Having people who advocate on your behalf can make all the difference; it made the difference for me. When the health problem that I had been struggling with, which led to my readmission into hospital the week before, had not resolved, I felt like I was left to cope with the consequences by myself. I just had to manage. Whatever that might look like. When I went to my outpatient rehab appointment on the Tuesday afternoon of that fourth lecture week, I was still quite upbeat. When my Physio asked me if there was anything new, absentmindedly I said ‘no’, while putting my bag down on the chair and making my way to the stepper machine that I would begin my exercises on. Her reaction then surprised me. She said, ‘so, there’s no change?’ My mind took a moment to catch up. ‘No, no change’, I said, ‘day five’. She understood exactly what I meant.
Thursday afternoon was my next outpatient rehab session, following the pattern of every other week. Walking into the physio gym, I was focused on getting into the exercises. I really wanted to be able to drive again and my right foot had shown enough improvement that with some hard rehab work, I might be able to start driving sooner than later. We started on the stepper machine to warm up before I started on the Reformer. I can’t actually do much on the stepper; I can only just apply pressure through my right leg to push the step down. But I needed to be able to extend the amount of time so that I could drive again. My left leg a little stronger often compensates for the weakness in the other. My muscles tire easily; two minutes is the most I do. Once I had started on the stepper machine, my Physio asked me for the second time that week if there had been a change. Shaking my head, all I had to say was ‘day seven’. Then the demeanour of my physio changed. Her next words caused my eyes to well up with tears, I stopped stepping down on the machine, I was completely stunned. ‘I was afraid of that. Oh well, I have spoken to your doctor here and he has processed your referral to the Spinal Injury Unit’. My Physio then explained how, after talking to my doctor at the rehab hospital and making him aware of the health problems, the doctor had then contacted the spinal injury unit and made the referral. And even better news, the referral had been fast-tracked. I knew from the way the Physio was talking that she had much more of a hand in the whole process than what she was saying upfront. A week later another Physio had confirmed my suspicion. She had contacted a lot of people trying to secure me the help I needed. I wasn’t surprised. From my first session as an outpatient with this Physio, she had always advocated on my behalf when there was a delay in my treatment plan. She always acts efficiently and she has no problems speaking about the reality of my health problems to those who needed to hear. Hearing my Physio tell me the news about the spinal injury unit, relief once more swept over me because I knew that I wasn’t dealing with the complexity of my health condition by myself. Others were standing by me and were willing to help. Others, like my Physio, were willing to persevere on my behalf. But as my Physio said that afternoon, the Spinal Injury doctor might confirm the diagnosis of the specialist at the hospital, but there is also the possibility that fresh eyes on my case may bring about a change in treatment plan. Hope was given to me that day by one who advocated on my behalf. And My Physio is not the only one in this whole story who has contended for me. For these people who advocate for me and for others like me, I am thankful for you.