A change is as good as a rest.

I had a slightly different day today, the rehab was still ongoing and I was still following my timetable but I wanted to try to spend some time at the ranges, even if not to shoot but to practice positioning and so I had to look at the timings I had for the day and work to adjust the day accordingly. I could not leave the ward too early as it is the day of the ward rounds for my consultant. I knew he was away for a couple of weeks and that his staff would be doing the round for him so I waited for them to arrive. I had packed my bag with my clothes and had a towel with me as I had my swimming shorts on, this morning I was going swimming in the big swimming pool! The ward round was not too late but was too late for me to do anything on the ranges but as the ranges are opposite the sports centre I had decided to go to the range to tell them that I would have to come down later in the day due to the sessions I had on during the day. A little before 11 o’clock this morning I went over to the sports centre to wait for Kirsty and Georgie and the others who would be swimming, Kirsty had been doing a weight induction with another patient and so was already there and then Georgie arrived with Tom and Myles. In to the pool area we went and got ready to get in to the pool. I asked if I could go from chair to floor and in to the pool but they were reluctant to let me as I had done no transfers like this in the controlled environment of the spinal gym, to that end I would be hoisted in.

I transferred in to the hoist chair and was raised up, swung over and then lowered in to the pool where I got off of the chair and positioned myself against the side of the pool. I was not going to go anywhere until Georgie had got all three of us in the pool in case I did something silly and got in to difficulty. As yet I had not been in a big pool and so was going to play it a little cautiously at first. Myles was hoisted in and Tom transferred to the floor and then in to the pool, (smart ass!). With all of us in it was time to swim. Kirsty remains on the poolside where she can easily see the three of us while Georgie was in the pool to assist if or where needed. She also asks you to try different strokes. She asked me to try alternate arms for the back stroke rather than my effort of the butterfly but while lying on your back. I tried this for her and failed miserably and was therefore told to carry on the way I was doing it. Next she asked me to try to swim on my front, this I did but struggled with the breathing aspect which I hasten to add is quite an important part of the process. And so for this time at least I was left to swim in the way I was doing it…my way.

Swimming really is a good work out for me, I was quite fatigued by the end of it having swum an acceptable number of lengths and then it was time to get out. I was hoisted out and then pushed in to a changing cubicle to try to get dried and dressed on the chair. My bag and other items were brought to me and I started the process of getting changed. The drying bit was ok, the chair moved all over the place, (although the cubicle was quite small), but I cracked on the best I could. Trying to get my shorts off was an absolute bloody nightmare. I simply could not get the shorts off as they were caught under my ass and I could not lift to move in order to get them out. After ten minutes of me banging around while bouncing off of the cubicle sides trying to remove them I had to bite the bullet and take the assistance offered by Kirsty. NOT what I wanted as I wanted to be doing this on my own, but the hoist chair is not a shower chair, it is smaller and it makes it more difficult, on top of this it is not a chair you can move yourself as it only has small wheels as it is intended to be pushed by someone else. With my swim shorts now off I continued to dry myself and then start to get dressed. OH MY FRICKIN’ GOD, bang, slip, bang slip some more then bang again. Good God only knows what people must have thought who were outside. Still cracking on I managed to get my boxers on my legs but I could not get them up where they should be. Now I was getting a little frustrated…no I lie…I was getting REALLY pissed off. The chair was making it difficult, I need to do this on my own, I am not getting help, and I will do it.

So Kirsty helped me get dressed, lunch was at 12 o’clock, my physio session was at 1 o’clock and it was now a quarter past 12. I was happy to crack on but I was not allowed obviously as Kirsty and Georgie were responsible for me. The girls made sure that the dressing thing had not put me off going swimming and pointed out that I had not been in the disabled cubicle and so it was a long shot if I would be able to do it. I had told them that I could get changed in the chair as I was able to do it but that was of course a shower chair and this was a whole different ball game. With my belongings collected the three of us made our way back to the main building where we now had around fifteen minutes of lunch left. A real learning experience this time but I am to have the disabled changing next time so I truly believe that I will square myself away in no time using that changing area.

It was a little after 1 o’clock when I got to my physio session with James whereby I practiced my transfers again. They were not brilliant again and so I was left to do some weight exercises which uses the same muscles in the same way that I use them for my lift. It was not too difficult but I was of course doing a lot of reps to get the muscle used to working in this way. With the session over I spoke to Kirsty to ask if I could go to the range for a hour and do my weights session first thing tomorrow which she agreed to, I also really wanted to do her wheelchair skills at 3 o’clock. With her approval I headed over to the range for an hour. I spoke to Lou when I arrived and advised her of the time that I had and so she decided that my time would be well spent practicing the positioning and hold of the rifle. As it is a completely different way to how I know it is taking me some practice to fall in to the position of it all. Mix this with the fact that I am still trying to use muscles that I no longer have control of to stop me from falling or in essence to keep my balance and it is actually quite hard work for me. It was extra work on my arms which were already tired but would also be good training for me to keep relaxed and calm and work through the pain of tired arms. I did have to keep putting the rifle down but would only lay it down for a few minutes and then pick it back up and continue with settling in to the position and then holding the position for as long as I could until I had to lay the rifle down again and after a couple of minutes do it all again. Izzy came down to shoot some more on the pistol and Ryan came down for a look but with his arms as they are at the moment it was a non starter for him, he has not been told NO but to simply let his wounds heal and then try later. Izzy on the other hand looked very relaxed and focused and was listening hard to what her coach was telling her, she certainly looks like she wants to do well and is enjoying the opportunity to learn to shoot which is great, it also gives her another avenue to channel effort to, something which as she improves will be able to give her another sense of achievement. I am really pleased that she took my invitation to go and have a look at the shooting, even if it does not turn out to be a long term activity, it has given her a couple of days whereby she has been able to do something completely different to the lessons and skills she has been learning. After all, a change is as good as a rest!

I headed back up to the centre to hook up with the rest of the patients who would be taking part in the wheelchair skills class. We started with some back wheel balancing as it is good to practice and get back in to it but also as we had some new members of the group who were just starting the intermediate stuff. It is good for them to see those who have been learning this for a little while actually doing the skills as it not only shows that as impossible as it may seem to do the things you are being asked to do, they are actually possible and have been learnt by the patients who had started their rehab earlier, but it also shows them how different chairs behave. With the back wheel balancing done it was time to head round to the “OT garden” where it would be the up and down curb exercise. Kirsty and I, (patient Kirsty) had been balancing while watching the others which sounds and probably looks a bit cocky and like we were showing off but it is now more of a habit, certainly for me anyway and I think that it may be the same case for Kirsty. Staff Kirsty attaches a strap to the rear of each wheelchair while the patient tries to balance or get up the curb in their chair so that she can pull up on the strap to prevent them from falling if they over balance. We of course have named it a lead which seems an apt thing to do and despite Kirsty letting us know that it is a strap, (it actually has a name which I can’t remember  but that shows how little we are going to take notice of the name now we have called it a lead!). I am sure that she is tempted to leave the lead off one day and simply say that had the (proper name not recalled at this time) strap been fitted then it would not have happened, but we know that she wouldn’t do that so the lead it is!

I did not manage the curb first time today, which was disappointing but the second time, I got it. I have been trying to get the balance since my wheelchair was adjusted last week and I am happy that I have pretty much got it. Ryan has a different chair to the one he did all this in last week and he found it a little difficult. He did start to get a bit down as he simply could not get up the curb but I told him that he knew he could do it as he had been doing it the previous week. He commented that it was not set up right or did not feel right and I told him; they give different chairs so you know what is comfortable and what will work for you. They have to give you a little while in the chair, (a week normally I think), so that you know in yourself that this is not right for you or the things you need or need to look out for. A couple more people had a go and then Ryan had another try, managing to get up this time which I believe did his confidence some good. Paul, (a middle aged guy who is a great bloke and up for a bit of banter), on the other hand was not so lucky and kept trying and trying to get up even resorting to the complete removal of his anti tip bar! Clearly this was not going to be left without something being said and so he suffered comments for around five minutes until he finally did it. We have a really good bunch of patients that really help each other and have a great social interaction which each other. You rarely see anyone sitting on their own! With wheelchair skills lesson and practice over I headed to the slope by the OT room and practiced going down the slope on the rear wheels a few times. Having completed this twice I decided to quit while I was ahead and headed back to the ward.

I was asked by Melissa who is the Patient Support Officer, to write something for the news letter about my experience at the NSIC which I was happy to do. I was unsure of exactly what it was that she wanted so I figured I would just type something and let her read it and then she could tell me what she wanted to do with it. If I had to start again then so be it. As it turns out she was happy with what I had written but had to show her manager. I was on my way to the physio department when I was stopped by a lady who told me that she was Melissa’s manager,  that she had read my “article” and that she would really like my permission to give it to what I think she said were either her bosses or the bosses of the spinal centre, anyway it was bosses whoever it was. I told her that I had been asked to write it for Melissa to potentially use it in the news letter and therefore it was theirs to do with what they liked, but that I did appreciate her taking the time to find me to ask. I have to be honest I was a bit shocked, I am glad that she and Melissa liked what I had written, I just hope that the big bosses do too.

Goodnight all.

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