First, I want to say thank you to everyone that attended, played, and contributed to the golf event in May. I did not really know what to expect on that day and was truly amazed and touched by the turnout. I got to see a lot of friends and former teammates that I had not seen in quite a while. There also were former players from several decades in attendance, including Chris Corchiani, who made up half of the famed backcourt combo Fire and Ice. I have gotten to know Chris a little bit since he is around Raleigh and owns DNJ Mortgage company after a successful career playing basketball overseas. I recently admitted to Chris that I grew up watching him and Rodney Monroe as my idols and knew early on that I wanted to play at NC State because of them. He ended up sharing my story with his backcourt mate Rodney Monroe, who surprised me with a very thoughtful email.
Another thing that touched me was how many people flew in to play from out of state, which was even more amazing, considering the tournament was on a Wednesday. I know I have thanked Dave McGee, the event organizer, but I still feel like I cannot thank him enough. He really did an amazing job especially considering this was the first time he had ever done an event like this. I even had several people who have played in several charity events like this tell me that the Hope to Walk Classic was one of the smoothest events they have participated in.
The month of May ended up being a pretty busy month for me, which was tiring but nice. I was in Raleigh for the golf event for a few nights and left to go to Baltimore the Sunday after. There, I attended therapy at the International Center for Spinal Cord Injuries for two weeks. The first trip to the center is mostly evaluative and my first day was spent being evaluated and meeting Dr. Recio. From the first five minutes upon meeting him, it was apparent that he and the Krieger Institute have a completely different mindset with spinal cord injuries. I cannot tell you how refreshing it was to be in a place with the sole purpose to help SCI patients recover lost feelings and function. To illustrate his point and their mission, Dr. Recio wrote the type and classification of injury I have on a dry erase board, asking me to make note of this--implying that this classification was not where I was going to stay. The remainder of my time was filled doing various physical therapies to evaluate what I needed to focus on in order to maximize my recovery.
I also met a lot of people during my stay there. Many were people like me, making their first trip to the Center and others who had been coming regularly over the last year or two. The majority of the first timers were from other states and there was even one patient I met who came all the way from the Netherlands to be there for a few weeks! It was so good meeting people that had gained a significant amount of feeling and function back--it is just further evidence and assurance of what can happen and that there is no better place I could be going at this time. There are only a small handful of facilities like this in the world and I'm glad I made the decision to go there. I also feel so blessed by the support that has allowed me these opportunities.
The daily therapy I was doing mostly consisted of walking with braces, some aqua therapy, and a lot of core work. The therapist was impressed with the level of core strength I already had which I can attribute to months of working out at Race to Walk (Core strength is vital to me getting out of this chair). The aqua therapy and brace walking really highlighted how I have gained some strength in my hip flexors, especially on the right side. The aqua therapy was a little strange at first, since I have not been in the water since my accident, but I ended up enjoying it. I would get in a small pool and the entire floor would move like a treadmill. Along with two therapists I would simulate walking in the pool on the treadmill floor. The water supports a lot of your body weight, so it really highlights things like my hip flexors that may not be strong but are engaged.
One of the biggest reasons I wanted to go to Baltimore was to see if they could help me figure out the use if an FES Bike. This bike attempts to contract your muscles to pedal the bike via electric stimulation. The bike can help you increase circulation and build muscle and even lead to regaining function. I had been riding one regularly at Race To Walk since late October of last year but unfortunately, like other lower SCI patients, I had been labeled unstimmable after attempting it a few times at the hospital in Charlotte and 4-5 days a week at Race To Walk. Since sometimes people become stimmable over time, I knew that if anyone could get the bike to potential benefit me, it would be in Baltimore. One of the days my father was in Baltimore, by chance we actually ran in to Dr. McDonald. He was basically the inventor of this bike and the Director of the International Center for Spinal Cord Injuries in Baltimore. In fact, he was one of Christopher Reeve's doctors for much of his recovery attempt. Reeve actually was one if the first people put on this bike over a decade ago and he actually gained 75% of his sensation back and 30% motor function back over time using this bike as one of his main activities. It was pretty cool meeting Dr. McDonald and for my dad it was as exciting for him as it would have been for for me meeting Michael Jordan when I was in middle school (Though admittedly I do not think as highly of him as a person these days after learning more about him.). Dr. McDonald even hit me on my quad and calves and told me that I am stimmable. The therapist I had tweaked my bike settings and it looks like I may start to truly benefit from using the bike with the adjusted settings, which is really encouraging news.
I left Baltimore and returned to Mooresville with an at-home workout plan which I follow regularly before returning to Baltimore to start additional therapy on October 1st. I also hope to maybe attend the Shepherd Center in Atlanta before the end of the year. Therapies are still very emergent and so it is beneficial at this stage in the game to try and experience as many different approaches as I can to find what works best for me.
I am trying to stay encouraged, constantly trying to remind myself that I was pretty much bed ridden until October of 2009 and I am only less than a year into my recovery efforts, which again only continue to be possible with the support I have continued to receive.
I am also in the middle of some other transitions in life right now that I hope to have updates on soon.