Eyes Wide Open

A Perspective From Within


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I Stand Corrected

It’s been quite some time since I posted anything. I have had several posts started, but in the midst of each, I always seem to get stricken with a severe case of writer’s block. I’ve been getting several messages wanting to know if there has been any progress with me. I am continually making progress because of all the work that I put into my therapy. I expect it. It’s the breakthroughs that I’m waiting for. If progress isn’t being made, It’s really simple, I’m not working hard enough. I’m hoping that with every new thing that I do in therapy, I’ll get a small step closer to muscle movement, something that I want and need desperately.

I will do just about anything in therapy. I constantly make the joke to Carla my therapist, that I feel like a trained dolphin; she tells me what to do and I do it. Hold the ring up and I’ll jump through it. I really will attempt just about anything in therapy. To me, nothing is beyond the realm of possible, which brings me to my latest endeavor…standing outside of the standing frame. I have posted pictures previously of balancing myself hands-free while in the standing frame. This was quite the accomplishment, but now it’s time to raise the bar so to speak, and make use of the parallel bars. Carla is always trying to think of new challenges and approached me about attempting this a little over a month ago, and I was all for it. Basically, I start in a sitting position with a gait belt on and push myself up to a standing position while Carla sits in front of me and locks my knees out. The first few times that I did this, it seemed incredibly difficult and required an immense amount of energy from me. I really only could last for a short amount of time. I also required a significant amount of help to push myself up to standing. It progressively became easier, and today was the best day ever. The next step would be to have braces made for my legs. With the braces, I would be able to take actual steps. We are investigating this. Custom braces are shockingly expensive, so we are looking into the feasibility of it all.

I’ve posted a couple of photos, and a video below from the parallel bars. By the way, the bulky white thing around my waist is the gait belt…not the most fashionable accessory but very necessary for safety. I was actually able to stand without significant assistance from Carla and Omar today. All I need are my muscles to kick in, and I’ll be golden.

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The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. ~Vidal Sassoon

I asked my Miami PT therapist, Carla Ruhl, to write something about the various activities that I’m doing at therapy and the strides that I’ve made. It’s interesting to see my progress through someone else’s eyes, especially someone who knows the technical aspects of what my level of injury will yield. I’m my worst critic. I’ve always been, and I get disappointed about my therapy successes when I should be celebrating them. I know that I need to be more positive about how far I have come considering the catastrophic injury that I had, but that’s easier said than done. June 11th will be my one year anniversary for my injury. If you had asked me when I was in the hospital what I would be like June 11th 2013, I would’ve told you I would be walking and back to work. I know that my expectations were probably not reasonable, but I might not have gotten to where I’m at today if I didn’t shoot really high. After reading Carla’s note that she sent me for the blog, I’ve realized that I truly have done some incredible things, and I need to give myself more credit…

These are Carla’s words:

When Mary asked me to write something about her so that she could put it her blog, I wasn’t surprised. From the first sessions that we worked together, I knew she’d be different.

She’s the type of person….type of patient that inspires you…pushes you. She’s sassy and remarkable in many ways. I could see from our evaluation that she already had a particular presentation allowing her to feel below her level of spinal cord injury (very lucky). Considering the extent of her injury I knew what expectations I had for her. But she’s accomplished those and more. She also has this attitude…knowing what she wants….not taking no for an answer.

In 25 years as a physical therapist I have had the experience to work with and know several “SUPER quads”. Can there be something such as a SUPER SUPER QUAD ?. It’s not really tangible…she’s just doing things that are amazing….activities that have me asking “where is that coming from because I wouldn’t expect that from my muscle testing scores ? ”. With each new challenge I give her, she says “lets do it”….she wants to perfect her movements, her new exercises. As you’ve seen in the pictures and videos she’s moving throughout what therapists call the neurodevelopmental sequence (in simple terms, they are the movements that helped us as children develop strength, stability and mobilty….movements that trained us to move from laying on our backs to our tummies to crawling and in time, walking). I hope that this will be the case but…I can only say that we need more (it’s so redundant isn’t it ?…always wanting more). More function, I mean, in the legs to accomplish this full neurodevelopmental sequence but for now…..Mary’s abilities are AMAZING ! She has developed postural strength, balance and function that considering her level of spinal cord injury surpasses our expectations.

We will continue to work…continue to work on sit to stand transitions (who knew ?)…standing balance (WOW!). I look forward to our intensive 4 hour sessions…her desire to work hard… her willingness to push the envelope inspires me…inspires those around her. As I have read in her blogs and have had the honor of meeting her friends and family, I have come to understand that she has always been this intensely charged woman. Thank you Mary.


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“Fitness, if it came in a bottle, everybody would have a great body.” – Cher

It’s been a while since I have posted a blog update. I really need to be more disciplined with my writing because I actually have a lot to say.

I frequently get asked about what I do at therapy, so I thought a play by play should be in order.

First of all, I have to say, I love therapy. Prior to this accident, I was in the gym religiously 3-4 times per week, but I can honestly admit, I never truly loved working out. I’m quite sure there are more people than not who share this same sentiment. I think most people are lying when they say they do. These are the people who have all of the latest workout gear, but you’ll find them standing on the treadmill talking about how much they go to the gym. They move their mouths more than they move their bodies. I never understood how people became addicted to working out. After 15+ years in the gym, I’m still waiting on that runners high everyone talks about. Truthfully, my only driving force that kept my weekly schedule was the fear of getting fat, because I love to eat and I love couture. Lanvin has not launched a plus size line yet, and I don’t like to throw up, so going to the gym was the next best option. I know my trainers at the Yellow Creek gym are reading this, so I guess the cat’s out of the bag. Lynn and Cody, both of you made my workouts fun and tolerable!

This is why I find it oddly surprising that I love therapy. What I do at therapy is 20 times harder than the most intense workout that I’ve done in the past, but I still like it. Maybe it’s the challenge that drives me, but truthfully, at the end of the day, my priorities are a little different now. I still have a fear of getting fat, and I’m still obsessed with runway fashion, but the fear of never walking again and being faced with being dependent for the rest of my life scares the shit out of me (and couture clothing never looks good while seated either).

I have been attending Miami Physical Therapy (in Coconut Grove) since September of last year. I feel comfortable and at home there, which I think is a particularly valuable factor in any recovery. The entire staff is not only positive, supportive and knows their shit, the Cuban coffee that they make there is delicious. I’m addicted to it and usually start bothering Omar, the Cuban coffee making PT attendant, to make some as soon as I get there.i think he gets a little annoyed with me because I really do nag him until he makes it. All of the attendants are PT students. I really enjoy having them around to shoot the shirt with.

If I had the stamina I would go to therapy Monday through Friday, but my body definitely needs some recovery time. As it is, I’m there 3x per week, and have increased my sessions from 3 hours to 4 hours per day, which is extremely aggressive. I’ll get home around 6pm and will literally pass out. What I was able to do prior to September 2012 and what I can do now is undeniably night and day. Back then, I thought I was a bad ass at Jackson rehab when I was on NBC Miami news for the most pull-ups completed during the Jackson Memorial Olympics. That seems so long ago.

Today, Carla, my therapist, has presented me with new challenges that I hope gets me just a little bit closer to regaining what I have lost. I have wrote in the past about the stim bike and the standing frame, which are still an integral part of my therapy repertoire. In addition to those, I am doing something new and exciting. See the video below. I started doing this a few weeks ago, and the video is already obsolete. I can actually get up on all 4s with little or no assistance. This is quite an accomplishment since most of my core is still paralyzed.

The main reason I was able to progress to an advanced activity like this is because I regained a small amount of my core back. This includes obliques, flickers of the upper part of my rectus abdominis and a muscle in my back called the erector spinae. What is important to note about these muscles is that they correspond to the spinal nerves that are below my level of injury. My injury was at the cervical region (C6/C7) and these new flickers of muscle movement correspond to the thoracic region of my spine, meaning that there is some communication occurring down my spinal cord. Below is a good chart that shows the spinal nerves and corresponding muscles.

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This is exciting but still not enough for me. I want tangible movement that I can see, which is why I go at so hard at therapy. I have no choice…

Me quadruped holding myself up

Me quadruped holding myself up

Sit to stand-holding myself up

Sit to stand-holding myself up

Sit to stand

Sit to stand

Sit to stand-holding myself up. Perfect posture.

Sit to stand-holding myself up. Perfect posture.


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Tibetan Buddhist Monks and Lama’s Praying for You

Hi Mary,

How are you today?

I am Marci’s old, childhood friend who helped set up the Tibetan Buddhist monks and Lama’s to pray for you. I thought it might inspire you to hear a bit about them since they continue to pray for you everyday.

As soon as Marci told me about you and urged me to request prayers I  immediately called my boyfriend David, who was in Hong Kong at the time, traveling with his teacher, a very highly revered 85 year old Tibetan Buddhist master, we call Rinpoche (precious one), who was on his way to Tibet and resting for a week in between traveling.  Rinpoche is so sought after for his amazing spiritual power that he often has to go into retreat and restore his energy. When he is in his monastery in Tibet there are lines of hundreds and hundreds of people a day to see him.  So this time was one of the hard to see times, as Rinpoche was resting, so I felt extremely lucky that David was with him.  His prayers are so uniquely amazing that it is always worth every ounce of effort to contact him.

Rinpoche is very renowned  amongst serious Buddhists for being an authentically enlightened master.  One of the last of the great one’s who were born and trained in Tibet before the Chinese occupation. I urged David to find a way to get a message to Rinpoche with a request to please pray for you. David was not sure he would be able to ask, but he said he would try his best.

Within a few hours he called me and said he was able to see Rinpoche in person and give him the message directly. He said Rinpoche, who is usually poker faced, smiled warmly when he heard your name and David was surprised because he thought that your situation was very dire and not something to smile about. Later David reflected and said that Rinpoche probably saw that you would improve, (slowly but surely) and felt  confidence in your ability to heal. David also asked Rinpoche to recommend additional prayers that the monks in his monastery could do. So Rinpoche recommended Medicine Buddha prayers for you. So Marci and I arranged for many monks to pray along with Rinpoche for your healing.

Then I also contacted Lama Tharchin, a very dear Lama who is lives in CA, speaks English, and also knows Marci. Lama Tharchin prayed for Marci’s step father, Bob when he was in the hospital in a  coma.  We have had a lot of great healing experiences with Lama Tharchin. I requested to light several hundred “butter lamps” (like candles) at a great shrine at Lama Tharchin’s temple. All these butter lamps were dedicated to your best health and recovery and spiritual enlightenment. Also a group of Lama Tharchin’s students who are in retreat along with Lama  Tharchin all started praying for you every day.

I got an email from Lama Tharchin last week asking about you. He is sure to keep in touch about you for a long time. When ever he makes a connection to pray for someone, he takes such good care to keep in touch and see how they are mending. So please know you have a big, loving support system at least  in CA, Tibet and  NY, and probably many other places as well. I keep you in my prayers and I hope you let all this healing light into your entire body and mind and slowly learn to mediate and heal with the infinite blessings that surround you.

Also if you want to go to a website connected to Lama Tharchin,  http://www.vajrayana.org/. And here are some very helpful audio books to learn how to meditate, by  another really great teacher, Tulku Thondup Rinpoche: Boundless Healing- http://www.tulkuthondup.com/cd_boundless_healing_guided_practice.htm or Healing Power of Loving Kindness- this is a book that comes with an audio CD: http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Power-Loving-Kindness-Book-Audio-CD/dp/1590306678

Sorry for the long email, but I hope this makes you happy. Please keep in touch, I am rooting for you with all my heart. Get well soon.

All the best healing wishes,

Susie (Susanna)  Green