Before I was a healthcare lawyer, I was a patient. A chronic pain patient. I suffered for years before meeting a physical therapist who changed my life. And now, our firm works to support patient-centered providers who are opening, running, and improving their practices. Because of our work, tales of my own journey through the healthcare system frequently surface in client meetings and at seminars.
More times than I can count, I’ve been asked: “How long did it take for you to start feeling better?” I met Sandy, my PT, when I was wheelchair-bound and in constant, horrific pain. So, I’m sharing this journal entry, written 15 days after meeting Sandy.
And to answer the question: It took less than 15 days.
We snuggled up in front of the TV last night, and the lights went out at 12:04 am. This week marks the first where a single Melatonin tablet gets me to sleep at night. Gone are the days of lying awake in the dark until 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 am, struggling to keep the sheets off of my hurting bits while remaining warm, trying to get "comfortable" in spite of the pain. I used to doze off somewhere in the wee hours of the morning and emerge from our room - groggy, exhausted, and feeling like crap - somewhere around noon, only to repeat the whole thing twelve hours later. No, I woke up at 8:40 am today! I got up and had a cup of tea and a bagel. I ironed my husband's dress shirt, I drove him to the train station, I kissed him goodbye, and I. DROVE. HOME.
So, it's a half-mile drive home. But I drove home. I haven't driven in two months. It hurt me a little to sit on the seat like a normal person, and it hurt me a little to thump over the speed bumps in our neighborhood. It even hurt the car a little when I lightly bumped the curb parking (because we bought a new car one month ago that I haven't ever even test driven, so I don't know where it's boundaries are!).
It felt awesome. For the first time in months, I was by myself out in the world. I didn't need a driver, I didn't need to ask anyone to take me out. I could've stopped for coffee or gone shopping or done whatever I wanted. It was awesome. But it did hurt a little... so I drove that car back home and parked it, and then walked with my head held high up to our house. I dropped my husband off at the train station *like a normal girl!* And it felt awesome.
When I got home, I vacuumed the living room, which I haven't done in forever. I threw some laundry in the wash. I cleaned the bathroom. I brought the dogs outside for a potty break (we live on the second story, so that's actually a thing). I made a second cup of tea, which I sat down to drink on a normal pillow on my dining room chair. See, I'm supposed to work on desensitizing *the* area. I'm supposed to try not sitting on my bright yellow donut cushion all the time, which protects my bits from making contact with the chair. I've been working to sit normally again by sitting on a regular chair (sans donut) for just one minute, then two minutes, and so forth. I didn't exactly end up inching up in time so methodically. Instead, I grabbed my softest pillow from my bed and plopped down... about an hour ago. And I'm still sitting!
So, I get stronger each day. Each day when I'm walking or cooking or moving at all, I fear that I'll have to pay for it the next day. I fear I'll hurt because I just had to stand or walk or cook. I fear I'll regret that movement or activity.
And I haven't regretted it one time in the past fifteen days since I started PT with Sandy. And that's pretty awesome (not to mention it helps me build new positive neuropathways in my brain that don't associate movement with pain!). I’m learning more and more about the how and why of what’s happening with my body, and I’m so fortunate to have her in my corner. The day we met her, my sweet husband said: “She’s going to be the person who gets you better.” It’s only been 15 days, but I think he might be right.
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