Many of you may be wondering what it is I do every day, since I’ve been in China almost a month and mostly post funny stories. So, today I will focus my blog on what it is I actually do every day at Kunming Tongren Hospital.
Presently, I spend about half a day at the SCI rehabilitation center in Tongren Hospital because my neuropathic pain gets pretty bad every afternoon. After my untethering surgery, I will spend most of my day at the hospital’s SCI rehabiltation center. Unfortunately, the pain is presently so intense that I am unable to speak with anybody in the afternoons, which will hopefully change after the surgery. Surgery has been delayed right now as my Dad and I are still working to get a really clear understanding of the risks before anyone opens up my neck again!.
Meanwhile, I wake up at 5 AM every day and get to the 7th floor SCI rehab center each morning by 8:30 sharp! My “commute” in wheelchair takes about 20 minutes. Dr. Zhu Hui is a real stickler for patients being on time.
I take turns with several other foreign patients teaching the Chinese staff one English sentence each morning. We then follow the English lesson with what I can only describe as a morning military song — after all Dr. Zhu Hui was an officer in the Peoples Liberation Army for the last 30 years. During the song we follow a very structured stretching routine.
Once we’re done with our morning song and warm-up ritual, all the patients break off into individual morning routines. My present routine, which will also continue after the operation, includes six specific exercises. These exercises take me several hours to complete and include:
1。 Lying down on a blue exercise mat where staff therapists string up my legs and hands together like a marionette puppet, as I described in one of my earlier posts. My hands are strapped in, and I am literally pulling my leg weight up and down. It is actually quite good exercise.
2。 The next exercise on the blue mat requires me to be turned over on my side where the PT’s string up one leg at a time, and I start rotating (swinging) my leg back and forth, which basically promotes hip rotation. This particular exercise loosens all of my joints up to prepare me for walking in the Kunming walking frame that was developed some years ago at the PLA hospital.
3。The third exercise on the mat involves my sitting up and balancing with my own head and shoulders. While I am sitting up, I’m having a ball thrown at me for a punching exercise. This is one of the best core balance exercise routines I can think of.
4。For the final exercise on the mat, I lie down on my back and two PT’s grab my wrists for good old-fashioned pull-ups. We do about 100 pull-ups, which, needless-to-say, I find pretty exhausting by the time we are finished.
5。 After I am done with the mat, I get back into my wheelchair and strapped into a bicycle for 20 minutes. The bike offers me a great opportunity to learn new physical therapy exercise terms in Chinese, as I can talk to everybody while they walk by. I am like chatty Cathy at the gym, as I’m trying constantly to improve my Mandarin wherever I can. Dr. Zhu is strict about the Chinese language, too … no Yunnan dialect allowed in her presence!
6。The sixth and final exercise (I’ve saved the best for last) is getting me up in the standing frame for 30 minutes at a time. I’m working up to standing in the frame twice a day for 30 minutes with three therapists holding me straight up as you may have seen in some of my previous photos. Standing Balance … that’s my Level One “core” objective.
Once I master Standing Balance, I will start walking down the hospital hallways and even eventually perhaps also outdoors … while probably being pushed to do more pull-ups 🙂
As the title of this post suggests, the Kunming Walking Programme is built on military discipline, for only by thousands upon thousands of repetitions of arduous exercices does the Central Nervous System “learn” how to re-program some of its brain neurons to use surviving axons to recruit muscles once thought to be paralyzed. This takes time … lots of time … and, frankly, a disposition to put in the hard work. For me right now, given my pain levels, this is a pretty tall order, but I’m hanging in there and making progress.