Last year on this date I moved from the Olympic Center to Meadow Lake Skilled Nursing for another 6.5 weeks of rehab before going home. I cried when they left me in my room. I pushed so hard those first three weeks after surgery and gained back the ability to stand up and walk very limited distances.
But that was really big. On my first day with her, I asked my Olympic Center physical therapist what was actually wrong with me. Doctors use big words and I didn’t really understand why I couldn’t stand up or make my legs work, and I knew that nurses and PT’s often tell you the truth in words you can understand.
Veronica told me that I was an Incomplete Parapalegic. That sounded really bad. But it also was very clear. “Incomplete” here means that I still have some motor and sensory function, which are Good Things.
Here’s the problem – a lumbar laminectomy (my surgery) cannot reverse the damage of spinal stenosis, which was going on in the lower leg for years. The nerves got more and more compressed which is why I started to lose sensation and movement in the right leg. When I finally had the surgery, it was two years after the stenosis was originally diagnosed, and it was already severe at that early point. I was falling a lot, but I was still able to walk around without assistance. We had every expectation that I would come out of the surgery with that same level of functioning.
But that’s not what happened. My legs collapsed under me two weeks before my scheduled surgery, and even though I had the same operation as originally planned, my functional ability was not the same as it had been before. I came out of it with uncooperative legs, not because of the surgery but because of the damage already done before I had it.
I’m not going to be able to give up a wheelchair and just walk around with a walker for long distances. And I’m not giving up to say that – I’m being realistic. And it’s okay. I can do this.
I talked with my current physical therapist this week about looking into power chairs as another mobility option for me, especially for longer distances here, because my shoulder keeps being inflammed from all the rolling I do. And instead of trying to disuade me, she agreed that it would be a good tool. She wouldn’t have said that if she didn’t believe it, and she wouldn’t have said it a year ago. Medicare already bought me a chair and they only cover one chair every five years, so a power chair would be completely self-pay. But it could be a really nice Christmas present to myself, don’t you think?