It’s been quite the last eleven days out here in California. It’s been mostly ups with just a couple downs. The bad news mostly dealt with one main factor: the smoke. Even south of San Francisco was greatly impacted by the wildfires about 200 miles north near Chico. That smoke has affected Thom more than I anticipated. Combine the smoke with traveling in a plane for six hours, sleep cycles getting interrupted, it was no real surprise that he ended up a bit wheezy and congested and even had a nasty coughing bout where he was continuously hacking up a lung for almost a day. We actually had to go visit a doctor out here to make sure there wasn’t anything too serious to worry about and thankfully all we needed was some Mucinex DM and an antibiotic. Since we’ve been out here, the air quality never dropped below unhealthy until the last day when it’s rained all day.
Now that we got the ‘bad news’ out of the way, let’s move on to the good news! These seven days of therapy have been tremendous for Thom overall. The therapist that he’s worked with exclusively at the Neuro-IFRAH center, Ryan, has put so much effort into getting Thom to move his hips and legs with relatively little pain. The first hour or so is mostly dedicated to stretching and loosening Thom up. In the past, Thom’s therapists would stretch Thom either too quickly or go beyond his limits. When at home, I could hear Thom yelling clear across the house. I thought he was just being overly sensitive but I was very wrong. After the first hour of stretching, it’s been all about getting him to engage his right leg, the one that wasn’t moving for almost two years.
They have had him on a few different of relatively basic devices in order to get that right leg actively moving and it has been. From doing a simple leg press on a inversion table with light weights to letting his leg swing side-to-side while being held up by a band hanging from a bar so his leg was weightless and could learn the movement on his own. One other simple exercise was to have him laying on his back and bringing his knee up to chest and then pushing it back. I was so excited to see and FEEL him moving that leg on his own. Naturally, Thom was very nonchalant about it. So building up the strength and confidence in that right leg again lead to him actually walking with the help of Ryan and myself. The first day, he walked for about 80 feet with our assistance, the next day he walked about 250 feet and the third day we attempted walking we did about 250 feet again! The final day, Thom walked for about 300 feet! For Thom, the hardest thing is finding the confidence in his leg again in the right position and not way off to side like he’s kicking a soccer ball. This is understandable considering it’s been just shy of two years since the stroke and he’s never really had the right therapy.
Many people have asked me what makes the therapy out here in California so much different than what we were doing back home and Ryan put it simply: While it’s intensive (six hours a day), they work more on precision here as well as therapeutic activities whereas most other places just seem to do activity therapy. They focus more on a stronger foundation here versus just building on passive activities and what seems like hoping for the best. So instead of putting him on a bike for 15 mins and letting him just have passive movement and hoping he learns how to take over, they have been working on actively engaging it. Instead of having him in hanging in a harness and moving his feet for him with his feet and hips in the wrong position, they have been making HIM use leg while correcting him along the way. This makes sense I feel, generally speaking, we seem to learn from doing something ourselves rather than constantly watching someone else work while we put in minimal effort. On top of this, we have run into a number of people here this time that could not express enough how helpful these folks have been. HEaring Many of them were way were than Thom but are now well ahead of him, including folks that are walking around either on their own or simple with a walker, something that I honestly wouldn’t have imagined given how slow the progress was until this point. So seeing these success stories first hand make such a difference as well for actually trusting the process. Both Ryan and I are hoping that if Thom doesn’t lose too much before the next visit, we will get him walking with the walker on his own! It’s all up to Thom putting forth the effort when I can work with him while juggling everything.
We will be back out here often for the next several months and we will be getting some frequent flier miles on United as we will always be flying them as it’s non-stop Tampa to San Fran, thankfully!! It also looks like we will be becoming very familiar with hotels out here too. If anyone is interested in meeting up while we are out here, I’m going to always look at flying in on a Saturday and flying home on a Saturday unless the prices are drastically cheaper to leave a day later or earlier. Meeting during the week is almost out of the question as he’s so incredibly tired from the six hours of therapy, so either Saturday or Sunday would be best. December we will be out here the week before Christmas, January the final two weeks, Feb and March will be in the middle of the month, and April will be the first week. May and June I cannot plan as of yet and hopefully we will not make it back out here (that would mean the Tampa Bay Lightning are doing quite well and I’ll be extra busy with playoff hockey). All these timeframes coincide with the Lightning’s home schedule so I miss as little time as possible given I love that job.
If anyone is able to pass along some frequent flier miles or hotel points, that would be absolutely huge. Each therapy trip is out of pocket and is far from cheap. The program doesn’t accept insurance, and even if they did, insurance wouldn’t pay much, if at all, due to the incredibly low limits set by Medicare. The price for someone just to speak again or even walk again is absolutely outrageous but such is the medical industry it seems, sadly.
The next few weeks before heading back to California will be dedicated to stretching him and keeping him from losing everything he gained out here. If anyone would like to come watch the Bucs with him on Sunday’s during the home games, please reach out. Some close friends of ours have come from Lakeland a couple times and hung out with Thom, but if anyone else would like to, that would be great.