On broken wings I’m falling
And it won’t be long
The skin on me is burning
By the fires of the sun
On skinned knees
And it won’t be long
I’ve got to find that meaning
I’ll search for so long
“Broken Wings” (Alter Bridge)
I’d originally planned on saying nothing more about my recovery, but the past week has been nothing short of miracles. I had my first visits with a new physical therapist, who measured me at the outset as having 8 degrees of extension and 40 degrees of flexion. In other words, I couldn’t bend my knee very much.
This left me with a depression almost as bad as the CRiPS mentioned in my “No Regrets” blogs. I need to reach 150 degrees before I can fly. That’s a helluva lot of bending required. Wednesday was not a good day, one mostly filled with tears at the pains of pulling a knee farther than it wanted to go and significantly less than it needed to go before I can achieve my dream of flight.
I’m very grateful for Azee’ choo’nii’gii’ and all that these things bring. I can feel the medicines working around my knee and legs, and continue to grow stronger each day.
Additionally, this day marks the third month since my incident, and it’s sort of an unexpected landmark. And in this, I’m searching for the meaning of my incident and all I’ve learned since that afternoon.
I purchased a stationary bike on Sunday, and started working the pedals. Due to the loss of range of motion, I can’t rotate the pedals a full 360, but I can push my leg to about 60 degrees. Hurts like hell, but that’s what this is about, isn’t it? Like they say, “If you’re going to be stupid, you’d better be tough.”
Which brings me to the third reason I decided to blog further on my incident. Recent accidents in the skydiving world seem to often involve pelvis fractures amongst other things. I want people to know how painful this can be in hopes that maybe, just maybe….my experience might invoke some caution in some of those that are being too aggressive or not really thinking they’re vulnerable to the same things happening. Since my incident, I’ve become aware of two other dropped toggle incidents, both of which happened to skydivers with greater experience than I have. Both have broken pelvis’ and both are in serious pain. One person who suffered a broken pelvis yesterday passed away this morning. BSBD, Aaron.
Maybe, just maybe, one of you reading this will avoid a similar fate.
On Monday I met my new physical therapist in a town nearer where I live. He was surprised to see me walk in without crutches, but rather limping in on a brace. He commenced to warm my knee before beginning therapy, and then we went straight to it. I started the session with a flexion of 48 degrees, so I’d done some good stretching over the weekend, bringing my cold start flexion from 40 to 48 degrees. He put me on a stationary bike for a while before moving me to a Flex cage, which allowed me to work my upper body and new ACL stretches. I’m so weak, these are incredibly difficult. Lying in bed for three months has not only atrophied most of my muscles, it’s also reduced the thickness of my thighs by a full 6.5 inches. And I can’t do more than two or three pullups without being tired. I was never a bodybuilder, but before my accident, I could hold my own in terms of strength and endurance. Now…I’m a noodle. I might not be able to make my goal flying by November 1, as it’s less than 50 days away from where I am. This alone is hard to consider, as missing goals is not something I’m used to experiencing.
I worked my ass off on Tuesday. My knee and lower leg have nearly doubled in size due to the stress I’m putting on it, but my flexion seems to be about 60 degrees, or a decent right angle. I’m feeling pretty good when the therapist measures it to be 63 degrees cold on Wednesday. Now the work begins….because the primary obstacle in front of me before I skydive again is me….
“I curse my worth and every comfort,
it blinded me for way to long,
Damn it all, I’ll make a difference,
From now on….
Before tomorrow comes, we can change every thing,
We can be so much more than we are….”
“Before Tomorrow Comes” Alter Bridge
As the weekend rolls around, I’m determined to extend my flexion, and with my brace, I attempt to walk at a high speed. Strangely enough, high speed walking is easier than walking slowly. Balance seems to be there. One of my exercises is to close my eyes and balance on one foot and then the other. Yet I don’t fall down.
Tuesday (today, I visit the therapist again. This time, I’m given a different doctor and we first measure my flexion after the weekend’s worth of at-home workouts. My flexion is up to 110 degrees cold. YES!
It’s a small victory, but over the last three months, small victories are savored as sweetly as being part of the 71 way record in Elsinore last year. I’m looking forward to the day that I can eat peanuts again; small victories are milestones that mark successes as they come.
During therapy, two unique experiences occurred.
The first was when I was in the Flex cage moving my knee and working my upper body, I asked the therapist, “What will happen if I lift my left leg off the ground, will my right knee support me?” He responded with “You’ll probably fall down.” I asked him to stand behind me in case that happened. He wondered what I was up do. I lifted my left leg so that my right leg and arms supported my body weight. Lowering my arms, my leg bent quickly and I discovered I could do pullups and flex my knee at the same time. My therapist kept shaking his head with “I wish you wouldn’t do that, you might lose your grip and fall.” Well….Imight have a bad landing or my main might fail or yadayadaya….without pushing the limits, how do we know how far we can go? Can’t be afraid of “might-happens.”
And why do we fall down? So we can get back up and try again….
The next experience occurred after they’d done the shock therapy, warming therapy ,and iced down my knee. I’d put on my knee brace and was ready to leave. I asked the therapist if their treadmill was working and if so, could I try it.
He walked over with me, turned it on, and asked “what are you thinking of doing?” I told him I wanted to do a fast walk. And proceeded to turn the machine up to 7mph (a fast jog). I had no problem managing the speed, but it was obvious my cardio wasn’t going to hold up very long. First the therapist says “Remember George Jetson and how the belt threw him off? Please don’t do that?” I slowed the treadmill down to 3mph and did a fast walk for a coupla minutes just to smooth out the heart rate. My therapist’s parting comment was “I’d really appreciate it if you would learn to walk before you try to run.” Well…can’t argue with that but the truth is, I’d rather fly before I can walk.
My greatest fear is that while I thought I’d beaten or at least contained the CRiPS/RSD a couple of weeks ago, it’s returned with a vengeance. Please, PLEASE help get the word out about this dystropy that normally ends with amputation or suicide. No one knows much about it outside the military. Imagine a cotton ball feeling like a hot dull razor on your skin….that’s not even close to the intensity of the pain, but it’s the best description I can come up with.
Hopefully as soon as the sutures on my knee close, I’ll be able to get back in the current pool again, as that seems to be what brought the CRiPS under control last time.
The points I’m trying to make aren’t about how tough, how innovative, or ahead of the curve I seem to be. Rather, what I’m trying to say is, the road from recovery is tough, it requires one helluva lot of passion, and requires an intense support system of family and friends. I have all of the above, thank heaven.
When I think about how far I’ve come from June 8, 2009 to now…It’s almost a dream or a nightmare, depending on how you wish to look at it.
Exactly three months ago yesterday, my family was told I might not live through the night.
Exactly three months ago today, I was told I might be paralyzed in my left leg but they’d do all they could.
Three months ago this coming Friday marks the first of several times I fell out of bed attempting to get out of bed and walk or transfer to a chair on my own.
90 days. 3 months. I was told a minimum of 6 months before I’d be able to walk again, let alone run. I fully intend to be skydiving before year’s end and at this pace, will do so with my doctors blessing (albeit grudgingly).
I still have a long ways to go in endurance, strength, and building more flex in my leg, but like the lyric above says, “Damn it all, I’ll make a difference.” I believe I was spared for reasons unknown, but one of those reasons (I hope) is to be around to make a positive difference in this sport, however that may come about.
Please gang…pay attention to what you’re doing, take care of each other out there, and most of all, take care of yourself. Make a difference. Move out of your comfort zone and watch how others are flying, how they’re landing. If you’re experienced, take them under your wing and gently guide them to a safer course.
Blue Skies and puffies,