Since the general anaesthetic, I have been experiencing vertigo, especially in the morning. This is a slight problem when I’m trying to relearn how to walk. I couldn’t just get out of bed in the morning. The nurse had to take my blood pressure when I was lying flat and then the nurse had to take my blood pressure a second time when I was first standing in the morning. They needed to be careful that my blood pressure did not drop too much when I stood up. I have to remind myself, when the world starts spinning, to stand upright for a moment until the spinning stops. Then I can move. My second Friday at rehab was no different to every other start to the day. But that day the world did not slow down its spinning. I quickly needed to lie down again. It was going to be one of those days. The days where the only way I can be upright is by taking anti-nausea meds. On those days, I get up for the necessary things and for my physio appointments. Otherwise, I’m lying flat on my back for the rest of the day. It’s just easier that way. It conserves energy. At least lying down I can still read and write. If I’m sitting trying to read, I lose focus very quickly. On some days, life is about finding what works and on those days what works is lying down flat. The vertigo also drains me. Trying to function with the world spinning is just hard work. Energy is zapped very quickly. So not only am I lying flat, I also end up feeling very flat and that second Friday was no different.
But it was still a good day; a flat day, but a good day. What made it good was a surprise from my physio. This surprise made me smile with a childish delight and I couldn’t stop grinning. It was the day I said goodbye to my plastic Ankle Foot Orthotic (AFO). That awful AFO that travelled the length of the sole of my foot, up the calf muscle, and was then strapped across the shin. The awful orthotic that meant I couldn’t wear matching shoes or shoes of the same size. That awful orthotic that was heavy and caused my foot to clunk down on the floor. My surgeon had given my physio permission to give me a new kind of AFO. Incidentally, my brother and I saw another lady with this AFO a couple of days before. The lady saw my chunky plastic AFO, and the odd shoes, and started to rave about how much her walking had improved since she had gotten rid of the rigid, clunky, plastic one for what she was now wearing. Her husband joined in her enthusiasm. So when the physio walked into my room holding the new AFO, I forgot about the vertigo momentarily, got up too quickly, and passed out. A few moments later, I’m sitting in my chair, revived and upright. There was a look of concern on my physio’s face, but it soon gave way to a look of excitement that mirrored my own. This new AFO is not an orthotic at all, but an ankle foot brace. A cuff velcros around my ankle, a separate plastic insert is placed beneath my laces in my shoe, and a strap with a clip attached to the plastic insert then fastens onto the cuff around my ankle. The foot is supported still in a flexed position, but it allows my foot to move. More importantly, the brace forces me to think about how I walk. It’s actually dynamic, unlike the old one. Seeing the physio shut away the old orthotic in the small wardrobe in my room was uplifting. It was a big step forward, not in any physical improvement, but mentally knowing that I was at the next stage of my recovery. And now we are talking recovery. When we took a slow walk around the centre, the other physios stopped and cheered, so did the other patients that I had come to know. A victory for one is a victory for us all. This was also day nine in rehab. This victory meant that my stay in rehab was going to be extended beyond the ten days. I had shown progress. The hope was that I would be able to put the new brace on by myself. I was slowly regaining some independence. However, I didn’t quite have the range of movement in my legs to put the brace on by myself quite yet. But the goal was there, nearly in my grasp. I knew that was the next step I wanted to take.