Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Concepts of the Human Form

May 5, 2022

I’ve been so preoccupied this year in taking life forward that I’ve neglected to blog about what’s been going on. I’m currently engrossed in preparing for a talk I’m giving next Wednesday, a talk based upon twenty one years experience of rebuilding my damaged body. Much of what I will talk about I have learn’t from Leonid Blyum, although, there is also much that comes from my own inner experience, my own thoughts and observations. For more information on what the talk’s about go to spinalroots.uk.

Back in January I promised to talk about graduation. Five years ago I set Easter, this year, as graduation from Leonid Blyum’s school of Advanced Bio-Mechanical Rehabilitation. It’s by no means the end of my rehabilitation work, nor is it the end of my association with Leonid Blyum, however, after twenty one years it is time to move onto a new phase. It’s time to take my work out into the world and start sharing all that I’ve learnt. I have lots of ideas while, at the same time, I’m still not sure where life will end up heading. The first step is to give this talk, next week, to inspire local people to helping me on my journey. I’ll keep you posted.

If you live in the area and are interested in coming to my talk, please message me to book a place.

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Able Bodied

January 3, 2022

I have one term left at the school of Advanced Bio-Mechanical Rehabilitation. I will write about graduation soon; for now I wish to talk about the difference between being disabled and able bodied. This is, essentially, a transition that I must make at graduation and I will talk of the bio-mechanical aspects of this. I spent the first 28 years of my life in an able bodied body and then, all of a sudden, found myself without so much function that I lost comprehension of what it is to be able bodied. I am then confronted with the question as to what makes one able bodied. Most consider this as the ability to walk, with the ability to perform bodily functions as a second thought, while, in my experience, bodily functions are the first that must be regained. They are intrinsic and it is within intrinsic structure that we must seek the answers to what makes us able bodied.

I am so far from walking and yet feel so close to being able bodied. For too long I lived with catastrophic collapse of the entire body while, at the same time, suffering paralysis from the waist down. Not only was there no hope of regaining the use of my muscles, while in such a condition, I also had little understanding of where hope lay. For nearly five years I wandered in the darkness until I met a gentleman who taught me various eternal truths of the body. I learnt to understand that the structure of my body is not dependent upon the lack of ability to use muscles and so I came to see that the structure of my body could be dramatically improved …..and that’s what I’ve done, over approaching 21 years!

Whereas once I was dead weight, from the waist down, now I have so much levity, from the transformed structure of my head, neck, shoulder girdle, chest and even pelvis, that my entire body has life in it to some degree. Now I can hold my head high, in a purely structural sense, and have so much capacity down to the chest that I’m working on the finishing touches to the structure from the waist up. A little more drawing out of the back, a little more strengthening under the shoulder blades and a little more stitching under the rib cage and I’m pretty much there. The waist down has always been a different story, and in some respects that has not changed, although, even there I have engineered such structural improvement that I truly feel connection through the hip joints and have flow right down into the feet. I no longer live with worry that the flesh of a little toe may start breaking down.

My pelvis has woken up to such a deep level that I’ve embarked on a new phase of regrowing my damaged pelvic floor and left bum cheek. I still want a cushion, but the increased flesh on my bum and the massive improvement in the strength of the lumbar sacral junction, together with greater volume to the pelvis, has resulted in being able to sit so comfortably. To be able to relax, in stature, with no regard for consequences, as those consequences will never be too great, is much of what it is to be able bodied.

Understanding how much disabled people struggle, with the ability to simply be in this world, goes a long way to understanding disability. I’m so flourishing in my ability, to simply be, that I hope, soon, to leave the world of disability behind.

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Chakras

December 1, 2021

In Jan 2019 I joined Gatwick Communicators, my local Toastmasters club. Toastmasters is an international organisation that promotes public speaking through a network of clubs. I joined to learn to become a confident speaker with a view to going beyond my blog to speak in public about my work and the journey I’ve taken. Unfortunately everything went online with lockdown and, although I tried it, I don’t care much for Zoom meetings and so had an eighteen month break. We’ve recently returned to meeting in person and below you will find a speech I gave about the ‘Chakras in relation to spinal injury and the work that I do to heal my body’.

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James Bond

November 7, 2021

I went to see the new Bond film last week. I wasn’t impressed. It was too long, too slow, too serious. I was impressed, though, with my pelvis. I’ve never sat so comfortably in the cinema. I did get fidgety by the end, but who wouldn’t with a three hour film that had none of the excitement and humour of the Bond films of old. My pelvis has really come to life lately and, when I look back to the early days, the change is phenomenal. There was a time when my pelvis simply didn’t have life. It was crushed under that section of my body above that still had life to it. It was disconnected from higher regions of the trunk at the lumbar sacral junction, so to speak. My trunk above the pelvis had enormous structural deficiencies, but nonetheless had a certain integrity to it. That integrity did not extend below the lumbar sacral junction so, in a structural, bio-mechanical, sense, that was a point of disconnection. The pelvis used to be devoid of feeling, all normal feeling at any rate, although I could feel the lumbar sacral junction and the severe weakness, at that point in the spine, was a cause of great discomfort, particularly when sitting through a long film. It is hard to describe the feeling of well being that has returned to my pelvis lately as it is something you tend to take for granted when able bodied, while the lack of pain at the lumbar sacral junction is something we can all relate to more, especially when a significant number of able bodied people succumb to a weakness there. The feeling of well being is simply that of life and it has to be considered here that your body can exist without life and without the feeling of comfort that life brings.

The pelvis is home to the lower intestines, bladder and bowels and it is these organs that are the foundation for the pelvic structure. It is there pressure, density and so volume they occupy, accordingly, that give the pelvis its volume. Without that inner quality the pelvic skeletal structure will collapse in upon itself, in turn denying capacity for the proper insertion of the legs at the hip joints. This is the scenario I was living with and the scenario I have now managed to move beyond. Bladder and bowel function, or rather lack thereof, are a major factor in spinal injury and in some ways can be more debilitating than the lack of function of the legs. They tend to be the unspoken side of paraplegia and I will not be going too far in breaking that trend; it is not a subject I am too comfortable talking about. I will say that there function has greatly improved, substantially raising my quality of life. There is a long way to go there, but I am no longer lifeless in that region and there is once again a structural foundation to the pelvis. This gives for far greater articulation of the skeletal structure, descending the structural integrity truly into the legs, whereas once that integrity stopped at the lumbar region.

With my upper body (the trunk above the level of paralysis that was by no means exempt from structural collapse) coming very close to full capacity, bringing full capacity back to the pelvis will be the next milestone and with the life I have now re-engaged in the pelvis, the real hurdle to achieving that has already been overcome. Who knows if I’ll ever overcome the paralysis in the lower legs or even regain good strength in the upper legs. I’m unlikely to ever be a James Bond, however, I do intend to engineer a great deal more improvement yet.

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Shed Building

October 17, 2021

A good mate of mine and I make a good team when it comes to shed building. I’m the architect, the project manager, the chief engineer and the skilled craftsman and he’s the dog’s body manhandling the timber, hammering the nails in and doing all I can’t reach, under close supervision. It was his log shed so he’s also been the bank balance and the one who buys the drinks in the pub afterwards. Considering how much I love a good project it’s been a fair deal, although a big job and a lot of work!

The biggest log shed I’ve ever seen!

He wasn’t confident to do a straight saw cut so all the sawing fell to me. As a paraplegic most people think I must have good upper body strength, after all I spend a great deal of time pushing a wheelchair. This, however, is far from the truth. Good upper body strength requires good foundation, all that is badly damaged in the paraplegic. Without good foundation, well balanced function of the arms is impossible despite use of the muscles and the ability to build up muscular bulk. Wheelchair racers are a good example here. They build up enormous muscular bulk and on the surface look extremely strong. Look deeper, though, and another picture emerges. In order to effectively use their muscular power they have to crush themselves into a wheelchair to provide sufficient stability for the use the arms, as there is no true foundation for their function. Ask them to sit upright and saw a piece of wood and they would struggle. Good all round strength in the arms requires good inner capacity; volume to the chest, a broad shoulder girdle and just as importantly, strong foundation in the head and neck.

In a true paraplegic the inner capacity has collapsed leaving no foundation for the legs and only weak foundation for the arms. Interestingly, some wheelchair sportsmen these days are not true paraplegics and have managed to retain intrinsic capacity despite the spinal injury. This begs the question as to why they haven’t managed to walk again and the answer probably lies in the fact that doctors and physiotherapists don’t tend to recognise the inner capacity and from personal observation tend to steer everyone in a spinal unit towards wheelchair use despite the fact, that in one or two, the potential exists to walk out of hospital. If that potential isn’t developed then they will remain wheelchair users.

With all the sawing I have done building this woodshed I have been so impressed with how significantly I have developed the foundation in my body, particularly in the neck. Volume to the chest and broadness to the shoulder girdle are important, but a strong neck is the real foundation for the shoulder girdle and so for the use of the arms. My neck has really developed lately with an increased solidness to it and my head sat high above my chest. There is still work to do to fully draw the shoulder blades out of the body, and rebuild volume to the back, and so the foundation in the neck was really tested by all the sawing. I had to be careful and am certainly not strong enough yet to do a full weeks work; two days in a row and I needed a days rest. Impressive it is nonetheless and after twenty years, and many thousands of hours of work, the trunk is really coming to fruition and the upper body side of things, at least, is close to finalisation. That’s exciting!

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Music & Dance

September 5, 2021

Last weekend I went to Beautiful Days music festival at Escot Park in Devon. Three days of bands, beer tents and camping. For many years such weekends have been a damage limitation exercise. Looking after myself has not always been easy. The lack of home comforts and the demands of roughing it, together with being on the go for twelve hours a day tend to take their toll. This time was different though. Sleeping on a air bed in a tent is never the most comfortable, but I woke up each morning with no aches and pains. We’d head down to the festival around midday and not return to the tent until midnight and yet I never had trouble with a sore bum or aching lower back, nor trouble with my feet swelling up. In fact I’d never felt so alive for a long time.

Switching off from everyday life and letting your hair down is always a good thing to do for a weekend and never more so than after eighteen months without getting away. I lost count of the number of performers who did there ‘ good to be back after lockdown speech’. More importantly, my body is getting so good that I’m better placed for dealing with the rigours of such a weekend and being the first weekend away for a long time this was very noticeable. My whole body has improved, since my last camping trip, from foundation in the head and neck right down to pelvic quality and flow down into the legs. There’s a sense of wholeness to my body that hasn’t existed for too long.

Music is so intrinsic to who we are and there is nothing better than live music and a crowd of people to fill you with spirit. Dance, with its rhythmical movements, has got to be one of the best forms of exercise, although, when paralysed, exercise has to be treated carefully. When I was totally paralysed from the waist down it was good to feel the rhythm in that part of my body I could still use, but difficult to gain the full experience of dance. With so much more connection in my body, dancing can be truly wonderful again. Improved capacity to the pelvis and greatly strengthened lumbar sacral junction means I can move my whole body and I even discovered new strength in the hip joints, bringing the legs into play. One band got the audience swaying from side to side with their hands in the air. I tend to shy away from such antics, but they pulled it off well so I went along with it and was pleasantly surprised by my ability to move from one bum cheek to the other, with real strength of structure and muscular function in the buttocks.

The Levellers, whose cult following I’ve been a member of since the 90’s, put on the festival each year and always headline on the Sunday night. They’re a great band to sing along to and singing is another great exercise which can improve the capacity of the chest through the vibrations of the voice box. Clapping is also a good way of inputting into the structure of the body and it’s fascinating how our social ways can be so good for our health. I spent the weekend singing, dancing, clapping, meeting new people and hugging and kissing the girls; all that has been denied us during the pandemic. Despite the struggles of getting around the site, especially in the mud of a wet Saturday, I was uplifted by the experience of the whole weekend. I left on the Monday morning having grown in stature, and in spirit.

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The Last of the Mohicans

August 19, 2021

Twenty two years ago I stayed in a care home for six weeks following an operation to finally mend my broken collar bone. I can’t say I was really looking forward to the stay and never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself enjoying life in a home for disabled people. How wrong I was! I fell in love with the spirit of the place and the philosophy of its founder, Leonard Cheshire. Six months later I moved into the Lodge there; a run down old bungalow in desperate need of some TLC. I’d not just found a community to be a part of, but also an opportunity to put a roof over my head, for a price I could afford, by renovating and maintaining the Lodge and managing land. The combination of the opportunity of a life time and the love and care of an extended family was just what I needed to overcome a life changing accident that had left me a paraplegic. I’m not sure how I would have built a new life for myself without Heatherley Cheshire Home.

The Red Feather symbolises strength and vitality, courage and passion

Two world wars brought out the worst in mankind, but also the best. The camaraderie that Leonard Cheshire experienced led him to seek a new way of coming together in life and, having failed in his first attempt at setting up a communal living project, he set up the most fantastic movement to provide homes for disabled people. Many post war movements sought to capture the spirit of a new age, however, none were strong enough to survive the persisting onslaught of the ‘old order’. The hippies were far too hedonistic and wrapped up in drugs to last the test of time, but even the Leonard Cheshire homes, that were so grounded in a practical way, have fallen prey to an outdated social economic system, together with ever increasing legislation and bureaucracy.

It wasn’t long after joining the community at Heatherley that I realised all was not roses. Head office were starting to take control and the nature of the home was changing from a local community affair to a managed business. In many ways the change was necessary in order for the home to survive, however, you can argue that it hasn’t survived. It has been swallowed up by the old order it sought to replace and the spirit of the new age simply cannot flourish in such a climate. The volunteers are all but gone, friends and relatives are no longer embraced as members of the family and in fact there is no extended family left, no community. All that is left is a business that provides for existence. This is not life and not what those early pioneers began and if it continues we must fear for the future well being of disabled people. It’s not about blaming anyone or being angry, it’s about understanding what has happened so that we may have hope for the future.

The last remnants of spirit remain in the fabric of the place and in those disabled people strong enough to uphold that spirit. I feel like the last of the Mohicans waving the banner of a dying way, a way that I will continue to fight for until it is reborn, and reborn in a way that will last. The ‘old order’ must be defeated and not just in our Cheshire Homes. We must all find a new sense of coming together in community throughout this land and we have those wonderful post war movements of Leonard Cheshire, and others, to show us the way. This is the challenge of our time.

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To Simply Be

August 3, 2021

A friend of mine is such a doer. He goes from work to the golf course, to the gym, to the pub in a never ending drive to fill each day. He doesn’t stop! I on the other hand am happy to sit in my rocking chair, outside the back door, gazing up the garden and listening to the birds. I admire my friends energy, and often wish I had more myself, but I can’t help thinking he’s somewhat lacking in the ability to ‘simply be’.

One of the toughest things about being disabled is living in a body that can deny you the ability to ‘be’. Being is not just a state of mind, it also requires sufficient structure to the body to physically be, without effort. These days I have little trouble in that respect, but that has not always been the case. Sitting used to take constant effort. Muscular involvement was necessary to make up for the lack of intrinsic capacity and the need for muscular involvement takes effort and so an inability to switch off and truly relax …and that was from the waist up. Below the waist I had no usable muscles and the structure was very collapsed, so although there was no conscious effort, that paralysed part of my body very much contributed to the struggles in what I could still consciously use. Even if there is no awareness of paralysed body, and no feeling of aches and pains, then the poor structural quality will still have a negative affect on your overall physical health and it is that wholeness of health that is so important for the ability to simply be.

These days my body is so much better that I can sit in my rocking chair and very much relax, with maybe just a slight tension in the lumbar sacral junction. Having lost the ability to be and having now very much regained it, I may have more appreciation than many of the importance of simply being. Western culture is such a culture of doing. Not only is there a constant drive to work to provide for living, there is then the tendency to find things to do to fill the rest of our time. As a society we have gone from earning money out of the work that needs doing to creating work for the sake of earning money. We find ourselves more and more embroiled in a reliance on manufactured goods and with less and less time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Is it any wonder that nature’s turning round and saying enough is enough. Maybe we all need to learn the art of being rather than doing and good physical structure plays it’s part in this.

Native Americans are the epitome of being rather than doing. Did we miss an opportunity to learn from them?

One of the things I love about the therapy work I do is that, not only does it build up the capacity to ‘be’, in it’s way of achieving improvements in structure it actually encourages the art of being. No pain no gain does not come into it. The work we do is about delivering gentle inputs into the body. It takes hours and hours of repetitive work to make the changes, but the work itself is really quite relaxing. Perhaps my friend would be wise to do a little less rushing around and give up the no pain no gain work down the gym, after all gyms are for building up strength in a well balanced body and not for getting into shape once your body has lapsed. If he’d allow me to show him how to rebuild that root of weakness in his neck and shoulder girdle and alter his ways to a more gentle therapeutic approach then maybe he’d find more pleasure in the art of simply being.

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Paradoxical Shoulder

July 8, 2021

When I moved into my cottage there was a garage / carport / workshop in the backyard. The roof, a heavy boarded felt roof, was held up with 2 x 2 uprights. For those of you not English, or too young to know inches, that’s 50 x 50 mm lengths of wood, incredible flimsy for the job. The whole thing was leaning so I anchored it to the Laurel hedge, winched it upright and braced it up. Years later in 2015 it was time to replace the uprights and build a decent side to my workshop. I laid a footing and a row of blocks, inserted much stronger wooden posts, built in a window and then came the job of cladding. I used 16 foot lengths of 8 inch feather edge, not too heavy until you have to hold them up with one hand to get the first nail in. The following morning my left shoulder was in agony.

Before
….and After

When I broke my back I also broke my collar bone to which the consultant’s answer was that collar bones mend themselves. The two halves were so overlapped that it was only possible for them to join fibrously and the more active I became the more the two halves moved. Two and a half years after breaking my back I finally persuaded a surgeon to bolt the two halves back together, but the damage was done. Having to use a wheelchair with catastrophic collapse of the core structure of your body is bad enough. Top that with a broken collar bone and you end up with serious weakness and deformation of structure. Amazingly, for nearly 20 years my left shoulder rarely troubled me, until I built my workshop wall.

The body has an incredible capacity to compensate and had locked in the weakness using the outer muscular shell to provide the necessary stability for the use of the arms. The shoulder blades, that should play a substantial part in stabilising the arms, were sunk into the body and floated around playing no functional role and yet I could use my arms for strenuous activity, albeit not in a good way. As we slowly but surely improved the structure of my trunk we opened up the collapsed structure and exposed the weaknesses that had been buried for so long. The alignment of the structure was improved but the connections so weak that all of a sudden I had to be so careful as to how I used my upper body. Nailing up the cladding to the workshop wall was too much for the newly exposed weaknesses.

Since then my shoulder has gone through so many stages. We have worked deeper into the body exposing and strengthening level after level, little by little getting to the core of the problem. Strangely, the more we rebuild the structure the more strength I find to lift my weight and move my body around while at the same time small movements can become difficult. At one point I struggled to lift a dinner fork to my mouth. The shoulder blade is so much better anchored these days and we are now exposing weakness in the connection of the humerus, at the ball and socket, and the upper arm. Although stronger than ever sometimes when sitting still my arm will lock at the shoulder joint and I physically have to lift it with the other hand to free it off. The paradox of improving strength on one hand and difficulty with gentle movement on the other is fascinating, but the great thing is I continue to improve and one day my left shoulder will cease to trouble me.

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Infection

June 19, 2021

I had trouble a couple of months ago with an infected testicle. The infection was savage and I was concerned enough to go to hospital for intravenous antibiotics. The doctor explained that because I’m catheterised this can cause infection in the bladder and bugs can work their way down to the testicles. I have a different explanation.

It hasn’t taken me two months to get around to writing this because I’ve been poorly. Quite the opposite. It was a very short stay in hospital and I bounced back quickly and have merely been absorbed with another project. Infection is often seen as bugs invading the body, and even doctors talk about it in such terms, when in reality the bugs are always in us and only get to work when encountering poor quality tissue. When living with a spinal injury much of the body is poor in quality. The underlying structure of the body collapses and the weaknesses get locked in leading parts of the body to exist in a semi dormant state. I have spent the last twenty years waking my body up from that dormancy and over the last few years there have been successive waves of development bringing the pelvic region back to life.

Bringing life back into a body where it hasn’t existed for many years is a fantastic experience, but not without its complications. In bringing back to life you expose the weakness that has been buried for many years. In the muscular skeletal system this is fairly straight forward. Reconfiguring the structure and exposing muscular skeletal weakness merely results in a strain if you’re not careful, a little like finding muscles you didn’t know you had. You can easily get over the strain and begin to enjoy new found strength. However organs of the body being woken up is a different scenario altogether.

Some years ago I brought my skin back to life. You may think of skin as nothing more than an outer covering, but in fact it is an organ. On waking it up I suffered from terrible rashes. The lymphatic system started working properly again and was ridding the skin of the toxins that had built up over many years of existing in a semi dormant state. A testicle may also build up toxins in it, but more importantly the structural quality is weak and in waking it up you expose that weakness, leading infectious agents to think that weak cells needs breaking down and disposing of. That is the job of infection. The accompanying fever will also help rid the body of toxins, but if the fever and infection get out of control they can cause more harm than good and such a situation may need managing through the use of antibiotics. I’ve paid the price in the past for not respecting the dangers enough.

Eighteen months ago, in previous wave of pelvic development the same thing happened to the right testicle, but nowhere near as savage. The left side of my body has always been weaker and more dormant and it took a deeper level of development to wake up my left testicle and resulted in a more serious infection. 72 hours after the first sign of a problem I was already starting to feel for that deeper level of life and articulation of the pelvic region. The testicles are better than ever now and I’m very much enjoying a more developed pelvis.