SDR: Thoughts 30 Years Later

I kept telling my family that I couldn’t wait until I’m 33 years old.

And it has nothing to do with it being referred to as your “Jesus Year” in some circles.

I couldn’t wait because I’m be able to say “My SDR was 30 years ago.” For one thing it makes the math easier for me and the resident(s).

Because when I give them the year I had my SDR or how old I was when I had it a look comes over their face like I’ve just asked, Train A, traveling 70 miles per hour (mph), leaves Westford heading toward Eastford, 260 miles away. At the same time Train B, traveling 60 mph, leaves Eastford heading toward Westford. When do the two trains meet? How far from each city do they meet?”

I should also tell you that I often have to then explain what an SDR (short for Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy) is because they aren’t as popular as they used to be (due in part to the Intrathecal Baclofen Pump, I think). It’s funny because I didn’t know what it was for a long time, even thought I had it done, so I’ve had to educate myself because I realized I had to educate others. I even have a short description of every surgery I’ve had with my list of pervious surgeries. 1) To give people a heads up while they’re reviewing my records before an appointment. 2) I can’t spell Rhizotomy (neither can spell check).

I have mixed feeling about getting old, but this is one thing I’m looking forward to more than others.

Here are some basics:

I was 3. I remember it being around Halloween because my grandma decorated my room which included a very large, to a 3-year-old, Happy Halloween banner. My room had wallpaper with clowns on it, which is probably one reason why I fear clowns, practically clowns in hospitals.

 I don’t remember much about that but the surgeon who performed my surgery told me that he got a call from my mom once I was home asking what he had done because she found me either sitting on top of our piano or I had something in my hands that was previously on top of the piano and when she asked me about it my answer was “I climbed.”

It was done at local hospital by a surgeon who had just arrived. I was his first patient. We didn’t go anywhere else because it was the best fit for me and my family.

I was told I was getting “new legs” so when I looked down and saw my “old legs” still attached, because who wouldn’t want to see what new legs on your body looked like, I was confused. I was even more confused when people would come to visit and look at my back

I had PT Monday-Friday for a year at the outpatient facility associated with the hospital where my SDR was done, as well as a home program. I had OT as well but it wasn’t as intense as PT. Once the post-operative obligations and goals were met I went back to my normal PT routine of twice a week at a private PT practice closer to home.

I remember the first time I stood up and saying that my legs felt like Jell-O would be a bit of an understatement.

What I Thought I Knew Then:

I thought I was getting new legs, literally. It’s kind of weird how comfortable I was with the idea of having a different set of legs attached to my body. I mean, I didn’t wonder where they were going to get the new legs from?

I thought what was done was done. My SDR left me with decreased sensation in my legs and toes and some decreased or no movement particularly in my feet and toes. After my last surgery (fall ’09) I began having some feeling in my thighs and just last year I started to experience intermittent sensation in some of my toes. I don’t know how this happened or how common it is but it’s been interesting.

I thought everyone knew what was happening. It wasn’t until people with cameras started taking pictures of me during PT and asking my mom questions that I wondered what the big deal was. What I didn’t know then was that SDR was relatively new and I was the 1st patent in the state to undergo SDR surgery.

What I See In Retrospect 30 Years Later:

Would I have it done if it were my choice? I’d like to say “Yes” because I know my life would be drastically different. But in the last few years I’ve really started to question and think about what my life might’ve looked like if I hadn’t had an SDR. I don’t hold any bad feelings towards anyone but I do wonder, especially since my SDR was more extensive (from L1-S2) than what’s being done now.

I wouldn’t be as independent as I am now without it. I use a wheelchair on occasion for mobility, but I probably would be a full-time wheelchair user without it, and would probably need to rely on others more for care. In my opinion people focus too much on the ability to walk after SDR. Walking in itself does not make a life more meaningful. As I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, using a wheelchair has opened up my world more than it would be if I used crutches or used no mobility aids at all.

There you have it, my SDR experience decades after the fact, but if I’ve missed something you’re curious about let me know.

*A similar version of this post was published on March 7, 2016

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Here I Go Again, I Guess

Remember when I said my future as a podcaster was up in the air?

Well it still is, I think.

Dan and I recorded a podcast mainly discussing the future.

If you listen to it you know that we tackle the quality content vs the content for content sake discussion.

And the time it takes to put a podcast together.

Then there’s the matter of throwing something into the void and hoping someone hears you.

But if nothing comes back to you it becomes like screaming into a void, eventually you get tired.

The thing is I’m not just talking about podcasting either.

I have a blog (which you’re reading).

A career.

A ministry to devote time to.

I love creating content for people but I’ve come to realize that I’m not a content creating machine, at least not in the literal sense.

Like many podcasters who recently took hiatuses, like Sean & Greg & Jennifer, I realized I need to take time for myself and things I enjoy rather than focusing all my attention on what others may want to hear about without actually knowing for sure.

I am not a factory if my heart’s not in it people can tell so I need to focus on quality of content rather than quantity of content.

So, for now, or forever, podcasting will be lower on the priority list (for me anyway).

Things could change however.

Here’s how:
-Send feedback whether it be on the podcast or my blog.
-Send topics, again whether it be on the podcast or my blog. It’s a lot easier to create content if you have a topic you know someone(s) is interested in hearing about.

Learning To Repeat

My hand touches the wall for what feels like the 100th time. This time I got it right.

Then I hear a voice behind me, telling me what I’ve done wrong, well more specifically, what I could have done better.

I’m disappointed, but only for a second or two, because this is why I’m here.

Doing something once is easy, repeating it is the hard part, I remind myself. It’s a piece of advice I was given when I was relearning to walk but it applies here too.

To the untrained eye a swim practice looks like chaos, (and/or completely boring) even though everyone is following a line that runs the length of the pool countless times. It’s for this reason that people think swimming, or more specifically swimmers are insane.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Here’s the thing, the majority of that definition doesn’t apply to swimmers, except maybe the insane part, but that’s not an all the time thing.

People think we’re doing the same thing, over and over expecting the same result.

In reality we’re making (probably small, seemingly unnoticeable) changes to achieve different results.

Then we have to repeat the process.

The hardest part, the repeat.

I’ve done this before, but never swimming, at least not in this way.

Is it frustrating? Yes.

Is it what I want to do? No.

I wish I had a brain that could compute things once and have my body follow, but I don’t have that kind of brain. Not only is it not part of my package, it’s not part of anyone’s package. But that’s not much comfort when your lungs are screaming for air, your muscles are burning, and you still managed to come up short in some way.

I’ve been here before. These feelings are not new. Oddly enough there is some comfort in this, as weird as it seems.

I’m not learning how to deal with new feelings in new situations. That’s a big plus, that my mental energy is pulled in one less direction.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was wondering if I’d ever feel “normal” like I was truly part of a group of people. So, in a way I’m happy to be frustrated because someone noticed that I could be better and wanted to help.

Learning to repeat isn’t easy and it’s not always fun, but when you finally achieve it it’s almost always worth it.

On 2 Years

8 years ago my life was at a turning point in my life. I had been in pain for so long and I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to do something about it. 2 years out I wrote about the progress after the turn. I thought I would see my life more differently 8 years after than I would 2 years later, although there are a few things that are different now the general sentiment is pretty much the same.

——————————-

A lot of people see scars as defects, at least detection of defects.
I look down at my scars and see differently.

Improvement.
Teamwork.
Hard work.
Skill.
Courage.
Faith
Obedience.
Accomplishment.
Risk
Hope

Just to name a few.

It took a long time to even get to that point 2 years ago.
Lucky for me there are times I’m like a dog with a bone.
Although I did feel like quitting plenty of times.

All I wanted to do was be who I was.
Rewind the clock.
Not be in constant pain.

It didn’t even occur to me that a fixed body would mean possibility & ability to actually become better. Even when the idea was presented to me I had my doubts, actually I didn’t think it was possible, just someone being hopelessly optimistic.

To borrow a line from Soul Surfer, “I don’t want easy, just possible.”
Well someone did, it just wasn’t me.
I was just waiting until I felt back to normal.

But when I wasn’t paying attention I was getting better.

Climbing up stairs without pulling myself up or using a handrail
Stepping off a curb
Being able to dress myself without falling over
Jumping
Walking backwards & sideways
Stopping at a street corner before crossing
Finally learning to walk with my heals with some consistency

All things most people without much thought at all.

It took a lot to get this far:

1 failed Baclofen trial
10 hours of surgery
Months of PT
Months of Pilates
Self-motivated pool sessions
Weekly one on one gym sessions
2 rounds of Botox

But I did it.

Everyone kept telling me the hard part was going to come after. I have to say they were right, as I’ve said; two years ago, the hardest thing I had to do was take a 10 nap while everyone else either worked or waited on me.

“We’re done,” meant “Your turn kid.”

But like the getting better part, the hard part happened when I wasn’t looking.

As Hemmingway wrote in, The Sun Also Rises, “Gradually, then suddenly.”

If I did this, what else can I do?

*A similar version of this post was written on September 13, 2011

Summer Shedding

My summer has been full, as usual (but more on that later). My room is full of files of stuff that just reinforces my fullness (and lack of organization). But there were 3 shirts in particular that just kept sticking out to me, and recently I’ve had enough.

By the end of the day I ended up getting rid of nearly half of my clothing & shoes, starting to dispose of old prescription medication, and cleaning out my inbox.

I felt better that the deed was finally done but the piles seem to have reappeared, or maybe these are just the piles under the piles.

I’m sure you’ve heard of spring cleaning but this is more like a summer shedding.

I started with the three shirts and by the end of the day there was a mountain of clothing and shoes at the top of the stairs, and some of my drawers still can’t close easily.

For a long time I was worried about getting rid of a lot of things all at once because I had be told, and multiple times, that if someone gets rid of the majority of their belongings at once it’s a sign that the person is contemplating suicide. (I recognize the flaws in this logic upon hindsight, and current trends of minimalism)

Although I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff I still plan on doing it again, and soon, sort of a “round 2,” in case I changed my mind on something(s).

Truth be told there’s a lot of stuff I would like to rid myself of but I can’t, at least not anytime soon.

As much as I was dreading getting rid of so much stuff at once I felt much better about it once I got started. I did get sentimental about things but I was able to get past most of that and see the bigger picture.

Not to mention wonder why on Earth I saved so much stuff. What was my reasoning for it, at one point in time?

I kept finding myself jealous of people who have had to move multiple times in their lifetime.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to have a “home base” my whole life so even when I have moved I haven’t had to worry about taking everything with me (or worry about having somewhere to put it all when it came back).

What’s that they say about the grass being greener?

I don’t think much of my life will change from this experience, other than the fact that I’ll probably do deep cleanings more frequently, but I’m close to embarking on the next step of my life. I can’t have a bunch of “stuff” to leave behind if the opportunity presents itself.

10 Minutes, 10 Hours, 10 Days, 10 Weeks, 10 Months, 10 Years

The memories that pop up on social media seem relentless this time of year.

I don’t mean that in the negative way that it sounds either, but I’m not sure I can really come up with more adequate words.

August is the month I flew to Portland and made my way to Washington State.

August is the month I made my final preparations for a full year of rehabilitation.

August is the month friends got married and others took their first vows, on the same weekend no less.

August is the month I first went Chicago for a week, not knowing that it would become a yearly event.

August is the month friends took their final vows.

August is the month I’m buried under numerous deadlines, and social engagements to juggle on top of that.

It’s so many memories crammed into on month that it’s hard to keep track of how long ago they each were.

Whether they were 10 weeks ago, 10 months ago, or 10 years ago…….

They all seem 10 minutes, 10 hours or just 10 days, away.

It’s getting harder and harder to remember when they all occurred, other than it was August; I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not.

I’m sure at some point it will all even out, but that’s not the case, at least right now.

For now, I’ll let the memories run together, until others join them.

I Can See (It’s Not A Miracle)

I put my goggles on the same way each time, or at least I try to, it’s part habit, part superstition. So, when someone asks me about my goggles, like my coach did in the fall, it sometimes catches me off guard.

“Are those prescription goggles?”

I look down at my rainbow-colored goggles that clearly don’t have prescription lenses.

“You should get some, they’ll change your life.”

I’ve worn glasses since I was in preschool but I’ve always made do in the water; the back line was always wide enough and black enough to see, and after a few laps I can judge my approach pretty well, I know what numbers look like all blurred so I wouldn’t get into the wrong lane, or so I thought.

I looked up prescription goggles online and they aren’t any more expensive than the non-prescription ones, but I still put it off, for some of the seemingly irrational reasons available.

Like, not knowing what my prescription actually was. Honestly, until this process of goggle buying I did not know anything about my glasses. I have a guy who knows and I’m more than cool with that. After I called him and sought his advice I made a reluctant purchase, because they weren’t going to be my ideal goggles.

When they arrived, I looked at them with displeasure; they looked like the goggles most people wear (and now I know why). I spent money on something I didn’t really want and now I was just going to lose them, it was only a matter of time.

I wore them to practice, and I could actually see. I could see the clock, the lane numbers, I could see the walls from further away, and it turns out that black line wasn’t so clear before after all.

(It reminded me of Shelly’s post about her son’s experience with goggles)

I can even see the board after a race, which I always wanted to be able to see, but I really have mixed feelings about it.

But things still weren’t perfect. I still wanted my old goggles for one reason, they’re mirrored.

I’ve worn mirrored goggles since their invention, or close enough. It’s what I like best, and it turns out they do have added functional benefit, like keeping lighting glare out of my eyes. So, I bought another pair of goggles.

They still aren’t what I want but they’ve made things so much clearer for me, literally, so I really shouldn’t complain about it. Truth be told I’d probably still be wearing the same rainbow-colored goggles if my coach hadn’t noticed such a seemingly tiny detail.

Free The Feet (part II)

I’ve readjusted to life with an AFO, I guess. I’ve found a few positives to it too. Like having “walking shoes” and “sitting shoes.”

It may seem like every shoe loves dream but it took a little accepting from me. I hate having shoes everywhere so the fewer shoes to have around the better.

When my friend was ordained a few months ago I knew I needed to buy shoes, because I literally had nothing (and when a friend is getting ordained you make exceptions for them).

I found a pair of shoes I actual liked and didn’t worry about whether or not I could balance in them. I just made sure they fit my feet and I could get them off quickly if I did have to get someone in the event of an emergency.

They aren’t the perfect fit but they did the job and with any luck they’ll continue to do the job on future occasions (which is another requirement for me when it comes to footwear).

A common topic you’ll find around the internet is CP & footwear; in fact, there are blog devoted to it.

There are many other factors to consider besides, “do they have my size?” or “these are a nice color.”

In fact, those are often the two things at the bottom of the list of requirements.

Can I afford to buy two pairs of shoes? (Because sometimes bracing requires a bigger shoe, or your feet are literally 2 different sizes).

Can I manage to fit into one pair of shoes? (See above reasoning)

Can I modify them as much (or as little) as I need to without extra cost?

Can they last me more than 5 minutes?

Can I walk in them comfortably?

Can bracing fit in them without much added time or damage?

Can I wear them safely without added support? (Because sneakers aren’t exactly dress wear)

Do they have any potential for creating pressure wounds?

And on and on, and on……

While I may never have a “Cinderella moment” with any form of footwear I’ve learned to appreciate the “little victories” when I can get them.

I Pulled My Armpit?

I’ve been having issues with my right arm for months. I figured it was just lingering from my unfortunate encounter with a chair a few months ago. It would get better for a while and then not, and then get better and then not, and you get the idea.

I’m sure it’s not that big of a deal for most people but when your legs aren’t normal on a good day and your arm is sub-par you’re basically down to one fully functional limb on any given day.

I’m normally sore for a while after a trip too.

So, I just waited it out.

Until I thought maybe I should stop waiting.

I mentioned it to my trainer and he found a fairly large trigger point in the region of my scapula.

I texted a friend with a rehab background after my session to find out what she knew about it.

“Um, serratus anterior?……Basically the muscle on your side below your armpit.”

Awesome.

Wanting to know more about what I’ve gotten myself into I came home and looked it up for myself.

serratus-anterior

How someone can find an injury within this mess without the aid of additional studies is beyond me but I’m glad it’s possible, especially so early in the “Medical New Year” when I avoid any doctor related anything like the plague.

Being a swimmer with CP I’m realizing I have to be a different kind of careful when it comes to my upper body.  

Don’t Swear

I’ve always been the kind of person who swears a lot of things, “I swear I won’t.” “I swear I didn’t.” “I swear I’ll never.”……

You get the idea.

For as long as I can remember I’ve known people with 2 jobs, even in classmates in school (so if you counted school as a “job” they had 3 jobs). I never understood it. I understood that they needed the money but that’s about it. How can you balance such a life?

I swore I would never work 2 jobs.

Then I became someone who works two jobs.

I just covered it up by calling one a career & the other a job.

And although that’s what it feels like most of the time, they’re both still jobs.

The main reason why I haven’t written in 2 weeks is because I was having trouble balancing my life; between those two jobs.

And there was the 4th of July holiday, or as I call it “the day I watch ‘Independence Day’ and wouldn’t be caught dead outside.”

Oh and after the first week it was kind of fun to take a “blog-cation” and work on my office, which now has an actual desk! (It’s a pocket tray, but still).

In a roundabout way what I’m telling you is, don’t swear. I’m not talking about the 4 letter word swears, because I’d be the biggest hypocrite on planet earth (and quite frankly I enjoy those swears a little too much to give them up).

I’m telling you to steer away from the other type of swearing:

* I could never….
* I would ever…..
* I won’t……
* I’ll never…..
* I didn’t…
* I couldn’t….

I’m giving you this little piece of advice because if you’re anything like me swearing something is basically like daring God (or whatever you believe in) to “allow” it to happen (if you believe that’s possible).

And if you’re anything like me God likes to have a good laugh at my expense, I’d swear to it (almost).

*A similar version of this post was written on July 16, 2013