Houston has great weather for about eight months throughout the year; unfortunately, I didn’t arrive during one of those months. It was raining when we landed and as soon as the door to the King Air opened, the humidity overwhelmed all of us.
I had no idea what was in store for me when the medical transport pushed me down the hallways at the Texas Institute of Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR), but I was ready to get started. I’m not sure I fully grasped the extent of my injury or realized how weak I was when I first arrived because I had in mind that this process would be similar to my rehab process when I tore my ACL. Granted, I knew this was probably going to be a longer process than three months, but I thought that if I busted my butt every day, I would overcome this challenge and would be walking before I knew it.
Physical and occupational therapy then began and I soon realized this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. My days were filled with hour-long sessions of physical therapy, occupational therapy, shoulder class, exercise, and group time. Occupation therapy was spent working on range of motion and hand function, learning to do things such as feed myself and brush my teeth, and we also spent a lot of time talking about equipment – splints, wheelchairs, etc. During physical therapy, we worked on strengthening muscles, trying to sit up on my own, and learning to do transfers, but the majority of the time was spent figuring out what adjustments we needed to make at home to make things accessible. Shoulder class consisted of working on my range of motion while our exercise time was just that – exercise…weights/bands, arm bike, etc. Lastly we had group time and we did a little bit of everything, but we baked cookies, did puzzles, talked, colored, and everything in between.
|My Occupational Therapist, Liza|
I know that I stayed busy with my therapy and did accomplish numerous things, but in all reality, this first stint of rehab was more for my parents, learning how to care for my needs. Trust me when I say that until you are faced with a spinal cord injury, you have no idea what it all entails.
|Mom, Dad, and I|
Every week, we had rounds – it was a meeting with my therapists, doctors and head nurse to discuss our goals, how things were progressing, and any other kind of issues. I was just a couple of days in when I had my first meeting and when they told my mother and I that we would be going home in September, I was absolutely shocked. There was no way I would be able to go home in a month’s time – I was 15 days post-surgery; I could barely hold my head up; I could barely move my arms and I was just told that I have to wear this terrible neck collar for 3 months…how in the world was I going to go home?
When I was not in therapy, I cannot say there was a lot to do except on the weekends. My weekends were always filled with plenty to do because Zach would always fly down, bringing my dad and brothers whenever possible. When they were not around, the only other options were sitting outside in the sweltering heat feeding/watching the pigeons, watching TV, or hanging out with whoever was willing. I left the pigeon watching to my roommate, Marie, because she loved to sit outside, and feed those pigeons. She would order extra food at breakfast just for them. She was also a heavy smoker, who ran an underground cigarette operation. We would have random people and patients come into our room at all times to buy some smokes from her. I never got in on the action, but it was quite hilarious to watch.
Although I was not into the pigeons, I did sit outside a little bit. In fact, the first time I pushed my glasses up myself was when we were sitting out by the benches. However, my main pastime was watching TV and hanging out with TK and his family.
To my surprise, the month I spent at TIRR flew by and I felt as I had come quite a ways from where I started. Zach and Leigh picked us up on September 7th, 2006 and brought me home for the first time. As we landed in Dodge, we were greeted by numerous friends and family and after hanging out a bit, we headed home. Driving into Bucklin, Scott took us down Main Street where “Welcome Home” signs were everywhere and when we finally pulled into the driveway, all I could do was cry. My house was decorated with numerous signs and a whole party awaited us.
I was finally home…
|Kirk, Toner, and I|
|The Airport Gang|
More than anything I want to thank everyone for all your prayers and support throughout the past six years. I would not be where I am today without my family and friends, especially those who never left my side throughout that first month – you may have been crumbling on the inside, but you always stood strong for me…you were my rock and my strength and you will forever hold a special place in my heart.