Sunday, July 22, 2012

Getting a New Swagger

We left this journey last time as my family and I were headed toward the physical therapy office at City of Hope, with a little diversion to add a vital missing fact.

We made it to the office. I opened the door to the office thinking it might be a larger room for this size hospital. Unfortunately, the waiting room to speak with someone about getting the walker I was told I needed, was not much bigger than the patient room mom, dad and I met Dr. Paz in a little earlier that day. There were still the 7 of us to pile in this small office and someone was already in one of the chairs waiting to be seen.

My cousins made the decision to stay outside and wait for us to finish. My dad decided to stay with them and so did my grandfather. My mom and grandmother stayed with me. My grandmother had been having a hard time hearing when people spoke in low voices, so when I would say something, she kept asking, "What? What did she say?" It wasn't that I cared about what I was saying, but I really didn't want everyone around to hear. Being that I was already very frustrated and on the verge of tears, I asked my mom to take everyone to the front waiting room in the main building. Mom was very hesitant, but after a couple of pleas, I finally convinced her it was best if I stayed here and waited to be seen and the 6 of them waited up front.

I made a good decision by sending them all away. A few more people came through the office and some staff members were back and forth between the therapy room and this office. I think I waited a little more than 20 minutes form someone to finally help with the script I brought down from the doctor.  What I didn't know at the time was that they were going to train me on how to walk with a walker. It wasn't like just getting up and walking like we have learned our entire life.

Ron Vanderbrink, R.P.T., C.P.I.
I was taken across the corridor to the therapy room where I was going to get my lessons on using this new tool. I really thought to myself it couldn't be that hard to walk with this thing. None-the-less I indulged them by going through the motions of learning how to use it. First we started by the therapist, Ron, sizing me up. He had me stand up straight with my arms at my sides. What he were doing was finding out the height of my hands so he could adjust the walker height properly. This took a few minutes and it was relatively painless to just stand there.

After setting the walker height, I was shown how to take my steps and move the walker at the right time. Basically, I was to set the walker in front of me slightly, take my left foot and move forward 'pivoting' off my right foot by raising the heal, then follow through with moving my right foot forward and stopping all my action. Then I was to do it all over again. Move the walker, put my left foot forward and place it while pivoting off the ball of my right foot and then following it up by moving my right foot forward and stopping all movement. The therapist showed me several times around the perimeter of the therapy room before handing me the walker to try myself. I said to myself, "I got this, it's easy."

I took the handles of the walker and set off on my new journey, or should I say I stumbled off on my new journey. Okay, this was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. I really looked liked a bumbling idiot; for real, this room was surrounded by mirrors and I saw what I looked like as I took my first steps. So, not so good. I tried again, this time thinking about what the therapist said and saying it out loud. But, I simplified it a bit, "Place. Step. Step. Place, Step. Step." Still not so easy, but I was trying. It was very weird to take steps without using your arms in a swinging pattern as we learned our whole life. This was not going to be fun. I was pretty much a catastrophe waiting to happen.

So, the therapist had me take several walking circles around the raised wooden floor in the center of the room until I had a better cadence going. As soon as he was convinced that I was well on my way with walking, he said we were going to go down the hall and learn how to use this walker on the stairs. "The stairs? I have to learn how to do this on the stairs too?" Oh boy was this going to be fun. If the flat floor wasn't had enough, now I had to tackle the stairs. Forget about my hip fracturing, I was going to break my neck with this walker on the stairs.

I followed the therapist about 20 feet down the corridor to a stairwell, I used the walker the entire way down there stumbling along. The stairwell was chained off, but he assured me it was fine for us to use it. I stood there watching the therapist as he showed me how to fold/collapse the walker and place it in the hand of the leg we were trying to protect. The walker would be by my right side and I would place body weight on it toward the front of me. I would hold the railing of the stairwell with the other hand and take the steps one at a time. I watched the therapist demonstrate up the half-flight of stairs and back down. Now, it was my turn to try it. This time it was much easier and I didn't stumble all over the place.  He was pleased, I was pleased, it was all good.

Just as we were finishing up at the bottom of the stairs, my mom came around the corner. I stopped her from passing us by as we were in the little inset of the stairwell. The therapist said his goodbye and walked off to the therapy room. Mom and I started off toward the front of the building. I was using the walker as I was shown, and was still stumbling all over the place. I finally gave up for the moment, folded up the walker and started carrying it with me. I told my mom I was ready to go home. We rounded a few corners and found ourselves back at the main entrance of the hospital at the waiting room. My grandparents and cousins were already gone and it was just my dad waiting for us. It was time for me to go home now.

Next comes "The Long Ride Home."

"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalms 16:11

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