James’ News & Progress – 24 September 2009

You don’t get many better starts to the week than when you’re girlfriend who you haven’t seen for three and a half months arrives from the UK, covered in chocolate and strawberries and a whipped cream bikini…. apologies, my imagination got the better of me there.

Just hours after she walked through the door, it was time to glam up and head off to my old school chapel where a childhood friend was to be married. I was pleasantly surprised when, on arrival, I noticed the three large sandstone steps at the entrance of the church had been replaced by a long concrete ramp. Unfortunately, the aisles which, from memory, were relatively narrow, had not been suitably changed for wheelchair access. This meant I spent the majority of the service perched midway along the aisle and needed to make a slightly premature escape to ensure I wasn’t to blame for the first bride and groom face plant on exiting the chapel. As you can imagine, after living in the UK for so many years, being in the old school chapel brought back many school day memories, especially the anxiety of addressing a chapel full of borders with the Sunday morning reading. Those days seem a lifetime away. I definitely never thought I would be sitting there in years to come in my current condition.

Among other things, this week I was able to try crawling for the first time, albeit my upper body was heavily supported and any movement in my knees and hips was assisted with manual movement. The main reason for attempting a skill such as this, is to increase the weight-bearing through my upper limbs and knees as well as harnessing the core strengths in my abs and torso. As expected, although there was some minimal movement, I found it very challenging. The other skill which I have been working on is trying to maintain my standing balance once assisted into the upright position, which I can now maintain for up to 5 minutes. That said, even the slightest sudden noise or break in concentration is enough to topple me over. Once I’ve mastered this with my knees locked, I’ll continue to focus on balancing with the knees slightly bent. Tightness in my right calf and weakness in my hamstrings continue to be a burden. Plenty to work on!

Midweek, it was time to return to Royal North Shore Hospital for an appointment with the hand specialist, whom I had last seen in April. She is very highly regarded amongst her peers and patients alike so it was a welcome opportunity to hear her opinion on how my hands are progressing and whether any improvement was registered. Overall, she was quite positive and seeing the improvement in the left arm, she agreed that the nerve damage which had previously limited its repair was a peripheral injury, and probably not entirely attributed to my spinal cord injury. She was also of the belief that in incomplete spinal cord injuries, recovery can continue for anywhere between 1 and 4 years, which was also nice to hear. Here’s to hoping it will take less than that!