A surprising shopping trip

It was my birthday earlier this week, and it was a really lovely day for me.

The weather was quite kind to us too on that day because it was dry instead of rainy, and I went out for a shopping trip with my friend. I decided that I would take my walking frame Martha with me instead of my wheelchair like I might choose to do if I was going to be out for the whole day.

I haven’t walked as much as I would have liked to over the past couple of weeks. I didn’t really leave the house all that much in the couple of weeks leading up to Christmas, and when I did,  I mostly used my wheelchair because of the wind and rain that we had.

When I went out, I was expecting to need to take more rest breaks than I would usually have needed to because of all of this, but actually, I surprised myself by not needing as many as I was expecting to.  I think that this is mostly because I took advantage of the seat that my walking frame has on the back of it. I could just unfold the seat and use it while I was waiting for my friend when she stood in line to pay for her things or use shop changing rooms to try things on, so I think I took most of my walking and standing breaks in more frequent, shorter bursts throughout the day. I think this probably made a huge difference. Don’t get me wrong, I still had a couple of long sit downs, but I’m still quite proud of myself on the whole.

A couple of years ago, I really don’t think I would have been able to handle walking around the place that we went to because of the size of it, and so I always used to take the wheelchair with me. I still do go there in my chair if I’m having a bad day, but I like to think that me being able to use my walking frame there now, even with lots of breaks scheduled into the day, is a sign that the effort I’ve been making in recent years is paying off.

While I am feeling rather tired today, I think that has more to do with the fact that I don’t think I’ve quite managed to catch up on my sleep from the past couple of weeks just yet. I think a couple of early nights are in order from now on.

The Surgery Dairies: walking unaided again

So guys, this is the last posts of my surgery diaries! Thank you for sticking with me.  Today I’m going to talk about finally walking unaided again, and having the metal plates taken out of my hips. Ready? Let’s go!

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I think it was the following May after my second surgery in November 2007 that I began to walk alone again. My family and I had gone on a caravan holiday to get away for a week or so. By this point I was pretty confident with the front-walkers that I’d been using to get around the house so these came with us for inside the caravan, and I was now able to walk holding on to someone’s hand, although I was still using a wheelchair quite a bit too.

On the way back home from our trip to the seaside, my family stopped off at a motorway service station to use the facilities and get a stretch of legs. Rather than drag one of my walking aids out of the boot I’d decided to just cling onto my mum and off we went.

We wondered inside and headed towards the bathroom. As we got a little closer, she suggested I have a go at taking a couple of steps without her,

“You feel strong enough, my hand’s still here if you need it, and I won’t let you fall.”

If I’m being totally truthful, I didn’t really want to do it. I was scared and didn’t feel ready. I knew I had to do it sometime and it would make her happy so I let go.

Then it happened.

I put one foot in front of the other. I wobbled slightly, but I recovered and didn’t fall.

I put one foot in front of the other. I was doing it.

I picked a spot on the wall next to the toilets and I kept going. I didn’t stop until I was close enough to reach out my hand and touch it. I’ve never been really good at standing still on my own once I get going so I didn’t want to break the spell or risk hitting the deck.

I touched the wall.

I looked at mum, she looked at me. We grinned. We’d made it, we’d finally made it., all of us. She showered me with praise and admitted that she’d only expected one or two shaky steps before I grasped her hand again. “Me too” I told her.

We went back out to the car, and when we got close enough a took a few more to show my dad. He was happy, my sister was happy.

It was still a while before I was walking as much as I had done before the surgery, and I still carried on using extra frames for a bit, but now I’m back to only using Martha and I do even better than before.

A couple of years later in 2009 I had another operation to have the metal plates removed from my hips because they were giving my some discomfort. I was expecting it to be like my first hip surgery in August 2007 all over again, but I was up and around (not quite at full strength) with a couple of days and it didn’t take long at all before I was back to normal, which was a very nice surprise. Later than summer I packed my bags and went off to university.

No one has mentioned any more surgery since, so I’m hoping that I’m all done. For the foreseeable future at least.

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So, there you have it, we made it to the end of my Surgery Dairies series of posts. Writing them has been more emotional than I was expecting, but I hope you’ve enjoyed them and that I’ve managed to make you laugh somewhere along the way. Thank you for sticking with me and reading them.

Having a great weekend guys, and I’ll be back with some non-surgery themed posts next week.

Nic

The Surgery Diaries: Getting more walking frames

So there’s just under a week left of August which means that my posts reflecting on my surgery six years ago in this month are almost over. Thanks for sticking with me so far. Today I’m going to fast forward to when I had the second operation. If you’ve missed anything so far and want to catch up, feel free to do that by clicking here.

Eventually I managed to build up my walking stamina enough to be able to do it around the house again. The problem was that the Kaye Walker frame I was using at the time was too big to fit around our house, so I was given some smaller ones. One that went in front me but didn’t have wheels so I had to pick it up to walk with, and one that did have them so I could roll. We tried crutches too, but the physio and I decided very quickly that they weren’t the right kind of walking aid for me. I felt like I was going to fall over the second I got hold of them, and apparently it showed because the colour drained from my face.

I was back in my own bedroom too by this point and was no longer sleeping in the dining room on the ground floor. Mum made dad redecorate it for me as a special treat and it was nice to be back in my own space again, if not a little strange. Being able to use the bathroom unaided was also something I will never, ever take for granted again.

One little frame stayed upstairs and we kept the other one downstairs. I was surprise how well I managed with a frame that went in front of me rather than one I pulled behind me. There were a couple of mishaps, including one where I almost lost a front tooth. Thankfully it only came slightly out of place and was fixed when Mum accidently bumped my wheelchair down the kurb a bit too hard in her rush to get me to the dentist. My jaws rattled together and somehow this managed to knock it back into the right position it had always been in. Talk about lucky. I just had to eat soft foods for a week while it healed and it was good as new. Phew!

I was starting to finally feel a little bit better about how things were starting to happen. I could see progress every day, even if it was quite small some of the time, but it was starting to happen. I could see a time when I could walk unaided again, and I’ll tell you more about that in my next post!

The Surgery Diaries: Learning not to rush it

So there’s just over a week left of August which means that my posts reflecting on my surgery six years ago in this month are almost over. Thanks for sticking with me so far. Today I’m going to fast forward to when I had the second operation. If you’ve missed anything so far and want to catch up, feel free to do that by clicking here.

Six weeks after  I had the muscles in my legs lengthened, I went back to see my surgeon who was happy for the pots to come off my feet, and for me to only have to wear my leg gaiters at night from there on in. This was an amazing feeling! It was kind of nice to be back in my own wheelchair too, I won’t lie.

One of the things that excited me most of all was the fact that I could start to try and go back to wearing jeans again, rather than all the skirts and dresses that I’d bought especially to wear over the previous couple of months. It helped me start to feel like I was getting back to my old self again, even though there was still a really long way to go.

This was the time when all the hard work of getting myself back on my feet and making the most of the surgeries that I’d been fortunate enough to have on the NHS. There were often times when I was angry and frustrated because things didn’t happen at the pace I wanted them to and I felt like I should have been making things happen right away.

I was starting to walk again now, but very slowly. I could only comfortably manage a few steps at a time and I couldn’t even imagine being able to ever do it without holding onto something ever again. If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think that the enormity of what I was going through hit me until a point a couple of weeks after my second surgery. I’d been doing some work with one of the people helping me with my recovery. I think we’d been practicing getting me used to standing still for short bursts of time to build up my stamina. I was holding on to a table for dear life, but I was doing it. I walked part-way around the table I was using (gripping it tightly, of course) and then was allowed to collapse into my wheelchair for a much needed rest. I was feeling especially frustrated because it hurt quite a lot and used up most of my energy, and the fact that this was something I could have done quite easily before I’d had my operations made it feel worse. I decided to point out how I was feeling to the person helping me, and then they said something that really made reality hit home.

This person mentioned something about learning to walk again.

Oh, Maybe that’s kind of what I was doing In a way? After all, a few months before I hadn’t been able to stand, or even crawl and now I was literally having to take things one step at a time. Dang. I hadn’t looked at it that way before. Maybe I was just being too hard on myself. My family and friends had been using similar phrases for weeks and I’d been brushing them off, refusing to believe that anything that had been happening to me over the last couple of months had been a big deal. After that I tried to keep a rational head when I was getting mad and not judge myself too harshly.

Squeaking in the rain

My callipers
My callipers

Over the years, I’ve tried lots of different things to improve my walking. I’ve tried various leg splits, sleeping with my lower limbs strapped into something called gaiters to keep them stretched out at night, and even surgery. This year though we decided to be different and try something I’ve never had before: callipers.

I’m willing to give anything a go that has a chance at keeping me on my feet longer than I would be if I didn’t try so when they were suggested I jumped (not literally) at the opportunity. I prepared myself for breaking in pains, possible blisters and even being told to “Run Forrest, run” from time to time. One thing I was not ready for though, was the endless squeaking. I didn’t realise there would be squeaking.

Now, every time I go out in the rain I find myself sympathising with the poor old Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. I only have to put up with it until I can get home again and put something on them to stop it, how must he have felt?

If I’m honest I’m used to my equipment making higher pitched noises that I’m pretty sure no human could make. My old wheelchair developed such a bad one in high school that I could be heard coming to my lesson all the way down corridor and even Betsy wouldn’t hesitate to let me know when she was unhappy about the weather conditions, but they didn’t bother me as much. The noise is far much more irritating when you realise it’s actually coming from you and not something you have with you.

Still, I shouldn’t complain and if it helps my legs get better then it’s a small price to pay and I’ll happily put up with it for as long as it takes. It just means that I’d be useless at a game of Hide and Seek because you’d probably hear where I was going and I don’t think I’ll be getting a call from any spy agencies anytime soon. Ah well, c’est la vie, I guess…