Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Broken Back Recovery: 23 Months Later

What's new since my last entry? What has changed? The aches and pains seem to be gone. The morning stiffness is much less. Many mornings its not there at all. Several months ago I woke up and realized that nothing hurt. Its been a very long time since I could say that. I can move without painful reminders that I haven't "warmed up" yet. During this time I have continued to focus on my stretching. Every muscle group atrophied to some extent during my recovery but I am glad to say I am probably more flexible now than at any other point in my adult life. I still plan to do the splits, but that may take another year or so.

I have returned to school to finish a degree I started 16 years ago. One of the classes I'm taking is gymnastics, if you can believe it. I still can't jump/run but I'm doing cartwheels, forward rolls and head stands. I never thought that would be possible.

What's still broken? My feet still tingle/burn. My calf muscles still don't respond properly and so I am unable to walk or run normally. I still can't stand on my toes. I don't think I've seen much improvement in that area since my last entry.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Broken Back Recovery: It Could Have Been Worse

I saw this video online a little while ago. It reminded me a lot of my story and reminded me that despite my situation and injury, things could always be worse. I know people who have lost limbs, become paraplegic or quadriplegic, and worse. Even if I never fully recover, I know I am still better off than many other people who have gone through similar circumstances. It reminds me to always be grateful for the life I have.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Broken Back Recovery: After The First Year

I'm currently 16 months out from the accident/surgery.

My feet still burn. My calves still ache. This is because of the damage to my S1 nerve. Is it getting better? Maybe, but so slowly its almost imperceptible. Will it ever heal fully? Unlikely, although I'm not giving up on it. The doctors told me that the bulk of my recovery will happen within the first two years although I may slowly improve for years beyond that time. I saw my surgeon yesterday and he reiterated that I will continue to recover for years and years but may never see 100% recovery. For me, this means I'm looking at a new career because I can't do what I used to without fine motor control of my feet.

My back and related injuries, excluding the S1 nerve, seem to be improving. I still have minor aches and pains that I didn't have before the accident. I feel stiff and need to start moving slowly and intentionally before my body can move fluidly and without effort. It's almost like I need to warm up before I can move "normally".

Another issue which I didn't have before the accident is bowel and bladder control. I find that I need to go to the bathroom more often and I can't hold it for as long as I used to before. I'm not sure if that is just an aging issue that would have occurred regardless of my broken back or if it is a direct result of my broken back. I know my control is better than the first three months after my surgery. I'm not sure how much its improved since then.

I still keep a journal of my recovery to remind myself of the process I've been through and see where I've come from. As things improve I will keep updating.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Broken Back Recovery: Months 7 to 12

By this time things were improving much slower. Comparing myself to the day before was a little depressing because I couldn't see any improvement. However, I kept a journal of my recovery and I could look back a month or so and see how far I had come. That definitely kept me in a positive mood. Occasionally I would do something I hadn't done for many weeks and I would be pleasantly surprised how much easier it was. During this time my physio moved to 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. And was usually followed by a lot of rest afterwards.

The aches, pains, numbness were still going away. My feet still had a burning sensation but everything else felt more like muscle soreness which I was grateful for. It meant my muscles were moving and getting stronger. My strength had almost returned to pre-accident levels in some areas. I was finally able to do curl ups again. I still had almost no strength in my calves. I couldn't stand on my toes, which still affects my movement, speed, balance, etc... My cardio component was improving. I attempted running. It wasn't great, but it was better than nothing.

Despite the issues I have with my S1 nerve and corresponding muscles, by the end of the year I almost felt normal again. Almost.

Broken Back Recovery: Months 4 to 6

As I write this, I need to let the readers know this is one year after the fact, so I'm mining my memories and my journal for this one. But I'm still in the ball park.

Months 4 to 6 after my back surgery saw the greatest and fastest recovery. I started going to physio for 2 hours a day, 3 days a week, although by that time I was forcing myself to do homemade exercises in my free time. My strength was returning. I was initially limited to lifting 5 pounds or less. I increased that on my own as I felt my strength returning. My flexibility was improving greatly with constant stretching. My balance was also improving. I would practice standing on one foot at a time. My left leg/foot was lagging behind its right side counterpart in all areas but I could balance on each for a minute before tiring/falling.

My walking gait was improving slowly. My core strength was still weak and so I didn't have a good foundation from which to move my extremities. My calves still had almost no strength (as result of my S1 nerve impingement which may never fully recover). The result was that I couldn't stand on my toes or use my feet to push back as I leaned forward. This meant that I always leaned backwards when walking or standing because my center of gravity was over my heels. In physio they had me lean forward as far as I could without falling over. I could barely make it to vertical. And that felt like I was going to fall on my face. This is very specific to my back injury and probably won't be similar for most. I worked on this a lot and my walking gait improved but it still had a very long way to go.

After my accident I had a large numb area that included my entire mid section, from lower back to below my glutes. Over this time it started shrinking and localizing itself at my point of injury. By 6 months it was almost completely gone.

I still had pain in my legs but it was less than before. My feet still had burning sensations. My back had odd pains on occasion, but it mostly felt like sore muscles which I took as a good sign.

My cardio and endurance were almost nonexistent. I could barely move my extremities, let alone move them quickly and so this was an area that lagged behind.

I definitely felt more normal by this time. I could see the light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Broken Back Recovery: The First 3 Months

(Posted 1 year after it was written)

I'm three months out from my spinal fusion surgery. When I think about where I am now its difficult to remember where I cam from. It almost feels like a dream.

First month -Very sick from the anesthesia for the first week. Very hungry, but nauseous. I couldn't eat more than soup. I lost 15 pounds. I would wake up every hour on the hour all night long. I dreaded going to bed because I knew I wouldn't sleep. Very tired. I would spend almost 18 hours a day in bed. My back was quite sore. I was terrified of coughing or sneezing because of the pain in my back. However the most pain was in my legs. My calves were constantly in pain. In the hospital I had pneumatic cuffs on my legs to help with my circulation. At home I didn't have the cuffs and so my legs hurt a lot. My feet hurt a lot too. Most of my pain meds were for my feet and legs. I would also get random shots of pain in my left leg. My feet hurt were swollen and always cold. My muscles were all incredibly stiff. I could barely move. I could barely go up or down stairs because of my stiffness. I had a wheel chair and walker for the first few weeks. Eventually I moved on to the cane. By the end of the month I found it easier to walk without the cane but I still used it outside on uneven surfaces. I barely had bladder or bowel control. I wore diapers for the first month out of the hospital. I was not allowed to bend or twist.

Second month -I eventually stopped taking all my pain meds, muscle relaxants and laxatives. Bowel movements were painful. I dreaded trying to go to the bathroom. It hurt and sometimes took up half an hour. I almost passed out once or twice. My sleep pattern slowly improved. I would only wake up 3 or 4 times during the night. I could finally get out of bed before 11am. My legs and feet still hurt a lot. The random shooting pain in my left leg finally stopped but I developed a new pain in my leg whenever I would touch my left thigh. The swelling in my feet went down and the coldness and numbness turned into tingling. I had approval from the doctor to start driving and bending and twisting.

Third month -My feet and legs still hurt a lot, but differently. My flexibility was almost non existent. I had to manually bend my legs to stretch my muscles. It hurt to bend forward, not that my back could bend much at all. I had to keep my back from moving for 2 months so once I started moving I was shocked to find I had almost 0 flexibility through my back, glutes, hamstrings and calves. I felt like a pole. I very consciously stretched and bent to my limits and held it for as long as I could. Mobility and range of motion improved but I was no where near my pre-accident limits. I started swimming. My balance was horrible, but improving. I used to fall over if I closed my eyes because I couldn't use the horizon to determine what vertical was. Now, with great effort, I could stay upright, but it was not easy.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Broken Back Recovery: The Accident

Late last year I broke my back in an accident I'm lucky to have survived. Initially I was worried I would never walk again. My back was broken in 2 places. I had 3 vertebrae fused together. After surgery I began to regain control of my legs. Slowly. This recovery process has been much slower than I want. Fortunately, in the whole scheme of things, I'm actually healing faster than anticipated. There are a lot of reasons to be grateful. I'm trying to keep my positive disposition. It's not always easy. I'm in pain every day. I still don't have total muscle control and my nerves are on their own time frame. Looking for encouragement, I have spent a lot of time online reading other people's stories. There's about a 10:1 ratio of bad to good narratives out there. The internet isn't the best place to find encouragement. I think I'm ready to start sharing my experiences as I recover and hopefully encourage anyone else out there going through a similar situation.

Friday, September 22, 2017

You Are What You Repeat

I've been seeing a physiotherapist for the last several months due to a tragic reading in bed accident that injured my shoulder. I'll be alright. My physiotherapist has a sign on his door that says, "You are what you repeat." That is very true in many aspects of life. Physically, I'm working on getting my shoulder back to 100%. Incidentally, my injured shoulder has never moved correctly. As a kid I thought I was double jointed but really, I most likely hurt myself when I was young and didn't heal properly. Now, 30 years later, not only am I trying to heal my most recent injury, I'm trying to repair damage from my childhood. Things are moving along nicely. It's so strange to think that I'll be able to move my arm in a way that was impossible for me most of my life. The secret, not that its a secret, is to repeat certain movements that activate specific muscles and restore range of motion. My shoulder is what it repeats. For decades I've been repeating improper movements and making them the unconscious function of my shoulder. I am now actively and consciously moving properly so that eventually my shoulder will function in the correct way without my constant attention and self awareness.

But that statement is true in other areas of our lives too. If you want to lose 30 pounds, you must eat sensibly and exercise on the first day. And then repeat it. And then repeat it again and again until it is no longer a diet and fitness regime, it is simply who you are.

If you want a million dollars in your bank account, you don't need to go find one big score. You need to earn a dollar and then save it. And then do it again and again until you reach your goal. If you don't repeat the steps required to reach your goal you will never reach your goal.

You are what you repeat so start doing what you want to be doing. Stop doing what you don't want to do. And then repeat.

Friday, July 28, 2017

It's Good To Have Goals

I have arrived.

Professionally, personally, relationally, financially.

I'm still working on the spiritual part of my life but that is a quest that doesn't end until one dies.

It's good to have goals. Without goals there's not much reason to get out of bed in the morning. I've achieved quite a few of my goals over the last couple years. I recently received a raise and promotion at work. I am where I want to be until I retire. It happened much sooner than I expected. I got married almost 2 years ago. I lost the 30 pounds I gained 3 years ago. I've swam with sharks. I completed a triathlon last year. Basically, I have reached most my goals in life already. I've scuba dived the Great Barrier Reef, been to the Arctic Cirle, seen the Northern Lights, jumped out of a plane, gone bungy jumping, etc.

It's time for new goals. I'll add kids to the list. Financial freedom. Disney World. Buy one last house. Get one more degree. One more triathlon. See the Egyptian Pyramids and Dubai. That will keep me busy for the next few years.

Without goals you will never achieve anything substantial in life. However, without a plan to reach your goals, you are just a day dreamer wasting time.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Make It Real

It doesn't have to be your dream if you make it your reality.

(Be prepared to work for it though.)