Eyes Wide Open

A Perspective From Within


3 Comments

Pay(Pal) it forward

It’s been months since I’ve posted anything. Between my mother passing away and trying to deal with everything else in my life, my post would have most definitely been a Debbie downer. I finally have something positive to write about, and it’s really not about me.

My cousin Joani is celebrating a big birthday soon. She’ll be turning 60—so hard to believe. Joani recently phoned me to propose an amazing idea—rather than having a big birthday bash for herself, she’s decided to do a “charity boot camp”. Joani has been known to always be the cousin who “marches to the beat of a different drummer”, so breaking a major sweat and painfully elevating her heart rate far past the “zone” seems like a perfect birthday gift to herself. I still prefer the kind of gifts that you can open, but that’s me. Joani wants to donate the money raised at the bootcamp to a charity or non-profit that helps people with spinal cord injury, and also wants to make the donations in my name. I’m so honored that she would include me in her special and momentous day, and make it about helping others (and also getting into her skinny jeans). Joani expressed to me that she thinks often about what I have to endure on a daily basis just to do the simplest of things, and is thankful that her body is still physically healthy and able. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I wish I could get on a treadmill and run or do a crazy circuit in the gym. Those things that I complained about and dreaded pre-injury are just the things that I wish I could do again today, post-injury.

When Joani told me that she wanted to raise money for SCI, I knew right away where this money should go…to a non-profit called The Woody Foundation. I met the foundation’s namesake, Woody Beckham when I first started outpatient therapy at Miami Physical Therapy. Woody started out being a bit of an enigma to me. I’ll elaborate. When I first started inpatient PT at Jackson, I always wondered why, in the middle of an early 80’s looking physical and occupational therapy clinic, there was a sleek and modern Miele kitchen. It basically can be compared to seeing a Bentley parked under a carport of a double-wide trailer. It was really something that peaked my curiosity. I finally asked one of the therapists about my nagging Miele mystery.

Enter in: The Woody Foundation

She told me that the kitchen was donated by a guy named Woody who had a spinal cord injury in 2011 (about a year prior to my injury) who also attended Jackson inpatient rehab. She went on to say that Woody started a foundation that raises money for the recovery of people with SCI. The foundation also helps to raise awareness and lend financial support to local organizations helping to rehabilitate and cure paralysis. Concentrating on reaching out to the newly injured is a top priority of Woody and his foundation. I can tell you firsthand, Jackson Hospital did a horrible job in preparing me for what I had to deal with in the coming year. The social worker did nothing to help with my transition. I was basically given a Christopher Reeve’s Foundation book, and was told that it had a lot of valuable information in it for me. I wish that I had a foundation like Woody’s to better prepare me, because honestly, it’s pretty fucking scary. The Woody Foundation is the type of organization that makes a direct impact on people’s lives. There’s a lot of charitable organizations out there that seem to have a constant stream of big dollars going in, but you never really see where that money ends up. Woody’s foundation is what I consider “tangible help”. You can actually touch, feel and see the dollars at work. A perfect example of tangible help is “The Woody Pack”. It’s brilliant. He personally curated a collection of assistive devices for people with limited hand function, after dealing with his own personal challenges with adjusting to this new life. Quadriplegics most of the time have very limited or non-existent hand and wrist function, and Woody discovered various devices to help him regain his independence thus eliminating the need for help from others with simple life situations such as eating, drinking, using a cell phone, etc. Trust me, I hate being dependent on people. It makes me feel like a burden, and that’s the last thing that I want. Imagine how many times a day you use your hands to pick-up a phone, cup, pen, fork or ID. Individuals using devices in The Woody Pack can overcome these and other daily obstacles. Believe me…hands and fingers are not overrated (some days, I feel like I have dog paws). Woody’s goal with these packs is to share his experience of regaining independence with others so they too can have the joy of going about their day…on their own. The cost to put together each pack is around $200 (anything for the disabled is expensive) and Woody provides these packs free of charge to people who can benefit from them. You can read all about Woody’s Foundation on his website at http://www.woodyfoundation.org.

Back to my story.

The thought really never crossed my mind that I would actually meet Woody, but when I started my outpatient therapy at Miami PT, I finally met him. I expected someone much older, not someone in his early 20’s. I know when I was in my early 20’s, being altruistic and giving back was not at the top of my list back then. I also thought how when I was a year into my injury, helping others was not even remotely a priority for me. I was consumed with dealing and adjusting to this life changing and catastrophic injury. I had a hard enough time being me. When I see Woody, I’m amazed at what he does and what he has accomplished so early on in his injury and life…starting a foundation, going to college, boating, you name it. I had a hard time going ANYWHERE and doing anything, and I still do, to a certain extent. Call me selfish, but I’m still a bit consumed by myself trying to figure out all this paralyzed BS.

How you can help.

The bootcamp is on August 2nd at a place called The Fitness Factory in Rotterdam, NY. A Facebook event was created that explains everything:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1019035101459474/
The trainer and the facility will be donating their time, and rather than people paying a fee for the bootcamp, they are asking for anyone participating to make a donation to The Woody Foundation instead. Joani’s goal is to raise $6000. Now, I’m pretty sure that most of you will not be able to attend the bootcamp, but you can still help us meet this aggressive goal. Donations can be made online directly to The Woody Foundation’s website. Here’s the link:

http://www.woodyfoundation.org/event/joanis-birthday-bootcamp-fundraiser/

When you click this link, scroll down and click the “donate” button.  A generic PayPal page will come that will say “The Woody Foundation” at the top.  You are in the right place.  Log in to your PayPal account and follow the directions from there. If you don’t have a PayPal account, there is a link at the bottom of the PayPal page that will instruct you what to. There is not a section that you can make a note about the donation being in my name, but The Foundation rarely gets online donations, so they will know what the donations are for.  Lucy Foerster, the Executive Director of the Foundation is keeping track of the donations and posting goal updates on https://www.facebook.com/events/1019035101459474/

Please join me in making a donation to The Woody Foundation and this great cause. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, therefore, your donations are tax-deductible. You will receive a tax-deduction receipt upon completing your donation online via Paypal (using the link above). You can also send a check to the below address payable to the Woody Foundation, Inc.

Woody Foundation, Inc.
12500 Virtudes Street
Coral Gables, Florida 33156

Together, I know we can make a difference for individuals and families dealing with SCI!

Joani and I March 2014

Joani and I March 2014

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18 Comments

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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9 Comments

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.