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Eastern Europe Trip

A year of adventure and misfortune - the story of our Eastern Europe trip, the accident and subsequent recovery, and our lives up until September 2008... For the latest blog, click on Blogs in the header...

Monday, 21 January 2008


Establishing a Routine

It’s now just over 2 weeks since Tracy was transferred to the intensive rehabilitation ward, and in that time she has once again proven what a really determined person she is…

The first thing that happened was she was seen by an incredible team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, psychotherapists and probably one or two other “therapists” that I’ve forgotten about. They, together with the doctors and the pain team, have put together a detailed care plan for her and the progress she’s made has been fantastic.

The main area of focus has been her right hand. Whilst she was unable to move her right leg, which concerned me greatly, the doctors were unconcerned as the MRI scans show no problems except for swelling in her back from the operation pressing on the nerves. So attention focused on her fingers. When she was admitted she was able to waggle them a bit – but they were all stiff and painful, and she couldn’t move them independently or touch any of them with her thumb. The therapists gave her some exercises to do, a splint to wear during the day, a different splint for night-time and a weird “Freddy Kruger” glove to wear for short periods to bend the fingers. This glove had elastic bands coming from the ends of each which attach via Velcro to a band on the back of the glove, effectively holding the fingers in a bent position. They told her she could use the glove for “up to 10 mins every hour”. And so she has been. She’s developed clock-watching skills a union leader would be proud of. Every hour she squeezes her hand into the glove and bends each finger as far as it will go, then a bit more, and attaches the Velcro. Then does the next finger and so on. Then she sits there with her hand in this medieval torture device for a full 10 minutes, before slowly releasing each finger, straightening them again and finally removing the glove. And she repeats this all through the day, from first thing in the morning until after visiting in the evening. Such determination is fantastic to see – and it’s having real results too. She can now touch each finger with her thumb, and the progress continues with more movement daily – she even wrote me a letter holding the pen in her right hand! The photo below was taken over a week ago – but just look at that smile!!

Tracy shows off her newfound dexterity…

In addition to dealing with her hand, Tracy and her care team have been working on improving the movement in her shoulder, elbow and wrist. This involves a fair amount of physio work, and some pretty rough-looking splints that hold her arm in a more closed position to try and get the tendons and ligaments working again. She’s had more x-rays (which showed the bones are all healed and normal looking) and even a test on her nerves today that involved connecting small needles inserted into her arms to an electricity source (not the mains!) to check they work. The conclusion is that she’s suffering from extensive muscle wastage in her upper arm (bicep and tricep) and needs to re-develop the muscles in her forearm following all the surgery. Quite a way to go before she gets significant movement, but each day she does gain a few more degrees of movement, in bending and in rotation.

Her right leg has also started to show signs of movement again, but remains very “heavy” and weak. As her back heals and the swelling decreases, this appears to be returning the sensation in her leg, but the muscles in her back have not been used since before the accident, so control and strength is limited. She’s been sat up on the end of the bed, and even stood up (with help to straighten her right leg) so progress is being made, but it will still be some time before she’s walking about.

The only black spot in her world at the moment is the return of the nightmares. These started almost as soon as she was back in hospital and remain extremely vivid and very disturbing. She’s getting some expert help, but it’s a classic case of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, when she’s awake, she’s so focused and putting so much effort into getting better, you wouldn’t think anything was bothering her.

Oh, and she’s started to put weight back on – a full 6lb!!

Whilst all this has been going on, I’ve returned to a more “normal” routine. I’ve gone back to work – and found being back in the office after 5 months away was much better than I expected it to be. I still spend a fair portion of each day explaining to my friends and colleagues how Tracy is doing, but it’s great to be around people again. Even the work is interesting…

That was, until the irritating cough I’d had since Christmas started to get worse whilst I was in Edinburgh on a 2-day workshop last week. By Thursday afternoon it had got to the point where I was aching all over from coughing as though still on 80 Woodbines a day (those were the days!). The weekend was then spent trying to rest and taking flu-strength lemsips and Benylin every 4 hours. It made no difference, and after wheezing like the penguin from Toy Story all night, I capitulated to Tracy’s insistent text messages and went to see the doctor this morning. Seems I now have a chest infection and so have been prescribed anti-biotics. But the worst thing is that the cough has kept me away from the hospital since last Thursday, and whilst I can phone Tracy and send her endless text messages, I’m really missing her happy smiling face and daily demonstrations of the new things she can do with her hand (no, not that sort of thing, obviously!).

I’m hoping to get back to the hospital tomorrow (Tuesday) and can’t wait – Tracy’s positive attitude and determination, despite the nightmares, really gives me a boost… she might not be back home yet, but she’s definitely back to being the person I married…

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