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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