Friday, September 26, 2008
Adventures in speaking
We spent a lot of time talking about the C-legs and my progression from the first set of legs. I'm not sure if many of you will remember this, but I've actually had three different types of legs. My first leg was what is called a safety knee. When I would stand up the knee would lock straight. I only had one of these because, when I first started to walk, I only had one leg. At that point in time the grafts on my right leg had healed but the left leg was still healing. I hopped around on the safety knee for about two weeks before I was ready for a prosthetic on the left.
When my left leg was finally ready they gave me a hydraulic knee. I walked with a hydraulic knee on the left and the safety knee on the right for about two weeks. At that point they switched the right knee out for a hydraulic one to match the left. I walked with the basic hydraulic knees for about a year before I finally advanced to the C-legs.
When I got the C-Legs my Prosthetist gave me a box that had my old legs, without the sockets, in it. Ultimately the plan is for me to have sockets put back on those knees just in case something happens to my C-legs. My Prosthetist didn't want to keep the old components at his office because he was afraid they might get used for someone else. Since the lecture was about prosthetic components Renee asked me to bring in one of my old legs.
When I was ready to go Jamie (my roommate) handed me the box with my old legs as I was getting in the car. I opened the box and was astonished to discover that they were in pieces! I got to UIndy about 10 minutes early and sat in the car while I used an alan-wrench to put one of my old legs back together. When I was done I realized that the students wouldn't be able to feel the tension in the hydraulic knee because there was no way to bend the knee without a socket attached. So, I took the pylon (basically the pipe that goes where my calf should be) from the other old leg and attached it above the knee of the one I had put together.
We passed this one around and then passed my C-legs so that they could see the difference. After we were finished talking about the prosthetics themselves I then spent time talking about the accident, my recovery in the hospital, and my experiences as an outpatient. After we were done some of the students watched me walk down the steps and then followed me out to see my car. Once again I was leading a procession of students out of the building. I think I need to figure out a way to bring my car into the classroom with me!
On Thursday morning I had my actual Physical Therapy session. Renee set me to task finding new ways to stretch my hip while walking. This was uncomfortable and very awkward looking. I can't even describe what the process was. After I had exhausted myself with that, I then spent about five minutes stretching on a table and Renee took measurements. Remember, before the surgery I couldn't straighten my hip beyond 20 degrees forward. Since the surgery I've been able to get it straight with a lot of effort. Yesterday I was able to straighten the hip on my own power and it wasn't as hard as it has been previously. I still can't get any extension (behind my hip) on my own, but with someone pulling it back behind me I was able to get to 5 degrees of extension! That's the best so far!
After my Physical Therapy session was over I spent the remainder of the morning visiting with the family of a patient in the Burn Unit. I spent a couple hours with the patient himself in the afternoon. It's always a surreal feeling to sit next to a patient in one of those rooms. Several members of the nursing staff are still there from my time of residency. Occasionally someone would come into his room and recognize me. When I left I wound up spending another half hour visiting with the staff!
Today I got to be a member of a panel discussion on Assistive Technology and Inclusion at the Convention Center. I've been very nervous about this for the past few days! I wasn't really concerned about the panel discussion, although I did have to ask my Dad to help me prep! What I was nervous about was the process of going downtown, finding a place to park, and getting around the convention center. I didn't want to use the wheelchair unless absolutely necessary, but I wasn't sure how I would manage if I left it in the car.
I parked at Capitol Commons, which is an underground parking garage across from the Convention Center. I thought about getting the wheelchair out, but decided that I was close enough to the elevator that I would be ok. Of course, when I came out of the elevator into the middle of the park above the garage, and realized how far I would have to walk just to get into the Convention Center I started to have second thoughts. All the same, I had made my decision and was going to get through this.
As I approached the edge of the park I realized that I was going to have to go down three curved steps without any kind of hand rail for support. Alarms were going off in my head as I made my way down the steps, but I made it without incident. Luckily the steps were fairly shallow and wide! The next obstacle would be to cross Maryland Street. I didn't want to walk the half block down to the light and cross there because I was already wearing down and didn't want to push it, so I waited for a sizable gap in traffic and took my chance. Again, I made it with no incident, however, as I approached the opposite curb I heard someone yelling to me from the park I had just left behind. After I mounted the curb I turned to see the man who would be facilitating the panel discussion waving to me from his wheelchair, saying that I was in the right place and that he would meet me inside.
Once I was inside I realized that my memory of how big our convention center is had not been wrong. I had specifically parked near that entrance because the room I would be speaking in was very close and the registration table was directly across from the entrance. To my dismay, once I had registered I was directed to go to the exhibit hall, which was at the opposite end of the convention center. They asked if I needed "accommodations", but I didn't really know what they meant and started on my way. as I was approaching the exhibit hall the facilitator for the panel discussion zipped up from behind me in his power wheelchair. He was definitely moving faster than I was! We sat and chatted at one of the booths for about 20 minutes and then decided to make our long trek back to the room where we were presenting. Luckily, my friend had thought ahead and had a golf cart waiting to take me to our destination. Now I understood what accommodations meant!
The presentation went well. Before I left I decided to take another golf cart ride down to the exhibit hall. While I was there I found something that peaked my interest. I took the opportunity to visit the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana's Sports program booth. Now, I've known that amputee and wheelchair sports are out there, but I haven't really explored them much. I did pick up a lot of information, and will be looking into that soon. The gentleman who was running the booth said that he thought I would be great at wheelchair basket ball. I explained to him that I really was no good at the sport before the accident. His response was that I would probably be great now! Maybe we'll find out...
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The class was great! They were attentive and asked some great questions. However, I feel like I only scratched the surface. We talked for a little over an hour and a half and there was so much more that we could have talked about. When we finally got to the Q&A point of the speech there wasn't much time left. Ultimately the time came for them to take a break and for me to make my exit. When their teacher, Mary Jo Dare sent them on break many of the students came up to speak with me and ask questions that they hadn't gotten to ask yet. I spent a few more minutes talking to them and the subject of my car came up.
Mary Jo was kind enough to let those students who wanted to see my car come outside with me before she continued the class. I gotta admit it was a strange feeling to have 15 to 20 students following me down the hall as we went to my car! I'm sure anyone watching was confused by the sight of a man on two prosthetics walking at the head of this crowd!
During the conversation a young lady shared a story with us about a friend of hers who is dying from brain tumors. The young man is only 15 years old and she became very emotional as she shared her frustration with how people are treating him so differently. I just wanted to get up and give her a hug!
One of the most important things when working with someone with a disability is to see the person, not the disability. To ask if they need help, or want you to do something instead of automatically doing it for them. I used to get so frustrated, especially with my family and friends, when they would do something for me without asking. However, there is a flip side to this as well. Something that I had to learn, or accept, was that these people felt a need to help. That, while it may frustrate me, it relieved them on some level to feel like they were doing something to make things easier on me. I guess what I'm getting at is that it's a two way street.
In any event, it felt great to speak to a group again! I'm speaking to a PT class at UIndy next Wednesday and I'm a panelist at a convention about assistive devices next Friday. The following week I have two more speaking engagements as well!
In regards to Physical Therapy, things are continuing to improve. The measurement on the range of motion in my hip wasn't as good as I'd hoped last week. That was partly because I had PT first thing in the morning and I hadn't had an opportunity to stretch. The most important thing right now is for me to continue stretching as much as possible and to increase my endurance walking.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
A great night out
The idea to go to the Rathskeller came up a couple of months ago at our family reunion. When Brian's mother told me that The Elect would be playing the day after Sarah's birthday I immediately looked at her and told her we would go. About a week before her birthday Sarah called me with concerns about whether I'd be able to get inside to hear the band.
The Rathskeller is on the bottom floor of the Atheneum building downtown, and it would probably be a difficult place for me to get into. I called a few days before and learned that there is an outside entrance to the Beer Garden. The only real concern was that most of the Beer Garden is covered with gravel, which could make walking a little tricky. Of course, I wasn't gonna let a little gravel stand in the way of taking my sister out for her birthday! (I was still a little nervous though.)
Parking was a bit tricky, due to an event at the Murat, but we were able to find a place nearby and we just had a short walk from the car to the Beer Garden. As we entered I was immediately greeted with hugs from my cousin Brian and Allison and Jimmy Tucker, who are ex co-workers from my Marriott days. Brian plays the keyboard for The Elect and Jimmy Tucker is their percussionist.
Before The Elect began to play we were entertained by Brian's Uncle Tom and his jazz quartet. I had never heard my cousin's band before but I had heard good things. When they began to play we were immediately impressed. Sarah enjoyed it so much that she went to the merchandise table before the band finished their first set. To my surprise she returned with all three of their CD's and a DVD of a concert that had been recorded right there at the Rathskeller! I think they have a new fan for life. (She may even become a groupie!)
I didn't have any issues walking in the Beer Garden. When we first got out of the car I realized that my left leg felt a little loose, so I added a sock before we went in. I was afraid that my leg would continue to shrink while we sat and listened to the band but, while the socket had loosened a little, it didn't cause any problems when we left. Walking on the gravel was difficult, but I just had to use only one knee while I was walking so that I always had a stable leg. My legs did get very uncomfortable after sitting on a picnic table bench for a couple of hours, but that just goes with the territory.
The majority of the pain that I was feeling a few weeks ago is gone. I still have issues with the bruising from the surgery but I'm not letting that keep me from walking. I had some more programming done on the left knee last week that has helped me regain some more control. The range of motion in my hip also continues to improve. I have Physical Therapy tomorrow morning and I'm really excited to find out what the measurement is!