Sunday, March 30, 2014

We Don't Call it Torture Anymore-it's Called Physical Therapy

     As physical therapy sessions approach again, flashbacks of my first session flood to my mind.  April was the month I began my first voluntary torture showdown.   Me versus induced pain.  It was a crap shoot which one was to win on those first visits.  Never having experienced physical therapy before, I had no expectations.  My bag of bones was petrified into the shape of a chair position.  Barely moving for over three months, muscle atrophy and inflexibility scolded my frail, skinny frame.  I had in this position since my car crash.   

     Pure terror consumed my mind over a stranger touching my ankles.  Unable to bear the thought of multiple strangers working on me, I asked to be scheduled with one therapist only.  Trust was essential in my participation.  As I sat in that cheap, blue contraption known as a wheelchair, my therapist asked what I wanted to achieve from therapy.  My desperate answer, " I want you to challenge and push me.  I want to live as closely to my previous activity as possible.  I want to walk," I declared.  Examining my x-rays and listening to me reveal my last three months made us both sigh.  "What is he going to do with me?" I speculated.  "What am I going to do with her?" he reciprocated in his own mind.  (he later divulged this to me)

     Transferring to a cot that butted up against a concrete wall, I was advised to lie on my back.  "Flat?" I asked incredulously.  My waist and pelvis were rebelling against the action.  Each part of my anatomy liked the position it was in, they didn't moved independently anymore.  Leaving my knees bent and lowering myself down to my left side, I met the white cot with my shoulder and rolled to my back.  I'm sweating.  My 'inducer of pain'  pushed my knees to the mattress and my lower back revolted by awkwardly arching upward. 

      "Roll to your stomach," was his next instruction.  My face went blank as if I didn't understand what he was saying.  "On my stomach?", I am appalled.  First off, my legs are in braces, I haven't rolled anywhere in months, my pelvis and lower back pain is atrocious and he wants me to roll over?  Terrible, just terrible is what this movement was.  To make it worse he asked me to then push up on my elbows.  He measured the angle my torso was able to bend.  I had barely moved. 

      "Are we done yet?", I prayed.   Perspiration rolled in droplets down my spine.  Plank like, I rolled to my back again and he announced he was going to stretch my ankles.  Like hell!  Oh no.  NO, NO NO NO and NO.  Don't go there.  Stay away, don't touch them.  Don't even look at them.  No. 

      "Okay," I sulked instead.  Just removing my socks was a time consuming chore as he stared at the damage.  As I sat upright with my legs stretched out to the end of the cot, he spelled out that he needed to extend my ankles downward.  Pushing down on the tops of my feet was the only way to regain movement.  I am panicked.  I don't want to do this, My God, I don't want to do this.  "Let's do this,"  I state with false enthusiasm.   

     My eyes squeezed shut as hot pain seared from my ankles up to my lower legs at the lightest push.  His hands shifted my feet downward even more.  My palm met the concrete wall to my right with a smack, sweaty with fingers splayed apart.  "Dear God!" I screamed inside.  The sound of my bones moving was nauseating as if they were breaking apart all over again.  Reciting internally that I could handle this was the only thing I could do to keep from sobbing. I wanted to sob, it was right there ready to bellow out.

 I can describe the feeling only as if my ankles were encased on old, crumbling concrete for a decade.  Now they were being removed from this unforgiving home.  Popping, grinding and my own gasps engulfed me.  Taking myself back to the pain that fateful night as I awoke in the car, I thought that surely today's anguish couldn't be as dreadful.  Could it?

     My nose began to run with tears that I refused to let fall.  A half sob, half laugh escaped me as my fingers clawed at the cold, beige  wall while he held my stretched ankles down for ages.  "That's enough for today," he admonished.  Air rushed out of my lungs as I sighed with relief.  My shoulders slumped and my head leaned against the wall as he strapped my braces back to my legs.  Throwing a narrow side glance his direction as he asked how my first visit went, said as much as if I had uttered the words aloud.  

     Leaving with sheets of exercises to perform at home, I started making my goals list as Mom wheeled me to the truck.  Determination set it's long talons inside of me right then.  Today, I have stopped surviving this trauma and started recovering from it.
Let's do this!

 #PCRMC Success Story!

Carey Portell 2011

My accident occurred on December 29, 2010.  I was hit by a drunk driver that luckily only left me with severe bone injuries.  The most severe were a pelvic ring fracture and severe bilateral ankle fractures.
All bones in my left ankle were broken and dislocated, causing the nerves to tear.  This left no feeling from the ankle down.
I had an open tibia/fibula fracture and all bones were crushed so severely in my right ankle that the physicians could not save all of the splinters.  I still have gaps that are trying to grow back in.
After many surgeries and lots of metal installed, I was put back together and able to start therapy.  With the help of my therapist, I was able to start stretching out my body from being in a wheelchair for so long.  Most exciting was learning to walk again.  Just to stand on my own two feet was exhilarating.
My choice of coming here for therapy is a confident one. The therapists have not just helped me physically, but mentally as well.  Some days are a challenge and you just need to hear someone else tell you that you can do this, then show you that you can.  I am in pain every day, but look forward to therapy days because I know I will be met with a smile from every staff member & I will be challenged to progress in my #recovery.  I leave with a feeling of accomplishment & that I can win this fight. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

AMAZING!!! German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

     My husband smiles as he is grabbing one of these from the container(again), he states, "This has got to be what being addicted to crack feels like."  I am going to accept that as an extreme compliment that he adores the dessert I made this weekend.  He doesn't even like coconut!

     Dropping these off at a fundraiser this weekend, I chastise myself that I have a habit of preparing food items I have never tested on my family first and taking them to important events.
  But these Rock!
     If you are a fan of German chocolate cake and pecan pie, this is a perfect combination of heaven.  You may just fall over from the immense pleasure of consuming this.

German Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars:
    • 3 cups pecan halves
    • 1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
    • 3/4 cup cold butter, cubed
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
    • 1 & 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
    • 3 large eggs
    • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
    • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
    • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
    • 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • Instructions
    Preheat oven to 350°.
    Arrange pecans in a single layer of a shallow baking pan. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly toasted.

    Spray baking dish with oil.

    Combine together flour, confectioners' sugar, and cocoa. Add cold butter.  Mix together.(I mixed mine in my Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle attachment)   Press mixture into bottom and about 3/4-inch up sides of prepared pan. 

    Bake crust for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over crust. Allow to cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes. 

    Place eggs in a large mixing bowl, and beat lightly. Add brown sugar, corn syrup, and melted butter. Combine together until smooth. Stir in coconut and pecans.(still used paddle attachment) Pour evenly over partially baked crust.   

    Bake 30 minutes or until edges are golden and filling has set.

    Refrigerate 1 hour before serving or let this set on it's own like a pecan pie.

    Now dig in!!!  


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lent: Why do Catholics Eat Fish on Fridays?

    Being a Catholic, myself, I have been asked this question many times.  I have never went into as much detail explaining it as I am today though.
   Let's start of with the definition of Lent.  

   Lent is the season of approximately 40 days set aside by the Church in order for the faithful to prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.  It is to enable us to make a small sacrifice for the incredible sacrifice He made for our salvation.  Church members prepare for Easter by a recalling of Baptism and penance, that is, prayer, fasting and almsgiving.(assist the needy)

     Why forty days?   Jesus fasted for 40 days, Noah was in the Ark for 40 days, Moses received the ten commandments for 40 days and the Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years.   Think about it also, that a woman carries her child in her womb for how long?  40 weeks!  So, it seems that the number forty has a certain prelude for something better to come. 

     It kick starts with Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  Our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth.  The ashes are made by burning the previous year's blessed palms.  We remember this when we are told, 
          "Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return."

     For the next forty days, those willing, submit to fasting and self-denial in imitation of Our Lord’s forty-day fast in the desert and it ends with Passion Sunday.  

You may hear the question, "What did you give up for Lent?"  We give up something we really enjoy, maybe foods, social media or promise to do something special for others during those six weeks.

     Friday is a day of abstinence from meat for Catholics in order to remind us that we all sin and this little sacrifice is a show of repentance and satisfaction for our sins.  Why, is fish allowed? The drawing of a symbolic fish in the dirt was a way that the early Christians knew each other when it was dangerous to admit in public that one was Christian. Our Lord cooked fish for His Apostles after His Resurrection, and most of these men were fishermen. After He established His Church, these fishermen became “fishers of men” for the Kingdom of God.  Hence, the little fish symbol some have on the back of their cars, with the name Jesus in the center of it.  

     For those who don't participate in Lent, don't tell me that you don't love those Friday night church fish dinners!  All Catholics, age 14 and older participate. (certain situations are forgiven)    Now we all have cheated, at some point, I'm sure, right?  Okay, I know I have in the past and I do not believe you will be sent down to the flames for it.  I do believe it is a great gesture on our part, that we can accomplish once a year to remind ourselves of the sacrifice He made for us, to have freedom of choice and to live on this earth with sin. 

      We all know, Sunday, is supposed to be the day of rest, so we can  indulge Today!!!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Narcotics: "Who Ate My Sandwich?"

   "Someone stole your sandwich?" you ask.   "Why, yes, someone did steal my sandwich." I say pitifully.  

    I was the only one not confused by my statement.  I do have an excuse and it goes like this:  Drugs.  Prescription drugs.

     I am not kidding when I say that I was sent home from the hospital with a plethora of narcotics.  So many, in fact, that my husband produced a spreadsheet just to keep track.  Every two hours I would swallow pills that delved me back into some world where only I and a few other characters lived.  Back in real life, my family members would pass by my bedside in a blur, at least through my vision.  No one was moving fast, my perception was just distorted by Oxycontin, Percocet, Nor-Co and on and on.

     For nearly three months I existed in this state of delirium.  Most of the memories that were created around me disappeared as the next round of pills hit my stomach.  Having no idea of the conversations I had with my children or husband saddens me.  While their lives moved forward I had no choice but to exist in my current state.

     Although much of my recovery has had to be taken in all seriousness, I have been able to appreciate the humor that can develop due to the uncommon scenes  my family and I have faced.

     Many months later, after decreasing the pain meds, hearing my family disclose versions of adventures that apparently I was the only participant of, left me gaping at their amused expressions.  Obviously this was completely out of character for myself and particularly engaging for my audience.  

     Our four children were watching over me one day and evidently it must have been around lunch time.  Or maybe I just speculated it was lunch time.  "Who ate my sandwich?", I asked.  My children stood dumbfounded in silence.  "Which one of you stole my sandwich?", I beckoned again.  
" I don't think you had a sandwich, Mom." my child answered.
  "I know one of you took it, give it back.", I said frustrated. 

      I don't know how this story ends and I have never asked.  Maybe they produced another sandwich to satisfy my distress  over the missing, feign one, but more honestly, I probably found another adventure in my mind to attend. 

     They have relinquished this story a couple of times in my presence and I sit by, in disbelief, but snickering.  I have always had control of myself and my memories, so it still causes me to shake my head that I cannot elicit even a vague recollection of this episode.

     When my children finish reliving this comedy, I inquire of them, "What is the moral of this story, kids?"  
There is shrugging of their shoulders. 
 I burst out, "Don't Do Drugs!!!"



Sunday, March 2, 2014

Pilates: A Tool to Help Me Keep Walking

     For the three years that I have been recovering, I've heard from my surgeons and physical therapists, "Core and glutes, Carey, core and glutes."   Meaning, I  needed to strengthen these muscle groups in order to walk and stay walking.  There has been one big problem with that.  By the time I have been released to start working on this after each surgery, I had to gear up for the next one. 

     Irregardless, I would always try.

     I spent the majority of the first sixteen months after my collision in a wheelchair and many months of the second year using a walker or a cane.   It was no small feat relaxing my body from the wheelchair shape it became accustomed to.  My surgeon also relinquished the information that if I gained thirty pounds, I would be sitting back in the seat of my metal friend that rolled me around.  No pressure there, right?  Luckily my parents blessed me with good  genetics and so far I have not had to work on the weight issue.  The nausea that comes with my medications adds to that factor as well.  

      Realizing that many of the exercises my therapists were giving me were Pilates, I purchased a few DVDs for home use.  To this day I still cannot perform many exercises standing, so I prefer Pilates on the Mat.  Although I need to gain muscle strength around my injuries, bulking up with it is not an option for me.  Muscle is heavy and adding too much would get me closer to that thirty pounds I do not want to see.

     Difficulty is an understatement to how hard it is to stretch my body back out after each surgery.  The first year of therapy trying to accomplish this was impossible and as I recall, painful.  To the confusion of my therapist, I would  expel a laugh/sob sound as he torqued my body into positions it clearly did not relish.

     I am not one to wait on progress so using the DVDs at home helped propel me forward at a faster pace.  Each of the DVD sets I purchased came with three sessions.  Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.   For the first time in my life, I was a Beginner.  Physically, I could do anything I wanted before my injuries.  I, now, have many limitations.  Mentally, this has been a huge challenge and acceptance issue for myself. 

     Pilates builds strength without excess bulk.  Long term use creates a sleek, toned body.   It improves flexibility, agility and economy of motion.  It can even help alleviate back pain.  This has been an obvious innovative and safe choice for me.  
                                                         Body Wisdom
     Now that I have been blessed with what is hopefully my last surgery for quite some time, I have been released to start engaging in physical activity.  Pulling out the DVDs, I participate in 30-50 minutes of Pilate's each morning.  After the first two weeks, the pain of stretching out my muscles decreases and I start feeling the benefits.  It's pretty rough at the start, but having been through this on multiple occasions, I ascertain that I must push through if I want a certain percentage of mobility.  At least up to my standards.
 Windsor Pilates
     Admittedly, I was mentally frustrated with Pilates at the start of my recovery.  The types of exercise that I engaged in BEFORE, were high impact and very physical.  No longer able to jump, squat, run or even walk fast made the Pilates decision easy.  Moving beyond the beginners phase and into the intermediate and even short advanced sessions, I comprehend that Pilates can kick my butt just as much as that P90x DVD.  

     If I continue to live a healthy lifestyle and preserve my body strength, then I will enjoy 8-10 more years before I must consider another surgery or handicapped apparatus.  It sucks a little bit to think about or maybe it sucks a lot, but we are finally talking in years instead of months.  

     Working hard is ingrained in my personal being, along with persistence and perseverance.  Knowing I will never have it easy keeps me in my place.  Apparently it is going to keep me healthy as well!  Exercise has become as much a mental thanksgiving as physical.  If you happen to see me working out on the playground equipment near my child's sporting practice or riding my bike around town, I am not only creating natural muscle but mental as well.