Posted on August 11, 2015
Posted on August 11, 2015As my time here in Chicago is slowly coming to an end I think I can leave here feeling pretty complete about the strong and amazing network of bodyworkers, therapists and teachers that I have worked tirelessly on trying to put together to assist Cameron in his recovery process. Here in Chicago he is surrounded by not only a great group of friends/brothers but also a fabulous team of great healers that will be an integral part of his healing... Thank you so much to my Encinitas Yoga Community for helping us get connected to Gabriel Halpburn, what a blessing for Cameron to have this valuable connection right in his very neighborhood! I love this man! And to also have such a fabulous Gyrotonic studio with a wonderful Master Trainer, Davi Edlebeck from Chicago Center for Body Movement also within walking distance is beyond incredible! All of these modalities will be so helpful in this process for Cameron. I leave here in just 10 short days and after being here for 6 weeks this trip I feel confident that Cameron will be safe, there is still a very long road ahead but I am at peace to know that he will be in good hands upon my departure. What more could a mom ask for...
Cameron Zick Support Network on Facebook for the full update written yesterday by Cameron.
Friends and family! Big update from CZ now that he's out of the RIC hospital, moved into a new apartment and settling into his outpatient rehab schedule. Much love - Zick and co.
I ripped off my hospital bracelets when I was discharged from RIC on Wednesday, July 17. What a cathartic feeling I had, 9 weeks post-surgery. Re-admitting myself to the ER four days later - what a frustrating “you gotta be kidding me” lesson, to say the least.
It was a bittersweet goodbye to my RIC staff, my fellow patients, the cafeteria meatloaf, the “one shower every two days” rule, and being woken up by nurses at 1am, 3am, 5am and 6am, so they could check vitals and roll me over in bed. For better or worse, insurance pushed up my discharge date by a week and gave us just a couple days to leave RIC. My family, friends and I rallied together and moved me into an apartment within a week. Huge shoutout to my Mom and everyone who was involved in the search/move. But it was beyond frustrating to sit on the sidelines, unable to help lift boxes. The apartment location was crucial – it’s conveniently located blocks away from rehab and my Uber office in Chicago. This way I can walk to-and-from rehab and avoid the risk of re-injuring my fragile neck by commuting. The last thing I need right now is whiplash if a car slams on its brakes or Chicagoans pushing and jockeying for space on a train or bus. Which is why this ER visit was such an annoyance.
I was accidentally hit in the head with a basketball while touring the gym of my apartment. There was no neck pain but for the next couple hours (and eventually days) my back, arms, legs and fingers were tingling and numb. I waited for the feeling to subside, like a hit to the funny bone, but it was persistent. Family friends of ours who are in medicine highly suggested that I go to the ER to get my neck checked out. The worst thing I can do right now is to re-injure my recovering spinal cord or disrupt the hardware fusion. Bouncing back from a re-injury of the spinal cord is near impossible. Long story short, after an overnight ER stay and MRIs/CT scans, my neck checked out. I’m very glad I took this seriously. The physicians concluded my spinal cord disrupted a nerve, which is why the tingling didn’t subside. I'm now more careful and aware of my surroundings. Although I’m protective, there is a fine line between over-protective and living your life. It’s a balance I'm still learning on the fly.
Over the last 3-to-4 weeks, I've encountered an exciting new set of challenges in the “real world.” Below are a few of the insights I’ve gathered and a summary of my progress.
1. Refinement is necessary but I have to look at my progress bi-weekly or monthly
At this stage of my rehab, my progress is significant but not as noticeable to the naked eye. It's not as dramatic as standing up for the first time or taking that first step. For instance, 2-to-3 weeks ago I was able walk without a device for 1,050 feet in 6 minutes. However, my form was problematic. I was hyper-extending my knees and digging my heels into the ground with each step to get stability. Each heel strike was a ton of force, like a shovel slammed into dirt. This impact is not sustainable. I would need to rest in bed for hours after rehab.
So, for the last few weeks my RIC team and I have worked tirelessly on my form. I started taking baby steps in a crouched kneel position. With bent knees my speed slowed. I’m now attempting to use my hamstrings, glutes, and calves to keep me upright and moving. At first, I was unable to walk for more than 10 minutes in this position. But just last week (in the video), I utilized this form for the majority of my hour session in downtown Chicago. I walked 8 blocks throughout the city. I still need to stand more upright with more relaxed arms, I want to correct the alignment of my stride, and my stamina is a work in progress (I was exhausted near the end). I’m now able to walk 1,500 feet in six minutes. Only an incremental increase in distance on paper… but my form is smoother, turning corners are crisper, and my muscles are stronger.
2. Alternative Therapy: Screw it, “why not” if it can help
Rehab is the bread-and-butter of my recovery. I wouldn't be here today without the therapists, countless exercises, and training I’ve done with RIC. But in addition to 30 hours of scheduled PT/OT outpatient rehab a week, I’m still itching for answers. My family and I have come to realize a full recovery of the spinal injury can come from a variety of practices, alternative therapy, and medicines on top of rehab.
Since leaving the hospital, I've embraced yoga, pilates/gyrotonic, myofascial release, Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS), acupuncture, a number of supplements intended to treat inflammation, and swim exercise classes. I’ve added all of the practices to my weekly routine. I'm excited because each of these remedies offer something different to my day-to-day rehab. My PT classes are high-intensity and exertion focused. Yoga, pilates/gyrotonic, EMS and swim help me work on my balance, flexibility, and stretch my muscles. I’m starting with modified private classes now, for safety purposes. But I’m empowered when I’m standing on one foot in a tree-pose (see video), albeit I’m strapped to a rope and holding onto a bar. Myofascial release and acupuncture is body work that provides pain relief and relaxes my muscles. It’s a jam-packed schedule but I’ll take anything I can get that can help with my recovery.
3. Silence is golden. Until it’s not…
I have a love/hate relationship with silence. When my mind was disconnected from my body on the mountain, closing my eyes helped me remove myself from a terrifying sight. When I had less distractions in a silent hospital room, I found it easier to zone in on a specific movement like trying to grasp an object or bend my knee. Through silence I can disconnect from the harsh reality that I’m now walking at the pace of a child. But the silence I feel inward, when I try to extend the fingers of my right hand, is frustrating (for now).
My doctors and therapists said what I’ve been able to accomplish in weeks, they typically see in months. I’ve been blessed with a speedy recovery. Movement and a degree of functionality came back quickly throughout most of my body. But with this, it’s now easier to pinpoint the areas (i.e. hands, wrists, upper body range of motion) that need more time and more hard work.
Take my right hand, for instance. Extending my fingers is a pain in the a**. For the last 12 weeks, I’ve exerted every ounce of energy and concentration I have, to push my fingers forward. The response is a humming silence in my body. I hit an imaginary brick wall. My fingers begin to curl, then stutter like the stalled ignition of a car.
But that’s the beauty of this process. Repetition is everything. In addition to OT, I’m sitting there trying to open and close my hands hundreds of times a day. It’s like a nervous OCD habit but I can chalk it up as practice. I’ll grab my wrist (to isolate my finger movement) and visualize my fingers fluidly moving in and out.
3. Two lives: pre-injury + post-injury
It’s still difficult to watch friends, family, and strangers run around on their own feet everyday. At times, when I see couples jumping in a car, carrying groceries, or playing basketball, I get caught thinking of the last time I perform those movements before the injury. I’m not reminiscing. I’m stuck in a mindset that takes my focus away from rehabbing. This is what I call my first life, pre-injury.
That's not to say I don't have amazing memories and life lessons to look back on. But when it's in the context of “damn, I remember the last time I could do that,” it's unproductive. Instead, I'm actively trying to focus on my second life, post-injury.
I need to re-connect and find the body of a man who could load a uhaul truck or play catch with a baseball. Fearless imagination will be key to my full recovery.
A ton of work needs to be done but this reality is becoming more realistic. I daydream about it constantly. I’m trying to use my imagination to visualize the *next* time I’ll be enjoying physical activities. It pumps me up vs. getting caught in this “remember when” rabbit hole.
5. Loss of nerve sensation = increased five senses
Nerve sensation is yet another thing that needs time to recover with a spinal cord injury. For instance, I can’t tell the difference between hot/cold and sharp/dull, through my hands, torso, and legs. With my eyes closed, I can barely feel touch along my torso or on various parts of my feet.
With that said, my loss of nerve sensation has actually increased my senses. I have a greater appreciation for sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.
? Sight/Sound/Touch: Despite the ER hiccup, passing and catching a basketball is actual great OT work. Just last week, I surprised myself with the ability to dribble a basketball! I was able to cross over a basketball a couple times between my left and right hand. While doing it, I took in the sound of the ball hitting the ground, the sensation of the leather moving through my finger tips, and I admired the pace of the ball bouncing in front of me. After years of playing, I never thought something so simple would bring so much joy.
? Taste/Smell: What I love about outpatient OT is that at the beginning of each week my therapist ask me “what was difficult to do at home, the previous week?” We’re working on vacuuming, laundry, scrubbing floors, and washing dishes. But cutting thicker food was a rewarding exercise. A couple weeks ago I made my first meal: chicken and veggies over rice. Filleting a chicken and chopping an onion was somewhat scary at first. I used a modified cutting board, which helped stabilized the two foods with nails. The smell of the onion and the taste of the meal was more memorable than any other time I’ve cooked.
I was overcome with mixed emotions when I left RIC over three weeks ago. On one hand, I was humbled. On the other hand I was nervous, walking into an unfamiliar territory, similar to the first day of school jitters. Since leaving RIC, I realized, “damn, the world moves a lot faster than I remember.” Cars bustling on the streets; people hustling down the sidewalk; and I’m trudging along with a walker, needing to turn my whole body to look left-and-right. But with the love, help and support of my family and friends I’ve been able to get a grasp of the “real world.” It’s mentally and physically exhausting to adjust… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I can’t begin to thank you all for your support, encouragement and thoughtfulness. But if you’re in Chicago this upcoming weekend, I would love to say hi and extend my thank you to you in person! My friends surprised me and organized a fundraiser on Saturday August 15 to celebrate my recovery, thus far. The event is an open bar from 8pm - 11pm at FatPour in Wicker Park, which will include a raffle and a silent auction for a number of sweet items like vacation timeshares, Chicago sports tickets, dining/retail gift certificates and more. You can grab your tickets and check out the raffle/auction items here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1912708318954319/
Much love, hope to see you all at some point soon, and as always, your undying support means more than you know!
Posted on July 12, 2015
Posted on July 12, 2015I've been in Chicago for 48 hours and it has been absolutely non-stop. Walked into RIC and was confronted with the news that Cameron's discharge date was moved up to this Wednesday (7 days earlier then we anticipated). This was a big curveball that we were not expecting and we now have technically 2 "business" days to get all of our ducks in a row to get Cameron moved out and situated safely and comfortably into his new apartment upon discharge. I am taking deep inhales and deep exhales right now, this is all I can do...
Also upon arriving to RIC I was welcomed by Cameron as he stood up from his wheel chair and gave me a big hug! This definitely makes all the chaos and upcoming challenges we are faced with well worth it! Here is Cameron's recent update! This is our ride...
Much love and appreciation,
Cam's FIRST time walking without help!!! Exciting stuff - including an update on his outpatient location and start date. Much love everyone - Zick and co.
Words can't express the feelings I have right now! An incredible second opportunity I've been blessed with, to share this walking moment with my friends and family. We tried walking without an assistive device a couple weeks ago and I fell 3 times in the first 30 feet. This last week I gave it another shot and walked 421 feet in 6 minutes! Sure, I nearly fell 6+ times but I was able to catch my fall on my own or with the help of the therapist.
My pure walking form isn't pretty. I'm rolling my ankles when my feet land, I don't know what to do with my arms, and maneuvering my legs feels robotic like operating a stick shift. But what's helping a ton, is my center of balance. I'm becoming more confident I'll be able to correct myself if I trip up. Because of this, I'm finding it easier to take calculated risks on my feet throughout the day. For instance:
- Bending down to pick something off the ground is getting easier. Flat/small objects on the floor are still difficult, without holding onto my walker.
- I worked on trying to stabilize and cut various fruits/vegetables with hands while standing. After a couple tries with a bell pepper, I asked for help before risking cutting my finger.
- Walking on the treadmill with my arms by my side is a joke right now - I feel like a bowling ball on an alley with bumpers. At the very least, I'm building endurance with long walks at a .7 speed.
It's been seven weeks since my injury and I've made great progress, thus far, on my way to a full recovery. This weekend, our insurance and physician/therapists agreed to move up my discharge from inpatient rehab at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. My new discharge date from RIC is Wednesday, July 15!
I looked into a number of outpatient therapy options in Chicago and California but I was most impressed by the DayRehab program at RIC. I'll be rehabbing six hours a day, five days a week at RIC - in addition to supplemental rehab at my new apartment in River North. At DayRehab, there's a heavy focus on PT/OT work out on the streets of Chicago. What better way to learn how to live independently, then to work my a** off in the city I plan on transitioning back into.
Outpatient rehab will be more difficult than my experience at the hospital - but it's the intensity I'm looking for. No reason to let up now, given the progress I've seen. I'll begin DayRehab as soon as Thursday, July 16.
Mixed emotions, as I turn the page to the next chapter of my full recovery. For the first time, I'll be stepping away from constant 24/7 surveillance from a hospital staff. Good piece of advice I've gotten is, if it's hard to do at home, try it. I have to avoid getting in my comfort zone. If I fall, it's a good excuse to practice standing up from the floor.
Thanks again everyone for your continued support on this journey! I'm looking forward to building on the momentum I've already gained during my outpatient rehab. You all have made this transition that much more bearable and a team effort. : )
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