Continuing with the “countdown” posts:
So, we have referred to our paralyzed left side as “the neural downgrade” in casual conversation – it’s an easy way to refer to an unfortunate situation that sometimes injects a little humor into the discussion.
Many friends have had the experience of downgrading from Microsoft’s Vista to Windows XP with generally favorable results. It’s a good thing.
Our downgrade from, say, Left Side 10.0 to Left Side 1.5 has been much less fun, and unfortunately continues to slide. We did have a pretty good run, after two years of pretty much daily rehab exercises, that saw us walking a Stanford loop, alone, without a walking stick, at 3 miles an hour (normal adult walking speed). We also walked the hills of Ameugny and Taizé unaided (no stick or walker). We felt great… we were daring to hope that a return to slow jogging was in our future, meaning I could once again go for sunrise jogs with Linda.
But, alas, it was not to be. An episode of brain swelling a year ago wiped out the newly reconnected neural pathways – our walking speed dropped to 2 MPH in the space of about 6 weeks. Everything from getting out of bed to donning socks to tying shoes became harder.
I have never stopped doing the rehab exercises – trainer Heidi Engel’s take was simple: it happened, you lost it, tough break, now get over it and keep going. She kept reminding me that I might have lost it all if I hadn’t kept up the weight training and treadmill routines at the gym, along with the alternate-day 1.5 mile walks with loyal friends Scott and Lily, followed by specialized Heidi exercises.
My last days at the gym saw me fall on the treadmill – embarrassing to say the least: the final two sessions saw me all but unable even to step up on the treadmill, and I had to dial the speed way down. A couple Scott walks had to be truncated when the left leg began breaking down – first at 3/4 mile, then at shorter intervals. I almost cried when I cancelled my Y membership.
Falling has become a bigger problem, so we’ve compensated, first with a walking stick, now a (really good) hemi-walker that Heidi conjured up, and occasionally in a wheelchair. We belatedly heeded Heidi’s advice and had a wheelchair ramp and some other assistive aids installed. We’re barbecueing less, letting stepson John and our various male guests step in, because standing for extended periods has become difficult.
Yesterday, after standing, making omelets for 20 minutes at the stove, my left leg just stopped moving and we had to hop, with help, to a chair.
The leg came back after some rest – after 4 years we’re used to neural muscle failures after brisk exercise, but this one caught us by surprise. I was able to stand and cook for much longer periods only a couple weeks ago.
The hard part of this has been letting go of the much stronger body I’d built up over three years on Heidi’s training program. It’s just going away, little by little and there’s very little I can do about it – Heidi, of course, has given me a daily routine to keep some core muscles going that can get me out of bed and onto my feet et al. Looks like electric wheelchair is next…