Working on squats.
Working on squats.
A bit of panic struck this evening at the pharmacy when we couldn’t get Nick’s pain medicine without giving them $600. Of course, we didn’t pay $600 for the prescription; we ended up leaving without it. We are severely frustrated because Nick FINALLY has his pain under control with the use of these new meds, but they’re making it extremely difficult to get our hands on them. Just because there was an epidemic of junkies who would smash them up to snort them, doesn’t mean they’re not legitimately effective for people like Nick who are not abusing them but who need something powerful. We haven’t quite figured out what we’re going to do about this situation, especially since he runs out tomorrow. The added blow, is this is the third pharmacy we’ve dealt with in 8 months. These are the non-fun moments of our lives (like everything else is exceptionally fun, right?)
We also discovered that Nick now has osteoporosis in his hips. It’s hard to believe a once fit, active and healthy dude in his early 30’s could get osteoporosis. But after some research, it seems possible due to Nick’s immobilization and limited weight bearing on his legs. What a bummer. We found out only because Project Walk required a bone density exam prior to admission. During orientation, they asked if Nick would be interested in participating in an in-house trial to track the correlation of bone density and exercise. This would require testing his density regularly. This sounds like a great idea. He’s already started on calcium and vitamin D supplements, plus he’s walking more, so maybe his bones will begin improving naturally. That’s what we’re hoping for anyway.
Nick’s therapy at Project Walk was incredible today. He did a lot of mat work, crawling and core stabilization. He did squats, real sit-ups, and even practiced standing with his hand crutches. We are STILL thoroughly impressed by Project Walk and by Nick’s specialist Bree. We couldn’t be happier there.
“Uncle” Nick, and the cutest little boy on the face of this planet, Tiernan!
There has been a new exciting development in Nicks world that I should have mentioned already. As I’ve said before, Nick is partially paralyzed from the waist down, mainly on the back of his body. His glutes, hamstrings, outer thighs, and “girdle” area are all affected. In those areas, he’s had no muscle function and very diminished sensation. Of course, if this wasn’t the case, I’m sure he would have been running a half marathon by now. Well, on the first day at Project Walk, during the testing, we realized that the function of his butt muscles is starting to return. He can flex his butt cheeks a little bit now. This is a huge improvement from just a few weeks ago when the gluteal muscles wouldn’t fire at all. After 8 months, some of it is returning. What a blessing. We hope all the muscles begin to wake up. Standing and walking unassisted will be extremely difficult if he doesn’t regain function and strength in these muscles. Imagine having no butt muscles. You’d fall over and be severely limited in your daily life. We are just so thrilled to see this improvement. It’s HUGE!
I love it when Nick is up to going out without me. It’s so freeing and liberating. This afternoon, after an ass kicking time at the gym, he visited with some friends at Skydive Elsinore. He saw a lot of friends for the first time since his accident, and got to catch up with so many cool peeps. And he loves to watch people skydive, so it was a double bonus.
After only two sessions at Project Walk, I’m already noticing a difference in myself. I’m deeply inspired. Yesterday there were so many girls there. Many were my age, working their butts off! Some had upper body limitations, and all had lower body limitations. A few were re-learning how to walk with their paralysis, and many were doing mat work to simply allow their body the range of motion outside of their chair.
Project Walk is like any other gym, but specifically tailored to the needs of people with spinal cord injuries. These people are here to work! I’ve been going to the gym for many years and have never found much motivation from the other fit women working out around me. But there’s something about seeing these beautiful women with life altering injuries, pushing through their pain to work out at their gym. It inspires the hell out of me.
These brave women are paying the same amount of money for a single two-hour private training session at Project Walk as I pay for six months of dues at my gym. No insurance covers this specialized training, and there are no price breaks. But it’s worth it, especially for people who cannot physically utilize a typical gym. When I think about the dedication these ladies have, and the obstacles they are overcoming, I am deeply moved to better my own life.
How dare I take my own body and mobility for granted! How pathetic it is to make excuses for neglecting my fitness because I’ve “had a rough year.” What a shame it is that I haven’t been taking the utmost pride in my body and my life while I still have both. Why not fight to keep what I have, instead of letting it slowly slip away? I am the most out of shape I have been in several years, and it makes me so angry that I’ve allowed this to happen. If these incredible girls can get to the gym, despite the extreme costs for their specialized training, and despite their disabilities, obstacles and pain, then I sure can too! I have NO excuses anymore NOT to be healthy and fit. Thank you strong ladies of Project Walk for motivating me to push myself harder physically, and “use it before I lose it.”
Here’s the quickie break down of Nicks low key birthday.
IHOP for veggie omelets and stuffed french toast.
Second therapy session at Project Walk. (His butt is going to be sore tomorrow!)
Romantic dinner and people watching at Stone Brewery in Escondido.
In bed by 8:30pm.
Went out to breakfast this morning for his birthday. Here we are, waiting for a table, sitting side by side on a cushion… because there was no wheelchair to get in our way. He WALKED inside! Getting up and down the curb was tricky, but what he lacked in grace, he made up for with style!
I was quite nervous inside the restaurant with the possibility of Nick getting bumped or knocked over. At this point, it wouldn’t take much, so we were extra cautious and alert. It felt good seeing him walk in public. It was a different social experience than him being in a chair. Because he was noticeably struggling to walk, many more people were openly compassionate toward him. They held doors, they purposefully stepped aside to let him by, they said “God bless you,” they nodded with encouragement and spoke to us with empathy. It’s happened before, sure, but Nick was working HARD just to get in and out of the restaurant. His sheer presence this morning commanded respect! I was so proud!
Happy Birthday from Project Walk! The awesome girls who work there found my You Tube video from day 1, then found this blog and saw that today was Nicks Birthday. They got him cupcakes, candles, a card, and sang Happy Birthday.
See!!! THIS is what I’m talking about. Project Walk is amazing! Thank you all so much for going out of your way to make Nick feel special today. Very, very classy!
Wouldn’t you know, we’ve created a monster with this whole walking thing. The dude wants to walk with his walker all over the place now! In and out of the kitchen, in and out of the car, from one end of the house to the other, showing off to friends. And the best part is that we are both still in shock about it. He’s been walking with parallel bars for three months, and didn’t even try the walker but once. And now that his core is getting stronger, he can hold himself much more steady. He’s walking again! This is just the coolest thing ever!
This has to be the strangest Birthday Nick’s ever had with me. He’s never cared about his birthday, but I’ve always done something cool for him anyway. This year, blah! How could I possibly top a diamond ring like he gave me last month? Besides, if I bought him anything, he would just be (mildly) grouchy about it. So, he’s not getting shit this year! A hug and kiss, and some conversation on our drive to Project Walk tomorrow. That’s about it. Well, I’ll probably feed him at some point tomorrow as well, but I tend to do that daily anyway.
So, Happy Birthday to my honey, the love of my life, my soul mate, my partner in adventure and my partner in sorrow. Happy Birthday to the man who changed my mind about love and commitment, who showed me how to be a healthy communicator, who has held my hand through some of the worst moments of my life and wiped my tears more times than I can remember. Happy Birthday to the adrenalin junkie plumber who skydived into my life, swept me off my feet, then ran one of them over, and forever changed my philosophy about how to live a happy life. Happy Birthday to the most handsome man on Earth (in my eyes!), the caring boyfriend (err, fiancé) who chooses his battles wisely, handles my feelings and opinions with the utmost respect, and always knows exactly when to apologize. Happy 34th to the man who cares more about the health of our relationship than the status of his ego or pride. Here’s to the man I am madly in love with, all 4 foot 8 inches of him, and to many, many more blissful years together as the ultimate teammates. But even after all of that, there’s really no need to get carried away about birthdays (except mine, of course,) because, like Nick has always said, “Everyday is like Valentine’s Day when we’re together.”
I’m having trouble forming an intelligent sentence out of the words I’d like to use to describe my first impression of Project Walk. Amazing, incredible, thorough, welcoming, class act, genuine, confident, inclusive, affirming, young-hearted, happy, and supportive. From the moment we walked through the door, we were treated like royalty, personally guided through the orientation process. We felt wanted and significant, and that Nick’s recovery is truly important to every person on their staff. It was a young crowd, both staff and patients. What a welcome change! We spent quite a bit of time with one of the co-founders, met many different therapists (most of whom Nick will never even work with), three different schedulers, and Nick’s client services coordinator. They took video and pictures of his session, and had two to three “specialists” with him at all times. We heard stories of quads and paras who eventually walked out of there, and saw many people with similar injuries working very hard.
It turns out Nick is the first ever amputee they’ve worked with. Because it’s specifically a spinal cord injury place, they only accept people with that injury. And I guess it’s fairly rare for people to have both SCI and amputations. Lucky Nick! The staff was fascinated with him. It was really cool to see.
They ran him through a testing process to measure his current level of function. I know his work with Jamon at the gym has paid off immensely, because those tests were easy for him. The co-founder even commented, “Are we sure he’s even paralyzed?” They see a lot of patients with very severe spinal cord injuries who have very limited mobility. Nick is coming to them with a lot of function compared to many others. He really IS lucky. They didn’t say he’d be an “easy” case, but his specialist did say she is excited to work with him because he’s going to get much faster results than normal. She said it’s a bit of instant gratification for her. We can live with that!
When he got on the walker and started trucking along without help, we were both so surprised. But really, our first clue should have been the other day when he walked with the hand crutches. And just because he could get up with the walker on day one, doesn’t mean that the road will be easy. It’ll be a lot of hard work, but absolutely do-able. We gained a lot of confidence from Project Walk today. We left there knowing, without a doubt, that it’s not a matter of “if” Nick gets his life back, it’s a matter of “when.”
His specialist Bree decided it would be most beneficial for Nick to come everyday (Monday – Friday) for the next few weeks. He’ll start this Friday, which also happens to be Nick’s birthday. She said that daily appointments will allow her to quickly work through some of the minor issues Nick is having. After a few weeks, he’ll be going there three times a week, and continuing for however long it takes for him to walk unassisted.
I think it’s pretty clear that we were truly impressed today. The facility is enormous, with three industrial sized rolling doors they keep open to let fresh air in. The whole place felt open and airy, bright and inviting. The equipment is plentiful and absolutely state of the art. It’s roomy, with tons of therapy tables, so you never feel like you’re on top of the other patients. There are mens and women’s locker rooms with full showers, lockers and changing areas. They even have an in-house massage therapist and acupuncturist who specializes in spinal cord injuries. His specialty is in bowel/bladder/sexual function. Nick will hopefully be seeing him this Friday, but for sure next week. We’ve been looking for a massage therapist for him, so I hope he’s as good as they say. With the intensity of this therapy, a weekly massage is definitely warranted, and long overdue.
Starting Project Walk today feels so right. It was just like coming home. This is the next chapter in Nick’s recovery and the beginning of his new life. We have no idea how long this chapter will last, and really don’t care. We refuse to have unrealistic expectations get us down the way they did when Nick first got his legs. We’re in this for the long haul, and we’re prepared to do the work. Bring it!
Look how straight he is!! And his new shoes; look at those too!
Day 1 at Project Walk. This was Nicks first attempt with a walker. He surprised us both. Moments later, while still walking, he said, “I didn’t know I could do this. Maybe I should have tried this BEFORE coming here.” Absolutely incredible!!
Only one more sleep until Project Walk!!! We can hardly stand it, we are so excited. We got all the required items including elbow and knee pads. He got a new pair of shoes and a fresh haircut too. I’m not kidding, we are ready! Carlsbad here we come.
Time for some new kicks. This is Nicks cheater method for an optimal shoe shopping experience.
“If I focus on today, the big picture will take care of itself.”
–Mark Beaumont – fastest cyclist to circumnavigate the world
With absolutely nothing planned for today, Nick and I decided that a day date was the perfect way to spend our last day off before starting Project Walk. We went to a matinee movie at the mall. It’s probably been about two years since we’ve seen a movie in the theatre, so this was definitely another “first” since Nicks accident. We weren’t sure if he could sit there for an entire movie, but he did fine. He was definitely sore and fidgety at the end though. I really think that Mission Impossible was so action packed that he mostly just forgot that he was uncomfortable.
While down at the mall, we took my engagement ring to be resized. I’ve almost thrown it off my finger a few times. I’d be devastated to lose that ring, so making it smaller was essential. I really hate not wearing it. Looking forward to picking it up tomorrow and never taking it off again.
With a straight face, Nick rolled up to a chair massage kiosk at the mall and asked four different therapists for a foot massage. No apologies, explanations or giggles, Nick wanted a foot massage. And I was prepared to sit and wait for 15 minutes while some dude performed foot reflexology on Nicks rubber feet. But this place didn’t offer foot massages. Damn it.
And I just can’t help but share my favorite photo from our trapeze lesson the other day. Honestly, this picture really is worth a thousand words. It was a really, really, ridiculously cool experience!
Me and my Daddy. He’s almost 79 years old and still stubborn as an ox, and I love him. Nick and I hang out with him every week or two. Sometimes he comes over and cuddles with Big Dog and watches football. Sometimes we meet for a meal. Sometimes he comes over to Nicks Moms house, where “he is always welcome.” Tonight we met at Islands for dinner. I love this picture, he looks so happy!
Nick and I are not religious or Biblical people. Not at all. But we believe in God, specifically in our own experiences of God. We have formed, and continue to form, our spiritual beliefs by taking bits and pieces from various sources that make sense to us. One such idea that we subscribe to is the law of attraction. Like attracts like; thoughts become things; we are constantly creating. And boy, is it sobering and confusing to understand the significance of Nicks accident when looked at from the perspective that we attracted this into our world. Unintentionally, of course. But still…
Well, this brings me to something that happened last week that I forgot to write about. I was invited to attend a talk at the newly opened Law of Attraction Center in Temecula. My friends “parenting guru” was going to be the guest speaker. And even though I’m not a parent, I decided to check it out. Surely I would gain something from it. And of course I did! When my girlfriend and I were walking up to the building last Sunday afternoon, the door flew open and out came Julie, our hypnotherapist, screaming my name! Talk about a warm welcome at a new place! As I came to find out, The Law of Attraction Spiritual Center is her creation. I had no idea! I was invited to go there by a friend (whom never met Julie), and it was only their second meeting ever. How cool is that?
Julie (Jewels) had us all write down an intention for the week and we placed it into a beautiful red jeweled box. She then guided us through a powerful meditation to help us set our intention into motion. The guest speaker was Sandi Schwartz, giving an exceptional talk on leading edge parenting. But her information really pertained to life in general, not just parenting. I left feeling full of love and energy. It was a great experience.
I went back again today. The place is small, the vibe is welcoming and casual, and because they’re just getting started, it’s an un-crowded intimate environment. While today’s guest speaker lacked the vibrance that Sandi had, I still got a lot out of his talk. And truly, Jewels is really awesome, so I wonder why she needs a guest speaker at all. Next week there is no guest speaker, it’s just Jewels. I’m very excited. She’s a wonderful lady, with a big heart, trying to spread the principles of the law of attraction, while helping others along the way. And since the damn football play-offs are finally over, Nick will be joining me next week. The center’s website is www.loaspiritualcenter.com
Jamon, Nicks trainer, says, “When you don’t feel like working out, that’s when you need it the most.” I guess Nick needed it really badly today. He went from zero energy at the start, to finishing strong with no pain, limited fatigue, and asking to go 30 more minutes. Wow! He felt great after his hour work out. I love that! Must be all the feel-good feelings from yesterday’s news from Project Walk spilling over to this morning.
We had a very special unexpected guest this afternoon. An old skydiving buddy who moved back to Canada a few years ago, and whom we obviously haven’t seen since Nicks accident, called us this afternoon and said he was in town and coming over. I know this makes Chopiak sound like a dick (cause he is), but we were really glad to see him! Just rousing his feathers here. He’s a super cool dude, and the randomness of seeing him today was just perfect!
Today, we celebrate 8 months sober. But not from alcohol, (of course not.) Eight months of sober reality, since Nick’s accident in May. What a journey. To celebrate, he walked the stairs three times today. That really wore him out. But the real celebratory moment came around 12 noon, when Nick received the long awaited phone call from Project Walk. He’s been accepted into their program, and his first appointment is Wednesday! We are ridiculously excited. We wish we could time travel to Wednesday and begin already. It’s been two months since he’s had a proper physical therapy session. So, we’ll be going down to Carlsbad three or so times a week, for two hour sessions, for however long it takes to get him walking unassisted. The Project Walk program is not cheap, but will hopefully be worth every penny. This is where a good chunk of the fundraising monies will be going. With the right tools, Nick’s intense efforts and consistency will translate into amazing results. I look forward to documenting every milestone along the way. Project Walk seems like a really awesome place and we are so grateful to be able to go there.
Yesterday I tried something new; something unique and challenging. I went flying on a trapeze with some of my friends! Nick came along to watch and be our full time videographer. We took a ninety minute group lesson and learned some cool flying tricks. You’d think a bunch of experienced skydivers wouldn’t bat an eye at a two story, fully netted, trapeze rig. No way! We were all so nervous up there. Climbing the ladder, and standing on the edge was the worst part! But once I stepped off, I found a new level of focus and raw elation that I haven’t experienced in a very, very long time. The swinging and falling, flipping and grabbing, was all very addicting. For our last trick, we hopped off the edge, holding on to the bar. At full swing, we pulled our legs up over the bar, hooked our knees and let go with our hands. This was all perfectly timed so we could transfer from our bar while still upside down, across the trapeze set, and into the other persons arms. All this before swinging safely down to the net. What a rush!
After the trapeze shenanigans, we dragged our exhausted bodies over to our friend George’s house, and into his gorgeous hot tub. This was good for me, as I was already feeling how fatigued my shoulders and hamstrings were. This was great for Nick, because his shoulders and hamstrings are ALWAYS fatigued. We got him in and out of the hot tub with no problem. But sitting on the cement seats in the spa was very uncomfortable for him. He just kept moving around, keeping most of the weight on his arms. Still, it was soothing for the muscles. We need to do more of this!
One (of the many) things that I love about Nick, is how much he says, “I love you.” He tells me a lot. Like, all day long. And it’s perfect, every time. But my favorite time that he tells me this, is when he randomly wakes from a shallow sleep, while I’m still up in bed blogging. He usually falls asleep before I finish my business, and if he gets jarred awake, he will grab me, and in a sleepy haze, tell me “I love you. You’re amazing.” Then he’ll immediately conk out again. I love that!
Nick celebrating 8 months post accident by climbing the stairs at our house.
Haven’t felt like writing in a few days. Been painting for my therapy instead. Both are equally satisfying at the time, however, I do not feel a sense of panicky guilt when I don’t paint for four days.
We’ve had a lot of different friends around this past week. Thank God, because I love my friends. They keep me sane! Yesterday was our first evening home alone in almost a week, and just when we thought everything was okay, it all went to hell. Nick had another phantom pain attack like the one he had in Hermosa. In his good leg! It came on with no warning, and lasted for over two hours, completely crippling him.
This is the second time it’s happened, and we are totally baffled by it. He says it feels like someone is stabbing his left foot. And aside from the night his legs were amputated, he says it’s the worst pain yet. What a maddening, hopeless feeling to watch him endure this level of pain. I was so relieved when it went away finally and he went to sleep. I tried everything to relieve his suffering. At one point he took an entire pain pill (that typically wouldn’t help phantom pains) hoping it would just knock him out. I have to admit, we’re both a little scared of this now. What if he keeps having these attacks? That thought is just too much to bear.
We’re still waiting to get into Project Walk, and in the meantime, still doing therapy at home. Today, he had a huge break through. My hopes for him have new vigor after witnessing him walk earlier. He used his hand crutches, and took off walking down our hallway, with only a light shadowing from his buddy (I was filming.) His friend didn’t even touch him; Nick was doing it on his own! Nick only faltered once, and was quickly caught and repositioned to continue on his journey. This was definitely my favorite therapy moment to date! He’s getting stronger, and sturdier, and he WILL be fully mobile again one day. I KNOW it!
One of my best friends had her parents out visiting from Idaho this weekend. What a great excuse to get the girls together (and Nick) and go for Thai food! Such a fun night and it was so nice to see Anita and Tim again.
MIA napping on Nicks neck. They are so dang cute, I can hardly stand it!
Nicks old school, long time buddy, Vinnie, is one of our heroes! Not only did he build us the sturdy and versatile therapy table that Nick uses daily, he built us hand rails for the stairs outside our house. For years, our guests have been braving the steep, treacherous, concrete steps with nothing to hold on to. But not anymore. Our primary reason for the railings is for therapy. Nick wants to be able to practice stairs more frequently as he gets better. And now he will be able to. A huge thanks to Vinnie, even though he doesn’t read the blog!
When rubbed the right way, Nicks nubs can feel a lot like women’s breasts. But don’t take our word for it, feel for yourself!
Nick and I decided to go to the gym at separate times this morning. This is significant because our “morning routine” is quite extensive, and requires my participation. Well, I only helped him with part of it, and went about my own business, leaving him to sort out the rest. By doing it this way, it finally turned out that we both got killer workouts. Afterward, as I drove away from Nick and the gym, alone, I realized what an incredible milestone this is. He was on his own! And I wasn’t nervous or worried one bit, even knowing that he was going to get gas for the car as well. Apparently, he gased it up with no problems. Last time we got gas, I did all the work, but he got out and pretended he was doing it, just to see if it would be possible. And it is, so long as he pulls up close enough that he can hang onto the pump machine.
We had a wonderfully relaxing few hours at home, cuddling with the MIA dog, napping and watching football. Maybe relaxing isn’t the appropriate term. More like recovering.
This evening we met a few friends for a special birthday dinner at Hana Sushi in Canyon Lake. We felt very grateful to be invited, as we know he doesn’t “do” birthday celebrations. Plus we’re all so busy, we hadn’t been able to get together yet. What a perfect opportunity though. We only planned to meet up with four friends, but as I may have said before, “You can’t take Nick anywhere!” He ran into so many people he knew tonight. One of our friends calls him “a bit of a local celebrity.” I agree. Not only has he grown up in this area, but his face was all over the local newspapers for months after his accident. Add to that the fact that he’s a loud personality in a wheelchair with two fake legs. Yeah, you really CAN’T take him anywhere.
I went skydiving today. It was super bad ass, gnarly awesomeness! My girlfriend Kim did her 300th jump, and I knocked the dust off. It had been two months since my last jump, and with these two today, I’m up to a whopping nine skydives since Nick got hurt.
I’m so thankful that Nick enjoys going to the dropzone to see friends and watch me jump. Laying on a lounge chair in the shade was perfect for today since his back was unusually sore. He’s been working really hard at the gym, so it’s making him sore again.
Today he tried something new while walking. He used a crutch on one arm while walking inside the parallel bars. He was so steady. What a beautiful sight. It won’t be long until he is steady enough to only use crutches. And that’s where Project Walk will come into play.
I thought this was pretty cool. This was the first time Nick stood to brush his teeth. During the two minute session, he had to sit once, but quickly got back up. There was a lot of strain on his right arm and shoulder, which had been bothering him lately anyway. It’s the little things like this, that really excite us!
Today has been a little bit emotional for me, as every January 12th has been for the past four years. It’s the anniversary of my Mom’s death. Her life, and her death, both readied me for my current role in Nick’s recovery. She was sick my entire life. In fact, some of my earliest memories are of visiting her in the hospital. But in 1999, when I was only 18, she had her first stroke, leaving her unable to care for herself. I went from daughter to mother in an instant. I withdrew from my first semester of college at Cal State Long Beach, and took on the role of caretaker for her for the next five years. After almost a year, when things settled down, I was able to return to college, and eventually get a job as well. But she was never independent again. Coincidently, she had her second stroke a few days prior to my first skydive in 2004, which debilitated her even further, to the point that I could no longer care for her myself. Sadly, I was forced to transfer her to live in a rehabilitation facility, where she lived for the rest of her life.
Taking care of her, at such a young age, certainly was not the same as taking care of Nick now. I was bitter then, much less patient, and constantly wondering “why me?” But despite my emotional immaturity, I gained invaluable experience throughout my trials. Medicines, hospitals, doctors, comas, therapy, social workers, pain. Nick’s hospital experiences often reminded me of the good ol’ days. Our current day-to-day is very similar to what it was then, except that Nick and I are always laughing, smiling and feeling gratitude for what we have.
My Mom was an interesting person, living with a head full of turmoil. She never liked any of my boyfriends, and very few of my friends. But she loved Nick. (Who doesn’t?) She felt comfortable with him, she trusted him, and probably understood that he was here to stay. Nick never complained when I’d drag him around to my Mom’s place. He used to have fun with her, pushing her wheelchair, tipping her back, and telling her jokes. She felt so comfortable with him, that she eventually took her last breath while he was holding her hand. They were alone in her hospital room while I stepped out to make a quick phone call. I think she felt safe with him, and relied upon his strength to make that ultimate transition out of this life and into the next great adventure. That was the first time I ever saw Nick cry. He realized the significance of her choosing to die in his company. What an emotional time. He lifted my spirit when I needed him the most. If it weren’t for Nick’s love and support that day and that year, I may have never made it out of there with my sanity. These days, I like to think that I’m just repaying him that favor.
We went for a lengthy stroll at this lake in Menifee this afternoon. It’s a nicely groomed, flat walk way, with a beautiful scenery, and no cars. Perfect for exercising. MIA dog loved it too!
Nicks up and at ‘em today. Been doing most of our driving too. He’s feeling a lot better these days. Thank God! So, he drives without his legs attached. But when we park, I get the chair from the back, set it beside the car, and he swings around to put his legs on and transfer into the wheel chair. Nothing to it! It’s really nice to have a vehicle that fits our needs, and is not about to break down. We’ll be much safer and more comfortable driving back and forth to Project Walk for the next several months. Awesome!!
This was a jump for the log book. Definitely one of my most memorable skydives. For my birthday in 2008, Nick decided to surprise me by taking me on my first ever tandem skydive. I had already made hundreds of jumps at this point, so this was definitely a unique experience. Oh, and he had just received his tandem rating less than a month before this. I’ve done hundreds of jumps with Nick, both for fun and work. But this particular skydive is so special because we rode together, flew under the same parachute, and even had a malfunction together. How romantic! You know what they say: A family that cuts away together, stays together.
I post this picture today, because January 11 is the anniversary of my first skydive, eight years ago. I can’t help but reminisce. Although skydiving has contributed to much pain and anguish in my life, through the loss of friends and now Nick’s injury, skydiving has given me more than I could ever calculate. I fell in love with skydiving instantly, from the second I stepped out of that otter door eight years ago. I have never looked back. My friends at the time didn’t understand, nor were they even slightly interested in my new found passion, and my Mom hated it. She could not wrap her brain around it and cried any time it got brought up. But this was a passion I just couldn’t deny. I was addicted.
I’ve lost several friends in the sport, shed many tears, and spent many, many hours with my heart and stomach in knots. I’ve never gotten over some of these losses. But still, that hasn’t stopped me. Three years ago I became an instructor and began skydiving everyday, making between 50-110 jumps per month. Nick and I worked closely together. We lived and breathed our work, so much so, that it never really felt like work. It was passion in action. Sometimes we would work 7 days a week, for weeks on end, introducing strangers to our world. In fact, that’s how it was until the week before Nick’s accident.
Through the sport of skydiving, I’ve met the most incredible people I’ve ever known. Sometimes skydivers have a bad rap for being crazy, mindless thrill seekers. But somehow Nick and I have managed to attract the most caring, loyal, mindful, adventurous, smart and witty people into our circle of sky family. My skydiving friends are some of the happiest, most balanced, well rounded people I’ve known. They have the same desires as Nick and I, to seek like minded people to share our most beautiful life experiences with. Most skydivers know how to really live life. Nick and I met while skydiving, and we thank God everyday for the loving support of our skydiving community during this shitty time.
Nick getting hurt didn’t steal my love for skydiving. I still love it; I just don’t crave it like I used to. Suddenly it is no longer my world. Other things in life are just much more important right now. But that’s ok. Life goes in cycles. I know I will return to the sky on a more frequent basis as Nick recovers. I’ve been blessed to make seven incredibly thrilling, yet comforting skydives since Nick got hurt. And I’m in the process of returning to working as a skydiving instructor on a very part time basis in the very near future.
This accident miraculously didn’t diminish Nick’s love of jumping. I think he just tries not to think about it, because he knows it’s not a possibility at this time. He is committed to returning to the sky one day, hopefully sooner rather than later. The docs say he can jump, if he feels up to it, one year after his last back surgury. So Nick has his calendar marked for August 18th of this year. His appetite for experiencing life and adventure is still there, we’re just on a little detour right now.
We’ve changed our minds. I know we created all this hubbub about going to The Challenge Center, but we’ve changed our minds. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with The Challenge Center, except for the fact that we just can’t get him in there in a timely fashion. He’s applying for Project Walk instead! Project Walk is another spinal cord rehabilitation center located in San Diego. Our friend Koji went there, and we’ve heard of incredible stories from their participants. We’re really excited. He spent a lot of time yesterday and today getting everything organized with the application and admission process and scheduling their required bone density exam. His exam is set for this Thursday, and then he should be having his first appointment next week or the week after. It’s going to come fast. It’s really hard to believe we’ve waited so long for this program. But at the same time, I’ve read about people beginning therapy with Project Walk eight years later. Seven months post-accident is nothing. Nick still has miles and miles of improvement to go. And that is a comforting feeling.
Today I spent quite a bit of time organizing facts and data and adding to the write-up I’m doing about our experience with Nicks canopy manufacturer, Precision Aerodynamics. I know it’s taking me forever to get this done. I’m not very good at this type of writing. Actually, I just don’t enjoy it, and I think that’s the problem. The subject matter pisses me off too, maybe that has something to do with it. I could pour my heart out on a keyboard in most conditions, but an essay-style fact sheet requires undisturbed silence. This makes me feel like I’m in High School all over again. Its almost done, and I promise to finish it in a reasonable length of time. Whatever that means.
Nick and I have decided to enroll in a community college class for the spring semester. Don’t expect anything fancy, like World Religions or Statistics. We’re taking a 1 unit, once a week, beginner guitar class. He can already play a little bit, and I am completely musically illiterate. But since I’m making a habit of uncovering hidden creative talents, I figure I should give myself an opportunity to discover if music and I get along. Oh, and it’ll be fun, and a bit frustrating too, I’m sure. We’d both like to learn to read music, and I want to be able to play The Beatles’ Let It Be, Pearl Jam’s Alive and U2’s Beautiful Day. Ambitious thinking I know, that I could learn these classic inspiring songs. Or maybe I’ll just learn to strum. Either way, I’ll be happy.
Check out this short video featuring my incredible friend Micah Retz and the leading researchers looking for a cure for spinal cord injuries. Their progress is remarkable and worthy of attention and fundraising efforts.
Had a follow up appointment with his spine surgeon early this morning. Everything looks great. New x-rays show that nothing has been slipping or sliding. Awesome news! We discussed the spinal cord stimulator trial again and even got to meet one of his patients who recently had it implanted for his back pain. He had some interesting things to say about it. But, we could tell he probably has some interesting things to say about a lot of stuff. We also spoke to the sales rep for the devices manufacturer. She will be putting us in touch with other people who have the device.
Nick had a lengthy acupuncture appointment with somebody new today. He said the guy “needled the shit out of me.” Hope it helps!
My favorite picture from Friday afternoons kayaking adventure with my friend Hannah. 80+ degrees, floating on Canyon Lake, mid January. Trying something new is good for the mind, body and soul. Thank God she used to be a kayaking instructor, because I nearly had my knickers in a twist whilst learning how to maneuver with the paddle.
Nick was up and at ‘em for such a long time yesterday, that today became a lounge day. He was so sore all morning. If I hadn’t nagged him to death to eat dinner with me and Dan in the kitchen, he surely would have stayed in bed all day. But that’s how it goes when he pushes himself so hard. The ups and downs are just part of the game we’re playing.
Had another sobering reminder of our human mortality today. My childhood neighbor, Rose, an elderly lady even from my earliest memories, recently passed. When I heard the news today, my mind was flooded with memories of all the sweet things she did for me and my family as I was growing up. Baby sitting, fresh fruit, home made tamales. I tried to recall ever going to her as an adult and thanking her. Nothing. I have no memory of that. I haven’t seen her in years. And now that she’s gone, I wish I had told her that her kindness has stuck with me and I am truly grateful for her daily presence in my developing years. Now it’s too late. Again. This realization makes me fucking sick. What’s worse is that there are probably a dozen or more other people in my world that I have unfinished business with. And by business, I mean raw emotions, words unsaid, and relationships worthy of refurbishing. The guilt and blame of losing another person whom I haven’t fully expressed myself to, is almost too much to handle. The only question is: how do I begin? I thank God everyday that I don’t have these feelings toward Nick, and that seven months ago I didn’t have to find peace with what wasn’t said.
This used to be a lot harder on him. Now, three rounds of “The Rope” doesn’t ruin him anymore.
Had an excellent stretch session, as you can see below. I did a lot of pulling and swinging of Nicks legs while he was face down. He loves that! And today we could go a lot further than usual.
We faxed all of our financial information into The Challenge Center, and then found out that it might be even longer until he’s accepted. It’s a long story, but it sounds like we should begin expanding our search of a specialized spinal cord injury rehab center. We just can’t keep waiting. Nicks life is on hold while we wait, and our tolerance is dwindling. We’ve got to act now! No matter how much home based therapy he does, it just can’t replace the one-on-one, specialized training, with specific equipment, that a place like The Challenge Center can offer.
Had a great afternoon with friends at our house. It’s not often we hang with children, but today was so fun! We spent time with the most fun little girl named Sydney. She made us both laugh so much. Loud belly laughs! Thanks Dave and Kellie for lunch and a great time catching up. It’s nice to have friends around to break up the monotony of our daily grind. The only down side is that Nick sometimes forgets to get up and practice walking while friends are here. Sounds like a fair trade off though. Sometimes.
Then tonight, since I was on a roll of having fun, I decided to do no more chores! So, I hooked up our new RockBand game to the Xbox and played for a few hours. Ouch! My hands are not conditioned for that. I’m surprised I am able to type right now because my hands are so painful. But the joy that Nick and I experienced while playing a few Green Day songs together, was priceless. An excellent way to unwind, relax and have fun for absolutely no reason.
I’m blogging on the treadmill at the gym. Obviously I’m taking it easy. There’s no shame in pulling a butt muscle while taking your team to the championships on an XBox football video game! I love working out on the second level, overlooking the main gym floor where Nick is pushing his limits with his trainer. It’s been almost two months since he started with Jamon. What a noticeable improvement in his strength only three days a week has provided. They do a lot of shoulder work, which Nick needs anyway due to an old injury and surgery. They blast his shoulders from every angle. They work every inch of his core too. At this very moment he is doing unassisted pull ups for the very first time! I am so thrilled to see that! Recently he’s been getting on the standing ab bench. He stands with his back against the pad, braced on his elbows and lifts one leg at a time. Sometimes he just hangs to release the pressure on his lower back. To me, I imagine that to feel amazing, but he says it’s quite painful. After an hour with Jamon he’s soaked with sweat and his muscles are like jello. It’s an amazing gift that he has recovered this much function so quickly.
Late yesterday, Nick FINALLY got his new pain med filled at the pharmacy. The one he started last week was only a temporary solution while waiting for this one. And… it’s just not cutting it for him. I seriously can’t believe the medicine roller coaster we are on. One of these days we’ll figure it out. But until we do, we sometimes run into days like today. Nick took two sizable naps this afternoon and evening. We were joking about him being old and needing a nap everyday. But he doesn’t just take a nap, the nap takes him. There’s no stopping it. Sometimes he will even fall asleep with guests here. I can’t help but love him!
I had a fairly productive day. Yet still manage to feel a bit like I’m drowning in to-do’s. My life has somehow become a series of actions relating to “getting shit done,” or at least “thinking about shit I need to do.” I guess what I’m trying to say is that my New Years resolution isn’t working so well. Looking back on today, I wish I had given Nick a proper full body massage and made fresh vegetable juice. These are a few things that really matter to me right now. Will do better tomorrow.
We’ve both had two really good days. Quality time with several of our awesome friends, lots of walking, tackling a big project at home, working out, sushi, rock band, massage, kayaking and very little pain. We’re feeling good. Active and alive. And it feels good to say this too. Nick has been upright much more lately than ever before. He feels like doing more for himself now that he’s in less pain. I love it.
The beginnings of a beautifully yogic Bow Pose. Just recently, his quads have loosened up enough that he can reach back and control the stretch. But notice the de-arch in his hips. They’re still super tight and always rise when we do this stretch, even if I’m pushing down on his butt.
Can’t really call it an “arch,” but this is the furthest he’s been able to stretch so far. And it feels good!
Having a rare treat: frozen yogurt. I love seeing Nick standing in normal, daily life situations; even if just for a moment.
We had a good day after all.
I’m not sure how it happened, but this whole “new year, new you” thing really works. I’m not going to say we are entirely out of our “funk,” but we definitely feel better today than any day of the past week or so. We’re both ready for a fresh start, even if it is just in our minds.
Reality hit us hard recently. Really hard. We even missed his personal training appointment yesterday in favor of staying in bed. It’s true, we’re human, with human emotions. Nobody said this would be easy, and we certainly don’t expect instant results after such a traumatic accident. But seven months is enough time to cloud the memories of how awesome life used to be. And seven months of the day-in/day-out realities of life with a spinal cord injury is enough to batter anybody’s positive attitude. It wasn’t until this seventh month that I started feeling sadness.
I’ve had twinges of heartache when I see Nick struggle with the most simple of tasks, like opening a door, rolling over in bed, or going to the bathroom. I’ve gotten depressed when looking at old pictures of Nick. I’ve always said he’s the strongest, most capable man I’ve ever met. I guess now he has an opportunity to display his strength in new ways. Only recently I’ve experienced sadness for the things in life we are missing out on. We would be in Thailand right now if he didn’t get hurt. I feel sad when I think of the simple things that will FOREVER be a struggle for him, if not impossible. Will he be able to walk on the beach ever again? Will he ever have sexual sensations again? Will he be able to walk without a cane or crutch? Will he ever regain his bowel and bladder functions? Will he find fulfilling work again? Will he have to wear diapers for the rest of his life? Will he ever be pain free? Despite these agonizing questions, we still hold strong faith. I’m just saying that the mere fact that these things are still questions in our minds, is sad in it’s own right.
We’re still positive though. We know that life today is not permanent. Things are getting better, improving slowly, every day. We literally remind ourselves of this hopeful fact daily. If we didn’t, well, I’m not sure we’d ever get out of bed. We both know that life is easier now than it was 4 months ago. It’s easier now than it was 4 weeks ago. And it will be easier still 4 months from now.
So here we are, starting a new year, saying goodbye to the worst year of our lives. And like I said yesterday, I wish we were actually saying “GOODBYE” to the troubles that 2011 brought us. But we’re not. And after much soul searching, I’m okay with that. I wish I could say the same for Fener, but I can’t. I’d be lying if I said he doesn’t regularly wish for life as it used to be. Daily life is very difficult for him. It’s painful, messy and arduous. Yet most of the time he faces these struggles with a smile. I really admire that.
We’ve decided to smile more in 2012, laugh more and focus more on fun. Basically, at the end of 2011, we had forgotten how to have fun. So, in 2012, we’ll be embodying his motto again: GET BUSY LIVING.
We’ve got some seriously exciting things coming up soon that can really change our lives. He’ll be starting therapy at The Challenge Center in about a month. This is a place specifically for people with spinal cord injuries that has an amazing track record. Around that same time, he’ll be starting the spinal cord stimulator trial to help relieve his pain with electrical impulses going directly to his spine. The research we’ve done gives us a lot of hope that this simple procedure will dramatically increase the quality of his life.
With these two changes, I can see Nick’s progress really take flight in 2012. We are very excited. Until then, we will face each day with a smile and a positive attitude. My resolution: respect the value of my time. Waste less of it, and invest more of it in what matters most to me. His resolution? I’ll have to get back to you on that one.