Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Cheap and Weak

February 18, 2018

I went out for a drink last night with a friend of mine. I picked her up in my van and we drove to a little village pub. We bumped into an old acquaintance of hers, who was an interesting guy, and had a good social evening. I’ve never liked driving to pubs in the past. I’ve never felt comfortable drinking while knowing I have to drive afterwards, but I care less and less for alcohol and find that it more and more interferes with a way of health and my mission to heal this body of mine, so I didn’t mind driving last night. This leaves me with a dilemma though. There is only so long you can make the one pint last that ensures you definitely stay below the moral and legal limit of alcohol for driving and yet how do you partake in the activity of social drinking without beer?

I’m a real ale drinker and, although I can enjoy a glass of red wine, I wouldn’t entertain any other drinks in the pub. Grains have been brewed for time immemorial to produce wonderful health giving drinks and our traditional English ales are still served as live beers, full of those friendly bacteria from the fermentation culturing of malted barley grains, so good for our bodies. I am quite convinced that the regular consumption of real ale has contributed to the good health I have normally enjoyed over the years. The damage I have struggled with from accidents being another story altogether. For the last twenty one years I have had a supra-pubic catheter (a tube inserted straight into the bladder just above the pubic bone) as I have not been able to control my bladder since suffering a spinal injury. Last year I was struggling with complications due to my injury and following an operation in hospital I got a urine infection, the only one I have ever had. My doctor was very surprised that, having been catheterized all these years, I had never had a urine infection before and told me to carry on with whatever I had been doing to live infection free for so long. My health has now recovered from last years setback and I am sure that flushing my body through with health giving real ale will happily help keep any potential infection at bay for years to come, the only trouble being that I enjoy the thirst quenching beer but want only limited amounts of alcohol.

The culturing of grains, fruits and roots is an age old craft. Yeast fermentation produces alcohol but there is another fermentation process, that of ‘lacto-fermentation’. This is an anaerobic fermentation that turns sugars into lactic acid and is actually where soft drinks began. Dandelion and burdock was originally a drink made by lacto-fermenting the roots and this is just one of many traditional lacto-fermented sodas. Unfortunately, live fermented sodas, with all their wonderful health giving properties, did not lend well to the large scale centralized production of an industrial age and so our soft drinks were corrupted by the application of science and technology in the pursuit of profit. What were once live health giving drinks became dead sugary carbonated drinks that subtract from our health. Neither has beer been immune from the rigours of an industrial age. Traditional live real ale has clung on but most lagers and keg bitters, together with ciders, are pasteurised and carbonated to ensure a regular product that keeps longer and travels further. These too are devoid of their once health giving properties.

Lacto-fermentation is experiencing a revival but as yet this is only in small circles and is a long way from becoming a national trend. I believe that as we move towards a more local way of living we will see such drinks return to our pubs, but it would be a wild dream to think that this is going to happen any time soon. We could, however, have weaker real ales. Some years ago I remember a small local brewery brewing a beer with 2.8 percent alcohol. It was lovely to be able to have a thirst quenching drink at lunchtime without the alcohol clouding the afternoon’s work. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to expect breweries to produce beer as low as 2 percent while still retaining depth of flavour and this brings me on to how this could help revive a social way in this land.

I have been a frequenter of pubs since my sixteenth birthday and am old enough to have caught the tail end of our civilization when public houses were the social hubs of our communities. They were adult establishments, often largely male and very oriented towards beer. Those that frequented them were patrons and in your local you tended to know most of them. I have always regarded a local pub as an extension of my living room; communal houses. These days it is very different. I can go down to my local pub and find myself sitting on my own with no one to talk to. There may be plenty of people, but they tend to be sitting with the select group they entered the pub with. Pubs have lost their sense of social cohesion. This is partly due to the changing nature of man; we have all become so much the individuals within us, but I believe it is also due to society’s approach to what a pub is. Every aspect of life has slowly but surely been monetised and we can’t suddenly move away from that, but where money, that great driving force behind the building of civilization, was once the facilitator of a social way of public houses, our pubs have now become businesses managed in the pursuit of profit. Where once we were patrons now we are customers. Social cohesion does not fit into the business model and rather then money facilitating, it has become the high price of drinks that keeps many out of the pubs.

I never think we should stand in the way of change, but we must always ensure that change is taking us in the right direction. That adult male drinking culture that went hand in hand with a hard working industrial society had to evolve into a more family friendly social way, but instead of evolving we just seem to be losing our social way of pubs. One in three have closed since the 1970’s and many that are left have become virtually restaurants. With the decline of our pubs, and their persistence with strong alcohol, I am in danger of finding myself socially excluded. Of course I can evolve, but I don’t think I am alone in feeling the desire to be able to pop down to my local pub and enter into a social way with other members of the local community and in so doing have a health giving drink at a price I can afford.

Beer needs to be ‘Cheap and Weak’. If it is live beer brewed at 2 percent and reclassified as a health drink then any taxation as a drug will disappear. We could all afford to re-engage in social drinking and have a few pints and still be safe and legal to drive. Money will start to flow over the bars in our local pubs again and they won’t feel the need for ever more fanciful titles in the food menu, nor will it stop the sale of strong alcohol for those wishing to indulge. So raise a glass to a new era of social drinking. Cheers!

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Sailing Close to the Wind

January 10, 2018

I had my 50th Birthday just before New Year and we tend to celebrate the decades as extra special. Decimalization began in the Arabic world and then with the Reformation, the mathematics and science of the Islamic scholars was incorporated into the Alchemical Christian tradition of Western Europe. The two streams of Christianity and Islam combined to build the civilization of our time; a civilization that glorifies science and technology and the numerical system of base ten. If Napoleon had his way we would all be living a ten day week, but luckily he failed and we still get a weekend every seven days. The human being works in seven day periods, ten days would be too long to work without a days rest, and likewise our lives evolve in seven year periods and not decades.

Much has been said by many people about the first three periods of seven years of life, but as a very brief overview, from birth to seven we develop our physical body and then at the change at age seven we gain our adult teeth. From seven to fourteen we start to gain knowledge as our education begins, then at puberty we enter the third period from fourteen to twenty one when we apply our knowledge into developing thoughts and ideas. At twenty one we have developed our ego and can move into the world as adult human beings and this is when talk of those periods of seven tends to stop, but the reality is that life carries on in seven year periods of development.

In my life those periods have been clearly defined with the turning points being marked by accidents and injuries that have always thrown me headlong into the next phase of life. My twenty first birthday was spent on crutches having been knocked off of a bicycle and run over by a car which had a profound affect on the following years. Barely off of crutches I got back to college, caught up on the work I’d missed and threw myself into life, refusing to allow the injuries to my body to hold me back. It didn’t last, though, and by the time I finished college two and a half years later, I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I didn’t lose my thirst for life, I never have, but at the same time I saw the darkness and the harshness of our world, was disillusioned with the ways of society and had no real desire to enter into the manufacturing industry I was trained to work in. My 25th Birthday was the lowest day of my life, but also a turning point. I was struggling to even walk to the pub and my self medication with alcohol and cannabis wasn’t working, but I turned things around, got back to physiotherapy class once a week, joined a yoga class and learnt how to use a body to cope with the damage, taking it to the extreme of walking miles through our countryside barefooted (See my early blog post, ‘The Art of Walking’ for more).

I believe I did well to overcome the issues of my twenties and experience has taught me that what we learn and how we evolve is far more important that what we do. At the age of twenty eight, the beginning of the 5th seven year period of life, I didn’t know what to do and despite my education was turning my hand to being a labourer to make ends meet. This is when fate played its hand to spring me into that 5th period of life and in the most dramatic way. I was driving a dumper truck up a steep slope and managed to turn it over, crushing myself underneath and seriously damaging my spine, leaving me paralysed from the waist down. This was hard to come to terms with, but the experience of my twenties held me in good stead and somehow I managed to avoid falling into despair. In fact I started to experience the compassionate side of life and see beyond the darkness of that 4th period. I created new opportunities for myself, a life in Brockham, a move to The Lodge at the Cheshire Home in Copthorne and then towards the end of the period I met Leonid Blyum and embarked upon ABR Therapy. The period was marked throughout by new hope.

Then at the age of thirty five my thirst for life got the better of me and, following a holiday to the West Country on a motorcycle and sidecar, I got a pressure sore. It was serious and threatened everything I’d worked for and was almost more frightening than breaking my back. It was the turning point that threw me into the 6th period of life. We healed it, as well as was possible at the time bearing in mind that my body was still very lifeless and had yet to be woken up at a deeper pelvic level. Life continued, with vibrance, albeit on a new tack and that 6th period of seven years was marked by the building of a home and smallholding while incorporating a therapy regime into a way of life.

The turning point at forty two seemed to come two years early. My first dog had died the year before and I got myself a husky. I live on a set of wheels and wanted an engine. At a year old she started working hard and pulled me along in a wheelchair. It’s great to have a dog taking the strain, but it did get a little dodgy at times and I kind of expected, sooner or later, that the wheelchair would catch and I would get pulled out onto the ground. I could have coped with the grazes and bruises, but never expected to get catapulted into the air. I’d made the mistake of tying the dog round my waist instead of onto the wheelchair which somehow caused me to pivot up on the end of the rope. I found myself so high in the air that I was never going to land without hurting myself. I managed to bend my right leg up but my left leg stayed straight and landing on my left foot with all my weight broke my tibia and fibula in two. I healed well, as I always do, but had to make some changes. I got the husky working with my handcycle, much safer, and this embarked me on seven years of handcycling round the farm lanes. As I said, it’s not what we do that’s important, but those times of being towed along single track farm lanes where you rarely meet a car were times of real contemplation and life turned more to spiritual development after the last three periods of soulfulness.

The seventh period (42 to 49) may well have turned to spiritual development but those years seemed quite a slog and towards the end I began to question where I was going in life, not with the therapy, but with where I lived and what else I did with my life. Then at the age of forty nine the old wound from the pressure sore, that had opened up sometime earlier in a new phase of deeper healing, got infected. The infection rapidly took hold and I ended up with Founier’s gangrene (see my blog post, ‘Ravaged by Infection). The eighth peiod of life had begun!

I’m not a sailor, but I’ve sailed to France on a Tall Ship and tacking back across the Channel was a great experience. Life is a journey tacking to and fro as the wind blows from the side. At the beginning of each period life turns and then you either lean into the wind or run with the wind behind you. This time, as usual, I tacked a little too far, sailed too close to the wind and the turn was rough, but as each time before I seem to have made the tack and not only come through it in one piece, but with a new impetus to take life forward. While lying in a hospital bed last year I sold my geese and some of my sheep, but I ended the year with the garden looking better than ever, the log shed full to the brim to last the winter, my Soay sheep in good shape and an enthusiasm for a new poultry project this year. I spent a month in hospital between last February and March and then another week in hospital in the autumn having the colostomy reversed, but in between I got the Spinalroots fund raising project off the ground, with the help of my good friend David Sheppard, and undertook my first public speaking at a golf day. I hope there’ll be more.

The gangrene took its toll on me, but I ended the year with a greater level of pelvic development. The whole episode was about awakening at a deeper level, both physically and spiritually. I have a bum on me like I haven’t seen for many years and my sitting interface is truly developing. I was missing a chunk of flesh where they cut the rot out of me, but I’ve been working hard to stimulate new growth and I’m a good half way to filling in the hole.

I’ve bounced back well and the doubts about where I’m going in life have passed. The country way of life is all about finding the help you need and I have good friends around me and I never mind paying a young lad to do the hard graft. Therapy work is going from strength to strength and having made the tack I feel like I’m sailing with the wind behind me.

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Competitive, Co-operative

November 22, 2017

When I saw Leonid Blyum the other weekend, he talked to me about his latest thoughts on the understanding of his therapy work. Although the essence of ABR Therapy remains the same as it was when I started, it has evolved over the years both in further understanding the nature of how severe disability impacts upon the physical human body and in the techniques used to address deficiencies resulting from the disability. For me, my time with ABR therapy has been an education and a learning curve.

Some years ago I wrote a blog post entitled, ‘The Four Elements’ in which I talked about our bodies as possessing a core pneumatic structure, surrounded by an hydraulic skeletal structure, upon which is attached our muscular structure. The terms pneumatic and hydraulic are applied conceptually and however much they describe the essence of the body they are not quantities that can be measured, but qualities, which is something material science finds very difficult to embrace and living in a time when material science is so dominant it is difficult to be taken seriously unless you fall in line with the scientists.

That is not to say that ABR Therapy is not scientific, it most certainly is. Everything we do has a strong theoretical basis. Just as in all science, we start with theories that are tested in practice. We do not always know how the body will respond to certain inputs and some approaches are purely experimental, but by and large we target a specific area over a period of time with predictable results.

The difficulty with portraying to people the therapy work is that, in talking in concepts, it is easy to make it sound all a bit wishy washy and fanciful which doesn’t give Advanced Bio-Mechanical Rehabilitation the credibility it deserves. However, focusing on the balance between the competitive and co-operative elements seems to bring a more tangible portrayal.

Our skeletal muscles work in a ‘agonistic – antagonistic’ system. This is the age old understanding of the muscular skeletal system and generally speaking models of how the body works go no further than this. Such a system is competitive and any weaknesses in the system, providing they are not too great, will be compensated for by this competitive nature.

This model of the body, however, is very limited and excludes so much that must surely be of importance. Firstly there is the volumetric aspect, that inner volume and intrinsic capacity that I have previously talked much about, which when depleted gives rise to compressional weakness. The model incorporates the longitudinal aspect of the skeletal muscles, but not the radial aspect of the smooth muscle tissue. There is no account taken of the joint capsules. No account of all the attachments of the flesh to the bones. The skin, with its associated fat layer, the largest organ of the body, is totally omitted from the model. All of these structural aspects, that are included in the ABR model, are co-operative. They all contribute to the overall structure and function of the body in a co-operative manner. Without these co-operative structures it is impossible for the muscles to function in any meaningful manner. Without inner volume, which is made up largely of smooth muscle tissue, we have no foundation for our muscular skeletal system. Without good hydraulic pressure in the joint capsules our joints are weak and painful limiting our movement. Without attachments of the flesh to the bones there can be no divisions between the segments of the body and without that outer covering of skin and fat we have no way of interacting with the friction world.

In a spinal injury, as well as loss of muscles from the nerve damage, we recognise the catastrophic collapse of the core structures of the body, encompassing a loss in all these co-operative elements. With the loss of the muscles we have nothing to work upon. They are paralysed due to nerve damage in the spinal cord and addressing that damage we have to put in the miracle category. The scientists are fond of working on miracle cures, but despite many years research, have not yet made any significant progress in repairing the spinal cord. However, none of the co-operative elements rely upon that central nervous connection to the brain and so do not share that same barrier to recovery as the skeletal muscles.

Through ABR Therapy we address all these co-operative elements using smart tools which utilize the properties of modern polymers to deliver mechanical stimulation which can bring life back to dormant structures. By bringing to life and strengthening these co-operative elements we can bring form back to the body which in turn brings a return of feeling and even muscular function. My spinal cord was very badly damaged and I have to accept that my muscles may never be as strong as they once were, but by focusing on the co-operative elements we are proving that there is enormous scope for recovery from spinal injury.

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Conversation with Leonid Blyum

October 14, 2017

 

Post Script:  Operation to reverse the colostomy, which was necessary in the first place to keep the wound clean, is now complete and I’m back in one piece.

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Bouncing Back

August 11, 2017

The ability of the human to bounce back from adversity never ceases to amaze me. The human spirit can endure enormous hardship and the body too can come back from the serious problems of physical damage. With regard to what I wrote about in Ravaged by Infection, I really thought I’d blown it earlier this year. I was in a bad way and could have come out of it an awful lot worse, but as it was I’ve not only bounced back, I’m doing better than ever!

Damage to the body, however, never comes without long term consequences. As a result of having infected flesh dug out of me I’m left with a little missing padding on my sitting bone. If my pelvis was still lifeless as it was for many years after spinal injury then this would have been seriously worrying, but as it is my pelvis is more alive than ever and I’m coping extremely well. I’ve began to think that this new found life in my pelvis was actually a part of what caused the problem. This may sound strange, but I’ll explain my thinking. I had an old wound on my backside. Fourteen years old to be precise and some time ago this opened up in a new phase of deeper healing as my body in general was coming back to life. It was then left with a tiny vent to the surface. The body is very clever and has its own healing strategies, but when you’re living in a depleted condition these strategies can sometimes fail. I’ve talked before about the Exposure of Weakness as the body comes to life, with the opening up of the structure and the exposing of weaknesses that have been locked in for a long time. This can make you feel suddenly physically weaker, but once exposed that weakness will soon strengthen allowing you to discover a new found strength. The difference in this case is that the newly exposed weakness was vented to the surface. This made it very vulnerable to the infection that rapidly took hold in me. So ironically the improvement in structure caused the body’s healing strategy to fail. I’m working hard with therapy techniques to get the body to fill in that missing flesh, but it’s quite a challenge, although one that I have every hope in succeeding in.

I have to accept that the path I travel is never easy and all I can do is keep moving onwards and upwards. Despite the hiccup in progress this year I’ve bounced back with such vigour that I seem to be progressing faster than ever. We are still ironing out the deficiencies and deformities at the very core of my body, but finally after all these years the back is starting to really develop. Developing the back is about drawing the spine back out of the body, or we can look at it as expanding the trunk, repositioning the spine and reforming the curve to the back. Either way it is about bringing dormant structure back to life allowing the body to spring back into shape. When I began this therapy my body was so collapsed upon itself that my bottom rib actually sat below the top of my pelvis. These days I have a good waist to me with successive waves of volume and consolidation producing a firmer denser structure, resulting in greater stability and improved digestive health. My pelvis has so much more volume than it had. There was a time when it didn’t really have volume it was so collapsed and lifeless, but now it has more and more capability to support the use of the legs, not to mention the increasing volume of the buttocks. And the legs themselves are looking much better as a consequence of all these improvements. The knee joints are shaping up, the ankles have better mobility and despite how skinny they still are, the legs get more and more muscle bulk to them. This summer I’ve had no problems with my feet swelling up.

Most people want to measure progress in terms of improved function, while I get excited about the improvements in structure and form. It is these structural improvements that bring about a better quality of life and increased comfort in simply being in this world. As a natural consequence my ability to move the body slowly improves. I could push the standing and attempt to walk in parallel bars, but this would do me no favours at all. We must continue to work on those structural improvements. Each night when going to bed I crawl up between the bed and shelving unit and come upright into high kneeling position before lifting myself onto the bed. This is when I notice that my body is slowly straightening up. There is, however, still too much arching of the lumbar spine. The position is too challenging for the body and we need to continue to build the capacity in the trunk before high kneeling can become effective exercise. It’s coming though, slowly but surely.

Many live in hope of a cure for spinal injury, but to me this neither pays attention to the terrible structural collapse of a spinally injured body nor respects the wonder of the body’s natural healing mechanisms. Through the therapy work, we do not heal the body, we give the body the impetus it needs to vitalise its own healing ability. It’s not a miracle cure we need, it’s a greater understanding of the miraculous nature of the human body and its ability to ‘bounce back’.

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Five Years & Funding

June 12, 2017

In March 2001 I embarked upon ABR Therapy, having come across Leonid Blyum and his work a few months before. Sixteen years later we have transformed my body and every hour spent working at the therapy has been worth it, and believe me I have put in at least 1,000 hours a year for each of those years. I was never promised a miracle, there are no miracle cures, and it was made clear from the start that changes are seen in hundreds of hours of work. When I started this process I never really thought about how long I would be pursuing it for and, because I have always continued to make slow but steady progress, I’ve kept plugging away year after year. Last year I lost my little part-time job as the Secure Unit for Children that I worked at was restructured leaving no room for my involvement. Since then I’ve relished the extra time I have to concentrate on my therapy work, but paying people to work on me costs considerable money and I’m missing the income from the job, however small it was. What savings I had when I started this therapy are all but depleted and so I have had to think about raising some funds. This, in turn, has led me to think about how much longer I will be continuing the therapy work.

I honestly believe that walking again is an achievable reality. Right now I can support my weight through my legs with a good handhold, which in itself is a major achievement, and what must be appreciated is the enormous rebuilding of collapsed structure necessary to achieve that and the resulting improvements in quality of life. The more those primary structures are rebuilt, the more the body’s natural healing processes come back into play creating a momentum of its own. I may be pursuing ABR Therapy, at some level, for many years to come, but I have to set myself a realistic target and I’ve decided that I need another five years to get up on my feet again. By achieving that I should then be able to gain the recognition that this work deserves and take my mission to a new level whereby others can benefit from this pioneering therapy.

So March 2022 is the target for graduation. It seems a long way off, but there’s no time to lose. I’m working harder than ever and am consistently pleased with progress. Over the last month I’ve felt the connections of the shoulders, to both the spine and the sternum, improving, giving greater stabilisation of the whole shoulder girdle. You may ask what that has to do with getting on my feet again, but I can assure you that all this structure needs rebuilding before the trunk can support the use of the legs. In order to achieve this target I’m looking at raising £8,000 per year for the next five years to cover the cost of employing my therapists.

Below is my fund-raising literature together with a link to the pdf file should you wish to read, download and print it. Paper copies can also be sent on request. Any support you can give me will be greatly appreciated and please share this literature wherever you can; a poster in your workplace, link on your Facebook page etc.

Funding Poster

‘Click Here’ to Download Pdf
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Healing and the NHS

May 4, 2017

I didn’t mention in the last post that while in hospital I also ended up with a pressure sore just below the base of my spine. It was more a cavity than your average pressure sore and considering that it happened so fast and in a fleshy part of the body, where it would be unusual to get a pressure sore, it may well have been infection that tracked round and rotted out a hole. Either way I was left with a cavity that needed healing and such wounds are notoriously slow to heal, if they do at all in bodies of depleted quality. On being discharged from hospital, the doctors expected it to take a good three months to heal. I, however, had no intention of it taking that long.

The day after arriving home I set to work applying a clapping technique to the buttock and tapping on the sacrum. Don’t be fooled by the casualness of the terms as both techniques are grounded in a sound scientific understanding of the workings of the body and require skill to deliver effectively. It’s not possible to work directly on the wound, but being at the edge of the buttock, by enlivening the tissue of the buttock this will directly influence the healing of the cavity. Likewise, being just below the sacrum, enlivening the sacrum will also impart into the cavity. The bones are not the inert structures that they’re often thought to be and in fact have a vibrance and quality that can be improved upon just as can the flesh of the buttock. Slowly the granulation (growth of the flesh) started and the cavity began to shrink and then as the healing got going it rapidly disappeared. One month after leaving hospital it has all healed.

I’ve also been applying the clapping technique to the pelvic floor where the wound from the operation is. This technique, just as its name implies, uses the open palm of the hand to clap the flesh. The art of the technique is in the looseness of the hand and wrist, and in fact the looseness of the whole arm, including elbow and shoulder. If there was any stiffness it would be a slap rather than a clap and would invoke a reaction at the surface. With the looseness (the hand effectively falling as dead weight) the impact will go deep, creating a suction force to draw up the juices and promote connection between the layers. We also use a good fluffy towel over the body, several layers thick, to amplify the inputs.

With regular twenty minute sessions the flesh sprang back to have a plumpness to it. There was a tenderness to the whole area, particularly around the sitting bone, but slowly the connections improved and the sensitivity eased somewhat. With slow steady improvement and increasing comfort, I noticed the other day that the scar line was breaking down at one point. It then opened up and there was a release of fluid; clear interstitial fluid. There was a lot of it as well. It came out in stages over a couple of days, the last stage being the most dramatic, and ended up in the flesh being very much consolidated. The plumpness that the tissue had before was soft and swollen, rather than firm, as the cells had swelled with fluid to protect the damage. As the connections improved, and the quality grew, the tissue no longer needed the swelling so the cells released their fluid into the spaces between them. The tissue was then like a sponge laden with water and the fluid slowly worked to the surface and found its way out of the body. Once this process had finished I noticed a dramatic shift in the quality of the pelvic floor. The flesh, no longer swollen, had a firmer quality to it and the tenderness at the bony level had suddenly reduced. I’m very pleased with how it is healing.

Before leaving hospital a doctor described to me the healing process, which didn’t include the release of fluid. He talked of a process beginning with the development of internal scar tissue, which goes on for months, followed by a long slow reorganization, bringing the tissue back into alignment in the structure, taking eighteen months to complete. It doesn’t have to be this way though. If the physical quality of the tissue is not addressed, through manual techniques, then because of the damage it will stay lifeless and all nature can do is create scar tissue to reconnect everything, but if the tissue is enlivened and the connection between the layers encouraged then it will heal without extensive scarring and in a relatively short period of time. I might add that many hours of work are necessary to achieve this, although the results are well worth the time and effort.

There are some things that the National Health Service is brilliant at, they’ve picked me up a couple of times and put me back together, but when it comes to the ‘art of healing’, the establishment has an awful lot to learn and I’m thankful that I don’t have to rely on them.

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Ravaged by Infection

April 10, 2017

This one’s a horror story. It’s also rather personal and I’ve thought twice about writing it, but it has it’s place in the bigger picture and I think it’s a story that needs to be told. It begins 14 years ago. I took my motorcycle and sidecar and went on holiday to the West Country. When I returned I had a small red patch on my left buttock and I didn’t manage to look after it well enough. It developed into a pressure sore, but nothing too serious until somehow it got infected. Then it got very serious, but we managed to heal it through nothing but manual techniques; no drugs and no surgery. All was well for ten years and then one day the wound started to open up again. I didn’t worry unduly as I understood that the pelvis was coming back to life through the rehabilitation process and that the wound was opening up in a new phase of deeper healing. When we healed it originally there was so little quality to my body that the wound could only heal over in the upper layers and the root of the weakness lay buried. The wound soon healed again with renewed quality in the buttock, all except for a tiny hole that remained.

The thinking was, that if it was a problem it would have broken down, if it didn’t need to be there it would have closed and so it must be that the body needed it as a vent for the healing processes. Living with it wasn’t a problem and this was all very well until, in February, it got infected. It crept up on me and to start with I thought I could ride it out, but soon realised it was serious and admitted myself to hospital, not knowing what else to do. Goodness knows what drugs they pumped me full of because the next 48 hours were a blur. The infection had tracked round into my groin and when I came to my senses, after two days in hospital, I found that my scrotum had gone gangrenous! Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisaged this outcome. I was shocked that I could allow this to happen and just as shocked that this could happen while in hospital care.

The doctors wanted to put me under the knife immediately, but I had some vain hope that I could heal this and to start with refused the operation. However, the task was hopeless. The tissue was dead and there was no practical way of inputting into the surrounding area to bring about healing. I had no choice and had to submit myself to the surgeon and bear the consequences. They cut me from my buttock round my groin and up to my scrotum. In a procedure known as ‘debridement’ they cut away all the infected tissue. I was then left with a large open wound until the doctors were satisfied that the infection was gone and that no more tissue would die off. After a week of open wound, and a transfer to a specialist unit at another hospital, I was sown back up.

Having feared the worst I’m amazed at how well it all came together. I’m still all there even if things are a little tighter having lost some skin. I’ve been home for two weeks and everything is healing up well, due in part to all the therapy work I’ve been putting in to encourage the body’s healing processes. It’s a set back in my rehabilitation and my body lost a lot of tone during a month in hospital, but I’m working to build up the tone and I’ll soon be back to where I was. Luckily we have come so far with my rehabilitation that I have sufficient quality in the pelvic region to bear this injury and recover. Had this happened ten years ago it would have been disastrous. It will be some time till the wound is fully healed and the pelvic floor is especially weak which limits sitting for the time being, but only six weeks after this began I’m looking at getting back to the main program and continuing my rehabilitation through ABR Therapy, with ever more determination.

I haven’t dwelt much on what has happened to me, and probably best I don’t, but I do have to wonder whether the hospital saved my life or caused me undue suffering for lack of a better way. I think they almost certainly did save my life and however much we, as a society, overuse and even abuse antibiotics and need to turn away from them, they are life saving when used appropriately. Without them we may not have got the infection under control and it may well have killed me. As for the extent to which I was cut apart, I can’t help thinking that much could have been avoided with a better approach. When I originally got a pressure sore, all those years ago, we healed a raging infection that was eating away at me with nothing but manual techniques. Unfortunately the health establishment see the body as an inert structure and have no concept of its living nature. Techniques to encourage the body’s healing processes, to overcome infection and deal with dead tissue, and even the idea of such techniques, is totally alien to them. Not only do they expect the body to heal with no encouragement whatsoever, they expect it to heal while it has been depleted by the very drugs used to save it. Antibiotics will kill the bad guys and also some of the good guys. So when dealing with lifeless tissue that desperately needs enlivening but isn’t getting what it needs, you have flesh that will succumb to the infection in the dying tissue rather than overcome it to heal the damage, so it is hardly surprising that they wish to cut out any tissue showing signs of decay, despite the terrible trauma to the body. If we could have involved ABR techniques along side the need to remove the gangrenous tissue then maybe the extent of the surgery could have been lessened.

We are some way off from ABR techniques becoming mainstream and the health practitioners are not to blame for their blinkered approach and so I am grateful for all they did to save my life and get me back on the road with my rehabilitation.

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Time to Reflect

January 24, 2017

I wrote a few blog posts last year in which I talked about the struggles of rehabilitation. It’s easy to talk about the hardship, the problems, the set backs, after all they stare you in the face and make life tough, but it’s just as easy to overlook all the positive developments. They creep up on you subtly and once established are soon taken for granted and you forget what life was like before that new found strength. I’ve been injured for twenty years and pursuing ABR Therapy for the last fifteen and I think it is time to reflect on just how far I’ve come.

Last autumn I went to see Leonid Blyum for my biannual assessment and he was amazed at the improvements in the divisions and connections in my back. There was a time when my trunk was an amorphous lump. With a catastrophic collapse of structure all the divisions and connections had gone. It’s like an earthquake; all the bricks are still there, but the connections are broken and the form has gone. You could take a fold of skin and slide it all the way up and down my back; the skin was not integrated into the structure. Now this is not the case. The folds of skin are firmly connected and cannot slide across the divisions between the sections of the back. I think Leonid was more excited than I was!

My perception of these improvements is rather different. Rather than seeing it from an external perception, I perceive from within, so for me these improvements manifest in improved articulation of the spine. Years ago my body was as flat as a playing card. It hinged in certain places, but not through the articulation of the spine, that floated around in the body playing no functional role. It hinged in the middle of the chest for example, deforming the ribcage. On the whole my trunk was stiff, but now it is much more flexible with all those individual articulations of the vertebrae coming back into play.

When it comes to spinal injury there are no miracle cures, only steps in the right direction, and I’ve taken so many steps through my therapy work that my body barely resembles the paraplegic I once was. I still trundle around in a wheelchair, but it must be realised that walking is the icing on the cake and rebuilding the cake is more important than icing it. In order to bring about functional change you first have to create structural change, so improving function is a long slow process especially if your ultimate goal is to walk again. One of the problems in trying to explain to people just how much I have improved is that they see walking as the only goal and can’t understand how you can have improved without getting the legs working again, so I’ll endeavour to give you some examples as to how much my life has changed.

When I embarked upon ABR Therapy, five years after my injury, my body was not only terribly depleted, it wasn’t expected to improve. When I went to sleep at night I woke up in exactly the same position I fell asleep in and always awoke to aches and pains from being in the same position for too long. I simply didn’t have the capability to turn over without being fully awake. To turn onto my side I had to sit up, which meant pushing my torso upright with my arms, then I had to use my arms to lift one leg over the other and then haul my body over onto my side, again by using my arms. From the waist down I was dead weight and this acted as a kind of anchor. These days I toss and turn in my seep like anyone else. I’ll turn from side to side without sitting up and without using my arms. I have the capacity in my trunk to turn my body and the function in my legs to position them where I choose.

Sitting as a paraplegic is not easy. Years ago I used to catch the bus quite a bit. Even if I had brakes on my wheelchair it wouldn’t make it stable as the bus lurches around, so I always sat on a seat and wedged my wheelchair in somehow. Getting to my destination without falling off the seat was not easy. Luckily there are always bars and poles to hang onto on a bus and hang on was what I had to do. With so little core strength I lacked the ability to support my own trunk and instead had to try and balance it on top of a collapsed and crushed pelvis. Last summer I caught a bus for the first time in ages and travelled a familiar route. I sat there perfectly stable with my hands in my lap. I didn’t have to hold on and was never in danger of falling sideways. It wouldn’t have surprised me if people wondered why I had a wheelchair next to me.

The other thing about sitting is the risk of pressure sores. There was a time when my backside was skin and bone. I lived on spirit in those early years and threw myself into life. After a trip to the West Country on my motorcycle and sidecar I developed the beginning of a pressure sore which got worse and eventually the skin broke down. With ABR techniques we successfully healed it, but it was testament to just how vulnerable I was. Leonid’s other excitement at my assessment was what he termed my ‘perma bum’. Finally I have a deep and underlying substance to my buttock muscles; finally a cushion to sit on! Of course I still pay attention to looking after my backside, but with greatly improved quality to my pelvis, hips and buttocks the worry has gone and I sit comfortably in all sorts of places.

Feet have been another worry. Being at the extremity of paralysed limbs the quality is low. At times the flesh on my little toes have been in danger of breaking down and I’ve had to work on my feet to improve the quality. I used to have no feeling in my lower legs and once managed to burn a hole in myself on a quad bike engine. Just like pressure sores, these sorts of injuries in a paralysed body do not heal on their own, but I got to work on it with manual techniques and healed it just fine. These days I take better care of myself, but if I was to risk burning myself again I think I’d feel it and with greatly improved flow down into the legs my feet are in so much better shape than they used to be.

When I first banned my wheelchair from most of my house, I wondered if I’d made a big mistake. I could barely crawl at the time, and certainly couldn’t crawl with proper use of the legs, and moving myself around with my arms was tiring. I use my wheelchair in the kitchen and bathroom, but then there’s a bench across the doorway into the rest of the house (see blog posts ‘The Heart of the Home’ and ‘The Comfort of Home’). I’m always up for a challenge and stuck with it and I’m glad I did. I move around with such ease these days that I take it for granted and forget just how much of a challenge it once was.

After all these years of laying down the foundations, the structural form of my body is really shaping up. Walking may still be some years away, but to be honest if I never walk again it’s really not that important (I’ll do it anyway though just to prove it’s possibe). What matters is to live comfortably in a body that has quality to it and more and more is that quality improving. There was a time when it was impossible to find a comfortable position and everything required effort. Now I have the ability to ‘simply be’ and very much enjoy the comfort and peace that goes with it.

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Equipment

November 18, 2016

One of the things I love about ABR Therapy is that it is a way of the people. It is a set of skills, that essentially anyone can learn, to undertake the art of healing. Obviously if you’re employing someone to work on you, as I do, then you find someone who is naturally good at this sort of work, but with enough time and effort most people can develop a competent level of skill. Therapy work is not the sort of thing I’m natural at, but out of necessity I have developed a feel for the art and achieved a high degree of skill. Understanding the theory behind the therapy is another matter. The therapy is based on an in depth knowledge of the bio-mechanics of the human body. It is a fascinating subject, but luckily for most people such knowledge is not necessary provided you are happy to be guided by those in the know.

ABR has grown from the work of its founder, Leonid Blyum, to be a worldwide movement with centres and groups in many countries around the world. Not only are the skills taught, but also exercises prescribed specific to clients’ conditions and stages of rehabilitation. Healing is achieved by delivering repetitive mechanical inputs into the body’s system. The inputs are delivered by hand, but we do use equipment to enable us to magnify the inputs and target specific areas.

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The therapy has evolved over the years as Leonid Blyum has made new discoveries and developed new techniques. To start with we used layers of towels to create an air cushion, or a pneumatic lens, through which to deliver the mechanical input into the body. Then came the use of pilates balls, then gel eggs and cylinders (designed for hand exercises), then weighted balls and flexbars and various pieces of foam mats. None of these balls and eggs and bars are being used in the manner they were intended for. Instead we employ the elastic properties in the polymers and only certain products have the right polymer properties.

The photo shows a selection of my equipment, most of which I have to take to Belgium with me this weekend as I go there twice a year for assessment and training. It is simply impractical for the centre to stock all the equipment that everyone uses and so we all take our own. We use a lot of the heavy weighted balls these days which is quite a weight to travel with when you’re going by train; too heavy to carry in a bag. Last time we had a little trolley to strap the bag to but it wasn’t really up to the job so this time I made my own trolley designed for purpose.

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All the metal I found in my workshop, together with pop rivets and various nuts and bolts, but I did have to buy two axle bolts and rubber catch for the lid. That came to £6.38 so I thought I was doing well. The wheels were off an old pushchair and when I came to pump up the tyres one of them unfortunately burst. I did have a spare, but was a little concerned about the condition of them and so bought two new tyres and inner tubes at a cost of £20. The trolley even has a telescopic handle, that was made from an old pair of garden loppers, and a spare wheel. I thought of cleaning up the panels which were made out of old aluminium trays I flattened out, but decided it was too big a job and so opted for the scrapheap challenge look.

In case you’re wondering I’m not towing it behind my wheelchair. My therapist is coming with me and that’s his job. I’m just trying to make it as easy as possible for him. I’m confident it will prove a success.