I have now been out in China for 10 days, although it sort of feels like I have been here for much longer. It’s strange how quickly you get into a routine when the days are so structured. We arrived last Wednesday evening, and I went straight to the hospital on the Thursday morning. We got horrendously lost around the hospital as it is absolutely enormous, but eventually we made it to the right place and I met Ali, who I have been emailing for the past few months. She is from America, but speaks fluent Chinese, so was crucial as our translator for the first day. The hospital have hired a translator for us, but she was not due to start until Monday, so Ali’s bilingual skills were very necessary for us.
Ali has a C6 level injury, which is higher than mine, but she is one determined lady! We share a very similar mindset, and I felt like I knew her before we even met in person last week. She also has a blog, which I would highly recommend for people to read… China Quad Diaries
I also met David, the other foreign patient here, who has grown up all over the world, including France and Hong Kong. He has a C5 injury as well as a brain injury, but this does not stop him from putting his all into his rehab every day. He has been out here for 14 months with his family, all of whom have been very welcoming and helpful since our arrival.
So the first two days at the hospital involved various tests, xrays, scans, bloodwork etc. As there is no NHS in China we have to pay for all of this, but it is a fraction of the price you would pay in the UK. My ECG, for example, cost 20RMB, which is about £2. As I am technically an inpatient of the hospital (even though I’m not staying there) all of these tests are standard procedure for every patient. In these first couple of days I also managed to do a bit of exercise. They would not allow me to start the actual walking part of the programme until they had seen xrays of my legs to check that I didn’t have any fractures or bone injuries, but there were still plenty of things for me to do in the gym without walking practise.
I was glad when it was the weekend and decided to take the whole weekend off to relax and catch up on sleep. It had been a very full on week and it was nice to have a bit of time to process everything! We also went round to Ali’s apartment, which is about 3 minutes away from mine and I met her parents, who are absolutely wonderful people. Her dad is extremely smart and knows almost everything there is to know about spinal injuries. I feel very lucky to have such great people so close to me, it makes me relax a lot to know that there is some sound advice on hand from them.
Monday morning was the start of my first proper week in the programme. I didn’t get the all clear on my xrays until Wednesday, so I could start the walking from then. But basically I have a 3 hour exercise routine that I do each morning and each afternoon. It starts with 20 minutes on the bike and then about 20 minutes standing, and then I either do some leg strengthening exercises or some exercises on the tables, and then I can do some walking.
Repetition seems to be the name of the game here, so I am getting used to doing the same things over and over. It is basically the main principle here; if you do something enough times then hopefully the brain will force the connection and allow the movement to happen without assistance. I am not used to repeating things as much as I do here, so I am adjusting my mindset and embracing this new way of exercising.
Although the intensity of the exercise is much less than I was expecting, and definitely much more casual than when I work out in the UK, I was still absolutely exhausted by Friday afternoon. So I have taken the weekend off again… I have to keep reminding myself that this programme is more of a marathon than a sprint, so I am easing myself in gently!
Here are some photos of my new exercise regime and a little video…