So I’m not just sitting around (literally) waiting for my legs to start working again. Unfortunately spinal injuries are extremely complex. No two injuries are ever the same, and although the vertebrae of the spine fuse and the break heals, the damage to the spinal cord is a bit of an issue!
The spinal cord carries all the messages from the brain to every part of the body and back again, and when I fell, the vertebrae basically rammed into the spinal cord and squashed it, killing loads of the nerves that were carrying the messages. Millions is being spent on researching how to stimulate regrowth of nerves if it is even possible for them to grow back, the use of stem cells etc. All the research is fascinating and extremely encouraging, and as much as I like to believe a ‘cure’ is just around the corner, I’m not hanging around doing nothing until it comes.
So I choose to try out some of the other recovery theories, and believe me there are quite a few out there. Some are brand new ideas, and some sound a bit dodgy, but I seem to have a gut instinct about the ones I have been choosing to follow since my accident. I am in no way saying what I do is right or wrong, but it is what feels right for me. And the most obvious one to me is intense physical rehabilitation.
I spent hours in hospital Googling SCI recovery, and there are a LOT of websites out there. But I did stumble across a rehab centre just outside Cambridge called Standing Start. It is now basically my second home; a place that never fails to cheer me up and keep me motivated. The trainers that work there are incredible and play such a huge part in my life. I’m not sure they know how vital they are to me, but without them I would be much closer to giving up, so I am eternally grateful for all that they do.
One of the trainers there now has his own rehab centre called Prime Physio, which I also go to regularly. The two centres work on the same basic principles, but I find my workouts at each place very different. This post’s focus is on Standing Start, as this is where my journey began…
One of their main aims is to ditch the chair when you go in the door. My workouts there are usually 2 hours (although I have had a few 3 hours sessions…they are killers!!) I spend about 1 hour 55 minutes out of the wheelchair; standing, kneeling, crawling, walking, wrestling… the list goes on. Considering I was told by a physio in hospital that even sit ups were a pointless exercise for me because my abs were paralysed, my first session at Standing Start was just incredible!
The progress I have made there in the last 15 months has been quite impressive (apparently!) As it is MY body going through these gradual changes, and I live with my body every day, it is hard for me to notice the progress. But for my family and friends who come to watch me work out every few weeks or months, they say that the difference is extremely noticeable. They also say that watching me is absolutely exhausting, and I’m pretty sure they are often more knackered at the end than I am!
The theory behind the exercise is to re-educate the nervous system; making the paralysed limbs re-learn how to work. I obviously don’t know exactly what is happening in my body, but I do know that the exercises get easier the more I do them, and that my core, balance, posture etc have all improved, making every day tasks easier.
What I am even more certain of is what this place has done to my mind. My weekly sessions there have saved me. No matter how down I am when I arrive, no matter what kind of shitty few days I have had, within 2 minutes of arriving I am always smiling again. Exercise releases endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. That is a quote from Legally Blonde, and I think it makes perfect sense!
So, Standing Start… THANK YOU! You guys are incredible. The two hour drive to and from the centre is more than worth it!