Friday, December 01, 2006

Falling Into Strong Arms


Did you ever participate in one of those team-building exercises where you had to fall backwards and trust that a bunch of people would catch you? I was so apprehensive going into the first meeting of my “dream team” yesterday, but what I found was the strong arms of 4 professionals who were determined not to let me fall.

For anyone tuning in to this saga for the first time, a couple of months ago I conceived of this idea of bringing together key therapists in my current life to talk about how to deal with my walking issues. They included a physiatrist (Neil) who served as the leader, a massage therapist (Reya), a physical therapist (Quentin), and a pilates teacher (Chris). They moved mountains to change busy schedules in order to all be available at 4:00 yesterday. My yoga teacher (Leyla) may have a follow-up phone call with Neil, since she couldn’t make it. But never having done anything like this, I worried about how it would work. Would it be strange to be described like some laboratory rat? Would they think it was extremely tacky that I brought along some comfort food in the form of chocolate chip cookies? Would anyone dismiss another therapist’s comments or questions? Yikes! I was full of concerns.

But from the minute we all sat down in the same room, I knew everything was going to be just fine. These people all have one thing in common. They know about anatomy. They know the names of muscles. They know exactly how the body hangs together. I loved hearing them describe my body in technical terms.

They first all went out in the hallway and watched me walk with Neil telling them things to pay attention to. Then we returned to our meeting room to plow into this further. Neil gave the supposed history of my problem. The good news is that it’s rather static, having been with me for the duration of my life. In fact, I don’t know what it feels like to walk any other way. It’s largely caused by a slight brain injury, which means that there are many times when I simply can’t voluntarily do anything to fix it.

It turns out that pilates is the perfect therapy to stretch and strengthen. But one key idea that emerged was that the pilates training could be even more effective if preceded by massage or PT. This also means that yoga might be more effective if it were also preceded by either massage or PT.

I found myself verbalizing things that I hadn’t ever said before, like the fact that I relax when I can hold onto a grocery cart (which functions much as a walker does), allowing me to not rely so much on my better left leg for balance and support. I mentioned how it has always been hard to share an umbrella with another person because of the way my pelvis swings from side to side when I walk. Starting to pay attention to these things, I was reminded last night at a lively Jewish concert how difficult it is for me to dance the hora, even though I adore the music.

We all determined that my goal is not to cure this problem. In fact Neil stated that doctors only cure about 5% of their patients’ problems, and these usually involve infectious disease. My goal instead is to manage this problem, strengthening and perhaps relearning through endless repetition how to walk a different way. Imagine just how difficult it would be to relearn something you had been doing for 57 years.

I loved it that the dialogue had started. They were making plans to continue to exchange ideas about the care and tending of ME! I will continue to see all of these people independently, but now they have met each other and they have my full permission to talk about me in front of me or behind my back.

It was really like the picture above. I had stood on a high place and just fallen backwards into strong and caring arms. My dream team is now official!

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How wonderful for you to not only have professionals that are willing to cooperate but people whom you trust to help you manage a lifelong difficulty! What an uplifting message.

4:30 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- You are so correct. I feel really blessed to have somehow found all these people!

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Quentin said...

I never did apologize, and I always feel like I have to, for talking about you in the third person when you're sitting right there -- never figured out how to finesse that three-way conversation.
We should all be worried that our health care gets more fragmented and less coordinated all the time.

5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so wonderful and I am delighted for you.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I think this is absolutely amazing that you pulled it off! So beneficial for you. I can't imagine this ever happen with me and all the specialists I see...heart, liver, diabetes, neuropathy, fibromyalgia, 2 deteriorated disks,exercise cardio program ...massage, chiropractic..it's just endless and will quite simply never happen. Some of them have talked by phone or letters.

Anyway, way to go!

(I'm sure they even thought the cookies were great!)

6:33 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Quentin -- No apologies necessary. I am just so impressed that you showed up since you are wearing 2 PT hats this week and had to move all your appts around. And you ate my cookies as though cookies are always served at meetings like this! And, of course, because you brought that unique sarcastic humor of yours that adds a necessary levity to any serious situation.

Kate -- Thanks for your continued support!

MOI -- Sounds like you have an even bigger group of people to catch you!

I did come out of the meeting with a smile on my face and a new feeling of optimism for a very old problem.

And, yes, they all ate the cookies and politely didn't ask for milk to go with them.

6:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations! and good luck. I will say prayers and think good thoughts for this to be successful.

Old Lady

7:16 PM  

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