James’ News & Progress – 12 September 2009

On Saturday night a good friend’s 30th with a Bollywood theme presented my first opportunity, since being in a chair, to dress up. Given it was quite a small venue with loud music, I found it quite challenging to converse to any great effect until the crowds died down a little. This seems to be a common theme from the few experiences I’ve had recently at inner-city bars. That said, it was a good chance to catch up with a number of old friends, one of whom was reprimanded by the manager for dancing on the tables. In her defense, she replied “Can’t you see I’m with a quadriplegic” – not the most politically correct defense but still very amusing.

The other hilarious conversation I had during the week was with a young lady who called the house phone to discuss a potential life assurance package. The first question I asked was “Do you cover quadriplegics?”, to which she replied after an awkward pause, “When were you diagnosed with that?”. In explanation, I elaborated that I was not able to use my arms and legs, with which she ended the phone call “I’m terribly sorry, I must have the wrong number.” Not something I particularly had thought about taking out however a good illustration of potential challenges with my condition.

During the week, the sales representative who has hired us our anti-foot drop electrical stimulation device (Bioness) returned to video me walking in my frame with and without the equipment. From my point of view, this was a very worthwhile exercise as i was able to compare with the footage which was taken a month earlier and clearly gauge my progress. This is sometimes very difficult to appreciate whilst working on these skills every day. In summary, my steps are definitely becoming more consistent, my foot placement is beginning to be more accurate and a significant reduction in assistance is required.

The other skill I have begun working on is trying to independently get out of bed which involves sitting the bed head up with the hand controller and sliding both legs onto the ground before I can transfer into my manual wheelchair next to the bed. As my abs are still very weak, my biggest problem is manoeuvring myself into the sitting position and to put it into perspective, the whole process can take up to 10 minutes to complete. I’m not quite there yet but if all goes well I should be able to master it in a couple of weeks. I’ll obviously let you know.