Saturday, March 19, 2011

Baby Steps...

I remember being in the hospital and completely unaware that I had a non-functioning left side.  Nurses would ask constantly "where's you left hand?" and without fail I would answer with the location of my right, feeling like normal as though the only thing wrong was that my brain seemed to be a bit mushy
(like trying to navigate through a dense, murky fog).  Instead of the 'phantom limb' phenomenon that often plagues amputees  my subconcious defense mechanism was to block out the entire effected side making me think, feel and believe (until reminded) that my functioning right half was a complete body. 

Once I got to acute rehab and in a wheelchair and days full of occupational, speech and physical therapy (think of it as a recovery boot-camp) I often forgot my left hand and with no sensation did not even realize it was there until it knocked over something, got trapped under me or stuck and crunched in the spokes of my wheelchair.  My therapists went as far as to equip me with a lap tray attached to my wheelchair and tape a rolled up towel to the top of it that I was to rest my endangered limb on to help.  Sadly enough while attempting to navigate or think of something other than my new task of maintaining eye contact with poor lefty I would often hear shouts in passing "where's your hand Chis?", "I can't see lefty so I KNOW you can't"; or just have a perceptive passerby pick up my arm themselves and take it out of harms way.  Thank you.

Now a little over a year into my recovery I still sporadically need the use of my wheelchair and while I no longer need the lap tray or forget about my still struggling appendages I attempted to man my wheelchair using both my hands instead of propelling with my right hand and steering with my right foot; not ready for that AT ALL. lol, While I have some sensation back in my left side it is no where near 100% and without staring at my hand to make sure each grab and push was executed  safely it is still more likely that I'll just get my hand crunched in the spokes of my damned wheelchair. True story. Last week I went to Trader Joe's with my mom and due to an uncooperative knee needed to use my wheelchair for the expedition. And this was when I decided to see if I could work my left hand and arm while my lower half was sulking and the only difference between then and now is that when my hand gets stuck in my wheelchair I now feel the damage I am unconsciously causing. It was hilarious, hand caught, wheelchair not moving because of the stuck digits and me hysterically laughing while simultaneously howling in pain; and my 4'10" Filipino mother scrambling trying to help while also valiantly attempting yet beautifully failing at trying not to laugh.  Needless to say we put on quite a show and I maintain my belief that, that alone was the reason why the staff and customers alike were soo friendly and proactive in assisting us during that particular excursion.

Now I could let myself get discouraged because after a year I still cannot do something as simple as utilize a wheelchair the way it's traditionally designed to be used but that's exhausting and counter productive, so instead I embrace the laughter, appreciate the hilarity of the moment of discovery and recognize the baby steps I am still making.