Spinal rap: A brief look at my hospital recovery (so far) – Part 3
The situation with my legs is much worse. It is now over four months since my operation and I am still in a wheelchair as I am still unable to walk (more specifically I am still unable to lift my right foot because my right knee will not bend when I am standing upright). Strangely, I can bend my right knee when I am sitting down or lying down. I just can’t do it when I am standing. I have had lots of physiotherapy but very little of it has improved the functionality of my right leg. My left leg isn’t great either but it does have all its basic functionality. I do not know the long-term prognosis. One of my physiotherapists said that some of the muscles in my leg appear to be “paralyzed”. When she said the ‘P-word’ (i.e., ‘paralysis’) she could see that it visibly upset me. No-one had ever said that to me since my operation. She then said “we can call it something else” (and used the word “inactive” instead).
As with any paralysis, whether it is temporary or permanent is unknown. I learned how to “walk” on crutches while in hospital but since leaving hospital I’ve discovered that walking on crutches around the house is not very practical. I can’t make a drink or a snack and carry it from the kitchen to the breakfast room table or the lounge on crutches. I bought myself a walking frame which is not good for me physiotherapeutically (because it’s not good for my body posture) but I feel sturdier than I do on crutches and I feel like I am “walking” more properly compared to doing it on crutches.
During my time in hospital I had daily physiotherapy (apart from weekends), occupational therapy a couple of times a week, and a weekly session with a psychologist. As the weeks went on, I started doing more and more work and fitted my therapies around my work. Work helped me get through the weeks and weeks I was in hospital. Compared to many of the others I was in hospital with, I was one of the lucky ones. Some of the in-patients had horrific injuries and had limited cognitive faculties (most of the patients had brain injuries). I was one of the very few given ‘independent’ status. I could shower on my own, wash and dress myself, eat and drink without help, etc. In short, I needed little help from any of the medical and nursing staff.
To get discharged from hospital, I had to show my occupational therapist and physiotherapist that I could get around independently in my own house. On June 14, I had a ‘home visit’ where I underwent a series of challenges to see how easily I could do things that most of us take for granted. I had to do the tasks either in my wheelchair or on crutches. The first task was to get into my house and get up a few steps on my crutches. It was difficult (and I now have some ‘grab rails’ on the house exterior that the British Red Cross kindly installed for me). Inside the house I had to show my therapists how easily I could get on and off the toilets in the house. I had to show them how I could get out of bed on my own. I had to show them how I could get from my bed to the bathroom on my crutches. I had to show them how I could get in and out of the shower (which was incredibly difficult as there is a 23cm step to get into the shower).
Upstairs, I have no wheelchair use so I had to demonstrate I could do everything on my crutches. The real test was getting up and down the 13 stairs in my house. Thankfully, using the holding on to the bannister, I could get up and downstairs. Going up the stairs, I could lead with my good(ish) left leg and then drag the right one after it. It doesn’t look pretty but I could do it. Coming down the stairs, I have to lead with my (bad) right leg but there’d no real effort on my part so coming down was a lot easier than going up. Another way they got me to go upstairs was going up step-by-step on my bottom. I found that incredibly difficult (but I did it). By the end of the hour’s home visit my legs were shattered. That hour was probably the most intense physiotherapy I’d had since my operation. Eight days later (June 22) I was discharged from hospital and back home.
Since coming home, I have a maximum of two physiotherapy sessions a week and nothing else. Sometimes I feel like I am going backwards. The exercises I do are difficult and (in all honesty) boring. I am really trying to make a recovery but my (right) leg doesn’t seem to want to join me in my quest to become independently mobile again. I’ve had a couple of falls in the house. A couple of weeks ago, I was doing some ‘squatting’ exercises when my right knee buckled and I landed painfully on my right elbow and right buttock. My bursitis was back. I’ve found things difficult to do since then. Just getting in and out of bed feels like an assault course.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK