Tag Archives: Physical Therapists

The Shrine Bowl of 2003.

25 Nov

Ten years ago, as I was riding back from one of my weekly physical therapy sessions with my mom, I received a phone call informing me I had been nominated to be the Shrine Bowl Queen. At the time, I wasn’t sure what being a Shrine Bowl Queen meant, and I didn’t know there was a football game that took place every year in the Carolinas hosted by the Shriners.

As months went by following that first phone call, I received more phone calls informing me I was a finalist and finally that I had been chosen as the Shrine Bowl Queen for the Shrine Bowl of 2003. I didn’t know what to think. I was excited, obviously. However, I was confused as to how I’d been chosen. Apparently, as I later learned, I had been one of the few girls who had been chosen out of the thousands of patients who had been in and out of Shriner’s Hospital for Kids in Greenville, SC, over the past year. Though sometimes it still blows my mind that I was picked out of all the others girls that year, I’m proud. I was chosen because I had stood out. However, for once, I didn’t stand out because of my disability (since the majority of the kids at Shriner’s were disabled too). I stood out because someone saw me as one of the patients at Shriner’s who had faced a lot, but was still able to have a smile on her face and a lively laugh despite the pain.

Being named “the Shrine Bowl Queen” involved attending two required events. The first event was a parade that took place in Myrtle Beach, SC, in which I rode on a float (along with the Shrine Bowl King) to support the Shriners and the Shrine Bowl game that would take place in the Spring. The second event was the Shrine Bowl itself. Though I don’t remember the outcome of the football game, I remember being so incredibly nervous, but also extremely excited. As time passed during the first quarter, I knew the chance to make my appearance was getting closer and closer. Part of being the Shrine Bowl Queen (or King) involves going onto the football field during halftime of the Shrine Bowl to release a dove into the air. During this time, both the king and the queen each receive a trophy with their name engraved as well as a football that is signed by all the Shrine Bowl players of that year. Though I was excited about having the opportunity to walk out onto the field with the Shriners to release a dove, the thought of being in front of so many people gave me huge knots in my stomach. However, despite the nervousness, I knew that I would walk out onto that field. After all, I had been chosen as the Shrine Bowl Queen for the Shrine Bowl of 2003. With all references of having a disability aside, that isn’t an opportunity that you simply walk away from.

I guess you could say that the Shrine Bowl of 2003 was one of the highlights of my time at Shriner’s Hospital for Kids. Though there were definitely some other exciting times that were connected with getting closer and closer to independence, the majority of those memories were layered with months of physical pain. However, the Shrine Bowl of 2003 didn’t include any kind of pain: physical or emotional. It just served as a day which now signifies that I was a patient at Shriner’s Hospital for Children, and I was a prime example of a girl who endured. Though there are definitely numerous moments now in which I’m able to look back on all that I have overcome, being chosen to be the Shrine Bowl Queen of 2003 was evidence that I wasn’t the only one who was able to recognize all that I had endured. Doctors, physical therapists, nurses, and others at Shriner’s who were responsible with making the Shrine Bowl Queen nominations knew it as well. They probably knew it long before I even saw myself as someone who could smile and laugh despite the continued presence of pain in my life.

Advertisements

The good things about surgery.

24 Oct

What doctors don’t emphasize too much when it comes to surgery is that the actual surgery is the easy part. It’s the intense physical therapy afterwards that kills you. That being said, surgery is still a very scary procedure. Through all 3 of my intense surgeries, I was scared every time. Before each surgery, I had nightmares about waking up during surgery and seeing the doctors putting their hands inside my legs to straighten out my femurs. In my nightmares, I couldn’t speak. I remember screaming as loud as I could to try to alert the doctors that I was awake, but nothing worked. The doctors were too focused on straightening out my crooked femurs to pay attention to the traumatized girl on the operating table. However, thankfully, all of this was a dream. That doesn’t mean that it felt any less real though. I remember countless times when I woke up from this particular nightmare screaming and struggling to look at my legs to make sure they weren’t split open to expose my bones.

Despite the decent amount of fear and uncertainty that accompanied the intense surgeries I had, there were some pluses. First off, before each surgery, I got the autograph of the head surgeon. However, not in the sense that he signed a picture of himself and gave it to me. He signed my legs though. I later learned that he had to sign my legs so that he would be sure to do the correct procedure on the correct patient, and I definitely think that’s important. I didn’t want my femoral derotational osteotomy to be confused with a sex change. However, in my opinion, it’s more fun just to imagine the head surgeon wanting to give me his autograph.

Since the surgeries I had were incredibly intense, I was placed in the ICU following each operation. Though the groggy feeling and getting sick from anesthesia wasn’t fun at all, I had an epidural. Therefore, the pain wasn’t nearly as bad as it would be once the epidural was removed. Also, even though I slept a lot while I was in the ICU, when I was awake and finally ready for food (or when I could enjoy it without getting sick), I got to have as much ice cream and chicken noodle soup as a wanted. I even remember one particular time when I got my dad to go to the Chick-fil-A that was in another part of the hospital so that I could have some chicken nuggets and waffle fries. Though Chick-fil-A is normally incredibly yummy anyway, it was 100 times better after a huge operation. Trust me.

Most people don’t really think of presents when they think of surgery. However, they are connected, especially when you have your operations in a children’s hospital like I did. When I was younger (before all of my surgeries), I never quite understood why people received flowers and other gifts when they were in the hospital because, to me, the flowers didn’t really do much when they didn’t also include sunshine, birds, blue skies and everything else that’s connected with the outdoors. However, when I was in the hospital following my surgeries, the flowers were a comfort. Though it was hard to accept that I couldn’t just go sit outside and look up at the clouds, the flowers were the closest thing I had to being outside, and at that point, I’d take anything I could get. However, besides flowers, I also received tons of “Get Well Soon” cards and all sorts of presents from family, friends, friends of my family and pretty much anyone else who cared about me and wanted me to know that they were thinking of me. Though I don’t remember specific flowers or specific cards that I received, I do remember getting a stuffed animal hippo from my horseback riding teacher, Miss Mary. Though I ended up accumulating many stuffed animals throughout the time I spent at Shriner’s, my hippo is the one that is still very close to my heart since I got him after my very first surgery. He’s been with me through it all (including college), and I know that it will stay that way for quite a while.

Though I don’t recall having any incredibly good-looking doctors like the “doctors” on Grey’s Anatomy, I do remember Ben, one of the physical therapists at Shriner’s that I had a huge crush on. He had red hair, freckles and the cutest smile I’ve ever seen. Even though he wasn’t my physical therapist for an extended period of time, he did spend a few months with me while my regular physical therapist, Beth, was on maternity leave. Even now, it seemed close to perfect that part of my time with Ben coincided with Valentine’s Day. Even in the hospital when you’re feeling all kids of emotional and physical pain, it’s possible to have a crush. Trust me, I proved that. As you can imagine, when Ben gave me a heart-shaped box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day, I was over the moon. I think I may have even squealed a little bit when he handed me the box of chocolates. After all, it was one of the first times in my life that someone other than my dad was my valentine. Although, since I never had Ben as my valentine a second time, I think it was a good decision to stick to having my dad as my valentine from then on.

To Grace (Part 5): Gaining strength in little fears.

8 Oct

Here are the previous posts in this series. Take a look! To Grace. To Grace (Part 2): Walking Through The Fire. To Grace (Part 3): Accepting Love. To Grace (Part 4): Finding Your Voice.

Dear Grace,

Saying that I’ve been feeling scared recently is an understatement. Over the past month, my muscles have gotten tighter than usual, which is causing me to fall more. Even though I know the increase in muscle tightness is connected to the colder weather, it is still scary, and it often causes me to worry about years in the future where my walking could become limited due to tight muscles and severe back pain. I don’t know how much you worry about the future. Even though you are only 12, I know what you’ve been through so far in your life. I know your pain. Therefore, I wouldn’t be surprised if you did find yourself worrying about the years ahead. However, since I know how much I worry, I do hope that you don’t find yourself worrying as much as me. It’s not emotionally healthy. I think it causes me more anguish than happiness. Though it is something that I’m trying to work on, it’s not as easy thing to fix since I’ve had trouble with anxiety ever since I was a little girl.

You and I are incredibly similar in the hobbies we’ve had over the years. We both became involved in community theatre, and we also had years in which we both rode horses. Even though you were more involved in horseback riding than I was since you’ve participated in events and won blue ribbons, I know that it’s an activity that we both benefited from. Participating in “hippotherapy” was an alternative to constantly having physical therapy in same room with the same therapist week after week. Before I participated in “hippotherapy,” I thought that horse therapy was primarily used with autistic kids. I didn’t know that they could be used with kids who had physical disabilities as well. According to the American Hippotherapy Association, “Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy treatment strategy that utilizes equine movement as part of an integrated intervention program to achieve functional outcomes.”

In terms of the hippotherapy that I participated in, I focused primarily on balance, trunk strength and control, and building overall postural strength and endurance. The specific exercise that I remember really well was called “around the world,” in which I’d start by sitting normally on the horse and then swinging my legs over the horse multiple times until I’d done a complete 360 while sitting on the horse. Now that I think about it, even though this activity sounds fun to me now, I was incredibly scared when I actually had to do it. The thought of falling was terrifying to me, and without the encouragement of my horseback riding teacher, Miss Mary, I know that I wouldn’t have been able to complete my exercises. Despite the fear of falling, it was an understandable worry since I did end up falling off multiple times. Even though I know those falls and having Miss Mary tell me I needed to get up and go get my horse was hard at the time, I know that it all made me a much stronger person. Miss Mary was a very important figure in my life because she was one of the first people (not counting my parents and my physical therapists) who helped me develop a tougher skin. Therefore, despite being afraid of falling and afraid that my horse would start to canter with the other horses (which was much faster than I ever wanted to go), I know that it made me stronger.

I know that your hippotherapy experience was probably much different from mine. However, I don’t doubt that you gained some of the same strength that I did when you worried about falling but then knew that your teacher wouldn’t let you fall. Either way, those little fears: the fear of falling, the fear of the horse going faster than you want him to, the fear of what lies ahead in our future in terms of our abilities, they are what make us who we are, Grace. We wouldn’t be who we are if we hadn’t learned in the beginning to let those fears propel us forward instead of hold us down. I don’t know how much that applies to you these days, but I have a feeling that you work hard too. We have to. It’s the only way through the situation we’ve been faced with. Without the strength that I’ve gained from the little fears in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be a junior in college who’s lived away from home since she was 16 and spends her days blogging and writing her daily story. I wouldn’t be able to talk so openly about what I have experienced.

I know how easy it is to let the fears bring you down, Grace. I’ve been there. I know how hard it is to push through and tell yourself that being more independent will be just what you need. But it’s the only choice we have. Keep on keeping on, and remember that I love you.

Amelia

Being taught to fall.

19 Sep

In my early years of physical therapy, before all of my intense surgeries, I was taught how to fall. Though that may seem strange, it makes perfect sense when you realize that I was a kid who had a physical disability, which included having issues with balance on a daily basis. Because my physical therapist and my parents knew that I would be falling a lot, I had to learn how to fall so that I wouldn’t break or sprain my wrists every time my face met the concrete. I was taught to splay my hands out relatively wide when I felt like I was about to fall. However, the number one rule was to make sure my hands were out in front of me and that my palms were flat so that I wouldn’t injure any of my fingers. It seems like a relatively easy concept (one that would seem like common sense to an able-bodied person). However, things got a bit more difficult when I first began walking with four-prong canes. Since by that time I already knew I had to catch myself if I fell, I began to understand that I’d have to let go of the handles on my canes really quickly if I was going to catch myself in time. It wasn’t necessarily easy (since the canes ended up getting in my way), but I still did it.

Throughout middle school, my friends often told me I fell in slow motion. However, after seeing me fall countless times, my mom has told me that this isn’t the case. Although, it did cause me to wonder why my friends even thought to think that I was falling in slow motion if I clearly wasn’t. One of my first explanations is maybe since I “learned” to fall, my falls looked more controlled and slower, as opposed to just tripping randomly and landing flat on my face. Who knows though. As well as being told that I fall in slow motion, many of my falls go unnoticed. I remember one specific time when I was at the mall with my mom. My mom and I were shopping, and I don’t know if I was walking too fast or something, but either way, one minute I was walking and the next I was on the ground. However, when I looked up, my mom was walking away from me. I had to call to her, and only once she turned around did she realize that I had fallen down. Though it may seem sad that my own mother didn’t realize that her daughter had fallen down, I should point out that my falls were never really a big deal. I never made them a big deal unless I actually did hurt myself. They became such a regular part of my life that I didn’t make a scene when they happened. I just got back up and kept going.

However, on a day like today, falling isn’t such an easy thing to brush off. I fell a total of eight times today, and I have reached a point where I don’t fall too much anymore. Therefore, eight falls in one day sucks either way you look at it. Though it sucked that I was falling so much, when I realized that today was the first day that it actually got cold, the falls made more sense. When the weather starts getting cooler, my leg muscles get tighter, and tighter leg muscles lead to more falling. Add stress on top of that from recent exams this week and you’ve got an even higher probability of falling more. Unfortunately, even though I did learn how to fall in my early days of physical therapy, the falls can’t be prevented, no matter how much I wish they could. That’s life though, I guess.

Dedicated to Dawn.

7 Sep

I have so many memories of you, and through the years, I’ve tried with all my might to not let them fade. However, the fact that I haven’t seen you since I was in 8th grade of high school and the fact that you left to move to Virginia with your now husband are two solid reasons why I sometimes find those memories coming up short. You were my next to last physical therapist before I stopped going to physical therapy at the age of 15 because there wasn’t much more that could be done. At the age of 15, I was as independent as I was going to get (physically, at least). Even though you weren’t my last therapist before stopping therapy, you had the most impact on me. Well, you and Meredith, one of my other physical therapist’s who I’m still friends with today, did.

You taught me more than I think you ever realized. Then again, maybe that was because I looked up to you so much. Even though you were my physical therapist and you had to put me through a lot of pain if I was going to continue to be independent, you also never treated me as if I was a child. I remember the therapy sessions where we would talk about books, and movies and theatre productions. As well as being my physical therapist, you were my friend, and that’s what I needed. I remember the night that you came to see me in the beauty pageant that I was in at my school. I was so excited for you to come see me in the pageant, and I was especially glad that I walked all over that stage in my slip-on shoes without tripping or falling! I remember how proud of me you were. As well as pushing me to my true potential, you also praised me in certain situations too, and I believe that balance is why I looked up to you so much.

Your blonde hair and incredibly bright smile is forever etched into my memory. Also, you gave some of the best hugs I’ve ever received. I only wish that I could have one of those hugs now. However, I have no doubt that you are in Virginia enjoying life and making a difference in some other girl’s life without even knowing it. I remember how you always used to give me a mini Snickers bar after our therapy sessions. Best of all, on the days that you ran out of Snickers, we’d make walking over to the nearby Bi-Lo part of our “therapy.” I smile as I remember how you introduced me to the wonderful world of Self Check-Out. Even now, as I use the Self Check-Out on a regular basis when getting groceries for my apartment, every once in a while I think of that time in Bi-Lo when we bought Snickers together.

Even though I hate to admit it, I used to try to find you. Even though I did get one letter from you after you first moved, the follow-up letter was sent back to me. I never have been able to find your current address. However, sometimes I sit and hope that one day you’ll come back in to my life. Before you moved away, you gave me a purple journal, and inside it you wrote, “I can’t wait to go into a bookstore one day and see a book by Amelia Coonrod on the shelves.” Even at the age of 13, I knew that I would try with all my might to not let you down in that regard. As well as being my physical therapist, you were my friend, you laughed with me, and you believed in my writing. Though I silently hope that one day I may be able to truly tell you how you touched my life, I also know that this post may have to be exactly that. After all, in my mind, you are still the person I’ve always wanted to be when I grow up. Not in the sense of being a physical therapist. However, if I can touch some girl’s life the way you have forever touched mine, I will know what it is to truly live.

Hospitals: Where Time Stops And Yet The Weeks Run Together.

8 Aug

Anyone who has ever had a very intense surgery will tell you that the actual surgery is the easy part. It’s the intense physical therapy sessions that you have twice a day that bring all of the pain, a pain unlike anything you’ve ever known before.

The physical therapy room of Shriner’s Hospital is a room that is very detailed in my mind. First of all, there are 2 doors on either side of a window that lead into the therapy room. If you enter through the door on your right, you’ll see the physical therapists’ desks to your left, a few raised mats to your right, a small set of stairs straight ahead, and a set of parallel bars to the left of the stairs. Past the stairs and the parallel bars and the mats, there’s a relatively big window. Beyond the window is a patio area that has a few benches and some trees, a scene that was probably designed to look relaxing and bring in as much sunshine as possible. A scene that all of the PT patients look at with longing when they are able to catch a glimpse, wishing for just one moment that they could be on the other side of that window.

I went out onto that patio area once from what I can remember. I remember smiling because it was the first time in months that I was able to feel the sunshine on my face. Hospitals give the impression of being cold, dreary, and plain. Shriner’s wasn’t like that. It was colorful, had a game area for kids to play, and had tons of windows that gave you a glimpse into what was happening outside. However, they were still windows. They still acted as a barrier between two very different worlds. Even though Shriner’s didn’t give off the typical hospital impression of being gloomy and full of sick people, it’s true that you lose track of the days when you’re in a hospital. However, in my case, I seemed to lose track of the seasons more than the days. If it wasn’t for the big windows, I would never know when the leaves began to change in the fall or when the flowers began to bloom in the spring. I’d never know that the world was continuing on without me…while I was inside a physical therapy room wanting nothing more than to catch a fallen autumn leaf in my hand or feel the rain on my face.

All the time that I spent in Shriner’s after my surgeries to have intense physical therapy is pretty much a blur. Though I remember specific memories, the time frame I was there is skewed. I can’t remember how long I had intense PT after my first surgery. I can’t remember when I was finally able to go home after that chunk of therapy. But I can remember who my therapist was. I can remember which exercises I hated the most, and I can remember the moments when the only time that I could breathe a sigh of relief was in between the spasms in my legs, the spasms that made it seem as if my legs resembled a rubber band that was being pulled right up until the moment that it almost popped. Though I may not remember days, months, or what time of year it was, I remember specific moments of pain. I remember realizing that there’s only so much emotion that can be held in tears, and there’s only so many times you can scream before the pain is so extreme that it silences everything, even your voice.

To Grace (Part 3): Accepting Love.

10 Jul

To Grace. To Grace (Part 2): Walking Through The Fire.

Dear Grace,

I don’t know what it is about writing these letters to you that makes me feel better, but they do. Even though I know that you aren’t in the same place as me in terms of your CP, simply being able to say that I personally know another girl with CP who has faced what I have makes me feel that much closer to you.

I’m in Ireland right now, and I love it. It’s been such a wonderful experience. However, it’s been so hard too. Physically and emotionally. I’ve walked more since I’ve been in Ireland than I have in a long time. Though I know that it’s making me stronger, it hurts. It hurts physically and emotionally because there’s no one here that understands. There’s no one that can say they know what I’m feeling. I know that I said in my previous letters how hard it’s been on me that no one can understand what I’ve faced, but it’s just so so so hard, Grace. I know that you know this.

Having no one who understands is almost as if I’m walking down this dark corridor with all these different doors. The doors lead to people who want to understand, but can’t. The need to go through each door and cry is so strong. The only thing worse than not having anyone who understands is knowing that there are people in my life who want to understand but aren’t able to. I can see it in their eyes. There isn’t pity there. There is just the desire to want to know me on a different level, and the degree that I want people in my life to be on the same level as me is stronger than I ever imagined. It’s close to impossible though, Grace.

I know that you understand. However, I also know that it’s not something I’d easily be able to discuss with you. I’d like to imagine that one day when we are older we could try to talk about it. Right now though, it’s too fresh for both of us. It’s too true, too real, too close for comfort. You’re closer to it now than I am. You’re still having to go to PT and face the pain that I’ve been reliving over the past few months through attempting to write my memoir. Even though I’m not facing that pain in the same way that you are right now, I’m facing it in my own way. Saying it’s emotionally painful doesn’t even come close to what I have felt over the past few months. Recently, I really have wondered why I keep putting myself in this position. When you think about it, it’s as if I’m bulldozing myself with all these really painful memories that I never wanted to think about again.

Over the past few months I’ve had multiple people ask me why I have openly placed myself so far deep into my past that I feel completely and utterly stuck. I don’t know how to answer that question because I myself don’t know why. At first, I stuck to the reason that it was because I wanted to reach a point where I could accept myself. However, now that I think about it, self-acceptance is something that every single person struggles with. I don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone who can openly say that they completely and totally love themselves. It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s hard to block out all the negative feelings you have about yourself, even if you do feel like it would benefit you if you didn’t dwell on them.

So as of right now, I’m walking down that dark corridor…feeling alone and yet realizing that there are people who reside behind the doors who are ready and willing to take me into their arms and simply hold me. Because sometimes, no matter how many times we try to be strong, the only thing left to do is sit down and just let the tears come. I used to hate giving in to the tears. It used to make me feel weak. But Grace, we’ve faced so much. We’ve been through pain that people can’t understand. So I guess the thought of walking down a dark corridor and feeling completely and utterly alone isn’t as depressing as I’ve made it seem. It’s just accurate, especially when we realize that the people that we care about aren’t as far away as we imagined. They’re close…patiently waiting…waiting to try to feel what we’ve felt….even though that feels close to impossible right now. It shows love, Grace. It shows a strong emotion that I’ve been so nervous to let in. Nervous because of the strength and power of love. But also nervous because I feel like I’ve been walking through my life recently not knowing how to accept love from people who want to give it to me. I just don’t know how. I’m trying though. I’m trying so hard.

I’m thinking of you. Please know that.

Love,

Amelia