Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New EasyStand Blog Guest Post: Reserved Parking (Thanks to the ADA)

My latest guest post on the EasyStand Blog has now gone live. Acting within the spirit of yesterday’s 2oth Anniversary of the ADA I shared an anecdote about the accommodation that I am most proud of obtaining: a reserved accessible parking spot at my law school. It took a lot of patience, determination, and back and forth discussions, but it ended up working out better than I could have expected.

So please click the following link to read Reserved Parking (Thanks to the ADA).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Congrats to Craig Hospital

I wanted to take the opportunity to throw out a quick congratulations to Craig Hospital who recently was picked as one of the best hospitals in the country by U.S. News, coming in at #7 in the rehabilitation category. As I’ve mentioned here and there in past posts, I did an eight week rehab stint out at Craig in Denver, Colorado from around September 25 to November 24 (I flew home the day before Thanksgiving) 1996.

Immediately after my six hour neck fusion surgery (three hours on both the front and back sides of my neck sandwiching a few vertebrae from a cadaver between two plates), my neurosurgeon told my parents that they were going to want to send me to Denver, Chicago, or Minneapolis right away. In other words, to facilities that had much more expertise with spinal cord injury rehab than the Eau Claire hospital I was at (Sacred Heart).

When my parents brought up that notion they essentially got a real quick “Hell no!” back from me. It was inside a week since my diving accident so it was obviously still a tense emotional time. But even if in retrospect I might have been better off in terms of more quickly advancing my recovery and achieving my post-SCI rehab potential, the last thing I wanted was to be away from my family for a few months. To a lesser extent the same line of reasoning went for my then girlfriend as well. Having them all nearby in the early stages was invaluable to my initial recovery and emotional health.

But once late August/early September rolled around it was becoming increasingly apparent that I was reaching my hospital rehab program’s SCI specific limits and made the difficult, life changing decision to transfer to Chicago or Denver. So in the subsequent weeks my parents went on scouting missions on my behalf. The Rehab Institute of Chicago (which to my slight surprise was #1 on the aforementioned list) came highly recommended and my parents went there first. On the plus side it was within driving distance, but on the downside it was apparently in an “interesting” part of downtown Chicago that made my parents nervous. For example, a security guard escorted my parents from the facility to the nearby parking lot, which from what they were told was common protocol just to be on the safe side from sketchy neighborhood behavior (i.e. muggers). So my parents were left with an uneasy feeling about me being there.

A weekend trip to Denver came next. The tour of Craig Hospital went quite swimmingly. My parents liked the facility, location, and would have access to an apartment building right on the property which was designed for visiting families to stay near their loved ones/patients. So we had a winner. They even took a day trip to Golden, CO to tour the Coors Light brewery and to Boulder to score me a University of Colorado Buffaloes t-shirt, which you could find me wearing in physical therapy every week thereafter.

A bunch of details had to be hammered out first, but we flew out on September 25th with my favorite rehab nurse Kim in tow in case something medical happened to me midflight (e.g. my catheter balloon burst inside my bladder due to the increased air pressure). Within an hour after arriving at Craig I had met my physical therapist Mitch, who was a burly ex-Navy SEAL of twenty-six years, so it was pretty badass. He gave me a quick look up and down and just said, “Eight weeks, huh?” because a typical Craig SCI patient was there for a minimum of twelve weeks. Then he said, “Ok. Let’s get you a chair, I’ll be right back” And just like that I was in a sporty Quickie manual wheelchair, as compared to the much less functional E&J chair I was using at Sacred Heart. So that immediately set the stage for the next era of my SCI rehab, and away we went thereafter.

I can go on about my time at Craig for pages and pages, so at this point I’ll just refer people to the relevant portions of my book whenever it comes out (I’m getting back to work on it soon). But I will say in short that although it was very difficult being so far away from my family and friends for two months, deciding to go to Craig was the best thing I could have ever done at that stage of my life. It is undeniable that my overall rehab program got boosted to new levels as soon as I landed in Denver. Simply put, I owe much of the independence and physical well-being that I’ve gained over the years to that facility.

Plus as it turned out my family was as close as they could be anyway. My dad stayed for the first two weeks to act as a transitional buffer (his job allowed for it, my mom’s teaching job didn’t); and before I even transferred out to Denver my parents found a great airfare deal of $96 round trip from Minneapolis to Denver, mapped out who would fly out on which weekends, and bought between thirteen and eighteen round trip tickets for them, my sister, and my girlfriend. So out of that eight week rehab stint out in Denver there were only two weekends that my family didn’t visit. And by then I was adjusted enough with the whole situation that I felt comfortable being on my own around the facility for the weekend. By that point I was participating in a lot of local weekend field trips anyway.

Although I have no regrets about going to Craig, I do look at the RIC being #1 on this list and wonder how things might have been different had I gone there. Not to mention that it would would have been closer for my family to visit. Then again, if things went smoothly, by the time they drove from Eau Claire to Minneapolis, flew into Denver, and then got to Craig it practically covered the same six hour road trip from Eau Claire to Chicago. The interesting thing along that line of thinking though are the facilities here in Minneapolis, which is obviously much closer to Eau Claire than the rest. I lived transitionally at the Courage Center for three months before I got an accessible apartment and I still work out at their Fitness Center every Friday. So that could have worked out too I suppose.

But I could care less what the rankings technically are, because as far as I’m concerned Craig Hospital is in a class of its own. Great location, great world renowned rehab facility, great rehab staff, always on the cutting edge of SCI science and research, etc. Craig provided me with a great overall rehab experience. And along the way Craig also provided me with a handful of life long connections, including fellow graduates I’ve stayed in touch with, becoming a super fan of the Colorado Avalanche NHL hockey team, and Denver has since become an adopted city to boot. I just wish that I lived much closer so that I could visit more often. Like I said, I’ve got a lot more that I can say about all of that above, but you’ll just have to stay tuned.

My sincerest congrats to Craig Hospital, your high ranking is well deserved.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Friday, July 16, 2010

SCI Summer Safety Checklist

A Reeve Foundation's Paralysis Study concluded that 200,000 Americans are living with paralysis resulting from sporting and recreational activity accidents. Of those 200,000, each year about 6,500 teens end up in the emergency room because of a diving accident. That’s what happened to me fourteen years ago on July 12, 1996. A diving accident at a beach resulted in a spinal cord injury and life as a C6-7 quadriplegic. That is why it is worth passing along the Reeve Foundation Summer Safety Checklist. Along with The Reeve Foundation, I encourage people to review this checklist with their families, especially the teens. Living with a spinal cord injury isn’t fun and can often be a very difficult lifestyle. A significant summer recreational accident that results in SCI can easily be avoided with a little helpful information.

- Buckle up… properly! Bottom strap across hips and shoulder strap across chest.
- Do not be distracted by other passengers, motorists, cell phones, radio, etc. Stay focused!
- Obey car and booster seat guidelines.
Swimming and diving
- Do not dive in less than nine feet of water. - No board, no diving!

Personal watercrafts
- Be watchful, defensive, obey speeds, and keep your distance.
Body boarding
- Hold board so it extends past head.

General Water Safety
- No re-dos; do not combine alcohol and water-related activities!
- Be aware of sandbars.
- Feet-first entry.
Bicycle Riding
- Wear a helmet… properly! A helmet should be worn snug, fitted, and level.
- Replace helmet after three to five years and/or if cracked.

Monday, July 12, 2010

July 12: 14 Years and Counting…

I usually don’t post on back to back days, but by the same token it’s worth doing so anyway to recognize that today is the 14th anniversary of the diving accident that left me paralyzed from the chest down after sustaining a spinal cord injury. Even though its full impact lessens a little bit as each year passes it will always remain a very significant date in my world. Even waking up this morning immediately had a different “feeling” to it.

Anyway, I covered my thoughts about this day pretty extensively on this blog last year and don’t really have anything to add to it this year other than to make what I feel is the requisite mention of it. So at this point I’ll just dip into the archives and repost links to my two July 12th posts: “Memoirs of a Life Changing Day” which was my never before shared first hand breakdown of the day of my accident, and “13 and Counting…” which delved into my reflections on past July 12’s and how I’ve dealt with each passing anniversary.

What I can add though is that for the past two an a half years I have been working on starting a Minnesota Chapter of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association along with two good friends that are heavily involved in the disability community in the greater Minneapolis region. Tomorrow night we are participating in a muscle spasticity treatment event sponsored by Medtronic, Inc. which for all intents and purposes will be the unofficial coming out party for our chapter. We plan on doing all of the filings necessary to make our chapter official later this week. It’s very exciting. And I say that is how the circle of life works.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

One Year Anniversary

I thought that I should take a quick moment to recognize that as of today this blog is one year old. Well, one year since I put up my very first introductory Kicking Things Off post that is. Actually, I joined Blogger in late May or early June of last year, although it was slightly unintentional at first. I had been going back and forth for a few months before that about if I should start a blog, and more to the point, if anyone would even be interested in some of the things that I planned to write about. But then one day out of curiosity I went to the Blogger site just to see what it would take to start a blog. I punched in “One Man’s Access” (read the aforementioned post for why I came up with that name) and clicked submit just to see if the name was available. Next thing I knew I was at a follow up screen congratulating me and welcoming me to the Blogger family. I just sort of went, “Huh. So that just happened…. Well, what the hell?” Then it took another couple of weeks to tweak the overall look of the bog and work up the guts to throw up my first post. Glad I took the plunge. Sixty-three posts and counting later here we are.

That being said, I wanted to quickly say a big thanks to all of my readers, whether you follow post by post or you just stopped by once to see what it’s all about. It’s been fun and rewarding and even cathartic to write about all of the stuff that I do. I plan to keep it going strong and have even been entertaining some thoughts about expanding things a bit. So I hope people continue to enjoy and appreciate my insight, etc. Cheers!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Article: Stand and Deliver

I wanted to pass along a link to a 2007 article about the medical benefits of regularly using a standing machine/table/frame for people with with spinal cord injuries, which I got via my friends at the EasyStand Blog's Twitter page. In one of my past osteoporosis posts I included a link, also via the EasyStand website, to the medical benefits of standing. But this article goes into much more detail about SCI’s immediate post-injury effects on the body, the importance of post-SCI exercise programs, and the multi-benefits of active standing’s role in continued rehab than I could have never provided myself. Although this article is mostly about the benefits of using a standing machine in an acute rehab setting, I think that it has much wider application as well. It’s an interesting read.

I would break down my personal history of standing into three phases. Phase One occurred in the fall of 1996 when I used a standing machine for the first time during my eight week post-SCI rehab stint out at Craig Hospital in Denver. The first time I got on one it took a long time to get all the way up to a standing position because of a combination of being skinny (at the time), the mile high elevation, and all the blood rushing to my feet made me really dizzy. There was a really cool wheelchair tech guy that often helped patients stand and he would do this Zen-like aggressive calf rub thing that helped to get the blood flowing back north again. When I started incorporating standing into the rest of my rehab routine more often it took a while for me to get up to the standing position, taking breaks to stop and/or lower myself again to regain my bearings, and I could only stand for a short while once a week. But ultimately I got to a point where I could pump myself all the way up to standing on one try, only fighting off a short dizzy period once I was all the way up, and I did it at least twice a week in half hour spurts. Some people out there were standing almost every day for much longer periods of time. At the time it was a nice morale booster to be able to get back up on my feet again.

Phase Two was about six months later when we got an EasyStand for my room. But as I briefly mentioned before, I used it very sporadically because I didn’t have a regular routine down. At one point it got moved from my room to the garage (because it was always in the way of things) which led to even less use because it was out of sight and out of mind. And when I did stand it seemed like I could only really handle it for a half hour. When I was diagnosed with severe osteoporosis last year one my first thoughts was about how little I stood over that five to six year period and wishing retrospectively that I had stood a lot more often. I was told that it wouldn’t have prevented the onset of osteoporosis but it definitely would have helped to slow down the loss rate of bone mineral density.

Phase Three is the present phase. When I moved to my own apartment in 2003 we moved my stander in as well, and I almost immediately incorporated standing into my regular morning routine. At least every other day (weekends excluded) I stand for up to an hour while I eat breakfast and watch ESPN. It’s nice to get that frequent upright feeling as well as to get some weight on my joints and bones. When I come down I almost always get those same quasi-peaceful sensations I used to get when endorphins would kick in after a workout or swim practice back when I was in high school. People that have never seen me stand are always surprised about how tall I actually am.

The part of the article that gets into how combining the use of a Glider—a stander that allows a person to work out their arms while simultaneously making their legs move back and forth (very similar to that Gazelle thing you’ve probably seen on infomercials: “You can do it!!!)—with functional neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) can encourage muscle contractions makes me wish that I sustained my SCI in 2007 and not 1996. Because incorporating that kind of science and technology into my standing routines would have definitely made standing at all three of my phases much more interesting, effective, and perpetually therapeutic. And probably would have led to me standing much more often in Phase Two.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

One Man's Annoying / Aggravating / Interesting Access Picture of the Week

If someone in a wheelchair just needed to get to the bottom stair then this would be a kick-ass ramp. But getting the rest of the way up the stairs? Well, that's another issue.