This post, the third in a series about my recovery from a tough back surgery, will chronicle the work I have done so far. Currently, I can walk pretty steadily and for a fair distance using a walker. I can stand unsupported for a few minutes, maybe less if I am doing things that require me to move my arms or head or bend my legs. I can walk up and down stairs one at a time forward if I have 2 railings or sideways/laterally if I have only 1 railing. Currently, I am able to walk very shakily using only one hand for support. Considering that 2 months ago, I could barely stand when using a walker and couldn’t really walk at all, I am doing remarkably well — at least that is what my occupational and physical therapists tell me. And they have also told me that they won’t blow sunshine up my rear by telling me I’m doing a great job if I’m not because dishonesty about my progress won’t be helpful. So I guess I’m doing well in my progress, but I have a lot of things I do to make that progress.
The number one thing I do is walk and stand. Evert day at therapy, I walk. Sometimes I walk with my walker and a therapist walking alongside me. Sometimes I walk using my walker while in the gait track, which is basically a harness suspended from the ceiling that prevents me from falling. Sometimes I walk on the treadmill. I believe my record on the treadmill is about 24 minutes, which earned me a quarter mile distance since I was walking at my top speed of like .5 or .6 MPH. I also spend a lot of time standing. I started by standing and holding on to a table with both hands then progressed to one hand and now I use no hands as much as I can. When I am standing, I usually don’t just stand there. I am given activities that are either meant to distract me or to add another level of activity. I have stood and done word searches, puzzles, matched cards, and played games. I sometimes do arm exercises with light hand weights while standing. Sometimes I have to pick things up from the table and then squat down to put them in a box. Sometimes I have to stand and pass things from one hand to another around my back or over my head. All of the activities are designed to improve my endurance while standing as well as my balance.
Sometimes in the gait track, I have obstacles to deal with — canes on the floor to step over, cones to tap with my feet, foam mats to walk on to adjust to walking on unstable surfaces. I have gone outside to practice going up and down curbs. I have done practice wheeling myself around in my wheelchair to make sure I have the endurance to do that at work.
Occupational therapy has helped me with things to be at work and home. I practiced transferring from my wheelchair to a rolling desk chair so I don;t have to sit in my wheelchair all day at work. I have practiced working in the kitchen — I made a sandwich, some eggs, made coffee, washed and dried and put away dishes, and taken things out of and put back in cabinets. I have practiced how to transfer from my wheelchair to a regular height toilet using my walker and grab bars. I have even learned how to get in and out of cars.
There are times I do work in parallel bars. This is where I have been practicing walking using only one hand for support (this will allow me to eventually transfer from using a walker to a cane). I walk over obstacles, do toe taps, do marches, side stepping, and step up onto blocks.
To help strengthen my legs. sometimes I get to work on the Nu-Step (which is like a recumbent bike but instead of pedaling, I just push and pull with my legs. I have worked on a recumbent bike as well. I have tried getting down on the floor and back up again a few times, but the braces I wear on my legs really hinder that right now. I need some more leg strength and ankle strength to get that move perfected!
When I was in inpatient rehab, I had 3 hours of therapy Monday through Friday and 90 minutes of therapy on Saturday and Sunday. Once I graduated to day rehab, I started with 3 hours of therapy Monday through Friday. Now I am down to 3 hours of therapy three days a week. I believe I will eventually drop down to 2 days a week with the goal of eventually moving from day rehab to outpatient rehab, which is usually 1 – 3 days a week for 45 minutes to an hour each.
And then someday, I won’t need therapy anymore. That’s the day I look forward to the most!