Friday, September 26, 2008


Adventures in speaking

Well, it's been another busy week! I spoke to a Physical Therapy class at UIndy on Wednesday. I came in on the end of a lecture about prosthetic components, or at least that's what I think the lecture was about. This speech actually began a little different because I joined them at the end of their lecture. Renee, my Physical Therapist, is also their teacher. She welcomed me as I walked in and incorporated my presence into the end of her lecture.

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...

What a day ! ! ! We are tired,but not bored, from just reading about it. At first quick reading we thought it was all in one day. Still they were really full days. We are both very proud of your involvement in these activities.

The sports activities may prove to be an interesting outlet for you. Now that you know what "accommodations" are it won't be such an arduous task to check it out.

Love from wet and windy Virginia Beach,

Harry and Lilla
How awesome that you're getting these opportunities to share about your experiences.

I was actually downtown last Wed. and almost went back on Friday. I would've been floored to see you crossing Maryland! ;-) I can't imagine you making that trek ... from parking garage to main entrance to exhibit hall ... we go there for the homeschool convention and that's quite a hike even with physical legs. Glad you had some wheels for at least part of that journey.

So let's see ... your recent speaking engagements have gone from state university to convention center ... what's next? Lucas Oil Stadium? I wouldn't be surprised. Who knows, maybe you'll be there as an athlete! ;-)

Glad to hear about the increased flexibility -- keep up the hard work!

Much love,

P.S. Have I mentioned lately how glad I am that you keep us up to date with this blog? We really appreciate your taking the time to do that. It's great to hear about your latest progress and adventures.
Wow, Jeremy! I worn out just reading about all of your adventures!!!

Ditto to what Colleen said about being glad you still update the blog. It's nice to keep up with your continued progress.

Heather and fam.
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