Thursday, January 21, 2010

More about rehab...

The patient census at Shepherd changed often, but for the most part when I was at Shepherd there were usually between eight and 10 patients in the young adult group. (There was an adult group of patients and a young adult group. Shepherd didn't really accept patients who were younger than 12.) I was the only girl and the only quadriplegic for most of my seven weeks at Shepherd. The rest of the patients in the teenage group were boys who ranged in age from about 14 to 17. They were injured in various ways; one was injured in a bicycle accident, another was injured by a gunshot wound and I know there was at least one other car accident. Another girl was admitted about a week before I went home, and she was a C1 quadriplegic (that's as paralyzed as you can get...I am a C2). She had been stabbed by her boyfriend. She was 21 and had a little girl; I remember feeling so badly for her and her daughter.

My favorite part of the day at rehab was when the mail cart came through...usually between 4 and 5 PM. My family and friends were so good about remembering me and keeping in touch with me. I got lots of mail/packages, and it made me so happy to have my mom read the cards and letters to me. I also had a speaker telephone in my room, and although I couldn't talk loudly enough for my friends/family to hear me, I could talk to them through my mom, and hear their responses. (I would mouth things to my mom for her to tell the person on the other end of the phone, so I was able to talk to people that called in a roundabout.) The sound of their voices was so heartwarming!

I got so sick of eating the same hospital food every week. I was still getting supplemental feedings via my feeding tube every night, so if the food on my dinner tray didn't appeal to me, then I just ate however much or little I wanted, and I knew that I wouldn't be under nurished with the nightly tube feedings.

This leads me to another part of the day that always cheered me. Like clockwork, every evening around 7 PM, a lady would come down the hall with a cart of snacks and yell, "snack cart!" At first I wasn't really interested in eating anything from the snack cart, but as my appetite returned, I looked forward to getting some sort of treat...usually chips. Knowing that the snack cart would come around every evening gave me something to look forward to, especially if dinner hadn't been appealing!

I had an hour of physical therapy and an hour of occupational therapy every weekday. My mom and I were taught different stretches for my arms and legs called "range of motion" exercises that we needed to do on a daily basis so that my muscles would stay limber and not get contracted. Another thing that I'd sometimes do during my hour of occupational therapy would be to paint with my mouth. The purpose of this was to be a form of exercise for my neck so that I could gain more strength in my weak neck muscles. A paint brush was taped to a mouth stick (something I held in my mouth) and then I would gently glide the paint brush over paper. My occupational therapist obviously had to be right there with me so that she could reposition the easel that held my paper, and also dip my paint brush when it ran out of paint. The pictures I painted were quite amateur, but painting did force me to stretch my weak neck muscles. My occupational therapist, Rashida, and myself with one of the pictures I painted
My occupational therapist, Rashida, and myself with one of the pictures I painted.
Painting of Shepherd Center's "helping hands" logo (left).
Recreational therapy was another thing I was required to participate in while at Shepherd Center. The purpose of this was to take outings into the community so that the patients could learn how to tackle the logistics of go out in public as a disabled person, which is easier said than done. The first outing I took was to the mall, and had lunch in the food court. After lunch I went to see Cheaper by the Dozen at the mall's movie theater. My mom came with me, as well as my entourage of nurses and therapists. (It truly was an entourage, because five or six Shepherd employees accompanied my mom and me.)

I hated my outing! I wasn't used to being stared at and being so different, so it was a horrible feeling to have all eyes on me. It wasn't until I was in the dark movie theater that I started to relax. I realized that this was my new reality, so I better get used to it, but I didn't like it, and was so relieved to get back to my room at Shepherd. 
My first venture into the world as a disabled person.


Loretta Valenta said...

I LOVE the art you did! Did you frame it? I would have framed it -- it is beautiful because of the circumstances behind it! You are a great inspiration, Heather!

Clarinda said...

I just found your blog tonight and reading about your experience at Shepherd's brought back memories of my time there. I am a c5 quad and although Shepherd's helped a lot, I too recall that there were things I didn't like such as those outings. The first time my group went to the mall, I cried because they had us order food and I couldn't stand the looks I got from the people in the mall, especially when trying to feed myself with no hand/finger movement.
I sometimes still get sad when I think about how in the matter of a few seconds, my life was changed forever. A car accident was my SCI cause as well. God Bless you and know that I can understand a lot of what you go through.


im a c4 I live in a different country Australia we have a free health system im a complet so I only can move my neck but the diff is im not vent dep don't give up hope I have been paralized since 7 50 years ago and im still going


im a c4 complete have been for 50 years the diff ibasicaly I can move my neck more and am not vent dep I use an indwelling cath and a colostomy bag less mess less utis never give up hope medicine might one day help

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