Learn like Nemo

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(Aaaargghhhh)

After much patience with waiting, I have decided it is finally time to try swim again. Before the winter, I was only able to steadily walk, hand paddle and bop gently in the water. Now, I am excited as it is time to actually try to stay afloat and to swim, at least with the upper half of my body since I cannot utilise my bottom half yet.

Swimming normally is an open kinetic chain exercise. This means wiggling and moving all limbs in coordination with the body. This jerky movement will undoubtedly send waves of pain down my back. But no matter what, the show must go on. I must work towards steady progress.

After warming up I gently lowered myself into the water.  My good friend was on stand by to back me up if I needed help with getting in and out of the water.

” How’s the swim?” ” Wet!”

I don’t really know what to say in these circumstances, because though I am getting better at what I do, my back seems forever hurting and I am still feeling rather weak. So much for a sob story, but this is my story about improvement and progress.

I have not swum in four months because for each time that I had swum, I would get sick. Even if the water is heated, my skinny body would catch a cold as soon as I got out of the pool. Colds don’t really run fast, but at least I am doing some sort of running.

A long time had to pass for me to work up going into the swimming pool again. Being not able to be flexible with my body and legs, full of pains, getting into the water was a big challenge in itself. I had to move very precisely and tactically.

Initially, when I first started to swim again, it hurts so much to lift my neck out of the water each time to take a breath. I was forced to automatically learn how to hold my breath and perform the laps.

While in the pool, I also had to spend a long time getting used to the water pressure and its currents. Even that would irritate my nerves.

I have spent many months trying to get well in the swimming pool. Most of the time was patiently spent walking back and forth in the pool until I was steady to learn how to move my arms into the breaststroke positions.  Learning how to pull strokes was another demanding task in itself. But, interestingly enough the breast stroke taught me how to open doors, which is another progress!

Who would think that opening a door needs effort? With an injury like mine, pulling a door open is one thing, balancing while the door is opening is another feat. Every time I open the door, I feel like I’m on a circus tight rope. I have to balance or the door would push me over. Consciously, I would have to make the right move, and strategically I would have to move out of the way fast enough so it doesn’t hit me as it closes. Holding the door is another taste of stabbing pain in my back.

By now, being in the pool I’ve learnt how to freestyle without my legs. I learn how to pull hard enough with each alternating arm, turning vertebrates and hips enough, and most importantly with continuous breathing. On land it might look like I’m scooping ice cream or a very helpless version of swatting a fly, but in the water it looks beautiful, or at least I tell myself.

Each pull down stroke acts as a distraction to elongate my back and in turn stretching it. So besides the normal squishing that hurts, pulling hurts too, everything hurts!

After scooping waters for a while, I figured it was a great time to drink clean water in a cup instead. With a few gobbles I was really glad to be able to swim again. The weather was nicely warming up and I was also starting to feel muscle soreness. Since never being able to fully expand energy or to use my muscle properly I have not felt muscle soreness in a long time. I was so happy to feel this burn when I swam. That was a great burn.

In order to let my pain subside, with every few laps I would have to take a rest by the poolside. The same goes for any activity. If I walk today, tomorrow I would swim instead.

By my sixth session I have trained up to swim half a kilometre with just my upper body, quite a feat I didn’t think possible, but a feat I kept ploughing towards regardless. Who would have guessed my luck that, because I pushed myself so much I’m sick again!

Learning is tedious. It takes time. It has to be steady, one piece, and one step at a time. If it is rushed by too fast, things will be missed, but if things are planned, detailed and on point, it will be learnt.

How are you making steady progress?

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Ha Ha Healing

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They say laughter is the best medicine, and I guess it is the best medicine when I do not have to swallow any tablets. This weekend, Russell Peters (a comedian) was in town and I was at his show, hoping to get some healing through the laughs.

He started his act by saying, “ Thanks for coming to see my show. I’m really glad you guys came. I really am, because if you guys didn’t come to this place, it would be empty.” His jokes came one after the other. The audience were tickled with non-stop laughter. I was equally tickled, but unfortunately I could not belly laugh like the rest of the jolly crowd. I had to be in control of each laugh so that the vibrations do not hurt me.

Then I would try a bit more to push the boundaries, rest a bit, and then try again, laughing slowly incrementally a bit more at a time. This comedy show was another first for me, I hate to admit it, but I was scared of the effects of laughter, of the laughing crowds, the vibrations and all that comes with it in that place.

The stadium was packed like tuna, however it was well organized and each one of us tunas had seats. The audience lost themselves in the laughs. Hooray for them, not so awesome at all for me. Even the background bass music was strong. To brace myself, I would anticipate each upcoming joke before it happened, and then tidal waves of feet stomping, hand clapping and bleacher shaking would take place. Laughing is good for the soul, but awfully painful for my back.

I do endorse and love people laughing, and if I had a show myself, I would sell milk at it, because I would love to see a milk fountain of laugher showering everyone. Got milk?

Each wave came with a storm of vibrations behind it. The attached bleachers shock in unison, and I was absorbing the waves. Just like a boxer leaning forward flexing his abs to absorb the shot, I had to prepare to get pummelled.  The circulations in my legs were bad and I was in pain… time for a walk, bathroom break.

Arriving back in my seat, Russell asked an audience member, “ You like Hong Kong?” The audience member mumbled. Russell cuts him off responding swiftly, “You better like Hong Kong, because you’re here. There might be a better place to be, but you’re here so deal with It.” the audience laughed on…

He meant it in a joking way of course and everyone laughed, but I know he is right though. We are in the situations we are in. We cannot instantaneously change what is happening. However, we can change the way we view it. Just like him moving from Canada to California for a better life, we can shift our mindsets for a better life too. We must come to the acceptance of the situation, and then we can make that difference. 

Do not let the circumstances you cannot control bother you, because it will not change directly or right away. We must do what we can, with what we have, and then the circumstances will change the situation around us. We too can do great things if we take control.

How are you taking control of your situation?

 

 

Important Lessons at the Toughest Times

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This pass week has been yet another learning curve. It seems that no matter what is happening in life, a lesson is there to be learnt. An inevitable escape of just being doesn’t really seem to exist in the circumstances I’m presented. So I guess it is yet another great experience, of yet another cycle of progress and recession.

The greatest gains this week, had to be my mental state through hiking and swimming. Don’t get me wrong, it does hurt, but if I can just push through this, and can get through all of it, then I can do anything in life. I got to sound strong especially when times are tough, or there is something stopping me, because I got to be louder than the voice that tells me “No”.

Yesterday was the first time, and I mean first time walking in the rain since my spinal injury. It felt liberating to finally walk through all the mini droplets and vibrations without being immobilised. My echolocation was so confused and the stimulations to my nerves were going crazy, but it was very refreshing to be able to leave my house and experience it. A danger that I finally worked up to a safe level before attempting, but I still have to be very cautious. The steps I took were very slow, but very stable, foot, foot and crutch, foot, it took forever to go anywhere… longer than usual, but I was safe.

The mental strength gain was not only in being able to push through the pain, but also knowing when to retract and take things light. Reversing to my previous stage, adjusting my techniques and adapting to the new circumstances. This was strongly taught to me yesterday, when I eagerly decided to hang on a pull up bar. I wanted to heal so badly, that I thought my back would stretch out and everything would fall into place through the hang. Little did I know, a different effect was going to happen! My back and everything did stretch, but my nerve got caught pinching it. I could not allow my back to retract for a long time! Initially I hung on the pull up bar for a long long time, my arms were so tired, but I couldn’t let go, because it hurts more than being tired. After a while, I got my smarts together and realised that if I kept my shoulders shrugged it would keep my back stretched. Eventually I miraculously shuffled like a mummy to lay in my bed.

The next five hours was a mixture of physiotherapy and yoga work to release my nerves. Here, I found out that I was able to be massage very lightly to release the tender nerves.

There is a lesson to learn in every experience especially when things are not going our way. The strongest lessons are taught when faced within these adverse situations. If things are not going your way, make the best of what you have, until there is a good change. Hopefully the situation will never come back, but if it does, you’ll be ready to triumph over it the second time. There will be darkness in the light, as there will always be light in the darkness.

What have you learned through your time of adversity?

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A Note to You

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Hi guys, recently I haven’t been able to post as much, because I haven’t had enough energy to blog as well as continue fully with my rehabilitation. Thank you for the support and kind words. I love the comments and the emails you’re all sending me, please do not stop, we’re all in it together. I am trying my best to reply to all, thank you for checking in. Please check in again. Remember to better yourself everyday. I’m doing it, so, so can you.

What are you doing today to better yourself?

Checking Forward and Checking Back

Image(Welcome to the Department of Orthopaedics and Surgery)

Every three months I have a moment of truth. The real deal, a check up to see where I am at and where I am going; Fine-tuning a compass to make sure it is actually pointed in the right direction. It is important to know which way you are going, in order to get there.

The floors were very shiny, much that of a bowling ball with polish reflecting the overhead brightly radiant lights. I was amongst my people! Cyborgs! Everyone seems to have some kind of mechanical aid, either built in, or an extension of them. Welcome to space, the 2nd floor, the department of Surgery and Orthopaedics. I get a happier feeling each time I come, a great sign of healing and morale boosting.

I zoned out a while in the sitting room, and the Dr, my new friend from the injury came to greet me at his door. I step into the doctor’s office. ” We don’t have to scan your back, it’ll make no difference. ”   I replied with my umm face, “Just don’t let anything hit me in the back right?” “Yes.” He replied.

We were standing with the pity patter catching up over the last few months.

As I reached for the chair, the Doctor darted, “Nope, not yet.” He lifts my shirt to check my back. “ The two halves are not equal yet, there is still an imbalance.” The right and left sides are disproportional. Continuing, he taps my back to feel the difference, a test for pain and for imbalances in the muscles. “Ouch!” my shirt comes back down. My back tenderized. I have earned the right to sit down.

If we have to do anything, we should do a nerve conductance test to check progress and nerve function. This is a dread of mine. Needles inserted into my body, with electrical currents shooting through me, then being told to relax as I am tasered! It is a total oxymoron. Just try putting a finger in the socket while getting electrocuted and relax at the same time. It just does not happen, unless that is a fake detachable rubber finger.

Rounding up we took a picture and arranged for the next meetings. Getting up from the chair, the doctor patted me on the back and said, “See you next time! Oops!” With a half frown smile back at him, “ See you in three months, “ I limped out of his office. “Ugh!” He patted my back again!

We parted with his famous words, “ You don’t know, if you don’t try.” I grinned back. Something I’ve heard since the beginning of my injury. There is some truth in his words. If you are ready, there is no reason to stand ideal, start moving, and do it. Do not procrastinate. If you cannot do it yet, get yourself to the point where you can and follow through. 

How do you know, if you don’t try?