Saturday, April 18, 2009

Life after my Spinal Cord Injury

After 2 and a half months of being in the hospital, I was released from the hospital. I felt a bit better physically as my insides weren't hurting any more and I could function more independently. Mentally, I felt in good condition and ready to move on with life. The nurses got me really excited to go on my cruise and helped me feel strong enough to take on the challenges ahead (little did I know, there would be plenty).

My mom and little 5 year old sister, Holly came to visit me that week, which was awesome because they were just what I needed to feel like I was going back to my real, old life again. We had a little get together with good friends who were there to celebrate my release with me. My mom made us amazing Cambodian food, which I had missed so much (I also missed eating in general). They surprised me by inviting Cambry (my amazing idol, who has now been wheeling around for 4 years). I felt so loved.

We had a few outings like going to see my friends, Aja's rugby game and Stephanie's ice skating show. It was so cool. I had missed the outdoors so much. It was so filled with color, green grass, blue skies, clear rain - everything beat staying in the hospital. And I just loved being with these people.

After the cruise, life shifted a bit more and reality hit. It was a rough transition and I felt like I was failing at it. Everyone had gone back to their normal routines - work, school, etc. and I was left at home alone. I struggled so much to do things myself and felt like a little child that always needed help. I needed help getting dressed and putting my turtle shell on. I needed help bathing. I kept falling while transferring from my chair onto places. I kept getting sick because of different medications. It was just plain difficult and I began to get depressed and tired of it all. I reverted to old questions I had in the hospital, Why do I have to go through this? Does my Heavenly Father listen to my prayers? Does He even care about me? I wondered how I was to get through all of this.

The answer came in getting to work at the MATC cafeteria. There, a plank was set up for me that elevated me to the height of the register. I helped customers and got to talk to them about their day. I kept busy with getting whatever I could ready for the day. I found that having something productive to do besides the scrapbooking I was doing before, helped me feel like I was making a difference.  The interaction I had with other people allowed me stay positive for them and myself. I knew that it wasn't good to bring around negative energy with me all the time, so I had to switch my thoughts to look for positive things. With that, I was able to count the little blessing each day and use those to carry me through things that were difficult. I felt more inclined to try new methods that would work and make my life a little easier.

I feel that these difficulties are some of that bitterness my doctor told me about. And the blessings I've learned to count are those moments of sweetness. I hope and pray with all my heart that this will get easier. I have faith that it will and that Heavenly Father will provide me with the strength I need to see it through.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cruise to Mexico in a Wheelchair

After so many months of recovery in the hospital, a cruise was perfect for the end of that difficult period. It was certainly a great motivator for me to get better and for my doctors and nurses to push me to get better. Thanks to MATC, I was able to pay the rest of the cruise fare that I had been saving up for before the accident. Two days before the cruise, I was release from the hospital and headed to San Diego.

Before embarking on the cruise ship, we had to go through a security check line, which I was led to the front of. Getting to pass up to the front of the line sounded pretty cool at first. But then I realized there would be extensive probing and a long wait. Bummer. I had to make sure that I had showed them my medical release form and prescription forms for all of the medication I was bringing on (and there were quite a few. I was just released from the hospital, mind you).

We embarked on the Carnival cruise ship from San Diego and to sea we went.
It was pretty accessible to get onto the ship as there were ramps all the way. We didn't notice it being difficult to get around the ship for the rest of the time, except for getting up to the top outdoor deck where the swimming pool and hot tub were (I was carried up by AJ). It was also kind of tricky to maneuver around crowds of people, but that's normal.

Right as we got onto the Carnival cruise ship, we made our way to the buffet, which is all-you-can-eat basically all day everyday. I was pretty sea sick at first so Dramamine was crucial to making the rest of the trip enjoyable. I had an on-board nurse there to support me and made me feel so much more secure in case anything happened. 

As for accommodations, we requested a wheelchair accessible room, which meant a larger room, but it didn't include an accessible restroom. My wheelchair couldn't fit through the door, which was a pain. It made me have to rely more on other people. We made do with it, but there's got to be a better option of next time. I'm so grateful for my roommate, Aja and our friends for helping me out with this.

What to pack: 
1. Bathroom supplies - Make sure there are enough catheters and gloves are brought on (if you have SCI). If you run out of the supplies (and they're reusable), wash them with warm soapy water or talk to a cleaning maid. 
2. Medications are also very important. 
3. Barf bags - I felt like my tolerance level for sea sickness was weakened because of my changed center of gravity and lack of physical movement. 
4. Sunblock and sunglasses 
5. Appropriate clothing including formal wear for fine dining

With help to be carried from the ship onto a little boat, we rode off to Catalina Island, just off of California, where there were lots of tourist shops and restaurants. We went on long strolls together through the island. There were beautiful views from different angles of the island. I really loved pushing around.

Sexy little bunny left in our room by the roomkeeper.
La Bufadora in Ensenada  
It was more sandy and windy as we docked at Ensenada and wandered around, but it was pretty manageable to get around. It was only tricky once we were shopping and trying to get around the booths in a wheelchair. Sometimes, I had my friends bring items for me to look at. The bargaining process was funny and another story for another day. Walking around the town was interesting as we noticed how much work it is for someone in a wheelchair to get around. There are lots of steps to get into shops and restrooms are not wheelchair accessible. With some help, I was able to get around.

We went over pretty close to La Bufadora, whose path was easy enough to get around because of the ramp. Waves would hit the rocks and gradually build enough pressure to blow up, hence the name.  It was pretty cool to watch. 

We rose up earlier to watch sunrise.  It was a bit difficult to see, but nice to get to do after so many months of being in a hospital room.  I loved the fresh cool breeze.  We enjoyed hot coco together afterwards.  It was a great way to end our cruise.  

Four days on a boat at sea was such a great experience.  I'm so glad I got to do it.  I want to give a big thanks to everyone who helped me along the way. This was unforgettable.