Posts Tagged ‘paraplegic’

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Workout

April 5, 2021

I went for a walk with a friend the other day in the Nower in Dorking; it’s public woods and grassland. We used to go sledging there as kids so as you can imagine it’s on the side of a hill and not very wheelchair friendly. I enjoyed the walk (or wheel), enjoyed the company and it was great to be trekking around my old stomping ground again. At the end I was exhausted and it was remarked that I’d had a good workout, but was it really good for me?

Gazebo at the top of the Nower

If I did it too often it wouldn’t be good, but now and then does me no physical harm and worth it for the other benefits, although to think of it as a workout would be wrong. In terms of improving my physical condition there is absolutely nothing to be gained by struggling in a wheelchair. To overcome paraplegia you have to be a lot cleverer than that. When my body was terribly depleted, physical exertion was definitely counter productive in terms of ingraining the changes and further deforming the body. In the few years after injury (before the ABR years) I did much damage in taking my body in the wrong direction and much time and effort has been invested since to reverse this. These days I am much stronger, and more capable, while at the same time I am more sensitive and tuned in to the counter productive nature of using my body beyond its limits and I tend to shy away from such activity.

When you live in a body with insufficient structure to support certain functions it is important to improve that underlying structure rather than struggle with function that abuses the already weak structure. The work we do is all about improving the underlying structure through external mechanical inputs, building it up to the point where function becomes possible. Only then, once the functional ability is achieved, does a workout become sensible. Such an approach should not only be adopted by the severely disabled, but also by the significant number of able bodied people who find themselves out of shape.

We get many joggers down our lane. The occasional one is in good shape and it’s a joy to see a body so capable of effortlessly moving at speed, although for most it is painful to watch their misguided attempts to improve their fitness. The other day there was a women with a distinct weakness at the lumbar sacral junction. Instead of a strong trunk supporting the pelvis and allowing true articulation at the hip joints, the hips were rigid and the body twisted at the waist with every step. The inputs into the body, from the reaction of each step against the ground, could ascend no further than that weakness and could only build up bulk around the already immobile hips. I see many joggers with hunched up shoulders, and head sunk down into the body, locking up the weakness in the neck and shoulder girdle in order to gain the stability to support the lower trunk and legs. Again no inputs can work up into the weakness, it’s too locked up.

One day I’ll teach people how to strengthen their structural weaknesses and get in shape to the point that they’re then in a position to jog with ease and have the capacity to build up their fitness.

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Years of Practice

October 14, 2020

Before I broke my back and became disabled ‘for real’ I had a previous accident. At the age of twenty I was knocked off a bicycle, left unconscious in the road and then run over by a car. It nearly tore my right foot off, damaged my left knee and my head and body went underneath the car with what must have been the sump hitting me in the side of the head. That’s three quarters of a ton of metal travelling at speed! The driver never stopped.

Being young, and thinking I was invincible, I soldiered on and threw myself back into life thinking it wouldn’t bother me. For two years I did well, at least well in terms of keeping my spirits up. Physically I tended to overdo things and my ankle, especially, would swell up at times and lock solid. I got back to college after only a term off and the following summer I moved to Wales to work for a year as part of the course I was doing. I had a fantastic year, although coming back to London after the wilds of Wales was a little depressing and physically I was starting to struggle. The reality of living with injury was starting to press home.

I finished the year at college and obtained my degree, but it was tough and I had little desire left to get a job in engineering product design that I was trained for. Manufacturing industry had come to symbolise all that I despised about our industrial civilization. Maybe I should thank the accident for ensuring that I don’t now go to work in a suit and tie and have never become another pawn in the machine. As it was I returned to Dorking, my home town, exhausted both physically and mentally. There was work to do to overcome what had happened to me three years previously.

I never lost my thirst for life and my twenties were good years. Motorcycling with a dog that rode pillion, camping, rafting down rivers and a great deal of partying. They were, however, tough years mentally. If I had spoken to a doctor I would easily have been diagnosed with depression. I drunk a lot and rarely went a day without being stoned. My twenty fifth birthday was one of the lowest days of my life. I arrived at a friends house for dinner, late and a little drunk and I remember saying to him that surviving quarter of a century deserved a month off, and that’s how I felt. It was also a turning point.

I didn’t have the month off. I got back to physio, joined a yoga class, took to walking barefoot and dramatically improved my physical condition. I restored an old lorry, had a go at running a business with it and really began to get my head round life. Three years later, though, I sold my lorry and was labouring to try and pay my way having no real idea where life was going and then fate decided for me. I had an accident with a dumper truck, got crushed underneath it and broke my back.

While I was lying in hospital paralysed from the waist down a friend came to see me and said, “That first accident was just preparing you for this one”. In many ways she was right.