“You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
When you were little you were scared of the dark, or maybe it was the boogie monster. As a teenager maybe you are scared of speaking in front of a crowd, or maybe you got in your first car accident. As a college student you fear not finding your place in the real world, whether that be in family, job, or friends. Of course I am making assumptions here but you get my point, we grow up with fears, hopes dreams, aspirations, goals, sadness, weakness, strength, frustration. Some of these we expect to experience once, others many times. We expect to learn how to ride a bike once, and to never forget, and amongst these things is sitting up, crawling and walking.
I realize that I have a few posts about walking.– I’ve had to go through this a few more times than once unfortunately or maybe fortunately I don’t know. It certainly does not seem to get easier at any time, this process of learning. I went back and looked at my older posts about it and here’s the thing, each one is different because each time has been a different experience and there have been different circumstances depending on where each hip was at.The battle with walking never seems to end.
There is a gate belt tight around my waist, the goal being that it wont slip and will serve the purpose of holding me up. My PT reaches her arms out to help me stand up which is easily done (although that was not easy right after surgery, nor was learning how to sit up straight without falling over. They were learned fairly quickly in the grand scheme of things but the point was I had to get used to it again). I hold tight to her forearms, with an immense trust in her that she is going to help me. Two other therapists stand with us ready to assist in this endeavor. One gets behind me and puts her hands firmly around the gate belt; the other goes down to her hands and knees and is going to help with the gait pattern of my feet. My therapist remains in front of me holding on, and me, I just stand there thinking so hard just to keep my balance, already holding my breath knowing what comes next. Today, we start working on walking.
I’ve been here before. In fact I have been here many times before; this point that you reach in rehab where you are learning to walk again. We are not talking about a simple weaning off crutches and just a matter of strength. This is different. I have done it several times actually, this learning a gait pattern and learning where my hips are in space and the proprioception. Its hard to explain because unless you have an issue with them, you are not so acutely aware of the changes in the proprioception of the joint. I have had to go through re learning this after several surgeries, and just as I started to get it I was in for surgery again. But this process got particularly hard after my left hip anteverted (reverse) PAO in September of 2011. I struggled then to relearn walking and the pattern and the proprioception of my joints and since then have been through 2 more surgeries in the saga, the latest being my right hip reverse PAO in November of 2012. I have yet to get to the end of learning to walk and it is infuriating. Now here I am facing it again, still trying with everything I know to get it down and still getting frustrated, feeling like I am failing with each try and starting to get angry that I haven’t been able to completely relearn. Yes, it takes time, but this is way more time than it should ever take. This is taking far more time than it took to learn when you were a baby.
Im staring at an angle my eyes just seeing my PT’s knees and the floor and nothing else; I don’t look side to side, I do not look to where we are going or at the other PT’s helping us. I am nervous, and scared which is very very hard to explain if you have not been through this process. We start with picking up my right and moving it forward, meaning that weight goes through my left. It buckles and I feel a strong pull on the belt and my grip on my PT tightens; I suppose you can say I felt as though I was holding on for dear life. The PT at my feet is holding my right keeping me from letting my ankle roll in and helping me move the left at the same time. I have no problem putting weight through my right, I do in placing my left one forward. Its there, I think, and we are back to moving the right. I move it as quickly as it will allow, relieving my left, and straightening my knee locking that right leg out easily to step on it. My right ankle rolls beneath me ending collapsed inward, but I now feel most balanced. I am thinking really hard to make this happen, intensely just concentrating on one thing, not letting my focus waver. My breath is still held, and I am depending more and more on my PT; she knows me well, she knows I want to be pushed, she knows I want to walk and how frustrated and devastated I am that I have not been able to get there. She also is well aware that I am scared, and is cautious of what I am feeling in terms of both my hips as we walk.
Finally we get to the window sil on the other wall where we sit for a moments break. I am out of breath, as I finally am breathing after that stretch of walking. It is a lot of work mentally and physically for me to make it that far, even with three people helping. I am not proud of that, it was messy and it was far from anything that it should be. I do not think that this is a pessimistic view of what we had just done, I simply do not see it as anything that is to be recognized at this moment in time. I can not even make it through a whole day on crutches yet.
After our moment (literally a moment) of break in between walks we headed back to the table. Again one PT took hold of the gait belt, my usual PT holding out her trusting arms and me clutching tight, breath held before we even started. This time was a little harder for me as the PT on the ground moved my right through a better gait pattern and made me attempt a balance on my left a bit longer. I wanted to scream in frustration every time the left buckled beneath me. My focus remained on one spot, and that spot was a blur as my mind was truly focusing all its energy on getting me to move one leg and then the other. It is extremely hard to describe to you all, how frustrating this whole process is because this is something that we never expect to lose and rarely for this long.
When we finished and my PT and I walked back to the other room she asked me if I was scared. I just nodded. Then I attempted to describe what it felt like to me. There really are not enough words to describe it and this is again where it is difficult to understand if you haven’t had an issue with your hips that makes you painfully aware of where they are and what it feels like. My right one I said, is great; sure it hurts to stand on it, but it works and I feel it and its solid. I do not feel like it is slipping any more, I know that it is there. I trust it. I only wish my left one felt the same. My left, I tried to describe, I think I am moving it forward, but im not 100% positive and when its on the ground I do not feel like it is there and that I have something that is solid to step on like my right. I am aware that my leg is there, I can initiate movement in all directions, but I have a lot of issues finishing them and it is very hard for me to tell where my leg is in space if I am not staring at it, getting that visual input.
I can’t even begin to call this walking. As I said I still can’t quite make a whole day up on my feet on crutches, and this whatever you want to call it was a mess. I know that we are going to keep trying, that that is the plan for now moving forward. I also know that there are going to be many days like today where I come home and my hips are in pain, and I just want to cry in pure frustration with it all. I am doing the best I can. Often times I feel like that best is not enough, but what more can I give? It took 4 people today (myself included) to get a few sloppy stumble- ish steps to go across a room. I know that people say you have to start somewhere, but this, this is not somewhere not yet because still there are no answers.
“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.”