Saturday, September 29, 2007


Tell me who you are

There's not much to report from this past week. I continue to be busy both at work, and in my personal life. Work has been too busy lately for me to find time to do the blog updates during the week, which is why I've done them on Saturday's for the past few weeks. My company (Sodexho) has a new Disabilities Task Force that is focused on making the work environment more friendly for people with disabilities. They sent a film crew out to interview me about the accident and how the company has supported me with my recovery and return to work.

On Monday I spoke to a physical therapy class at U Indy. They asked a lot of great questions and seemed very interested in my story. I'll be working with them again this coming Monday in small groups. I've really enjoyed talking to different groups of people about my experience. In some ways it's given me a way to make something positive out of something that could have been very negative. As time goes on I hope to do more to raise awareness of the needs of people with disabilities.

Since I don't have much to report on I thought I'd take a minute to ask about you. On the left of the blog page there is a site meter. This gives some interesting statistics about how many people are reading the blog and where they are from. I can figure out who some of you are just by looking at the city you're logging on from, but some of you are a mystery to me. I'm going to list the cities/regions that the last 100 visits came from. If you're willing please make a comment to let me know who you are, and which of these cities/regions you're from.

United Kingdom
Bombay, India
Los Angeles, Ca
Plano, Tx
Somewhere in the middle of the country (the map just says United States)
Humboldt, Tn
Saint Louis, Mo
Madison, Wi
Milwaukee, Wi
Elkhart, In
South Bend, In
Fort Wayne, In
Indianapolis, In
Cleveland, Oh
Upperville, Va
Brandy Station, Va
Earlysville, Va
Hampton, Va
Norfolk, Va
Washington, DC

I know who some of you are but I'm really curious about the rest. Also, I'm pretty sure there's more than one person in most of these areas. Just click on the "comments" link below and let me know who you are. You don't even need to write a message, you could just say "Annie O'brien, United Kingdom". (Except use your name and location instead of Annie's info.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Three weeks from yesterday

This weeks therapy session was a huge success! We began with the obstacle of stepping off a curb. My current method has been to dangle one foot over the edge of a curb and wait until the opposite knee bends to lower the dangled foot to the ground. With the old set of legs I probably fell about 40% of the time I would do this because the knee would bend too fast and the other knee would bend on impact. I haven't fallen with this set of legs but the knee consistently bends too fast, which could still be potentially dangerous. Thanks to Renee's training I am now comfortable taking a wider step off a curb without having to break my stride. Of course, if a car is coming I will still stop at the curb.

The next obstacle was walking with a grocery cart. You may recall that I was able to do this with the old set of legs. However, with the new set of legs it is actually more difficult. The reason is that the energy return provided by my new ankles actually propels me into the next step, so I have a hard time stopping without something stable to hold on to. We figured out that if I use a crutch on my left arm and push the cart with my right arm I'm able to shift my weight onto the crutch and can easily stop.

When we were done with the grocery cart Renee offered me the crutch for my right arm and I asked her to take my hand instead. Walking with one crutch and a cart made me feel more comfortable with my balance and I wanted to see if I could walk with one crutch while holding someones hand. To my amazement it worked fairly well. I couldn't walk very fast but, for the first attempt, it didn't suck! This is a level of intimacy that I feared I might have lost forever. After 36 years of marriage my parents still hold hands when they walk down the street. I want to be able to do that too.

After that success we got into a discussion of canes vs. crutches. I've never walked with a cane and we hadn't really talked about when/if that progression might occur. We decided to see what would happen so I took a walk with a cane in my right hand and a crutch on my left arm. Again, for the first attempt, it didn't suck! We switched the crutch to my right arm and the cane to my left hand. This was less stable but still successful.

My next therapy session, which will be three weeks from yesterday, will focus on continued work with canes. We'll continue to practice with a cane and a crutch, and will probably see what happens with two canes. I've also suggested that Renee should get all the women who want to hold my hand together so that they can take turns walking up and down the hallway with me! Somehow I doubt this will happen (because none of the other patients would get any attention) but I'm thinking it would make a great fund raiser. A "dollar walk" instead of a "dollar dance"? (I'm referring to weddings, not strip clubs)

Seriously though, I was so happy with the progress that I had to fight back tears as I left the hospital. It felt good to have tears of joy for a change!

Saturday, September 15, 2007


New Pictures

Sorry for the delay this week. I've had a lot going on, both personal and professional. This is the first time in a week that I've even touched my laptop. At work I've barely been in the office (which is how I like it). Things are going well with physical therapy. We continue to work on extended standing, and my comfort level with different obstacles. I can now go up most steps going forward. Of course certain conditions have to be met, otherwise I have to go up sideways, but it's getting much easier to adapt to different conditions.

We didn't work on walking with one crutch this past week. I did do some one handed walking in the parallel bars but it didn't feel very stable. I told Renee that I didn't want to focus as much on walking with one crutch until I was more stable (one handed) in the parallel bars. I'm not giving up on this goal, but I feel like there are some more important things to work on in regards to maneuverability. Once I've mastered those things we'll get back to the single crutch.

Since getting the C-legs we've added protective covers to them. The protective covers also provide more of a "leg shape" in addition to protecting the actual leg from wear and tear. These pictures show the legs, sockets, and the hydraulics from some different angles. You can also see how they offset my left knee to account for the limited range of motion in my hip. From an aesthetics standpoint I'm really happy with the protective covers as they give the "leg shape" without hiding the fact that the legs are artificial. I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


My Sister

Today is Sarah's birthday. Out of respect to her I will not mention which year. Growing up we played together, fought together (as any brother and sister would), went to school together, and worked together. We have always been close, even during the years that I was living out of state. I love my sister dearly.

Looking back it's interesting to see how our relationship has changed over the years. As little children we were playmates but, as we got closer to our teen years we began to annoy each other more and more. When she went to college she became cool again but, we still knew how to press each others buttons. I remember one night when we had both come home from college (me from Purdue, and she from that other Indiana "school") and we ran into each other on the steps to the basement (my room at the time). Neither one of us would get out of the way and we got into a loud argument. Dad (who had already gone to bed) came down stairs in his bathrobe and yelled at us to be quiet. We both looked at each other and laughed, because we had finally reached the age where our father couldn't yell at us anymore! As we've grown older we've become even more supportive and protective of one another.

Since it is her birthday (at least for another hour and a half) I want to honor her with a story of her heroic strength. I may have told this story on the blog before, but I don't think I have. I know many of you are aware of it, but I think there are several individuals who have no idea what she had to do the night of my accident.

Sarah was awakened around 1am by my friend Jamie (current roommate), who had found her number in an old cell phone that was at my house. (It's amazing that the cell phone was even working because I hadn't charged it in over a year.) He was calling her from my house so, at first, Sarah thought it was me and was very annoyed that I would call so late. (She probably thought I was drunk dialing her like I used to do in college. I once used up her entire answering machine tape (remember when they had tapes) with a drunken message. Her college roommates were not amused.) Anyway, after Jamie broke the news to her she had to get someone to come stay with Madeline and quickly made her way to the hospital, where I think she had to identify me because I was still listed as a John Doe.

Sarah was very brave. I don't really know the sequence of events but, because our parents were out of town, she had to break the news to them over the phone. Dad gave her some instructions of who to call and Sarah gathered what support she could at that awful hour. She went into whatever area of the hospital they had me in and witnessed my bloody, burnt, and broken body. I believe our minister was with her during this ordeal.

I don't know how close they let her get to me but, from what I understand, she was with me until they took me through the doors of the Operating Room for what was to be the first of many surgeries. From what I'm told I opened my eyes as they were taking me through the doors and looked right at her, I think I may have even tried to give her a smile. She sat up throughout the night with the family, friends, co-workers, and supporters who were at the hospital. I'm not really sure who all was there, or how long they stayed, but the few who I'm certain were with her have told me how strong she was. (None of this may be exactly right, as I was pretty out of it at the time.)

Several weeks later, when I awoke in my drug induced state I had things very confused, but I knew she had been with me that night. Apparently I kept thanking her for carrying me (in her arms) through the doors of the hospital. (Can you imagine what a strange sight this would be if it had actually happened?! My small sister carrying me in her arms into a busy emergency room!) I think I also kept insisting that she had been in the jeep with me when the accident occurred. I now believe that these images that were in my head are a visual representation of her spirit helping to carry me through those first early critical hours.

As I said, I love my sister dearly. I am so proud of her for what she has become. A fantastic teacher, a wonderful mother, and the best sister a brother could ever hope for. Everyday I am amazed by her strength and determination!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?