My Motorcycle Accident

One Month Later

27 August 1999

It is now a month and a day since the accident.

I see some kind of progress, however meager, just about every day. My primary mobility is with a wheel chair, which I can transfer into and out of unassisted. I can also use a walker for short trips by balancing on the paralyzed leg, which is mostly necessary to get me into and out of the bathroom. Being able to take my first real showers by myself this past week was a huge milestone for me.

Improvement comes in the things I can work on, which is mostly my strength and flexibility throughout my body. Every day I can bend my left knee a few degrees more (up to about 80 degrees now) and do a few more repetitions of all my exercises. Rolling the wheelchair up hills is also getting noticeably easier as my shoulders strengthen; I have taken a few two mile trips in the chair in Burlington just to get out. One of my favorite times is when I have a visitor that I can persuade into going to Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop with me, about a half mile away. I sure do love those large waffle cones.

Even with a half dozen trips to Ben & Jerry's, it looks like I am going to get out of here in better shape than before the accident, at least as far as everything except my legs is concerned. I've lost nearly 10 pounds and I believe my upper body is approaching the strongest I've ever been. With all the leg lifts I've been doing, even my right leg is in pretty decent shape.

The road rash is nearly all gone, having been liberally treated with Vitamin E for the past two weeks. This stuff does wonders to skin injuries, so be sure to stock some in your own medicine cabinet! I also just had the stitches from my gory gash removed today. It is still not closed up, but it is very close. I should be able to go in the pool in the not too distant future.

Unfortunately, I have not seen much improvement in the things I cannot work on – the sensation and paralysis of my left leg. There is really no way to speed up whatever my body is going to do about it. I have an EMG scheduled for September 7, which is a type of electrical stimulus test that helps diagnose where the problem is in the nerve, and perhaps (I am not sure) the nature of the problem. The results of this will probably not change my treatment, just let me know some more about how long it might take to get better – if it will. One week after the EMG I have an orthopaedic appointment where I will probably be told that I can start using my right leg again, which will mean that I can start using crutches instead of a walker.

There are some encouraging signs that it will get better, someday. First, my foot has had ongoing burning pain since the accident, which is far better than numbness. It has grown even more uncomfortable lately, which I hope is a sign of positive healing activity. Second, my ankle, which has been the boundary between where I could feel external stimuli and where I could not, has become extremely sensitive to touch (ow ow ow, stop touching that!). Third, just this week I felt a new sort of pain in the end of my big toe. I will not describe what it feels like since I have observed that it makes people I have told feel squeamish. Finally, I have a basic belief that I will be all better one day, so it must be going to happen.

So in all, my spirits have been basically up most of the time. My injuries have almost never really gotten me down, except for a little bit this week when my left knee started giving out when I was using the walker. This is because there is no ACL to keep it in place. It was frightening to me because it was the first time I felt like I had absolutely no control over my body in a way that could really, really hurt me. If it gave out and I sprawled all over the floor, it could set me back by weeks. The therapists decided a primary factor was my leg brace being too loose, and that I needed to concentrate extra hard on keeping my quadriceps tight. I've addressed those two issues in later walks and once again am having normal, mundane, hobbling-along-on-a-paralyzed-leg trips.

Next Wednesday, September 1, I will be going home for the first time since the accident. This is not a permanent return, but rather a visit with my care team to ensure that I can get around the house to do all of the things I need to do there. I am really looking forward to it. In particular, I think I will request that I have the first ten minutes there alone, to just be with my cats. I miss them.

My permanent departure from the nursing home should be the following week.

I am hoping that before winter sets in I will be able to ride my mountain bike again. This hope sort of borders on the edge of reality; it might happen, but I'm not calling the Vegas bookies about it. It is quite a bit more realistic to think that I will be snowboarding, skiing and snowshoeing this winter, but there are no promises even for that. Nerve injuries are notorious for how long they can take to mend, sometimes taking more than a year. I am pretty hopeful about the winter sports, though, so it will be a bit disappointing to me if I do not make it.

Well, as usual, I have self-indulgently rambled on quite a bit here, so I will close now with this final comment: Thank you to all of you who have taken the time to write email, send cards and come visit. The Internet has been a very powerful tool in my convalescence, helping ensure that I have never really felt lonely. I can only imagine how isolated I would feel without having been able to have this contact with you all. Thank you so much for being part of the medicine that is making me well.


Part 4: six weeks later