Beginning rehab

On Sunday it will be 7 weeks since Will's accident. Parts of this journey have been agonisingly painful and slow and at other times there has been so much going on that the time just disappears and there is not nearly enough hours in the day to get everything done.

After spending 10 days in the ICU and what seemed like forever recovering from the pneumonia, infections and a raft of other challenges that have been thrown Will's way one thing that is now a constant for Will is "rehab".

When I think of "rehab" I think of doing exercises, stretches, swimming, gym and so on. The reality for Will at the start is a lot different. Everything Will does from the minute he wakes until he falls asleep is part of his rehab. For anyone with SCI the rehab is never really over and they need to keep working hard to maintain or improve whatever levels of function they manage to get back.

When it comes to the "rehab" he's already making progress. Over the last few days he's made his first visits to the gym. Going to the gym means getting dressed which takes time as Will needs either me of the nurse to get his shirt, shorts, socks and shoes on. From there he's hoisted out of bed into the wheelchair, that alone is hard work and at times still makes him feel ill. Aside from seeing a kid who was so incredibly independent totally reliant on others the hardest thing is looking at his body. Just 7 weeks ago he was a strapping 72kgs, a big strong young man with broad shoulders, strong arms and legs like tree trunks, inherited from his grandfather Pete. Legs that thankfully his sister didn't get but they definitely helped Will when it came to bmx, basketball and footy. Looking at him now is another story, he's already lost 10kgs and his body is a shadow of its former self. Whilst his upper body now looks skinny and the bones in his shoulders are starting to show its his legs that stand out the most. They look almost half the size of what they were and it frightens me to think what they'll be like in another month. Will joked early on with his mate Josh that he could still beat him in a fight despite his injury. At the time he looked like he could but how quickly things have changed. Josh I think you've finally got him covered.

Will's rehab in the gym over the last week has focused on two things. First has been starting to use his arms to brace and balance himself whilst he's in the chair. This technique is important as he learns how to transfer himself from the chair to his bed and vice versa and later in and out of a car for example. Given he currently gets very little helps from his triceps just balancing and rocking from side to side is a huge effort but like before he manages to pick it up quickly and find a way.

The other part of his rehab has involved starting to use an FES (Functional Electrical Stimulation) bike. The FES bike allows him to stay in his chair and have his legs or arms be connected to the bike. By attaching electrodes to his legs the machine sends electrical currents to stimulate the nerves to make the muscles work (it's effectively doing the job normally done by the brain via the spinal cord). The machine can fire the muscles in the correct order to make the legs or arms work the bike. The main advantages are building up the muscles again, increasing Will's range of motion (he never liked stretching anyway) and improving his circulation. For all my cycling mates with power metres for his first go he was pushing 2 watts! They expect he'll be able to get up to 10-12 watts when his legs get stronger (So he should be able to hold your wheel Robbo!).

He's still not that excited about the prospect of rehab and I think there are a few reasons for that. An obvious one is he is still feeling sick a lot (he's already been vomiting this morning) and he knows that going through the whole process is more likely to make him feel ill, despite that he understands how important it is so whilst he might not be happy about it he does it. One day at a time.


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