Today was my last full day of rehab at the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. It started with my final weights session with Kirsty in the spinal gym at eleven o’clock. I did the exercises in reverse today, starting with the multigym exercises which were still testing but obviously requiring less effort than if they were at the end of my session. On completion of the exercises on the multigym, I was beginning to worry about the chances of my completing the rest of the session as my arms would obviously be more and more fatigued as I went on. I moved on to the remaining sets but was unable to complete the side raises at the weight I normally use and had to drop by one kilogramme in order to still work the muscles. All in all a good session of weights which also showed that varying where you start with the exercises can have a large impact on your ability to complete the session.
Lunch was again a salad (yey!) and then it was fitness with Kirsty and Georgie again. I didn’t push myself too hard as I had physiotherapy immediately afterwards but I did have a good workout by way of the “Bleep test”. I had not done one of these for an eternity as the Army test tended to use the mile and a half run, doing it in a wheelchair should be interesting. I have no idea where I managed to get to but I lost my rhythm when I nearly crashed in to another patient, from then on it all went pear shaped and I could not get back in to it. It was a fun session with the emphasis being on the bleep test this time. We all made our way back over to the spinal centre where I went straight to my physio appointment with Jo. I had asked her about the FES bike and so she had said that we would try and see if the legs would be stimulated by the electric boxy thing. She collected some more pads and we tried it on my right leg. It works by stimulating the nerves which then in turn activate the muscle and then release it. My leg responded quite well and so an FES bike would be beneficial, something to think about later on perhaps.
During my physio session we were talking about exercise and fitness and that I had been talking to the ASPIRE lady about it. She gave me some information about a recumbent bike which would not only give me some really good exercise but would also allow me to go out for bike rides with the family. I have never been in one and so I do not even know if I would be able to do it but then Jo asked if I would like to have a go in one. I of course said that I would if it were possible just to see what it was like. She left the gym and returned a few minutes later with the said bike! I transferred in to it with little or no problem at all. My right leg was not the happiest at playing the game but eventually I was in and settled; “As it is a nice day we shall go outside!” Jo said and so we headed out of the gym, down the corridor and outside in to the beautiful sunshine and almost clear blue sky. We made our way down to the sports track where I could really see how I would get on. As the bike is not set up for me it was not perfect but I really got some speed up round the sports track. It was such a great feeling to be racing round the track and not be looking at the ground as you propel yourself forward like you do in the chair. I started thinking straight away of how much difference this would make to me not just fitness and weight wise, but being able to go out for bike rides as a family. I stopped as quickly as I could as I know it will be a long while before I would be able to get one and so to that end it would not be worth having it play on my mind. After a couple of laps and a `debrief` by Jo it was time to head back in to the centre but to get there I had to cycle up the hill. This was not as hard as I thought it would be but was not easy. On return to the gym I tried to get out of the bike but could not seem to get it right, this resulted in my having to be lifted by the physio’s up on to the plinth. I didn’t get too concerned about it as it was something I had never done before and would just be another thing that would come in time if the time came.
And so that was the last of my rehab except for one physio session in the morning with a different physiotherapist. This will be just to make sure there are no other questions, queries or problems that I need to address before I go. Tonight was to be an archery session for sports club that we have had on a Thursday night and so we made our way over to the sports hall at the Guttmann Centre, Georgie was there, the targets were there but alas the Bows and Arrows were not and despite the efforts of Georgie and Jo to get them, the key which opens the cupboard which houses the said Bows and Arrows had accompanied the last person to have them, home. One cupboard we could open though was the one which housed the hockey equipment and so that is what we played. I thoroughly enjoyed tonight, playing hockey with others in wheelchairs having an amazing time and laughing really quite hard at times. We played until around nine o’clock I think which is when we packed away and headed back over to the spinal centre. I spent a little while talking to some of the people I have been playing the sports with until I left them to it.
I have met some brilliant people in here, the physio and sports staff; Jo, Kirsty, Georgie. The “wheelchair wizard” Andy. My nursing staff; Gaya, Tasha, Teresa, Celia and Cidalia. I’ve probably spelt her name wrong! To name but a few. But the most important people I have met in here are the people who I will probably never hear from again, the patients; Kirsty, Izzy, Harriet, Josh, Myles, Tom, Peter and the first person I met which was Steve, to name just a handful. I know that they will do well in here and indeed are doing very well. Nobody deserves to be in a wheelchair, nobody, but it happens. A young lady said to me tonight while we were all talking; “How can you find a positive in all this?” She was not asking me directly, more putting it out to the group, and she was referring to finding a positive in being in the wheelchair. I joke and make light of my situation by simply saying that I always have somewhere to sit but I took her question on board. I did not reply, she was a little upset which I did tell her was a good thing to do, crying was positive as it would be less likely she would bottle things up. This encouraged others in the group of people chatting to openly say that they cry at weird things and that their emotions were a bit all over the place. If she does read this I would say to her about her question that it is not about finding a positive in what has happened, but being positive now that it has.
Life sometimes deals a shitty hand, we have been dealt that hand and much as I would love to be able to continue with my military side of life, I cannot. I want to be able to be out in the asshole of nowheresville sleeping under my poncho. Running around practicing attacks on buildings but I cannot. I would love to be out on my motorbike, be it going to work or going for a ride simply because I can, but I cannot. These things and many, many more besides are things that have been taken away from me but all the crying in the world will not change it. It is good to cry, (I think that I wish I could), but alongside it you have to crack on with life or it will pass you by. I have met some really strong minded people in here, some of which their names have been mentioned already but there are still the families of these people who also need to be strong and despite what they may be like before or after the visits, during the visits they are strong. I know that the name will mean nothing to you but I have to say about Ben. The love and support that he shows to Kirsty is amazing. A young couple who are clearly so very much smitten with each other. It has been an absolute pleasure to meet him as it has all of the patients here but had to mention him.
So I have booked my wake up call for seven in the morning, off for my physio appointment and then on the transport home for a short while. I have tried to give you an insight in to my rehab at the spinal centre over the past few weeks and I hope that you have had an idea of how hard it has been. I have tried to portray my accomplishments, my pains and my concerns, and I hope that I have done it well. For now though that is it. I hope that I will be able to continue to practice and achieve more of what I have been taught to do and that I will be able to share those times with you. Thank you for sharing my journey with me. Until next time.