The Rhomboid

December 2, 2014

It’s over thirteen years now since I embarked on my ABR quest (the quest to rebuild my damaged body through Advanced Bio-Mechanical Rehabilitation) under the guidance of its creator Leonid Blyum and its time to reflect upon the progress I have made. Twice a year I travel to Belgium to meet up with Leonid Blyum, at the ABR Centre in Hasselt, to have my progress assessed and to decide upon the next move. The work, however, is done at home; many hours of gentle therapy work each week.

Despite the fact that I live in this body and experience its changes from within, I am not always sure quite what to expect from my assessments every six months. Mr. Blyum always seems pleased with progress and there is always substantial progress, but this does not always tally with my visions and expectations. More often than not, assessments are a stark reminder of just how extensive the damage was, how enormous the task is and how far I still I have to go before I can consider this task anywhere near complete. If I’m not careful they can leave me feeling quite daunted, but they also act as a reality check and a reminder that there are no miracle cures for spinal injury. Considering that it is not possible to do much more damage to your body than I did, all improvements are a godsend and I have continued to make steady improvement over the last thirteen years.

My latest visit to the Belgium Centre, three weeks ago, brought a rather different assessment experience. I was taken by surprise by the substantial transformation in my body. After eighteen years of living within a flat body my trunk has become rhomboid in form! This was a real boost and made me realise how progress is speeding up as momentum builds.

The idea that your body can change without you realising what is happening is quite strange, but this is a case of internal perception not tallying with the structural reality. I always notice changes through improved ability, but can’t always equate that with the structural improvements. These structural improvements often have to be pointed out in my assessment in order for me to make the connection. During the summer I had noticed far greater stability in my trunk giving rise to improved strength in the arms and substantial expansion in the pelvis, but hadn’t made the connection with this fundamental change in the shape of my trunk.

It’s time to reflect upon the progress I have made and just how far I have come since beginning this quest. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs and many videos documenting my progress and will endeavour, in the New Year, to update my website (www.spinalroots.net) to portray my progress through pictures, but for now I will see what I can express with words.

When I embarked upon my ABR Therapy program, my body was as flat as a pancake. Viewed from the side, my chest had little more depth to it than the width of my arm. My back was straight and stiff with no curves to the spine. Rather than being set deep into a spinal valley, my vertebrae protruded and yet the spine effectively floated in my body, playing no part in structural stability. The shoulder blades were nowhere to be seen, lost inside the body and failing to play their part in the stability of the shoulders, but by poking your fingers in from the front, above my collar bone, you could feel the top of the shoulder blade within the body. That is how little substance there was to my body. Similarly you could feel my spine through the front of my abdomen showing how depleted was the quality of the internal organs. It is amazing that digestion could even take place. My trunk lacked the capacity to provide sufficient foundation for the use of the arms and so every push of the wheelchair caused my trunk to hinge in the middle. This hinge occurred two thirds of the way down the chest causing the lower third of the rib cage to splay out. My breathing was shallow and was largely confined to the top two thirds of the chest, the lower third belonging to the abdomen in this respect. My body had collapsed down upon itself and my bottom rib sat below the top of my pelvis. My pelvic girdle had collapsed in on itself and I sat on nothing but skin and bone. When you see the body in this light it’s no wonder that the legs couldn’t work!

After thirteen years, and thousands of hours of therapy work, you now see a very different picture in my body. My spine sits within a valley and has pretty much regained its curvaceous form. It has transformed from that flat, stiff, plant like form, through the primary curve stage of the animal like form to the super curve stage of the human. There is depth to my chest and even my back is finally gaining depth. The shoulder blades have been drawn out of the body to once again anchor the shoulder joints and my trunk gives stability to the use of the arms. The deformation in the ribcage from the hinging of my body is depleting and my chest is slowly regaining its barrel shape. My ribcage and my pelvis are separated by the redevelopment of the waist and my pelvis itself is rapidly regaining volume. My breathing has depth to it and we are currently working on creating the ability of the breath to work right down into the pelvis. The increased pelvic capacity gives a much greater connection of the legs and the improved stability of the trunk provides a greater foundation upon which to base the use of the legs. This has resulted in enormous improvement in the use of the legs, both in the extent to which I can move them and the smooth control of those movements. I can also, once again, take weight through the legs, although it is a little wobbly at this stage to say the least!

All in all I have come a long way in my rehabilitation and have made much progress to celebrate. It is only when I remind myself of the extremely poor condition that my body was in that I remember just how much of a struggle life was and this brings home to me how comfortably I live these days. My body is still substantially lacking in capacity and I still have to work hard to get through each day with some semblance of comfort and ease, but I am growing stronger all the time and look forward to further improvements and to the relaxation that one tends to take for granted when in full health.

For now the real excitement is the establishment of the ‘rhomboid’. We still need to create a back, a front and two sides to arrive at the octagonal form of the healthy body, but finally after all these years I can kiss goodbye to the ‘flat body’!


One comment

  1. Glad to hear you are making good progress. Keep up the hard work Steve.

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