Day 21 … back on the job!


Today (Tuesday in China) is the 21st day since my spinal cord surgery, and I reported back for rehab duty to Kunming SCI program director, Dr. Zhu Hui.

Regular readers will recall that last Wednesday I made a pre-mature attempt to rejoin rehab and that the effort was too much for me, being just 2 weeks out of the operating room.  So I went to bed Wednesday evening and didn’t get back into my chair until this morning.

This was my Dad’s idea of house arrest … that is, to give me five full days of old-fashioned bed rest at home to heal.  This seems to have worked out as he and I hoped it would, because today’s relaunch went very well.

830 Warm Up

8:30 musical warm-up with sister Tiffany + Team Kunming

Up ...

Okay … here we go …

Up, Up ...

 Up, up … and …

... and away

Way up I go …


 Dizzying solo flight!

Turns out “21” may be the magic number here in Kunming for recovery from major spinal cord surgery, as my good friend Nu Jia was operated on Feb 16th last year (2012) and started rehab exactly 21 days later.  She has made amazing progress since then, even regaining bladder control, which is all the more remarkable considering her auto-accident injury nearly severed her cord and her 2012 surgery with Dr. Liu here in Kunming came fully a year after her original spinal fusion in Hainan Island.

Zhu Hui Pets

Nu Jia … Dr. Zhu Hui … and Newbie Ali

Here’s the background on why Dr. Zhu pushes so hard to get new surgery patients standing, bearing 100% of their body weight, as soon as possible.

The soles of our feet are particularly dense with sensory nerves that feed back through the spinal cord to the brain.  This distal signaling thus completes a lengthy feedback circuit, and the sooner patients apply full pressure to their feet the better and faster they seem to recover.  Dr. Zhu is always encouraging her SCI patients to push the envelope … to push themselves as hard and as far as possible.

I doubt the renowned U.S. Marine Corps boot camp has a tougher regimen than the one career Chinese army officer Dr. Zhu advocates.  We come here to work … to work as hard as possible, and so today I returned to Dr. Zhu’s boot camp!

Altogether I managed to stand 4 times this morning for a total of 30 minutes standing time, and I managed another 30 minutes in the afternon on 6 attempts.  In between attempts I passed out a couple of times, so I gave it my best effort.

Out for the Count

Out for the count … 🙂

Over lunch break, Nu Jia and I were offered a tour of the terrific new SCI rehab facility nearing completion on the 2nd floor.  Wow!

What a brilliant design … very open and bright with huge skylights and 2 walking tracks, one outside!

New Centre Tour

Grand tour begins ... 🙂

Indoor Track

Indoor rehab track with skylight dome …

OT Corner

Even OT challenges are to be covered …

Outdoor Track

Outdoor rehab track under construction

The new rehab center will be open by the end of this month and enable more international patients to participate as well as to live comfortably right in the hospital in brand new deluxe rooms on the 8th (top) floor.

In a subsequent post I’ll publish photos of the new 8th floor rooms as well as more photos of the new 2nd floor SCI rehab facility.  No less than 7 elevators connect the 8th floor to the 2nd floor. I’ve never seen anything like this new rehab facility in the U.S.  Of course, over here costs are considerably lower, and insurance companies have no say at all in how SCI patients are treated!

At Dr. Zhu’s request, the Kunming SCI program will from now on be called the “Kunming International SCI Centre” … KISCIC for short … and will welcome patients from all over the world.

KISCIC will offer both innovative SCI surgery from a surgical team led by the renowned Dr. Liu Yansheng as well as what I think is presently the world’s most effective SCI rehab protocol led by the the incomparably experienced Dr. Zhu Hui.

11 responses »

  1. FANTASTIC Ali. We’re so impressed you’re back into the programme already and obviously working so hard. Love the photos! xxxxx Tania, Madeleine, and Fifi.

    • there is presently one Canadian, 1 French boy and myself. We are the first three foreigners., However with the completion of the brand-new second floor facility and the VIP eighth floor living accommodations, I’m working on bringing in tens upon tens of foreigners over the next six months.

      • Hi Ali, As you may recall, I am Canadian (who visits FBV in Cat Island every year for a month or so). I would be really interested to know more about the Canadian in the program and to blog generally about his/her experience and yours as well. My blog gets about 8,000 hits a week and the audience consists of caregivers and people in the disability sector. I would love to help spread the word about the Kunming program to my readers. I also write for the Canadian disability magazine called Abilities and I was thinking of pitching a story to them as well. I know a lot of people who have spinal cord injuries would be so interested. Does the Canadian in the program have a blog? Would you be interested in doing an interview with me via skype for a blog post on the Kunming program?

  2. Hi Ali, it’s great to hear you are back on your feet!! I shared your home page on LinkedIn in a group I belong to called “Disability Rehab Medicine”. Obviously, most of the members are from the US and I thought it would do them good to see your program – and lo and behold someone replied and said that there was great interest and many are watching you with interest and pulling for you! Not the response I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised.

  3. Hi Ali…SOOOO Happy to see these amazing photos and hear the GREAT news of Day 21….also, the expansion of the program and development of the building, the fact that one can live there and seeing this walking trac… is all just so exciting…thank you so much for sharing your photos and letting us participate in celebrating day by day…YOU ARE AMAZING!

  4. I am so glad that you have been able to start standing again. I am sure bed rest was frustrating! I have never known you to enjoy being sedentary. Hooray for 21! 🙂 And also, I am ga-ga for your “Rainbow Brite” sneakers!! Love you so much. Coco sends kisses.

  5. Bravo Ali ! Well done. It’s wonderful to see you standing up ! You’re amazing and so courageous no doubt your hard work will pay. Lots of hugs and many kisses from Sassa xoxoxo

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