Up, dressed and smiling again

Another 4 a.m. start to the week. It doesn’t seem to matter if I take the
sleeping tablets or not – I wake early in the morning. For three and a half
months I have dreaded going to sleep at night knowing that I will face the
lonely hours between waking up and the day beginning. Usually three or four
hours of time to think about the situation that I, and we, are all in. But
for the first time since the accident, Monday’s early start brought hours of
enthusiastic planning and a desire to really get stuck into the physical
side of the rehab. I must have been simply too sick until now to allow my
mind to look forward.


As usual, Simone was due to arrive at 8:30 a.m. to make me breakfast and to
bring it to me in bed. The routine for months now has been for Simone or my
family to arrive and find me sick, flat on my back in the bed and drowsy or
distressed. For nearly three months I didn’t, couldn’t, even sit up enough
to feed myself. But as Simone was preparing for the usual breakfast routine
on Monday, I was getting ready to change it. 

An hour before her arrival I managed to find a banana from my stash on the
sliding table beside my bed. I then had the daily wash in bed with much less
help from a nurse as I began to do more and more for myself. And finally, I
put in a forty minute effort to dress myself in bed after the nurse set my
kit beside me. I was ready. 

I wanted to be sitting up, dressed and ready to get up when Simone arrived.
And I was. Sitting propped up on the hospital bed smiling like a fool. As I
write this it seems, yet again, farcical to get excited about getting washed
and dressed. But I was excited, very excited. I suspect it is because this
represents a glimmer of independence and I know this is the Holy Grail for
me. It was when I went blind and it will be now that I am paralyzed. 

The smile as I sat up in bed was only a by-product of my morning plans.
During my early morning thinking time I reviewed my timetable for the day: –
physiotherapy 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., patient education from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. It
seemed a waste of time to lie in bed all morning again. I decided to get up
and try to get a slot on one of the passive leg-bikes in the gym (a bike
that pedals for you to keep your joints and circulation moving.) A voluntary
extra session has not been part of my thinking under any circumstances up
until now. But a combination of the infection abating, a return of my
appetite and an unexpected bit of rehab progress over the weekend when I
transferred myself from wheelchair to bed for the first time all conspired
to produce a rush of confidence and resulting motivation. I also have to add
that meeting another patient, a young guy called Jamie whose grit and great
spirit never fails to inspire me, at the gym sneaking in extra sessions
tipped me to do it. 

Simone positioned my wheelchair beside the bed and I slid across a thin
wooden board between the bed and chair. It was early and I knew that even if
other patients were booked to use the leg-bikes there was a strong
possibility that at least one person would be sick and not make it or simply
decide it was too early to get out of bed. I was in luck, all the bikes were
free and as I sat in my wheelchair the physiotherapist strapped my feet to
the pedals and turned it on. I did forty minutes of involuntary movement as
the machine cycled my legs for me. I don’t feel them moving as I sit there,
but it helps move blood through the limbs and maybe, who knows, it might
remind my spine and brain that I still have legs! I had a tough
physiotherapy session at the planned time later that day and went to bed
tired and sore. But this is where I want to be. This is where I am
concentrating my effort now – getting fit and strong and putting myself in
the best possible position to gain or train function and feeling back below
my belly button.


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