Bursting through the dam walls

dam breakingImagine a dam with the force and intensity of the highly built up water pushing against its walls and practically squeaking through its cracks. It will probably begin with an initial trickle of water, peeking through the thick, protective dam walls, and dripping down the other side but it’s obvious that once that happens, there’s no turning back. After that first little trickle, the dam is going to give and the pent up power of this heretofore static water is going to explode through the walls and pour and gush out, making the dam seem like it never existed.

This is the easiest way for me to describe what I feel happening in my lower body these days. For a few weeks now, I feel like there’s more energy (the best word I can come up with) in my legs. They feel more active, more awake, as if they’re just about ready to jump up from their slumber and begin to move again. Often times, when I lie there and really concentrate and channel my attention and intention to specific parts of my legs, it feels like they are just about to obey my command and spring into action. Sometimes, I can get them to twitch and spasm a bit (movement of some kind) if I really think about it. It may be random but it’s something.

I always talk about how difficult it can be to notice change and improvement in my body. Because I’m living this recovery day to day, I can’t easily tell what’s better today compared to yesterday or last week. But when it comes to this recent feeling in my legs, there’s no denying that they feel a bit different. I don’t have any proof, and I don’t yet have any motor control in my legs (but I can still wiggle the toes in my right foot!), and there’s no way for me to predict how soon this will happen. All I know is the gut feeling I have that I think things are on the verge of changing.

Maybe this is blind optimism, maybe this is me trying to manifest my own destiny and attempt to bring about the change that I so desperately want, and maybe I have it all wrong. But I really don’t care what it may seem like. At the end of the day, these legs feel different than they used to and I think it’s only a matter of time before that water gets through the cracks of the dam, starts pouring out the other side, and eventually knocks the whole dam down and flows like it used to.

A cut in the finger and the 2% rule

A lot of people have told me over the last few months that I have inspired them. While I am flattered, honored and grateful to have any kind of positive impact on others, I want to take a moment to acknowledge a couple of inspirational words given to me from two different friends today, just a few hours apart from each other.

I’ve been struggling a bit recently with the reality that the one year anniversary of my accident is fast approaching. In the medical world, this can be significant since some doctors and practitioners say that most or all the healing after a Spinal Cord Injury happens in the first year. While I have always refused to accept this, it does weigh on me a bit and add some unnecessary stress to my recovery. On another level, it’s surreal to think that almost an entire year, a full cycle of all 12 months will have gone by since this accident turned my life upside down and launched me into the world of SCI recovery. As I try to manage these emotions, avoid being distracted by them and translate them to my everyday recovery, I am truly inspired by the seemingly random words of support I received today.

First, a friend and former colleague of mine who I’ve not seen for a few years and who lives in Europe emailed me today saying that he’d been reading my blog and he’d noticed some of my doubt and frustrations in my recent writing. He told me that he had recently suffered a badly broken leg which kept him out of commission for a few weeks and prevented him from riding his bike, something I know he is very passionate about. He said that while he was lying in bed, unable to move for weeks, he was able to truly appreciate the extent of my situation and frustration.

Now, he has begun to ride his bike again despite the excruciating pain that comes with it and wanted to tell me that he thinks of me and my recovery every time he’s on his bike, especially since he describes his injury as merely “a cut in the finger” compared to what I’m dealing with. He tells me that with his cut in the finger injury, he doesn’t think he can be a role model for me, but still sends his support and says, “I KNOW YOU WILL SUCCEED AND WIN THIS FIGHT!” Well, the reality is that his words mean a lot to me. For someone who I’ve not seen in a long time to contact me out of the blue, share his experience, and impart his words of support means a lot, especially in this moment, on this day.

The second inspirational moment of the day came just a couple hours later. My friend was driving me back from my exercise therapy session and having seen how hard I was working and how far I’ve come these last few months, he told me what I’m dubbing “the 2% rule”. His words:

“Look man, I know it probably seems like an eternity for you that you’ve been in this wheelchair but think about it like this: say you live til you’re 100. Now think that even if you have to deal with a year or two in a wheelchair but you get back on your feet, it’s only about 2% of your life that you’ll have spent in that thing. In the big scheme of things, that’s really not that bad. Keep thinking of the activities and things you love to do and how that motivation will get you better. You’ll get through this thing soon enough.”

He didn’t make a big deal out of his words, he just said them in the matter of fact way of speaking he always has, as if what he had just said was the most obvious thing in the world. It gave me great perspective to hear this. I appreciated his reasoning and it brightened up my day. Although I’m not sure if I’ll live to 100, I think he’s right. If someone asked me if it was worth it to have a couple of really rough years of adversity and struggle in exchange for being able to do what I love to do and live a generally happier life, I would say it’s a no brainer. I’ve been really caught up in the struggles and challenges of my present frustrations, but I have to think of the bigger picture and believe that if 98% of my life is spent out of a wheelchair, then I can deal with an exceptionally hard 2%.

Today, it took a couple of seemingly unrelated things to happen in a short amount of time in order to snap me out of a funk and get me back on track. I’m grateful to these two friends and to everyone who continues to motivate me and support me. Who knows where will my inspiration will come from tomorrow…

Ekso-skeleton walk

Step into a suit, strap in, stand up, and walk. That’s exactly what I did last week for the first time. I had heard a lot about the exoskeleton made by Ekso Bionics, especially from a number of other people with Spinal Cord Injuries, and I had been interested in trying it out for myself. Finally, after many weeks, it was time for me to try one of the most novel and innovative forms of treatment for SCI.

Like so many cutting edge technology companies, and fortunately for me, Ekso Bionics is based in the Bay Area, just 15 minutes from my home, in a spacious, futuristic, movie-set-like warehouse where they do everything from design to marketing to engineering to manufacture of this incredible product. Upon entering Ekso, I had the immediate sense of being surrounded by scientific intelligence, and the feeling that big things were happening here. You’re welcome to check out their website to learn specifics but the very brief overview of Ekso is that they’re basically split into developing two types of Ekso Bionic Suits: one for rehabilitating people with SCI and other disabilities and the other for military purposes (an able-bodied person being able to wear the suit and carry hundreds of pounds of weight on their body). Both purposes serve to advance their mission of developing “the most forward-thinking and innovative solutions for people looking to augment human mobility and capability.”

After conducting an evaluation of my physical condition, including precise measurements of my legs, hips and feet, it was time to try it out. It only took a few seconds to strap me in before I was standing upright in the most effortless way I had experienced since my accident. Usually, when I do standing or walking exercises, I have to support much of my weight on my arms and shoulders but with Ekso, this wasn’t the case. I felt upright and fully supported, yet agile and light.

So how does it work??? There are no electrodes or implants or anything that complicated. Basically, to take a step, I put my weight into one leg and lean in that direction and once I pass that “sweet spot” where my balance has shifted but I’m not falling or swaying, the opposite leg will take a step. The suit has sensors in my feet recognizing how much weight is in each foot, so to step again, I lean on the opposite leg and again, as soon as I pass that threshold where enough weight is off the back leg, it takes a step. I started with a walker in front of me to support me but quickly moved on to using crutches which was a bit more tricky at first but easier once I got the hang of it. It didn’t take long to figure it out, so much so that after a few laps, I asked the guys when I could start sprinting with the suit.  🙂

After more than an hour of standing and over twenty minutes of walking, I barely felt fatigued. Post Ekso statsWhile the process of walking feels a bit unnatural (you really have to lean pretty far in one direction to make the opposite leg to take a step), the ease and smoothness of walking with Ekso is an unmatched feeling. Thankfully, as an Ekso test-pilot, I will be able to use the suit again and help them as they continue to develop and improve their product.

Much like another incredible piece of equipment that I used recently (the lokomat), Ekso is a marvel of human engineering, designed so precisely and carefully that it will undoubtedly be a pioneer in the field of SCI rehab. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Ekso community and will post and update my progress as I continue to work with them and walk in the suit.

Scared of stairs

One inch. That’s all it takes to stop me in my tracks, bring my wheelchair to an instant halt, and fling me forward and potentially face plant on the ground. In those first few weeks after my accident, while I was still in the hospital and learning how to maneuver myself in this rolling contraption that I hate so much, going over the smallest bump or gap would send shooting pain through my neck and spine. Just getting in and out of the elevator or the front door of the hospital to get some fresh air was an adventure as I could feel every jolt through my entire body and I would beg whoever was helping me to encounter these tiny bumps or rises as if I were off-roading over huge dirt mounds.

I’ve come a long way since then with my wheelchair as I no longer have much pain, but as I’ve gotten stronger and more able to go to new places, I’ve become more aware of where I walk…I mean….roll. Considering how much I already hate being shorter than everyone around me because I’m always sitting (see a previous post), it’s frustrating to  have to always keep my gaze at the ground and be on guard for any change in surface that will maintain my safety.

As a healthy and active person before my accident, I never thought twice about the entrances to homes, stores or restaurants. I lived on the top floor of an old San Francisco Victorian, with a bunch of stairs and no elevator. Many of my favorite restaurants and bars were situated at the top or bottom of a narrow flight of stairs. In a city where space is scarce and any kind of real estate costs a small fortune, there are few residences that are accommodating to someone in a wheelchair. As a result, to this day I can rarely visit my friends in their apartments or homes. “We’d love to have you over but we’re not sure if the stairs are doable” is something I hear frequently. To my friends’ credit, I have been able to bypass some seemingly sketchy entrances with some creative use of plywood ramps combined with some strong bodies pushing, pulling or even carrying me Cleopatra style.

I constantly fantasize about how monumental it will be for me to just make that first transition out of this wheelchair. Even if I have to use a walker or crutches, having the ability to go up a stair or two will open so many doors for me (literally and figuratively). I’m sick of always worrying about the smallest bump in the sidewalk or an elevated driveway or the unexpected stair and thinking how exactly my wheelchair and body would travel through the air if I were to encounter these foes without the utmost caution.

It is the biggest understatement when I say I can’t wait until I begin to get out of the wheelchair, which I refer to as my savior and worst enemy. I know I need it for now but I like to think that my hatred for it, combined with my love and driving desire to stand and walk, will lead to an imminent change in how I get around, and will lessen the feeling of being scared of stairs.

Sacred places and the case against being a couch potato

Sometimes I wonder why this injury had to happen to me, why not some couch potato who could just as easily sit on a sofa (or now, a wheelchair), and spend hours watching TV or playing video games, and having little to no concern about the weather outside or their natural surroundings. My situation would probably be easier if I were like this. Being a sedentary, physically unmotivated person who wanted nothing more than to be passively entertained would translate quite well to the common prognosis of life post-Spinal Cord Injury: sit on your ass, get around in a wheelchair, abandon hope of regaining who you were prior to injury, gain weight, and do your best to deal with your “new” life. But as I’ve stated many times, I am the furthest thing from this type of person and so I have to accept that while the path of NOT being a couch potato may be extraordinarily harder for my recovery (I would think a couch potato may not even bother to try to recover), the potential reward of rediscovering any of the active things that I used to do is monumental and motivating to me to continue my fight.

I believe we all have places that are sacred to us, and many of my sacred places are  associated with nature, the outdoors and the absolute sense of serenity, joy and fulfillment I get from visiting these places again and again. Over the last two weekends I had the pleasure of going to two of my sacred places: Yosemite National Park and the coastal areas of Marin County, north of San Francisco. On both occasions, generous friends opened up their homes and I was fortunate enough to share these experiences with incredible friends who treated me as I always had been, and recognized and respected how important these places were to me.

My earliest memories of Yosemite are as a child, grumblingly pitching a tent during a pouring thunderstorm, hiking underneath craggy peaks and swimming in its cold yet refreshing rivers, streams and lakes. I have explored many different corners of the park, which in more recent years has come in the form of finding solace from the large crowds by backpacking through its less-traveled trails and finding its more hidden treasures. I was nervous about coming back to this sacred place without the ability to hike and move as I used to. Honestly, I had avoided a trip to Yosemite since my accident specifically because I didn’t want my memories and nostalgia to overwhelm and upset me.

By contrast, I had spent a bit of time in the gorgeous coastal areas of Marin County as a teenager, but my deep appreciation for this sacred place developed in the last few years through my frequent road bike rides through this area. Living in San Francisco meant that I would often hop on my bike, cross the majestic Golden Gate Bridge and escape from the city to surround myself with coastal redwoods, rocky beaches and winding hilltop roads.

To be honest, it was excruciating at times to be in these sacred places in a wheelchair, unable to stand up or walk or go anywhere with uneven terrain. It pained me to conjure cherished memories of past experiences and to wonder if and when I would ever do those things again on my feet. I would be lying if I didn’t admit this, but to my surprise, I discovered that despite my physical limitations, it was fantastic to be in these places again. Those ethereal granite cliffs of Yosemite Valley haven’t changed much in hundreds of thousands of years, and there’s no reason for me not to continue to appreciate their beauty now. Sitting in the sun with friends, eating freshly shucked oysters and enjoying a beautiful afternoon was a bit more tedious because I was stuck in a wheelchair, but it wasn’t enough to take away from savoring that moment. I even figured out a way to lean my knees against a picnic table and stand up with the help of a couple friends.

The mixture of emotions that comes with going back to my sacred places, albeit in a very different physical state, is a difficult challenge, but at least now I’ve reopened the door to enjoying them and can use fresher memories of these places to fuel my continued recovery.

Getting towed by two black labs
Getting towed by two black labs
Standing up!
Standing up!

Another dose of perspective: handling my hands

Hand diagramWe all take our hands for granted. There. I said it, and I really mean it.

I have written about a lot of my different physical and mental challenges here, but I have yet to dedicate an entire post (or more) to one of the most devastating aspects of my Spinal Cord Injury: my hands. Take a moment and just think of the small, fine movements you use your hands for throughout the day. Examples:

Unscrewing a cap of toothpaste; splashing water on your face, squeezing shampoo into your hands, buttoning your shirt, zipping a jacket, tying your shoelaces, fastening your belt,  unscrewing a jar, peeling open that annoying thin aluminum wrapper that always rips on a small container of yogurt, pouring milk into your coffee, eating with utensils in both hands, grabbing your keys, locking the door, turning on the ignition in your car, pulling a credit card out of your wallet, handling cash, signing a receipt, and on and on and on… 

Every single one of the functions and movements I described above are significantly impaired for me because of weakness in my hands and fingers. Some of the things I listed are still nearly impossible for me (squeezing shampoo), a few have become easier and more routine (signing a receipt, unscrewing toothpaste), and some I can do decently, just more slowly and weakly than normal (tying my shoelaces, buttoning my shirt).

I have become entirely accustomed to not trusting my hands. I am constantly dropping things on the ground. I still can’t hold my laptop or a heavy book with one hand. I am patiently waiting for the day that I can hold a plate of food comfortably without feeling like I’m lifting a 100 pound dumbbell. Opening packaging or a wrapper on everything from a pack of gum to an envelope is still a massive challenge and I’m stuck asking for someone’s help much more frequently than I would ideally like. I have to sleep with a bulky splint on my hand to help my fingers extend and open and feel more limber the next day.

Now I’ve only discussed basic yet necessary tasks and movements for everyday function without even mentioning maybe the most disturbing and frustrating aspect of my injury and its effect on my hands. Put aside for a moment the obvious challenges of someone outdoorsy and active like me who cannot walk or run or hike or do any of the active things I love to do. Let’s accept how excruciating it is for me to be cooped up inside on a nice day when I’d normally be riding my bike or playing soccer in the park. The two “indoor” activities that I enjoy the most, activities that are just as important in defining who I am and what I love to with my time – playing guitar and cooking – have been taken away from me. When I tell people that this is the most humiliating and debilitating injury I can think of because of the number of ways it affects me, THIS is what I mean. Cooking a big dinner for friends or having a lively jam session were fundamental elements of my personality, and now I can’t even do these. This is why it feels like almost my entire identity has been crushed by my Spinal Cord Injury.

I have zero intention of turning my blog into a whinefest to complain to the world about my problems, so I’ll express the entire motivation and reason I’m writing this rant: I am extraordinarily lucky to have the function I have. Even I, in this state of constant frustration and recovery, feel incredibly fortunate for the strength and abilities I DO have in my hands.

Breaking my C5 and C6 vertebrae in my neck would typically mean that I have limited range of movement in my shoulders, weak biceps, floppy wrists with almost no strength to bend or extend them, little to no function in my fingers and hands, and significantly weakened triceps. Nerves to handsMost of the other people I’ve met with my injury have had a much bigger struggle with their hand function. It’s one of the first things other SCI patients quickly recognize when they see me. “Dude, you’re a C5?? Your hands look pretty good…” No one knows exactly why my hands were spared some of the damage and it just continues to prove how mysterious and misunderstood this injury is.

Now if this isn’t amazing perspective, I don’t know what is. Every time I want to complain about not being able to strum my guitar, write music or chop onions as quickly and ably as I used to, I think of how much worse it could be and how lucky I am to at least have the function that I do have in my hands. I admit, I work extremely hard on my hands, at least 2-3 hours a day doing various stretches and exercises (like typing) that have helped me tremendously. To finish on a positive note, I want to recognize a few of the small accomplishments with my hands in the last few months: I can type at almost the same speed I used to, flossing is effortless, I can hold my chef knife and chop much better than before, and I’m trying to fulfill my musical desire by learning the piano. Here’s to continued improvement with my hands, to us all recognizing how amazing our hands are and not to take them for granted.

Flash Forwards

I’m boarding a train in a foreign country. As I scan my ticket to confirm my destination and its tricky spelling, I sling my backpack over my shoulder and step high up onto the train as it starts to rumble out of the station. 

I’m walking through my old San Francisco neighborhood towards the tall trees of Golden Gate Park swaying in the gentle but persistent coastal breeze. I see my old neighbor on his way to work and wave at him as he walks on by and greets me from across the street. “Been a WHILE since I seen you man! How ya doing?”

I swing open the door to the restaurant and hurry excitedly up the narrow stairs. I enter into the dining room and see my friends gathered towards the back, ready for the birthday celebration. I can’t help but notice the tantalizing cocktails neatly handwritten on the chalkboard behind the bar. I decide that after months and months of preserving my recuperating nerve cells by avoiding alcohol, it’s time to order a drink…

We all know what flashbacks are, memories from the past of a specific moment that we remember clearly that are brought back into present consciousness. Similar to flashbacks, I have “flash forwards” that I’m sharing here now. Much like flashbacks (which we remember for certain reasons), my flash forwards are complex, rich in detail and as vivid as any memory. Thinking of them places me in those exact moments, my senses come alive with what I’m surrounded with and I feel as though I am experiencing that moment in real time. My smell (the sense that is most linked with memory) is heightened with the scents that I take in and I can realize the absolute realness of my flash forward.

Having studied psychology in university and always being interested in how the brain functions, I have read a lot about the damage and difficulty of painful flashbacks for some people. With or without a trigger, someone may relive a particularly challenging memory and become traumatized by the larger impact of that flashback. It’s not to say that all flashbacks are negative memories, far from it in fact, but I suppose I just don’t hear of many people talking about their flashbacks of positive memories very often.

My flash forwards are incredibly helpful for me. They fuel my recovery, they give me something specific to work towards, and they represent a light at the end of the tunnel in some ways. They show me what life can look like when I’m not on the dark side. They provide specific details of situations that I can’t presently experience. They remind me of what is most important to me and why I’m fighting so hard everyday to regain the physical abilities that I lost in my accident. Instead of trapping these experiences into history and saying that they’re a part of a past that I won’t ever see, I place them in front of me, in my future, with the utmost intention of realizing these flash forwards.

They are NOT wishes, they are NOT dreams, they are NOT aspirations or hopes. For these reasons, I can’t tweak them and change them around as I see fit. Much like memories which are based on facts of how things happened, flash forwards are structured the same way, as inherent truths, based on facts of how things WILL happen. That’s why they come to me organically and vividly and I have little control of how I see them. I just choose to accept them and see them as a glimpse into a definite future.

I’ll leave you with one more flash forward. As I have mentioned on this blog, just three days before my accident, I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life on a backpacking trip in the mountains with friends. For months, I have struggled many times wondering if I will ever have an experience like that again, if I’ll ever feel the joy of carrying all of my material needs on my back and venturing into the beauty of the high mountains…

The weight of my backpack feels heavier than it used to on previous trips but here I am again slowly hiking up the narrow trail surrounded by the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains of Eastern California. I’m definitely putting more weight on my hiking poles than I was expecting but I’m still stepping up the gravel path in anticipation of the alpine lake at the top. My steps are a bit crooked as it becomes apparent by looking at my footsteps that my left leg is still a bit weaker than my right, but I feel strong nevertheless. The air two miles high is thin and cool and I’m panting regularly but the sun radiates through my entire body, warming me through from the inside. I’m enjoying each step I take in my rugged hiking boots and I smile and realize I never knew that this moment would come again.

To a new year of new recovery

2012 was a bad year for me. While the first half of the year included a new job, a fantastic trip to Colombia, planning a move to a new and exciting house in SF, and some amazing hiking and camping trips with friends, everything came to a screeching halt on that fateful night in July when I suffered my Spinal Cord Injury. Paralysis is not a word I use very much to describe my condition because I hate the defeatist connotation of it, but I have to be honest about my situation after that accident: I was paralyzed, in more ways than one.

While my body was paralyzed from the chest down, so many other things had been paralyzed as well. I had been in peak physical condition before this accident and as a result of years of taking care of my body and consistently pushing myself athletically, I was in better shape as a 30-year-old than I was as a Division 1 college athlete, and sadly all of that was out the window. My new job at a renewable energy startup, and a potential springboard to a career in the field was suddenly stripped away from me. My summer plans of moving and setting up a new house, weekend camping trips in the mountains, and a vacation to Lebanon vanished right before my eyes. Everything that I knew, almost everything that made me who I am was turned on its head.

And now, almost six months after this horrendous incident, a new year is here. 2013 is the year that I walk. It’s a pretty significant task so it’s hard to call it a resolution, but the challenge of it means I will dedicate myself to it more than any resolution in the past. I will do all I can and work harder than I’ve worked to bring this to fruition. I’ve learned in the past few months about the incredible support of my community and I ask for your continued support in this next year, a year in which I plan to see all of you while standing on my own two feet. Happy new year to all.

Being short is no fun

There are MANY things I hate about being in a wheelchair. I won’t even begin to list them now… But let me share just one frustration that I’ve noticed more recently: being short.

Since I’m sitting down all the time, everyone becomes a towering, basketball player-like presence literally (not metaphorically) looking down at me. I’m sure there are plenty of shorter people out there thinking, “thanks for pointing out the obvious genius, but this is what I’ve been going through my whole life”. I admit, I’ve never really understood the plight of shortness and to be honest, I’m not exactly tall either, 5’11” to be exact. So while I’ve never exactly been an imposing presence due to my height, the shortness of sitting down is a particularly humbling experience. I must be four foot something sitting in this damn chair, a height I haven’t been since elementary school.

It sucks having to look up at people all the time. It’s no fun having to crane my neck – yes the same neck I broke two vertebra in that still doesn’t have the same range in motion – and train my eyes to look towards the clouds in order to catch the passing glance of a growing child who just hit five feet as he walks past me. Every time I greet a friend or give a hug, it bothers me so much that they have to bend down and almost fall over just to get closer to me. Having a bunch of people standing around me talking reminds me of being a little kid, thinking that the towering adults could have secret “tall” conversations that I couldn’t hear and wishing I could be part of the club.

One of the many ways in which mental strength can help in recovery from SCI is the visualization of healing and sending visual images that confirm one’s objectives to the brain. Whenever I do standing or walking exercises, the therapists are quick to bring a mirror in my view. Seeing myself standing is a positive response and will help my body remember (and recover) the sensation of being on my own two feet. You can imagine how much I enjoy the few but coveted minutes of standing I get not only for the sensation of stretching my body and bearing weight on my legs, but because it reminds me of what it feels like to stand tall, look people at eye level and rid myself of craning my neck up towards people and feeling like I’m four feet tall.

Recovery is my religion

I’ve never been a religious person. Throughout my life, I’ve generally taken a more or less scientific approach to religious belief and struggled with the notion of believing in something that can’t be proven. But ever since doctors told me that they could not predict my healing and that it would be wise to prepare never to walk again, I discovered my own religion: my 100% recovery. 

Ok I’m not trying to get into a big existential discussion on religion or God or an afterlife, so just bear with me. All I’m saying now is that my injury has taught me to accept that it’s perfectly reasonable, and commendable, to believe in something that can’t necessarily be proven. Even immediately after my injury, in the most pain I’ve ever experienced and unable to feel most of my body, I refused to believe that my body was permanently damaged. I decided right then and there, that no matter how difficult the process and how long the recovery, I would get back to my feet and walk again. This belief only gets stronger with every day that passes.

I refuse to accept defeat, I refuse to embrace a life in a chair, I refuse to consider for one second that I won’t eventually stand up and walk on my own two legs, yet I have no proof for this. As I’ve written before, there are no specific prognoses for people with Spinal Cord Injury. Doctors don’t specify that a percentage of people with my injury do recover, and how can they really, since it’s hard to define what “recovery means exactly. It can mean something different to different people. I recently overheard another SCI patient say that as long as she could use her hands and get back to work, she would be happy. That was the objective of her recovery and she would probably adjust her expectations and goals accordingly. Well, that’s NOT the case for me.

I want to run and bike and stand and sprint and hike and stroll and stand atop mountains and swim in alpine lakes and do all of the things I love. There is no holy book outlining my beliefs but this doesn’t stop me from believing wholeheartedly in the possibility, and eventual reality, that I will recover fully. Many of the therapists I encounter in the conventional, Western approach tell me the main goal of recovery from an injury like this is to become “as independent as possible”. In other words, they can’t predict that I will recover and get back to normal (another nebulous and subjective term) so they suggest I adapt to whatever my current situation is and become “as independent as possible”. Every time I hear this, it makes my skin crawl. Maybe this is like a member of the Latter Day Saints church trying to articulate the beliefs of Mormonism to a Buddhist monk who has taken a vow of silence. Or vice versa. Each person may respect the other’s right to believe what they want, but the belief systems could not be more different. Well, the same goes for me.

I honestly don’t care what doctors or anyone else tells me anymore, because I KNOW, with every drop of blood I have in my body, that I WILL walk again. My recovery is my religion, and I am the most devout, fundamentalist believer.