Monday, September 5, 2016

Recovery from Paraplegia & Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

If you read my other posts related to my husband's recent health issues, you'll already know the circumstances we've been through starting in January 2013. Since he came home in June that year, we've been through an enormous roller-coaster of ups and downs between treatments for different problems within the same 2 issues. The A.L.L. required an additional 18 months of home treatments (so, a 2-year treatment period in total beginning in March 2013 with the 30-day hospital treatments, ending with home & weekly hospital treatments, then home treatments and hospital testing for the balance), and continued monitoring after that.

We're very thankful that up to this point in time, there has been no re-occurrence or instance of A.L.L. in any of his tests or reports. Nobody is saying he's "cured" and this disease can occur at any time, but the longer one goes without a re-occurrence, the more likely it is he is free of it. Since he went into remission (and has not once been out of remission) after his first treatment in March 2013 in March 2017 he will be 4 years in remission (if he still is, and at the moment, we're fairly confident he will be). There are never any guarantees that any of us will see tomorrow (or even this afternoon), but the excitement of being disease free is very real for those who experience it. The hospital in Barrie where the treatments occur has it's own way of allowing survivors to express that excitement ... the bell ringing following the final treatments and testing. :)

After arriving home in June 2013, he continued with physiotherapy and in early September at a neighbourhood BBQ, he took his first steps on his own feet, outdoors, with the aid of a walker. While it doesn't look like much to most people, to his family, friends, and supportive neighbours ... this was very exciting!

He went on with physio for the balance of the year (twice a week) and did his "homework" daily. As the fall moved into winter, he continued his trips through the house carrying out his assigned homework - leg and hip exercises while laying on the bed or sitting in his wheelchair, and using the
walker to make several trips from front to back of the house (indoors). But, when he finished these exercises he always returned to the wheelchair, and hovered around the house in the chair. When he went out to physio, he used an exercise bike (recumbent), and parallel bars to walk between. We bought a recumbent exercise bike for home so he could continue improving and strengthening his muscles and balance ... which he did. But he continued to use that darn chair.

I didn't get it. If you could walk for exercises with the walker, why are you still using the chair almost full time at home? Okay, if you need a rest or need to get off your legs for a while, it's fine to use the chair. If we're walking longer distances (like in the mall, or hospital), you use the chair. But you're still using the chair all the time at home. Why?

Right before Christmas 2013 (late November actually) while I was working in my office I could hear him "rattling" around in the kitchen. He was at the point where he could get things from the fridge himself (I moved everything he'd need to lower shelves in fridges and cupboards), so I just figured he was getting a snack or a drink. But ... then he started calling for me to come. Usually when he called I'd come running ... this time, instead of a problem, he presented me with an early Christmas present. His first steps without a wheelchair, OR a walker, OR even a cane!

From that moment on, he progressed rapidly. He did use a cane for months afterwards, but by March 2014 he was able to begin practice driving again, and by April he was off and running - well, not literally running, but able to drive on his own again. Just being able to walk doesn't automatically restore your driving ability. Cars have pedals ... you need to also be able to CONTROL your legs, and their movements, and your reflexes have to respond to your brain's commands. Nerves that have been squashed, bent and damaged need time to heal, so "practice" driving and parking and responding to others on the road (in time) is really necessary.

Once he began driving again himself (on the roads, not just in parking lots) he really began the return to his former self, and to a more normal life again.

Today, at this point in time he's held and used (almost daily) a regular gym membership. He exercises on the treadmill, the bike, and lifts weights to continue strengthening his back and leg muscles.

This past week, he had his annual aortic valve checkup, and his cardiac reports also remain good.

It's good to remember that often, when we manage to make it through the struggles, the results can be awesomely inspiring!

Related posts: Home At Last, Coming Home, Wheelchair Adaptable, Unexpected Journey.

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