Thursday, September 25, 2008

He's Got Legs

Wendy went visiting teaching tonight so I was at home with the kids. In order to make sure I would be able to keep them from killing each other I decided to keep everyone close together. So I offered to let them come play "tickle, wrestle, pillow fight." For those of you who don't know, this is the game where I lay on the bed and they try to jump on me and hit me with pillows. I push them away and tickle them until they wet my bed. Then Wendy gets mad at me.

We had a lot of fun. While I was playing I rolled onto my left side (meaning that my right side was on top). My right leg was bent so I straightened it out to be more comfortable. Then I went back to defending myself from the attacking girls. Then I realized what I had just done. I had straightened my right leg. That requires some action from your quad. So I started bending me knee and straightening it, bending it, straightening it. I couldn't believe it. The only time I have been able to straighten my knee was when they put me on a polished surface with a towel under my leg and a skateboard under by foot and even then I was barely able to kick out. Today I was doing it like nobody's business. I guess I have been improving all this time and I just didn't know it. So, if you are wondering if I am getting better, the answer is yes. If you are wondering if I will be regulating the Turkey Bowl and the family Christmas soccer games the answer is ... well, actually I still don't know about that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Back by Popular Demand

I want you all to know how much it hurts me to write a title like that. There are so many titles that I wanted to put on this entry: "Mobility re-un-dis-enabled", "The Lifestyles of the Rich and Mobile", "Wheeling and Dealing", "Not-so-quadriplegic"... The list goes on. But since so many of you have been asking, begging, pleading, etc. for another blog entry, I have had to settle with the cliche and boring "Back by Popular Demand." When I left rehab, they cut my medication in half to avoid developing a drug dependency. I am just trying to cut back on my writing so that you don't get addicted to me!

I think that is my best excuse yet. My neighbor, Karen, pestered me about a blog entry at church. My excuse to her was that nothing blog-worthy had happened. "What would I write?" I asked. "Today I went to school. Today I went to school. Today, I went to school..." However, that excuse doesn't work anymore because I definitely have blog-worthy news to share.

My appearance on KUTV has been hard to beat. Last time I checked the video was no longer available from their site. I am going to start working on the cameraman to see if I can get some footage from him. If I do I will post the news stories on the blog for your viewing pleasure. Or maybe I can just get the last news story from one of my neighbors TiVo's.

I got home from school after a long day on Monday. And I mean long. It was 9:00pm when I got home. We submitted a paper to the American Conference on Control, which hopefully justifies the lateness of my stay. When I got home I found a surprise waiting for me: homemade apple fritters. Then Wendy told me my left foot accelerator had come. So after eating some apple fritters, I opened up the box. As exciting as it was to get the pedal and as excited as I was to be able to drive, the pedal itself was not too exciting. Just a $400 hunk of metal. Since it was so late that night, we decided to wait until the next day (Tuesday) to give it a try. But it was not to be.

Tuesday morning we were practically awakened by the Fedex man. I say practically because the girls had woken us some time before that, but we were still in bed when he came. He told Wendy that he had been stranded on a desert island and had found no use for our package. That was lucky for me because it was my wheelchair. Since I had therapy that morning, I decided, much to Wendy's dismay, to assemble the thing and pack it, along with my walker and the girls' bikes, into the trunk of the car to head to therapy. Suffice it to say that we were somewhat not on time and the trunk was just a little bit not empty. I didn't drive because we were so busy packing up mobility devices that we didn't have time to figure out the pedal.

Rehab was pretty typical, except that Shane told me he noticed some progress in my right quad. Nothing earth shattering, just a little more control in the contractions. That was good news for me since I can't tell any difference from day to day. It was comforting to know that each day I become less of a "QUAD-riplegic" (had to make sure you got the connection with the title). I have to admit that I walk a little easier lately. I can stand for longer periods of time (I was at my white board for well over an hour the other day working on a problem), I can walk further, faster, and I feel more stable. Now, I still can't kick a soccer ball (footnote: I can and do kick a soccer ball with my left leg while holding onto my walker. It has become an outlet of sorts and I go up to the IMPACT lab frequently to kick the ball around with whoever is there), but I have enough quad to somewhat stablilize my knee in an upright position. The biggest thing is that there is still progress, even though it is slow.

After therapy, Shane, my therapist, took my wheelchair apart and put it back together. Things just weren't adjusted quite like he wanted them. Of course, they were adjusted how he told me to request them when I placed the order so I think he just wanted to play. He might have been more excited than I was. I can only hope he breaks his back someday so that he can enjoy a legitimate wheelchair of his own (what a terrible thing to say... there... I said it so you won't have to).

Once my wheelchair was reassembled I gave it a spin. It was AWESOME. Really comfortable. Drives like a dream. Actually, since I have been on campus I have become pretty adept at nagivating a wheelchair. I've got some sweet moves to put it plainly. It was fun to cruise around and pop wheelies. Then I realized that I didn't have my anti-tippers on. I didn't fall over so no worries, I just decided to save the wheelies. My antics certainly didn't go unnoticed however. The therapists seemed nervous that I was so excited to get off my walker and into the wheelchair (which I admit does seem to be the wrong direction) and some of the senior therapy residents looked downright concerned for my well-being (ok, I might be exaggerating there). Although I mostly use the walker, the wheelchair has been very convenient for long distances and as a comfortable chair (long-distance sitting still hurts). People sometimes ask me why I use the wheelchair when they see me in it. I tell them that if you are going from sitting to sitting, it is easiest and most comfortable to bring your favorite chair with you. Anyway, both devices are helpful in different situations and I find that when I get tired from standing it is nice to sit down and when I get tired of sitting it is nice to be able to stand up.

Well, that pretty well sums up my adventures. Tomorrow we submit the final journal version of the paper we submitted to the ACC and I have to give a research presentation. Other than that, my life is pretty routine: class, homework, research, preparing for the GRE and PhD programs, etc. I have started doing Scouts again. I am actually enjoying that. I think the Scouts are happy to have me back, which I don't really understand since I don't move much and they were in great hands while I was out of comission. But I guess we all appreciate getting back to our routine. We are creatures of habit, and when we break that habit, we quickly find that we will end up "back by popular demand" (what am I doing in math, it is clear I should be a writer :).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

15 Minutes of Fame

Last night I appeared (for two minutes and 9 seconds) as the feature story on the local channel 2 10:00 news. I was even the main story on their webpage (last night at least). I spent about three hours yesterday with a camera crew while they were trying to gather information and footage but I assumed I would end up as a story late in the hour. Boy I was surprised. I didn't think I was that interesting.

If you want to see the story, it is still available online. I was happy that it was correct and not too embarrassing. Although they did put in a picture of me at rehab making a funny face while lifting weights.

Monday, September 15, 2008

In The News

The KUTV cameraman that covered my crash called today about doing a follow-up story. He went to my doctor's appointment with the neurosurgery office and came to BYU to see what life was like there. Apparently I will be on the 10:00 news tonight on Utah channel 2. For my non-local readers I will post a link from the website when it becomes available.

Smooth Move

A funny (read: scary) story I forgot to mention from Saturday. I woke up a little groggy Saturday morning to Wendy telling me that she was going running. She was leaving the girls at home with me. Usually she shuts the door so the girls can't get out and I just listen to make sure they aren't killing each other. Apparently she didn't get the door closed all the way when she left and the girls discovered this quite quickly. I was so out of it that I just fell asleep and since there was no screaming, crying, or arguing from the girls I slept quite well. They snuck out the back door to their friend Kaylee's house. When Wendy got home she found me asleep and no girls. She came in the room and said, "Jeremy, where are the girls?" Realizing that I had fallen asleep on the job, I sat up immediately to get out of bed and find them. That was when I realized I didn't have by shell on. Sitting up is one of the things I had been warned about. If I want to sit up I am supposed to roll carefully onto my side and then gently lower my legs to the floor while pushing my upper body up and keeping my back nice and straight, not doing a forward-facing sit-up which clearly bends your back right in the middle as you come up.

Well, I freaked out. I laid back down as if the sooner I did so the less likely I would be to have injured my back. I started calling neighbors while Wendy checked the yard. She eventually found them at Kaylee's. Fortunately I didn't hurt anything and the girls didn't get hurt or kidnapped, but from now on I will make sure I am up before Wendy leaves me in charge. And I will check the back door.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ayden's Message

When I was in the ICU the girls were not allowed to visit me so Wendy made a video message to bring to me. Well, I was just looking back at it today and I thought that maybe some of the rest of you would appreciate a child's view on the situation.

As for me, I couldn't sleep last night because of the neuropathic pain in my right leg, I tried to fast today for the first time, and I just ended up sick. Other than that, things are great! :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On the road again

I had my driving evaluation today and I passed with flying colors. It only lasted about 30 minutes and I drove myself home on the freeway! I need to get a left gas pedal for the car and that's it; I am back behind the wheel again. It felt a little awkward driving left-footed and it was a bit of a challenge getting into their car and getting my legs under the wheel, but I managed. I am not planning any big road trips but I am happy to be able to get myself around again.

Just to answer some questions (Angela), Cancun is out. They rejected the paper. The paper I am talking about is the same one (basically) but we submitted it to a journal instead. Apparently it is good enough for one of the top math journals but it isn't good enough for an engineering conference. We got one positive review and one negative review on the paper but the comments on the negative review showed that the person actually just didn't understand it and so he rejected it. Oh well. Our anniversary is the 18th of October and yes it rocks to have a bed in my office. I am basically the coolest...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two Whole Months

Well, yesterday marked two months since the accident. In some ways I can't believe it has been that long. In others, it feels like it has been forever. I guess this post is just a summary of my current situation.

I am still wearing my turtle shell, although I have been given permission to take it off when I am sitting up, most noticeably when I am in the shower. I have discovered that my abs and back muscles are basically nonexistent. I can make it through a normal length shower now without my torso hurting too much. I had my back x-rayed today so that I will have films ready for my check-up with neurosurgery on Monday. They preferred the x-ray in a standing position and with the shell off so I stood without my shell for the first time today. I was aching by the time they were done taking two pictures. I guess when the shell finally comes off (in about a month) I will have to do a lot of sit-ups to get my six pack back (ha!).

I am getting around really well. In fact, it is hard to find something I can't successfully navigate. I can handle steps and sloped ground. I have been on grass and gravel. I even made it up some steps that didn't have a rail (but only a few steps and I had some spotters helping). I can go pretty far before I get tired. The best indicator of my progress is that I get restless sitting in my chair all day. I am up doing stuff most of the day and I didn't even lay down in my cot at school today.

I finally checked myself yesterday to see how my sensation is. My legs are pretty much the same: I have full sensation on the left leg but no sensation on the front and most of the sides of my right leg. I have discovered that I have dead spots all over my torso. It isn't just near my incision, I have them on my back and sides and lower stomach. It is hard to describe because I have patches and stripes and all sorts of weird shapes of places where I have little to no sensation.

I think my right quad is finally starting to come back. From visual appearances it looks like more of the muscle is starting to activate and I was able to lift it off the exercise table about an inch when I was at therapy yesterday. No real progress from my shin muscles though.

Lots of people at school have been commenting about my weight. It is probably the most noticeable change in all of this. Earlier this year (when I finally decided it was time to lose weight) I weighed in at a hefty 261. I started trying to diet and got into the mid 240's by the beginning of summer. By the time of the accident I was 235. I weighed in this morning and I was 209 including the weight of my turtle shell, which is probably about five pounds. Even though I am eating just fine, I haven't had the insatiable appetite and killer sweet tooth that I had before the accident so I am still losing weight without really trying. In fact, I had quite a few cookies the other day :)

I am happy to be back to school. Classes are going fine and I am hoping to get the changes made to my research paper and get it resubmitted for publication. Tomorrow is my driving evaluation and after that I should be able to start driving myself to school. I am excited to drive again, but mostly because it is one more thing that I can start doing for myself.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Stake Conference

We had stake conference this weekend and I was asked to sing in a quartet for the adult session last night (Saturday). We don't have a ramp going up on the stand in our stake center so I had to go up the stairs and have Mark Bocanegra carry my walker up. I made it up the stairs and over to the podium just fine. I was a little nervous that I would fall and cause a scene. I felt a little like a circus act even though everything went ok. I don't really remember how the song went although I am told we did well. I think I was just focused on not falling down and getting back off the stand successfully. Plus, I needed to go to the bathroom! I told the other brothers that the reason they asked me to sing in the quartet is because I put the "special" in special musical number.

After the general session today, which was a broadcast, I managed to get my shoes and socks off all by myself. I feel a little silly being so proud of such and event, but I haven't been able to do it since the accident. I still can't move my upper body much with the shell on so it means that I have gotten quite a bit of flexibility back over the last few weeks. I still don't think I could get the shoes on, getting them off was tricky enough, but at least it's one more thing Wendy doesn't have to do for me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

First day of school, first day of school! (Jenne?)

I made it through my first day of school. I have quite a setup in my office now. Wendy has helped me bring in and setup my cot (complete with air matress, sheets, and two pillows) and I have a toaster oven, compliments of Grandma Wilson. I have the whole office to myself so there is plenty of space and I can take a nap between classes if I need to. We had to put risers on my desk so that the wheelchair would fit underneath it (I am using the wheelchair as a desk chair since it is easier to get around). I am only taking two classes, one at 10 am and one at 3pm. They are both in the Talmage building and close to the elevator, so it is pretty easy to get around. I am even able to sit in the regular chairs in the classrooms, although I have found that it is hard to make it through the 50 minutes. Either my attention span has dropped or I just get uncomfortable.