My 13-month-old started walking this week, so he beat me to it. He is sporting the drunken-toddler-walk to go alongside my zombie-apoocalypse-walk. We are a funny looking pair and I love that I am not alone in this task.
It was my 33rd birthday and it was time to begin the long-awaited gait training. In the grand scheme of things, it was a really short wait. It's only been three months since my first surgery. But these months have seemed an eternity at times. About 7 months ago, the pain started as "probably inflammation" but ended up as "your bones are deteriorating in your hips and shoulders and you need surgery right away."
But today was here. I made it.
My dad wheeled me into the PT office and I wheeled myself back to the PT area. There were a few other people doing their PT, mostly women (and one man) who were probably in their 60s or older. The room is about the size of half-court and the four walls are lined with equipment and beds.
My physical therapist asked me to walk, using my crutches as needed. Up and back I went. I must have done about 8 straight laps. I could feel a lot pain in my hips, but I stayed focused on his feedback.
This walking stuff was more difficult than I had remembered. I actually had to think about how to walk for the first time. I needed to keep my right leg straight when stepping forward with my left leg. Apparently, my right knee likes to bend long before it should. And I was taking longer strides with my right leg than with my left.
You'd think after 33 years of walking, that this would be pretty easy to pick back up, but it was becoming more clear that was not going to be the case. Because I try to compensate for the pain in my hips, my legs sort of buckle in as I walk. I tried so hard to keep my knees facing forward as I continued walking. According to my therapist, my natural hip swing was gone in my right side. I had to consciously swing my hip out when stepping on my right leg.
"Ok. So, keep my right leg straight when stepping with my left. Keep my knees facing forward. Rock my right hip out when stepping with my right leg. Take even steps," I mentally reminded myself.
I kept my ears tuned in to the physical therapist and my eyes stayed focused on my feet. As funny as it must have looked, it was so rewarding to see one foot step in front of the other. I looked up for a minute and realized that the eyes of other patients were focused on me. They didn't have much of a choice. I was the only one up and walking and everyone else was using equipment or lying on a bed facing in my direction.
The PT room has a funky gym effect that I've never liked much. I hate working out in front of people. I always feel so awkward. But at least at PT, we can all smile at one another. We are all there for the same, but different reasons: to fix whatever was "broken."
Most other patients are at points in their PT that I still dream of reaching. I enviously watch them as they walk on the treadmill or speedily ride the exercise bike.
They often ask what happened to me. Most assume a car accident. I almost always get a look of confusion when I reply that I developed Avascular Necrosis in my hips and shoulders and had to have core decompression surgery to repair my bones.
They tend to reply with something along these lines: "You have what? Avascular who? How did that happen? What caused it?"
They ALWAYS seem to ask "what caused it?" For the most part I answer, "I don't know yet." But really, I do know. There just is not an easy answer to that question. It's hard enough explaining what Avascular Necrosis is and then on top of that, explaining what core decompression surgery is.
I've gotten pretty good at explaining it in a nutshell, but it's still confusing -- even for me. I guess that's another reason I've enjoyed having this blog. It's easier for me to explain it all this way. I've always been better at writing than speaking. I guess that's why I chose writing as a profession.
With exception of one break at PT when I had to sit and drink some water, I did pretty well. The bulk of my improvement will come from stretches. My hips are severely stiff. They don't like to flex out and when they do, it feels like they are on the verge of breaking. My shoulder is becoming more flexible and I can almost lift my arm straight into the air. That's pretty amazing considering 4 months ago, I couldn't lift it at all.
During my gait training, I mentioned that it felt like one leg was longer than the other. When I try to stand with my heels flat to the ground and my legs unbent, I have to slightly tiptoe on one leg. My physical therapist measured my legs and sure enough, my left leg is one inch shorter than the right. He said that since I can bear weight on my right leg now, it might "even out." Since I've been putting weight on my left leg for a while, it's possible that as the bone was repairing, it collapsed an inch. So now I have to wait and see if my right hip "collapses." Cool.
When I returned home from PT, I took my laptop outside and worked on our back patio for the rest of the afternoon. It was a beautiful day -- about 70 degrees with clear skies. With the sun resting on me, I turned up my "Adele station" on Pandora and soaked in the warmth and the sounds. The soulful voices of Adele, Corrine Bailey Rae, Sarah Barielles and Colbie Callait were accompanied by a refreshing breeze.
The birds were chirping and, at one point, I actually decided that I had the powers of Snow White and I held out a finger, waiting for a bird to land on it. It didn't work. Then I started to laugh at myself and decided I was lucky that a bird didn't decide poop on my head.
The songs carried me through different times in my life. I thought about the people in my life and those who left it too soon. I love how music takes me to different places without ever having to physically move.
I always feel so close to God when I am outdoors. When I look around and listen, I have a hard time understanding how everyone doesn't believe in Him. But for the record, I still love you regardless of what you believe.
My work was done and the sunlight was fading in and out as it peeked through gaps in a large maple tree. I went inside and within 30 minutes, I heard the car doors slamming from in front of the house as the "Mommy, mommy" coming from my 2-year-old's mouth got closer to the doorway.
My family was home. My children hugged me AND I was able to hug them back. I blew out my candles (with help from my daughter, of course) We had cake and ice cream and I opened some gifts. It was perfect.
I still have a long way to go, but I'm closer to where I want to be -- living independently again and God willing, being able to run a 5K in September.
But I already know that I'm exactly where I need to be.