Recovery Journey: Week 1 of Physical Therapy
I am not sure what I was expecting exactly. I knew the road would be long, arduous, and draining for everyone. It isn’t easy to watch your child have to start all over again- back to the very beginning. It’s even more difficult when you know they have many of your personality traits (impatience, determination, and perfectionism). Those traits really really seem to come through during all of this. At least he comes by it honestly, right?
When we left the hospital on Monday, Mark was taking baby steps. I mean literal baby steps. As a three-year-old, you’d expect him to be running, jumping, and climbing on everything, but his cerebral palsy limited his movements. Most of the typical three-year-old happenings were limited, but now he was even more limited than before. He was back at 18 months old (adjusted) in terms of his movements. For someone who is impatient, you can imagine how frustrating that is. To make matters worse, he is three so the reason behind the further limited motions is a hard concept to grasp.
Tuesday we managed to take it easy. No appointments. No visitors. No outings. Nothing. We remained on lockdown and rested most of the day. After all, the hospital took a lot of us parents too. Rest was required for the entire family and for some reason, we managed to get very little of it because Mark decided to be stubborn and walk around the house (cruising on furniture or holding someone’s hand). This also managed to give me a heart attack. Shocker. Welcome to parenthood.
Wednesday was the day. It was THE day. The first day of Physical Therapy with Ms. Rachel. Mark’s Ms. Rachel. She has been a driving force behind his success with “big” movements since he was just a few months old. With her at his side, Mark faced every challenge head-on. He put in the hard work and she never quit on him… not once. Not even during the worst of times. She was soft when a gentle approach was needed, and she was stern when tough love was the only way through. In this entire situation, Mark’s recovery will require nothing short of tough love. Why? Because he is three and has his own opinion and isn’t afraid to share it with you. This was about to be the biggest challenge yet.
During his physical therapy appointment, we focused on watching Mark’s movements. We paid attention to what he could do with his new range of motion. We watched him crawl and play with toys on the ground. He sat criss-cross with ease (which he has never been able to do). He worked tirelessly on sitting to stand and spent quite a bit of time just cruising around the room, pushing the Mickey Mouse train.
Some of the exercises Ms. Rachel had him doing would put Jane Fonda to shame. Mark’s bridge pose and donkey kicks will help him gain muscles in areas that I simply don’t have (for example, a butt). He walked around the building with his walker and saw many friends he hadn’t seen in a while.
At the end of his first day at therapy, Mark was placed in another cast- his final cast. This final serial casting came with a goal to stretch the muscles in his leg to prepare them for the ability to bear weight. Most people don’t necessarily think about this, but Mark’s body relied heavily on spasticity for strength. When those nerves were cut, he gained access to muscles that he never really had to use before. This is one of the reasons for the difficulty in walking, the need to relearn to walk, and the need for the cast.
On day two of Physical Therapy, we met with Ms. Sharlene. I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of really introducing Sharlene to the blog but that is only because up until this point, Rachel was Mark’s only Physical Therapist. Most of our interactions were done in passing, through Rachel, or when our kids played soccer together over the summer. Sharlene is an amazing Physical Therapist. She is equal to Rachel in every way… except when it comes to their approaches. Let me clarify when I say that. Sharlene’s approach and Rachel’s approach are equal, just different. One is not less than the other. They both complement one another and together Rachel and Sharlene’s approaches will benefit Mark more than any way possible, in my opinion.
Rachel has been with Mark since we established care at the therapy office. He is that sweet boy who responds to and relies heavily on gentleness and softness. Rachel provides that environment for him. Sharlene had the privilege of seeing Mark outside of the therapy office when our kids were on the same soccer team. She pushes Mark and keeps at it because she has seen what he is capable of outside of the office. As I mentioned before, although different, they will both bring something to the table to make Mark stronger and they do it with love. As a parent, you can’t ask for more.
On the second day, we saw Mark struggle. Mark rode a bike up and down the hallway, using the strength in his muscles to push the pedals on his own. We worked on sitting to standing once again, this time without the assistance of grabbing and pulling himself up. We worked on stretching his hip flexors and doing side to side steps (even though they were as dramatic as dramatic gets). A few times he would wince in pain, but the grimace was soon replaced with smiles and laughter.
Someday, I hope he understands that with every movement, every triumph, every milestone (or inch stone to some), he knows that many people are proud of him, but few can beat his therapist’s level of pride. With every goal he meets, they are cheering him on. With every struggle he faces, they are working with him, encouraging him. They are more like family to us (myself included here), than some of our own family is. It really is like a family and I love them just as they were our family. I will forever be grateful for them having the ability to see great potential in Mark and for not quitting on him. He wouldn’t be where he is without them.