Not as easy as it sounds

“Sit to Stand”
It sounds so simple.
So very, very simple.
And then you get old.
Or get diagnosed with idiopathic acute Transverse Myelitis.
Or both.
I was diagnosed with TM about a week after I woke up paralyzed from the shoulders down. It took me about that long to remember those 2 words.
And lots, lots longer to be able to stand up.

“Sit to Stand” is a Physical Therapy exercise. (You can find pieces on “The Power of the sit to stand.” Google it. It is a Big Deal.)
There are measures and standards for the task. I don’t know or give 2 shits about either of them…especially the “standards.” I just know that standing up has become a very a big…and difficult…thing since that day in mid-September of 2023, days after my seventy-fifth bday.
(One factor in my perspective might be because of how far short of standard I now fall. And I gotta admit the bar seems pretty high. The chart at Physiopedia says that if you’re on Medicare and do less than 11 sit-to-stands in 30 seconds that you are below average…and a fall risk!! Time yourself.)

A “true” sit-to-stand means you can’t use your hands for assistance.
I wish!!
If the surface is high enough (and that most likely means a tall bed…but not any chair, couch, or any commode that I’ve encountered) I might be able to stand without using my hands.
Otherwise it’s a full body exercise to stand up.

I had recovered enough to attempt standing a couple of times before I left inpatient rehab on October 25.
The therapist would lower the mat an inch at a time.
When she got it as low as it would go I was screwed….standing wasn’t possible, no matter how hard I pressed on the mat with both of my arms.
Then Maddie told me that most chairs, couches and toilets are even lower.
Fuck Me!

My Dad (who will be 98 on May 26) spends most of his TV time in this low chair that is hard for anyone to get out of. (I don’t know how he does it!!)
As long as I have a chair with arms and the chair isn’t too low, getting up is doable….but it can be a struggle.
Neither Dad nor I need a lift chair. (The subject of our similar infirmities drops into many of our daily calls. That piece of furniture has never been a topic on our phone calls…at least not for either of us. We know people who benefit from and need the chair’s help…)

When I moved into The Abbey in October of ‘11 I had a dining table with four chairs…and a bean bag chair. That was all my furniture. Period.
I slept on a blowup bed for over a year…until I was talked into buying a box spring and mattress by Shelly. (I can’t imagine trying to get up from that fancy air mattress now. It would have to be “technique”…i.e., roll onto the floor, get on hands and knees… Yada yada.)

Bean bag chairs have been a pain in the ass since 1968.
I’ve owned, or encountered them, a few times.
The one I threw into the dumpster here in Springtown heard “never again” as I tossed it years ago.
WTAF was I thinking when I bought that thing?

In TM times, we now are doing lots of Adulting.
One thing we did was buy a new couch and chair.
It replaced ones that I paid 250 bucks for at a flea market back in 2011 when I moved to Springtown. We both loved those two pieces…but they looked like they shoulda been in a college student’s apartment…
(How that stuff made it from the north side flea market and finally up the two flights of stairs at The Abbey is a story for another day.)

That checkered couch&chair were comfy, and stained, and in need of covering. Since no “standard” covers would fit the oversized pair, a set of very $pendy custom covers was the only option.
Hard pass.
So instead Shelly headed for one of Ashley’s never ending sales. (I consulted from afar. She sent me pictures…)
I spend most of my time on the new couch, and it is a tiny bit easier to stand up from than old faithful was.

Whether it’s watching sports, Jeopardy, or streaming, when there is a commercial break I Stand Up. Sometimes I stay up and do some of my PT “homework.” Other times I do a few sit-to-stands.
Others I struggle to stand and cuss my legs and my pathetic glutes. (Shelly used to tease me about my “cute butt.” Transverse myelitis blew it up. Lame glutes makes standing very difficult…)

I’m sitting here listening to my first audiobook: “No time like the future…an optimist considers mortality” by Michael J. Fox.
On Saturday an acquaintance suggested audiobooks as I lamented my lack of interest in reading (which I blame on nerve pain and gabapentin).
GREAT suggestion Pat….I appreciate it.
Not sure why I picked this book…but so far it’s Great too.
The book is “A moving account of resilience, hope, fear and mortality, and how these things resonate in our lives…”

Listening to him read his memoir is gonna make me stop whining about sit-to-stand. (Don’t be a whiny bitch Steve…for cripes sake!!!!)
Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 29. At 57 he had complex spinal surgery unrelated to Parkinson’s that threatened him with paralysis.
Seeing young folks in wheelchairs at therapy has always been eye-opening and a shot of reality too.

It wasn’t that long ago that I was “wheelchair bound.”
Today I vacuumed the apartment.
It took awhile.
It wore me out.
I had to take a break.
But first I had to stand up.
I’ll keep getting better at it.
Commercial breaks will see to that.  (And man-o-man are there a LOT of them!!!)

I’m calling it a Milestone

At the end of 2023 I wrote on Caring Bridge: “I may post again when there is a major milestone, e.g. walking unaided…But that might be posted to my blog instead…” (unless I have a relapse, the Caring Bridge site will sit as Blog it is)

I began walking short distances unaided a couple of months ago….twice a week and with a Physical Therapist beside me, holding onto the gait belt wrapped around my body.

Shelly and I started practicing here in the apartment a week or so ago. Recently we jettisoned the gait belt while inside the apartment and it progressed to what you can see in the short attached video.

While I don’t wear a yellow bracelet, I am a fall risk. (especially when you consider my lifelong klutziness…) I’m pretty careful…maybe too much so.

Therapists have pointed out that I need to have more confidence in my abilities, but I know what a broken hip could mean to a clumsy septuagenarian.

My gait is getting better as I try to focus on “heel-toe” and taking longer steps…but “high stepping” is a long ways away. (in the video you can see that I’m barely clearing the carpet.) Even with my walker, tall curbs are challenging.

Steps without handrails?

Forget it!!

(Heck…forget steps in general.)

When I was in the hospital for 38 days I often said “I’ve always been determined, but not all that disciplined.” I need to be more disciplined and dedicated, but the constant nerve pain and lack of stamina increase the challenges. {Being a contrarian sometimes isn’t the smartest thing…}

I’m a high pain threshold guy (i’ve had dentists from coasts to coasts tell me that), but the transverse myelitis pain is never below a 2or3. The spasms boost it by at least a factor of 2or3. The tightness around my knees and hips compounds things. (Sometimes it feels like I have braces around my lower half)

But I’m at the point that grinning and bearing it seems to be the answer, along with lots of gabapentin and some self-medicating with thc gummies and/or a vape pen.

Stamina, or the lack thereof, is maddening. I used to do 12 thousand steps a day and not think twice. Sometimes double that. Now 12 hundred steps wears me out.

I used to carry a watermelon in a bag under one arm and a bag of groceries in the other up the steps to our third floor apartment. Now I avoid steps. (Soon we’ll see if I can lift a watermelon…)

I used to dig in the dirt with a pitchfork and a spade in 5 4×4 boxes. Now loosening the soil with a hand tool in one has me needing a break.

The good friend who wrote is right: “The endurance will come over time & with repetition.”

So was Jimmy V: “Don’t give up…Don’t ever give up!!”

I’ve watched the video a few times, and I gotta tell you that it doesn’t feel as good as it looks!! I don’t feel like Tim Conway, but it feels awkward and janky.

And it feels GREAT!!

I passed it along earlier to a handful of people. The replies had me thinking/laughing/crying (tears of joy). {Jimmy V moments make life worth living.}

So do friends….and their support.

That’s awesome! You have come a long way!”

This is beautiful, Steve, even if it’s a shame that it’s so exhausting.”

Oh man, I am smiling so big! This is incredible, Steve!!! Hard work is paying off! ????????????????????????”

This is such a great step! Or should I say steps! Thanks for sharing. You go!”

I am so impressed. I can’t imagine how much perseverance and hard work is behind all this. You are the MAN! And, way to go, Shelly!!” {this one from a cancer survivor with long term issues…it opened the flood gates}

Very good…..wear a path in that carpet!!!????”

Not gonna list them all. They know who they are…and that I love them.

I’m grateful and lucky.

Nobody is gonna see me walking unaided for awhile(other than Shelly and the folks at the therapy gym).

When we leave The Abbey, you’ll probably see me on a walker. Maybe a cane. And with best caregiver ever!!! (am I a lucky old coot or what?! OkCupid was very good to me!!)

Unaided walking will be inside the apartment or at PT…and there will be a gait belt when I’m at Cox.

Swing by here and you can see for yourself!!

I’d love to show off for you…give you a hug…and hear your voice.

Be. Just Be.