This was Barry's idea, and a good one. We wanted to go there and see how it all felt for me to be there again.
As we walked up to the entrance, the feeling of dread was soon replaced with gratitude. That is one of the feelings I had daily while I was recovering there years ago. You don't have to look to far in that place to see somebody worse off than yourself. I swear it is what kept me going the last time.
As we entered I noticed there was more of a buzz to the place than there was 13 years ago. There were people everywhere, coming and going. I remember it being far more quiet.
The other difference that was obvious was the number of people who were walking with supportive devices. When I was there I remember being one of three inpatients who wasn't in a wheelchair full time. When I arrived I required a wheelchair, and after a few weeks of hard work and a great physiotherapist I was walking with a walker. Studies have shown that more people who have incomplete injuries are getting help quicker and therefore able to walk again. The fact remains if the injury is complete walking is far less likely.
One of my biggest struggles was wheeling a manual wheel chair. I had just had a surgery in the thoracic spine. I had a nine inch raw scar between my shoulder blades, so every time I pushed those wheels forward, I was pulling on those muscles around the scar. It was tough. I was wheeled around when family was there, but when they weren't I was on my own. I had to wheel down a long hallway to the dining room for meals and daily for physiotherapy. I seriously remember one day partway down the hallway deciding how hungry I was. Was it worth it? Many times by the time I got to Physio, I needed a break before we started.
They actively practiced tough love there. It is necessary I know because some people would do nothing to help themselves. I always thought those of us who had had surgery should be given a break, but it worked, I'm walking today!
So what can possibly be worse than a manual wheelchair to a newbie?
They weren't sure if I would be in a chair long term or not and with the difficulty of the manual chair, I was fitted for an electric chair. This was quite a process. You are measured from head to toe. Each piece of the chair is chosen specifically for you, there are decisions about height, softness of the seat, weight of the chair and on and on. Finally all parts assembled, they go away and build it for you.
I'm not sure who was more excited when a couple of days later my chair arrived. Barry and the girls were visiting and we all gathered in the gym to tweak the last few things and I was sent on my way. It was a beauty, brand spanking new, and fit me like a glove.
I wheeled around the gym to get the feel for it and right away I noticed two things. Number one - there was absolutely no pain in operating this chair as opposed to the manual chair. Number two however became a problem... I was a bit heavy on the handle. A speed demon.
I realized I couldn't speed around the disabled people in the hallways, dodging bodies and other wheelchairs. As much as I tried to slow down I just couldn't seem to get it.
Barry and the girls encouraged me to try it out in the hallways, as they thought it would give me a better feeling of how to manoeuvre my new set of wheels. Boy were they wrong. With a wall on each side, I had something to hit as I bounced from one side to the other. The girls were squealing with delight as Mom made a demolition derby out of the rehab centre. Barry, being his ever patient self, was helping guide me along the way. I couldn't help but notice the look of concern in his eyes.
Every evening I had to transfer to my bed and a nurse or attendant would plug my chair in just outside my door. I'm sure when it was plugged in for the night there were many sighs of relief throughout the rehab centre.
I'm not sure how long I had that chair before I finally said "I can't do it." Never an easy thing for me to admit defeat but I was so concerned about the safety of the residents and their visiting family that I had to give in and give up! Besides I reasoned, I'm not going to need a chair, I'm going to walk. They all nodded tentatively each time I told someone that, but I believed in my heart I would. I had too, I really sucked at manoeuvring a wheelchair.
As I walked around the centre yesterday, I noticed the positives about it. It is a beautiful setting nestled amongst clusters of large trees, the grounds are beautiful. The centre is vibrant and clean. I know for sure the staff are second to none.
If I do need rehab, I will go back there feeling much better about the place, but I sure hope for everyone's sake I don't need a wheelchair!!