Sunday, May 18, 2014

Super Powers

In my last post I wrote that the images I was able to come up with as I lay in the ER of paralyzed people whose fate I might share were of super heroes whose powers had been incapacitated as part of their paralysis. Professor X with his peculiar levitating chair and bald head stood out in my mind. The image was so bizarre as to be almost funny, and my situation still felt so surreal in those first few hours that to envision myself as a Professor X in my future life added another degree of absurdity to what was already impossibly happening to me. My legs had collapsed under me like one of those little toy animals: you press a button and the creature, which is help tautly together by string, collapses as the strings holding together its limbs slacken. I had one such toy as a child: a pink, plastic giraffe on a small cylindrical stand that I had won at a carnival. My limbs had become as weak and useless as the toy giraffe's in the fallen down position. 

Fortunately for the giraffe, as soon as the button is decompressed, it springs to life again, its limbs tight and firm again, its little pink body and neck upright. It would take months of gradual recovery--a process I am still undergoing-- for me to stand upright and walk without the aid of assistive devices. It took me from October 8th, 2013 until Valentine's Day, February 14th, 2014 to stand up from a chair without the assistance of another person helping me up. I relied heavily on my arms for the initial push upwards.

Through hard work pushing through pain and the obstinacy of my body with its atrophied muscles and demyelinated nerves I have regained my own super powers. Not X-Ray vision or telepathy or flight, but standing on my own two feet, climbing up and down stairs, showering and using the bathroom without assistance, lifting objects and fine motor skills, and most importantly walking. There was a time when I doubted I would ever walk again, even though as I left Mount Sinai Hospital after a one-month stay Dr. Laura Marcuse told me that I would. It just seemed impossible given my incredible weakness at the time.

If I have learned anything from this whole experience, it is the value of persistence and patience in the face of adversity. For months I had very minimal gains. During my first month, I had a measured grip strength in my hands of ZERO pounds (average for a male my age is about 120). A month or two in I was up to three pounds. Gradually I made my way up into the teens and double digits, and I now have a pretty damn solid handshake. A super power I regained at four months into recovery was the ability to open a pop top on a soda can. Something to be grateful for. Can you imagine what it's like to be that weak? Thankfully other fine motor skills such as typing and using mobile phone devices returned earlier in the recovery process, allowing me to communicate better with friends.

Recently I went out with friends for the first time since I was put in the hospital last October. Nothing special, just an evening of pool and dinner at a Thai restaurant, but man was it awesome to rejoin society! I managed the steps down into the pool hall without any problems although there was only one rail. I had a great time reuniting with two of my old friends. Both had come to visit me while I was in the rehab facility in Rockville, but it's totally different being out with friends on the town than having them visit you when you're in an institution. I finally feel like I'm regaining my freedom and getting back to my life! I'm very grateful.

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