Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Happy walking anniversary to me!

Ok, so it's not the anniversary of my actual stroke but 3 years ago today I took my very first steps. I can't describe that feeling, knowing that you're actually doing it, in a way you're proving the doctors wrong but realising at the same time that the real journey has only just begun. You've still got a long way to go.

My feet touched the ground 2 months after my stroke onset. After my family were told that, while I may be able to stand (with a lot of help), I certainly wouldn't be able to walk again. It was highly likely, in fact 100% certain, that I would be reliant on a wheelchair for the rest of my life.
But oh no.
They didn't realise that they were talking to the wrong person here. I was 17 years old, I had my whole life ahead of me.
Pushing their predictions aside, I focused on my goal: to walk again.
When I told my key worker at hospital what I wanted my goals to be, they just went 'err... let's just break it down first. We need to make small, achievable goals.'
I thought 'oh f*** you! Don't tell me what I can/can't achieve!' Was probably a good thing that I couldn't just talk just yet.

The next 6 months were spent working on my balance and my leg muscles, just trying to get closer to walking.
Until one chilly morning in November, my physio casually said, on the way to the gym, 'We're going to try walking today!'
Sorry, what did you say..?!
My face lit up, my smile couldn't have gotten any bigger. I was going to walk. Yes!
First, stand up. Ok, try not to wobble! Right ok, left foot first. Breathe! The second physio pulled my left foot forward. Now move your right foot Bethany. The first physio supported my hips as I stepped, my core muscles still weak. Now just repeat, easy! You're doing it!

After that first time, many sessions were spent walking up the big, long corridor on the RRU, nurses finally happy to see me on my feet rather than flat on my back in bed.

Then after a month or so, I progressed to walking on my own around the ward (but with a stick). I could get to therapy sessions on my own now, a sense of normality (well, apart from being in hospital itself after having a stroke) returned, I was as independent as could be at that moment in time.

And then my fear of falling set in.
I hated walking. I hated going around the ward on my own. What made it worse was the fact that they'd moved me in a room by myself so I was very lonely as I didn't venture out to see my friends in the bay next door.
I told my neuropsychologist and my parents but not even they could fully understand what was going on in my head. I had good stability, my legs and my core was getting stronger. I don't blame them, even I didn't know what was going wrong.

Then I was discharged altogether, my time had come to return home. After an incredibly emotional farewell, I was free. Goodbye RRU.

Over time, my fear has significantly reduced. I'm very stable with walking now therefore I have no reason to feel unsafe, right?
To an outsider, watching me walk for the first time, you would probably say that I walk like a penguin. I waddle sometimes. I may look unsteady but I'm not. That is just how I walk. Sorry if that looks weird to you or would be embarrassing for you, but I don't care.
Like me, if you do feel unsafe at times, have someone there. Don't go out on your own if you're really not up to it. There's pushing yourself but then there is just doing too much. Push yourself when someones at least around you, it's better to feel safe at first when you're practising.

It's like driving a car, you have someone with you while you learn and you're building up confidence. Then you take your test (and depending on whether you pass or not) can drive on your own, you can do your own thing.

It won't ever happen overnight guys. As they say, practice makes perfect!

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