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Changes and Challenges

To say that my life has been different since the accident is an understatement. So many things had happened since then that I never thought would ever happen to me. So many lessons learned.

Last Friday, during my third physical therapy session, I conquered one of my fears--the stairs. Since the accident happened because I missed the last step of the staircase leading to my room, I was in tears when I finally did a lap up and then down the stairs of the therapy room. It was a sort of release. I felt most of my fears melt away after that. I suddenly felt like I could do anything.

Eloisa taught me the technique of how to climb. Going up, it's strong foot first then injured foot. Going down is the opposite. You lead with the injured foot then the strong foot. After she taught me and the session was over, I thought to myself that it would be a while until I tackle stairs again. I need to get used to walking using a walker first. Little did I know that I would be facing stairs not 24 hours later.

Today, I noticed that Hereditary is showing at our local cinema. I asked my mom if we could watch it and she said yes. Since my brother took the car, along with my wheelchair in the trunk, I was forced to use the walker once we reached the mall. My mom dropped me off at the entrance and went to find parking.

Undaunted, I proceeded to make my way to the entrance. There in front of me were the dreaded stairs. There was a ramp right beside them for wheelchairs, but it was long and winding. In short, the stairs would be the directest route to my destination. Unfortunately, the railing on each side was too far apart. I need to be holding on to both sides to be able to ascend.

As I was pondering what to do, a man about my age standing at the top of the stairs said, "Do you need help?"

I smiled and said, "I'm thinking whether to take the ramp."

He smiled back and went down the stairs to stand beside me. "Let me help you," he said.

Making up my mind, I told him to bring up the walker first. Once he did that he returned to my side. I told him that I will be holding on to the rail with one hand and his shoulder with the other. We would ascend the stairs that way. He nodded and braced himself as I remembered what Eloisa had taught me.

With a deep breath, I slowly leaned some of my weight on my injured foot, leaning the rest on the railing and the man's shoulder, and lifted my strong foot up the first flight. Then I pulled myself up, resting my injured foot beside my strong foot. The guy climbed up with me. One step at a time we did this until we reached the top of what seemed like seven steps.

It was heaven. Another feeling of great accomplishment came over me. I wanted to hug the man for his selflessness, but I thought it inappropriate, so I thanked him instead. He said "You're welcome" with a smile. I was filled with gladness.

Step by step, I made it to the movies. We watched. And afterward, step by slow step, I made it back to the elevator and back down again to face my nemesis--stairs. They say God works in mysterious ways because as I reached the top of the stairs, security personnel were all huddled around the bottom of the steps, getting ready to close the mall down for the night.

With another smile, I asked one of them to help me down the stairs. Two actually came to my aid while the others were on standby. It was kind of cute and very endearing. I thought to myself, how can I be scared when so many people are willing to help me?

So, with my left hand on the railing and my right hand on the burly security man's shoulder, I lead with my injured foot. One step at a time, we went down together until I reached the ground. Once more I was able to win against my personal villain.

I thanked the burly man and he said it wasn't a problem. The second man who helped, stayed by my side as I made my way to the street level to wait for my mom to bring the car around. He even got a chair for me to sit on while I waited.

It's moments of selfless humanity that reminds me that most of the world might be a dumpster fire but there are still many pockets of goodness. My heart is full. That is why I'm thankful for my accident. It taught me to smile more. Be happy more. To not take for granted the little things like walking and putting on shoes. Most of all, it taught me the true meaning of being humble.

The Progress Continues

Day 2 of physical therapy went better than expected. I was put through the same routine but with a higher intensity. At first I had my doubts. I couldn't do it. But with the kindness of my physical therapist, Jamie (Eloisa was out for the day), I was able to make it through with flying colors.

The electrodes she exposed me to was of a higher voltage. This time, it wasn't ants crawling. It was ants biting. There was some discomfort at first, but I got used to it. Eventually, it felt really good.

She concentrated on the side of my foot for the ultrasound. This was where the break is healing, so there was discomfort once again, but not pain. Which was also a great comfort. Because there is one phrase that they keep repeating at physical therapy: "Respect the pain." This is any kind of pain. Even a 1 or a 2 on the scale should be met with respect. Meaning, stop what you are doing and breathe.

The great thing about physical therapists is they challenge you to go beyond what you think your limits are. But in a nice way. They are never rude or condescending. They are polite and encouraging, which is exactly what someone who is injured needs. I tell you, it's tough to stay positive when you're met with resistance when doing something that came naturally to you just a couple of months ago. I mean, a couple of months ago, I could walk without problems.

After the exercises to limber up my stiff ankle and foot, Jamie gave me some homework to do at home since my sessions are every other day. She said I need to keep up with my exercise or the therapy sessions wouldn't be as effective. The muscles we loosened would just lock up again. We wouldn't want that after so much progress has been made.

Then she adjusted my walker and I was able to walk, baby! Like actually take steps. Still small steps, but steps nonetheless!

In fact, when we got home? I didn't use the wheelchair after getting out of the car. I used the walker to make my way to the elevator and then to our condo. It was liberating. The only time I'm using the wheelchair now is when we're at the mall and there's lots of walking to do. I'm not at that level yet. Plus, I would be so slow getting from one point to the next, it would be comical to watch.

Once we were done walking, Jamie subjected me to cryo blasts of air. The machine is basically a glorified leave blower that shoots cold air onto targeted areas of your body. In my case, it was my foot. And it felt so good. After a workout like a circuit around the therapy area? Yup.

I'm praying that the progress continues. I really want to be able to wear shoes again. Clogs work in a pinch.

Doing the Work

I had my first physical therapy session yesterday and boy was it amazing. The first half felt like being in a spa. The second half was basically boot camp.

We were actually in a hurry because I was late for my first session. Even after the receptionist reminded me not to be late. Will not happen again. Tomorrow, I will actually be early.

After we arrived, I didn't know what to expect. My therapist, Eliosa, introduced herself and took my blood pressure. When everything was in the up and up, she took me into one of the therapy rooms and asked me to get on the bed. She made me remove my sock (since my foot is still swollen, I couldn't wear shoes yet). She examined my foot and asked me questions about how my injury happened. What was the nature of my injury. Then she started explaining what we were going to do.

To address the swelling, she attached electrodes to my ankle and the opposite side. The electrodes shot electricity into my leg to stimulate circulation. It felt funny at first, almost ticklish. Then when she wrapped it with a hot compress it felt really nice. I actually took a nap during the session.

Afterwards, she introduced me to the ultrasound machine. This one is a little different since it's not for diagnosis. It's goal is to introduce heat deep into the tissues of my foot. All it felt like was cold on the surface of my leg. Apparently, this was normal because the heat is deep inside. This one also felt nice.

The massage afterwards? Heavenly. I didn't feel any pain at all, which eased most of my fears. I'm starting to see that I can actually walk again.

The boot camp followed soon after the spa moment.

First, we started with exercises. The moves were so simple, but the stiffness of my foot really made it challenging. But I was able to do as she asked, for ten counts each!

Second, we moved from the bed to a chair. Eloisa taught me how to stand up without putting too much pressure on my injured foot. This was repeated ten times. Then she took out a scale and measured how much weight I can put on my foot. Currently, it's between 20 and 30 pounds. Not bad for the first time, she said.

Then my worst fear came. Eloisa, made me walk! More like shuffled. It was more steps than I had taken on both feet in two months. It felt good and scary at the same time. Achievement unlocked, baby!

I say my first session was a success. Eight more to go!

The swelling actually went down a lot after the first session, so I'm hoping that I'll be in shoes soon. Please continue to send your healing thoughts. I appreciate all of them. 

4 Days Later

The cast came off on Wednesday. Since then the swelling has gone down a bit, but the side where the break is still looks puffy. According to two doctors and Google (because I can't help myself) this is completely normal. I'm trying my best to remain calm and positive.

I mentioned in a prior post that I thought I was a good thing having to wait until Saturday to go and see the physical therapy doctor. It gave my foot time to look less angry. At the same time, Dr. Domingo really put me at ease when he looked at my x-rays. When he looked at the latest one he said it looked good.

I love nice doctors with great bedside manners. They really know how to put a patient who might be prone to freaking out at ease. That's very important to me. Dr. Domingo even commented on the fact that I was in high spirits. I liked that.

Today was quite a milestone. I was able to take 11 (count them, 11) tiny steps. Of course, I was freaking out inside the entire time, but that's progress. I might have even over done it. So I'm going to chill for a bit.

Also, I was able to cook myself some lunch. Imagine that? Noodles and some spam, but still! That's because I'm starting to feel comfortable standing on both feet. My healing foot is still awkward to stand on because of the stiffness of not having been used, but I was able to move around in our kitchen. That made me so happy.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of nine sessions of physical therapy. I'm really praying that everything goes well and that I can start walking again. School starts soon and I'd really like to teach without having to be in a wheelchair anymore.

It's go time. I'm taking my life back. Body, heal!

DFA FAIL!

In the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs is one of the most broken. The fact that they insist on an appointment system before you can renew your passport then their website can't even support the load of the people trying to snag slots shows how inefficient and incompetent they are.

I have been trying to renew my brother's passport for months. Every time I check the site, all the appointment slots are full. DFA says they open slots every day, yet not once have I seen an available slot no matter how many times I check their website.

Today, DFA promised 100000 slots will open. Yes, that's five zeros. The first half was opened at noon, which I missed. So I told myself I would wait for the 9PM slots. Because surely I would be able to snag one slot. Boy was I so wrong.

At exactly 9PM, the site crashed. No matter how many times you refresh, it would not load. Then when the site did load, the tabs to get you to the next step would not work so you'd have to start over.

Determined as I am, I kept trying.

An hour later, I managed to snag a slot, but when I was filing in my brother's information, the site crashed again! Of course, when I had to start over, the slot was long gone. That is how fucked up the system is. The DFA doesn't even have decent coders that can keep the site from crashing.

I wonder who was the genius who thought about releasing so many slots that they didn't consider the deluge of attempts that would crash the site. Getting tickets to Comic Con is so much easier.

For two hours I tried and I tried and nothing. I am flipping the bird on the DFA. Seriously.

Cast Off!

Today is a great day! If not a slightly scary one too.

After Dr. Lopez reviewed my new x-rays and compared them to my old ones, he has deemed that it was time to remove the cast. The bone hasn't fully fused together, but the alignment has not changed, which according to him is a good thing. So I sat through the sawing off of the cast. The vibrations tickled. The lack of pain was a good sign.

After the cast was removed, there was some swelling observed. This is normal, according to my doctor and Google (I couldn't help myself, I had to check because I'm a hypochondriac that way). The Doc felt around and I felt no pain along the site where the fracture is. The pain came in the form of stiffness. This is also normal since I haven't used the foot in almost two months.

Dr. Lopez asked me to stand on my left leg, but of course my fear overtook me. I was able to lay the foot flat on the ground, but I was still putting most of my weight on my right leg. This is mostly psychological on my part. Plus the foot was still swollen. What could I do? Hop around?

It's on to physical therapy. The doctor we were referred to won't be in until Saturday. At first, I was nervous again because all I want it to start my PT as soon as possible. But, once my nerves have calmed down, I've come to realize that it's good I have a few days to recover a little more. Get that swelling down with ice packs.

I could already rest the foot flat on the ground when I'm seated, which I say is an improvement. I was even able to watch Ocean's 8 without fidgeting. No pain except for the stiffness I mentioned. This small achievement made me feel good. I'm staying positive and will take all the small and big successes as they come.

When we got home, the best part will have to be finally washing my left foot after having it in a cast for nearly two months. The skin was starting to peel. Being able to soap and scrub it felt so good. A few more days and I think the skin will stop looking flaky.

Oh, one thing. My mom made me ride the escalator! She forced me, actually. I was so scared. At first I thought I couldn't do it because what was I going to hold on to? But my mom came over to my injured side and gave me a shoulder to hang on to. I survived. Although, going down I insisted we use the escalator. Small victories. 
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