hands up to his waist as he leans his body forward. He slips his hands into leg loops which are wrapped around his ankles. These legs loops will allow him to move his legs as he pleases. He takes his right leg and bends it over his left leg which is extended. He then slips his right shoe off.

Thomas is working hard and his muscles fatigue quickly. You can see his triceps flex as he walks his hands along the mat, shaking as he seeks his balance. Two occupational therapists comment that his strength is improving; one informs him that she is impressed with how his triceps are coming along. Thomas is happy to hear this news. Anyone who knows Thomas knows how much he loves his triceps.

As fatigue sets in, the left shoe is harder to take off. After a couple of minutes, the therapist asks Thomas if he would like to move on to something else. He says no because he wants to finish what he started. Thomas’ muscles aren’t used to this much action for a prolonged period of time.

Finally, he takes the second shoe off. Task completed.
Thomas uses his remaining strength to lift himself up for the transfer back to the chair. Both the occupational therapist and an observing intern tell Thomas that he worked hard and will be tired later. And they both say that he looks like he is getting stronger.

3:03 – Thomas gets back in the van to head home.

3:21 – Everyone stops for malts from the Convention Grill in Edina. Thomas orders a large Butterscotch Oreo malt. I pay for it because I lost a bet.

3:46 – Everyone arrives home.

3:55 – Third cath.

3:59 – Thomas sorts through his mail.

4:54 – Thomas watches the end of the movie Prometheus while dozing off.

6:46 – Thomas sits down to a hearty bowl of cheddar soup with toast on the side for dipping. He manages finishing dinner while texting high school and college buddies about the movie he saw last night, fantasy football, and other important topics.

7:46 – Thomas’ mom gives him a therapeutic massage. Thomas is sore and in pain from his earlier therapy sessions. He is also frequently in some pain and discomfort on days he does not have therapy, since pain is a natural symptom of his body waking up from the injury. A good massage and strong analgesics help reduce the pain.

9:03 – Thomas starts watching the movie War Horse while stretching and moving around in bed. Thomas works on repositioning himself in bed often in order to shift the pressure he puts on any one side of his body.

10:21 – Final cath.

11:34 – Bedtime. Thomas gets ready to wake up early the next morning to go see the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers take on Northwestern University at TCF Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
I’m not a Brad; Thomas is a Brad.

Saturday October 13, 2012

6:47 pm – Thomas completes dictation to Michael. He stresses his thanks to everyone for all that they’ve done in making his life easier.

6:51 – Thomas tells Michael to hit the post button.

Reality…sort of…bites

2 Oct

Good evening everyone. I hope this post finds you well. The Fifth Element just came on AMC, so god knows I’m well.

I want to issue a warning; the following post will be slightly off my typical path of go lucky excitement and pure positive review. It may at times delve into the negative or macabre.

I don’t consider myself to be an unappreciative person or one to complain when things are good. But I’m shocked at the power this injury, both physical and psychological aspects, to overcome all of the good that I’ve received since I broke my neck. My day-to-day life is not mine. To get up in the morning requires the assistance of a caregiver, takes 2 hours, and to the average person would be humiliating. Be it the doors I can’t open, the stairs I can’t ascend (or descend), or the fresh air I no longer have a desire to meet; the effects of my injury have evolved into a new beast entirely. In the hospital, I was ok; I even enjoyed my time there. In the hospital, its expected for one to have a medical problem. But once you leave the hospital, its assumed that you have gotten better and you can return to your normal life. Once I left the hospital, the life I encountered was far from normal. Its frustrating to be in a place that I’ve known my whole life and with which I interacted my whole life; but to see it from such a perspective (such a limited perspective). It’s like watching ….

(Here is where I’ve struggled to find a fitting analogy)

Its kind of like being handcuffed-I’m wait I’m handcuffed.

Beyond the physical restraints are the psychological effects I’m now experiencing. Again, my hospital stay had an end date; I knew when I would be discharged. For some reason, I thought that date would be the beginning of the end. In actuality, it was the beginning of the long beginning. Its that notion-the long road ahead without a map or timeline that gets me. But…..

Its not all bad. Every message, letter, text, visit, phone call, or mental image I receive reminds me I’m still alive and that I’m still me. Though it sucks pretty bad, it could always be worse. I could be fighting this alone-and without a 60” TV. For every morning that I wake up feeling blue, there are 4 afternoons or evenings spending time with my friends that make my journey less difficult. Instead of staring down this hypothetical road that I love to cite so often with all of its speed bumps and lack of Taco Bells, being with my friends or thinking about all the great times I shared with people in my life (Snowpa) elevates me beyond the road and returns me to being a regular (hilarious) dude.

Ok, now that I’ve got you guys teary eyed and depressed; I’m going to hit you with some positive action. The first is that I used my legs yesterday; I rode a fricking bike for 15 minutes with electric stimulation going into my quads and gluts. This is the first step in the process of my returning to the world of daywalkers. Its quite exciting to see my legs moving on their own, albeit if I’m not telling them to do so (picture coming soon). The thing that I find most exciting (now keep this very down low-don’t talk, don’t think, don’t even whisper about it as the slightest breeze could blow it away; but I wiggled my left ring finger a couple of days ago and continue to do so. Its hard to tell what this means because I’m no physiatrist; but it definitely means I’m getting my fingers back soon. Being that its my left ring finger, it may be the rehab equivalent of catching the bouquet at a wedding…. Ladies beware.

I apologize for being a little dark earlier in this post, but I think its important to keep it real. As always, thank you for everything. Each of you amaze me with your dedication, creativity, and hilarity. It blows my blues away.


T Bone.