It might have been the Wonder Woman boots that did it. My sister Kathy and nephew Charlie came to visit me last weekend and pimped my splints to turn them into Wonder Woman boots. I’m sure that somehow contributed to things falling into place for me. When my new Physiotherapist put them on me for my session on Monday, it was like some magical transformation. I’d felt like everything had been stagnant since I arrived, but that day, something changed. I stood up on the parallel bars. Guided by both my Physiotherapist and my Occupational Therapist, I took it step by step to the end of the bars. Three times. It didn’t matter that my legs were being held and moved by other people. My brain believed I was doing it. It was trying to do it. Finally. Progress.
If it wasn’t the Wonder Woman boots (though that’s my theory and I’m sticking with it), it might have been my absolute desperation to get off the ward that flavoured my week. Frustrated by a ‘hands-off’ nursing approach, I was growing more and more frustrated about all of the things I was expected to do independently. I just wasn’t there yet. I needed a change of scenery, so I threw myself into every activity available. Who knew Wheelchair Basketball was so much fun? I spent extra time in the physio gym learning how different bits of equipment worked so I could work outside of my sessions to get those legs going. I even (shock horror!) hit the gym gym at Aspire Leisure Centre and even though I hated every minute of it, I was thankful to have the wheelchair adaptable equipment available and delighted to be away from the confines of the ward.
My ward-mates, in their own crazy ways, helped me to steer clear of the place too. It was the constant noise. The incessant talking loudly down phones, seemingly always in some kind of family argument. These were not women who had mastered the art of discretion. Or putting their phones on silent. Or manners.
Even though I was actually developing some kind of affection for Super-Chav (there’s a syndrome in there somewhere) and had been helping her out with reading and writing, I was still pretty keen to maintain a distance most of the time. I’d recently introduced her to essential oils to help her keep her cool. I’m not sure that it did the job exactly, but she loved the first drops of clary sage that I put on her clothes so that she could carry the scent with her for the day.
Possibly not the best idea I’ve ever had.
She wheeled up to me that evening and pointed out two little spots on her clothes where the oil had stained.
“Look wot that shit’s done to my clothes.”
And the strop began. I shrugged it off.
The next morning, she saw me putting a drop of bergamot on each shoulder (thanks to the lovely Caroline who had given me a bottle at the hospital) and she called me over.
“Wot’s that then?”
I wheeled myself to her, magic potion in hand, and put a drop on each shoulder of her t-shirt. I took my chances on the potential strop. It was worth it to see the big grin on her face as she breathed deeply and wheeled herself off to whatever appointment she had, calm as a cucumber.
The latest in-mate was a characterful lady who I can only describe as Keith Lemon’s Mum crossed with a duracell bunny.
Oo, everyfink is ‘orrible in de ‘ospital.
I cannot watch Keith Lemon. Or listen to him. At all. He makes my skin crawl. So imagine sharing a room with his mother?
I seriously couldn’t create characters like these.
Nightime was being stuck in ‘Animal Farm’ and I had started playing a game with myself to predict which farmyard animal noises might come from what corner of the bay each night while I was averaging about 3 hours sleep. There’s a limit to how many Spotify ‘relax’ playlists you can listen to before you start planning a murderous rampage.
On that Monday, returning to my bay during some down time, there she was, Queen Lemon herself on her wheelchair throne, blocking the entrance to the bay. I tried to skirt around her. I even managed an ‘excuse me’, but there was no getting away from it. She was in the mood for a chat (when was she not?), and her particular topic of conversation this time was her urgent need for the bathroom.
“Better get moving then,” I suggested, but her urgency waned. My inner bitch was in overdrive (because she’s actually got a heart of gold and the issue here is my intolerance problem). After 10 minutes listening to her particular difficulties in the bathroom department, I looked at my invisible watch and made my best ‘Is that the time?’ face. I mumbled an excuse about being late for a session and turned my wheelchair with all the skill of an elite Paralympian to high-tail it out of there.
I channelled my burgeoning insanity into more gym time.
Whatever it was, over this past week, things just felt different. It’s like I realised for the first time that rehab isn’t just a process. I’d been so excited when I found out I’d gotten a bed here, but reality quickly set in and I discovered that this wasn’t a quick fix. I wasn’t going to rise, Phoenix-like, from the wreckage and the flames of my life. There was no ‘Eye of the Tiger’ soundtrack underscoring my inevitable recovery. Rehab is a decision. And I decided that I needed to give it everything.
And not murder people.
My Physiotherapy has played the most important part in my attitude overhaul this week, and that’s mostly down to my Physiotherapist who has expressly forbidden me from using his name for the blog. He’s suggested Juan Pablo as an alias, so that he’d sound more exotic.
I will not be calling him Juan Pablo. He doesn’t look much like a mexican pool boy.
Besides, there are far more exotic places to come from than Mexico.
If I’m sticking to the boots theory, then he’s the Superman to my Wonder Woman. Man of Steel, using his powers for good. My recovery is a team effort, so this Wonder Woman needs to call in The Justice League. And Superman is obviously the second best character from the DC universe.
It’s also the shoulders. I may be putting a lot on his metaphorical shoulders by placing him front and centre of my recovery, but that’s nothing compared to what I must have done to his actual shoulders this week. I think my physio will need some physio.
Who knew standing up was such hard work? After the success of the bars on Monday, I could hear it. That faint first few pounding notes of ‘Eye of the Tiger’. I got my Rocky on and concentrated on getting back on my feet. Superman used our sessions together to help me not only stand, but to stay standing. To balance. To step. To sit back down. I wobbled a lot and I grabbed fiercely for the nearest thing when I felt unsure of myself. Often, that was Superman himself, but by Friday, we knew we’d made progress. So when my consultant came into the physio gym, there was some definite superhero telepathy going on. Without a word, we knew what to do.
I took a deep breath and grabbed on to the plinths on either side of me. He barely held on to me this time. This was on me.
‘Straight Back. Move from the hips.” Superman silently reminded me.
I stood up.
His eyes never left mine. I could see the reassurance in them.
‘And sit down.’
The scary bit. The one that had had me panicking and clutching all week.
Bend the knees, I remembered. Move from the hips. I held tightly to the plinths. I balanced. I kept eye-contact. It was going to be ok.
The second time was easier
By the third, it was like I’d never stopped being able to do this. Well, aside from the grabbing on to plinths element, but let’s take things one step at a time.
We didn’t get to that point easily. It had started on Monday with the bars. Superman in front of me and my Occupational Therapist behind with my wheelchair. Clumsy movements. Frightened yelps and gasps when Superman moved my leg or foot into a new position. I was terrified. Day by day, with the plinths on either side of me and Superman sitting in front of me, we worked on those basic movements. I huffed and puffed, groaned and grunted. Superman thinks I should make a physio sound effects CD.
When my hands first came off the plinths, he told me to hold on to his shoulders. I didn’t want to. I was unsteady and terrified. Poor bastard. One wrong wobble and I would squish him. And I’m all about the wobbles these days. Besides, nobody wants to go down in history as the one who took Superman out.
I put my hands on his shoulders. (Hello Juan Pablo!)
Stop it! Focus! Straight back. Move from the hips.
Suddenly I realised that it was ok. I hadn’t flattened him. I was so worried about causing him an injury that when he called ‘delicate shoulders’, I thought he really meant it and I took my weight off him.
And then I was standing, literally, on my own two feet.
And my internal soundtrack was watching us all with the Eyyyyyyyyyyyye……