Up from the Pavement
Triumph over Grief and Trauma through Medicine, Miracles, Love, Laughter, and Faith

It has been over 20 months since my accident.  I am working full time.  I have completed several 5k walks.  I have done a short hike in the Superstition Wilderness.  I can get down on my knees and scrub floors and toilets and get back up.  I haven’t taken narcotic painkillers in almost a year.  However, I still go to Physical Therapy three times a week!

Seriously?  Three times a week?  One year and eight months later?  My Physical Therapist and I recently designed a transition plan to move me towards the end of my physical therapy experience.  Incredibly, it continues into 2012!  For real?

When I was in the ICU, I guessed it would take me 18 months to recover and planned my Recovery Party for Thanksgiving, 2009, to honor my medical caregivers.  The party has come and gone, yet I am not yet fully recovered.  And, I guess the truth of it is, I don’t know when I will ever be fully recovered, or if I will ever be fully recovered.  But what I do know is that I continue to make progress each week and each month.

I stopped writing my blog when I got out of the nursing home because I thought I was pretty much “done” with the major part of this ordeal, and I guess that’s still true.  I just never imagined how long after that I would continue to make gains.

Up until about a month ago, I still had a fair amount of hip pain.  I’d wake up in the morning, feeling like an 80-year-old woman, trying to get out of bed and limp the first few steps towards the bathroom until my hip woke up and decided it would go along for the ride.  It would take a few minutes each morning to get it to work in any sort of smooth fashion.  Then I could use it most of the rest of the day, provided I rested periodically, and perhaps, did some stretches.

A couple of weeks ago, the hip was well enough for my Physical Therapist to stop focusing entirely on it and she moved her attention to my sticky, but not painful, right ankle and foot.  After about 6 or 8 sessions of her mobilizing the ankle and foot bones, including running an incredibly painful hard piece of plastic between my bones and tendons and muscles, the ankle and foot have more mobility than they’ve had for the past almost 2 years and that gave me more efficient mechanics in the hip, which then stopped hurting on such a regular basis.  Now the hip pain only sets in about every 5 days or so, instead of every morning.

I have been walking on the treadmill to warm up before PT sessions.  I do anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes.  I start out at a relatively slow pace, like 2.5 miles per hour and by about 12 minutes, I’m up to a pace that would allow me to complete a half-marathon in the allowed time, provided I could keep that pace up for 13.1 miles, which I can’t today.  Today, I can hold that pace about one mile, or two.

The other thing that is new to me is that I can occasionally work my way up to a slow jogging pace of 4-4.5 miles per hour.  I can typically only do that if I have my MP3 player with me, loaded with the Marathon Playlist I made for myself to do the 2008 P.F. Chang’s Full Marathon in under 5 hours.  I am so, so, so, so, so, so grateful to have that marathon experience in my past.  Because the body has done it once, it remembers and the fool thing thinks it can do it again.  I trained for so many miles to that musical playlist that I have a Pavlovian conditioning to each and every song.  When the songs come on, I feel like I must run, and then I do.  For a while.  ‘Till my pelvis reminds me it’s made out of an Erector Set and my right leg muscles remind me that they are not nearly long enough to reach the bottom of my leg and they are tired from trying.

I can’t begin to tell you how many silent tears I have shed, running on the treadmill, at my Physical Therapy gym.  They are generally tears of happiness and sorrow, intermingled.  Happiness that I am there, I am doing it, I am alive, I am running, and sorrow that I’m not able to do what I once did, and sorrow for how fucking hard I’ve had to work to get to that place, and sorrow for everything I’ve lost as a result of this accident and happiness at everything I’ve gained and pride for what I’ve accomplished, and embarassment for running and crying at Physical Therapy and happiness that I’m not too vain to run and cry at Physical Therapy and that that attitude is part of what has helped me recover to this point and… well, about that time, my body chimes in with some sort of random pain and I have to slow down, which gives me time to dry my tears, wipe my runny nose, and carefully peer around to verify that no one is snickering, at which point, I usually notice that no one is even aware of the incredible journey I just made, all the while, never really going anywhere.

So, back at it today.  I’m taking my music and am ready for a run.  If it happens, it happens.  If not, that’s fine, too.  I’ll do my exercises, take the beating with the plastic implements of torture, thank my therapist for the privilege, and do as many of my exercises as I can before I get pissed that I have to be there and storm out in a huff, only to repeat that again on Monday.

All kidding aside, though, as clear as it is to me that my surgeons saved my life, it is as crystal clear to me that physical therapy has been the absolute key to all the physical activity I am currently able to do.  If it is ever recommended that you go to Physical Therapy for an injury, I strongly, strongly, strongly suggest you not only go, but that you go until they tell you it’s time to stop going.  And by “They,” I mean your Physical Therapist, not your insurance company.  When my pelvis surgeon lead me to believe my insurance wouldn’t authorize any more physical therapy past the first year, Jon and I decided I’d continue to go and pay out of pocket.  Luckily, the surgeon was wrong and insurance is still paying, but I am so sold on the healing powers of Physical Therapy, I was ready to pay a thousand bucks a month for as long as we could, because I think it’s worth it.

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As I continue to discover what my body will and won’t do, we pushed the limits yesterday by attending two giant expos, the Marathon Expo and the Home and Garden Show.  I was holding up pretty well and enjoyed trying some of the demonstration items like massage chairs and home exercise equipment, when I came across THE WIGGLE CAR.

It’s a small plastic sit-on toy that is sized for children, but the salesman cleverly posted, in large letters, that it will hold up to 300 pounds.  It looked like great fun and the salesman was very happy to let me try it.

The hugest challenge was that it sits about 4-5 inches off of the ground and I wasn’t real sure I was going to get all the way down to it, and if I did, I was also concerned that it would slip out from under me at the last minute, leaving me to crash my bionic pelvis onto a concrete floor.  I just took my time and slowly worked my way down to the ground.  There were about a dozen people watching and I simply didn’t care.  I could have hurried so that I didn’t look so old or decrepit, but I have learned to protect my body over my ego as it is far more fragile.

And, what a surprise, no stranger at the Home and Garden Show yelled, “Hey Grandma, get off that toy!”  Quite the contrary.  Adults watched with fascinated attention, and several others joined me, including a silver-haired woman, a tragically cool Goth teenager, and, by that time, a fairly intimidated 8-year-old boy.

It was so much fun.  I really loved it.  I rode it for far longer than would probably be considered a “polite” amount of time, but the salesman could attract more attention to his booth if people were riding these things, so as long as he encouraged me to stay on it, I did.  Never even occurred to me that I might have to buy one, I hadn’t gotten as far as thinking of what would happen if and when I ever got off of it.

But, off of it, I did get.  I asked about the price and walked silently away from the booth, slowly considering whether or not I was going to try to pry $45 out of my tight-fisted husband’s wallet.  Having been married 10 years, I knew how the discussion would go, so I argued his part in my head for several minutes, slowly coming to the conclusion that I would not, in fact, ride that thing more than 2-3 times a year and that we’d have to find somewhere to store it in the meantime.

I came to realize that the car itself, although fun, was probably not the best purchase I could make.  However, what I was really attracted to was the fact that I was having physical fun.  I never lost my sense of humor throughout this recovery, but I did lose the ability to jump and run and bounce and dance and twirl and hop and skip and slide and climb and crawl and roll and do cartwheels, all of which I did on a somewhat regular basis, despite being 40 years of age.  Riding this Wiggle Car was the first real physical fun I had had in a very long time and I just didn’t want it to end.  I told myself that if I continued to recover, I might once again be able to be more physical and that I didn’t need a Wiggle Car to do it.  What I needed was perseverance to keep up with my Physical Therapy for as long as I took and the mental commitment to doing various maintenance exercises for the rest of my life.

For starters, today we are going to try hiking.

We’re going to drive 60-90 minutes to the Superstition Wilderness, a place we both love to hike, with the idea that I will hike for as long as I can, and I even bought trekking poles to help.  When I call quits, that’s it, we leave, no questions asked, no pushing or cajoling.  And, if we drive an hour to hike 25 minutes, that’s what we do.  At least it’s a start!

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I was stuck in a nursing home for 3 1/2 months in 2008 and I blogged my daily trials and tribulations in a frank, honest, and often, humorous manner, accumulating somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 daily followers.  If I heard it once, I heard it a dozen times, people said I needed to “make it into a book.”

Seventeen and a half months later, I am actually working on just that.  I still have my faithful cheerleader and writing coach, Diane Owens, and we are just about to the point of either submitting query letters or book proposals to publishers.  We are going to proceed with the expectation that we will find someone to publish the story and expect to have a book to sell by December 2011.

Be the first on your block to own a copy.  Place your pre-order now!  I don’t know how much it will eventually cost, if published, but I’m willing to offer all pre-orders the low, low price of $14.99.  Send a check to:

Marlo J. Archer

1237 W. Auburn Dr.

Tempe, AZ  85283

If I don’t find a publisher by 2012, I’ll self-publish and you’ll still get your copy.  If it turns out that the published price is lower than $14.99, I’ll send a refund check to the address that was on your payment check.

All pre-orders will be numbered and signed by the author.  Reserve your copy now!

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