Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Getting Physical

I like to study and analyze things I'm interested in. I love research. Sure, it can become obsessive, and friends may occasionally slip into a comatose state when I frequently slip into yet another recitation of the latest bits of knowledge upon which I have been bestowed during a late night spent with Google and YouTube learning about roller derby or wire wrapping or glass cutting or lead soldering or belly dance makeup. Sometimes EBay is the research vehicle of choice for weekends awash in viewings of vintage dresses or belly dance costumes. A Civil War project at work involved reading journals written by women in Clarksville from 1862-65 and narratives and interviews with freed slaves in the years following the war. It was heaven. Well, my version of it.

Years of ballet classes that began at age six, topped by years of a casual participation in yoga and four or five years of belly dance lessons have generated a reasonably high level of body consciousness and an interest in how muscles work and movement happens. It was interesting to me when my ballet teacher told us our balance on one leg would be better if we lifted through the torso and held our weight over the extended leg. Leg extension could be improved by focusing on pushing down in the hip, instead of raising the foot. In a recent belly dance workshop deeply rooted in yoga movement and anatomy, we learned to move the torso to the right by contracting the left oblique muscle, and executed chest lifts by contracting the muscles between the shoulder blades. Fascinating stuff. Well, to me.

Undergoing physical therapy has been an interesting learning adventure. Many of the movements and actions in my program are dance moves, or darned close to them. Except for the fact that I am there to rehabilitate an injury, it's kind of fun. That is, until the first therapy appointment of the new year that began with the first two days spent virtually immobilized with a wretched cold.

The third day of the new year was marked by my full-time return to work since what I now refer to as "the incident involving the leg" and the return to physical therapy after a trip home for Christmas that involved much overeating. Therapy opened with my attempting to ride a stationery bike and whining about my knee that keeps clicking like a party noisemaker, then attempting various ways to to actually feel some stretch in a flexible gastrocnemius muscle, and other assorted actions involving weights and towels and heel raises.

On the bike, we taped my knee with the three-inch surgery scar to stop the rubbing/clicking annoyance. Later, we discussed the big thick pad on my knee at the incision site that prevents my ability to kneel. I asked how long it would stay like that, thinking about yoga and the kneeling poses. Mr. Physical Therapist said "a year." He kids around sometimes, but this time he wasn't laughing or even smiling. In a standing exercise with weight shifts, I was supposed to raise the front of my foot. In spite of attempting this movement for many weeks, the stubborn left foot doesn't cooperate because the big toe doesn't flex no matter how hard I try. It's kind of a big deal, because it replaces smooth walking with a Frankensteinian walk that I despise at every step. My right foot rolls smoothly and silently while my left foot starts with the normal meeting of heel to ground, followed by a very ungraceful slap. No silent ninja action for me. Silent roll. SLAP! Roll. SLAP! Absolutely the worst sound I can imagine coming from my body. Worse than a loud, public fart. The big toe doesn't register feeling, so I don't walk around barefoot at home for fear of breaking my toe and not realizing it.

The physical therapist spent time addressing the issues of my colossally limp big toe and partially dysfunctional foot. In the midst of it, he said three words that sucked the air out of my otherwise good day. "Possible nerve damage." My bright mood dimmed. He had me close my eyes and he touched my shin, ankle, foot and toes, and I had to tell him when I could feel the touch. Half the time it seemed as though he had abanded me at the padded table upon which I sat and gone out for coffee. This seemed to confirm his suspicion, which he reiterated, only this time he left out the "possble" and just said "nerve damage." My mood became downright dark.

He explained to me about the nerve that runs down the shin (at the area of the fracture site noted by a lovely two-inch scar), through the ankle, over the top of my foot and to my toes. He said he'd call my surgeon. He assured me that nerves can regenerate, albeit at the rate of about a millimeter a month. Freeking great. Let's see, the length of the dead span of my ankle and foot plus a miniscule growth rate means that maybe by the time I'm 80 I'll be able to walk normally again and maybe even wear scuff slippers without constantly losing the left one in transit. Plenty of time to research ways to disguise a limp / Frankenstein walk. I already know of one -- deliberately hiding out at home. Much like the past two months.


  1. Oh, Tammy, sweet thing! I hate this so much for you. I do want to say that people over and over again have proved doctors wrong or defied odds of all sorts; I'm thinking you have real possibilities for being one of that number. YES, of course it's because I want you to be, but also it DOES happen...

    Actually amazing methods, strategies, accomplishments have come from people told horrendous tales about not being able to do this or that after accidents. Moshe Feldenkrais (Google him/it) developed this incredible system of working with the body when he was told he'd never walk again; my chiropractor David Allen (Riverside Spinal Clinic) chose his profession based on working through the same diagnosis with a chiropractor. My yoga teacher in Chattanooga years ago, an older woman (well, probably about my age now!) had also been told she'd never walk again after a horrible wreck where her whole leg was shattered; she did incredible things with her body, was an amazing teacher and practitioner of the physical AND spiritual aspects of yoga.

    All of these, of course, are MUCH more extreme than your situation (which I realize must feel just about as bad when you happen to be in that boat!) - but I think it may be very possible to do more than "prescribed" and more quickly. Don't get discouraged (you will, of course). Work hard, study up, keep the faith!

    No doubt this should have been a separate email; pretty much exceeds "comment" rate I guess... Love you and pulling for you.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.