Wednesday, April 23, 2008

One Leg at a Time

Two years ago this week, I came home in a wheelchair from the Emory East Rehab Center on U.S. Highway 78 in Snellville. Before that I had been in DeKalb Medical Center with spinal meningitis, waking up from a three-week coma to discover I was 100 percent deaf. Back home I was barely able to stumble from the bed to the bathroom, one of the important milestones I had reached in the Rehab Center. I still had a long way to go, and it has now been a long way since then.

I am still 100 percent deaf in both ears, but the miracle of a cochlear implant has given me a new brand of hearing that bypasses my ears, which are useless but for keeping my glasses from falling off and as a place to hang my behind-the-ear hearing device that is the external part of my cochlear implant system. I hear sounds, sometimes more than I am interested in, but this does not mean I will understand what you say to me. My hearing tests at 85 percent comprehension or better, a test consisting of first-grade words and phrases in a quiet, controlled environment. In the real world of background noise and multiple speakers, my comprehension drops dramatically, often in half. The cochlear implant is a miracle, but it is not perfect.

The damage to my inner ears also left me with a 100 percent loss of balance function, no gyroscopic axis. At this time, there is no cure for this, although there are some bionic devices as yet still not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Thanks to extensive physical rehabilitation for two years, I am able to walk and then some. My favorite joke now is that I walk like a drunk leaving the bar at closing time. But I walk. Actually, I am doing more than that.

I go to the DeKalb Medical Wellness Center at least three days a week to work out. This is probably the best health-dollar expenditure on the market. I’m not even going to tell you how little it costs except to say, less than the co-pay on any one of five medications an Atlanta neurologist prescribed for me, and I never took, after reading the warning labels and side effects. My health insurance would have paid several hundreds of dollars for those prescriptions each month forever, but it will not pay for the Wellness Center, less than $50 per month. I guess the manufacturers of treadmills, stationary bicycles, and other fitness equipment do not know how to lobby lawmakers and insurance companies like the pharmaceutical companies do. The DeKalb Wellness Center has all the workout machines, weights, and an indoor track, 15 times around equals a mile. I walk five laps to begin my routine, then do stretch exercises for my arms, legs, and lower back. I use an 18-pound bar for two-handed pumps from my shoulders skyward. Then I do balance exercises that include trying to stand on two rubber hemispheres, then bouncing a ball while doing this. I do some lateral crossovers, followed by trying to walk in a straight line heel-to-toe, like a field sobriety test. Then I jog three laps, after taking off my behind-the-ear hearing device, because I know I will break a sweat, and the device gets wet and starts sounding like Rice Krispies. I have built up to three laps jogging and hope to slowly increase this number. At the end of my jog, I keep walking, usually another two or three laps until I have caught my breath. Then I put in ten minutes on a combination of the bicycle and stair-step workout machines. I finish by walking however many laps I need to complete a mile for the day. Then I go home and take a nap.

So what do I get for all this? I used to tell people I could not do a pirouette--on purpose. Now, one of my proudest accomplishments is that I am able to put on my trousers, one leg at a time, just like anybody else, while standing.

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter


Heidi said...

this comment makes me feel tired already, but then also inspired! i too have problems getting my pants legs on without tripping and falling all over myself--but this is just due to general overall nonspecific impairment otherwise known as being totally uncoordinated, i.e.--i am a spazz, but, praise allah, have never been in a hosptial in a coma for three weeks with the dreaded meningitis. i do not think i would be brave enough to try to balance on two rubber balls, but--perhaps if I had had as much almost taken away from me as Mr. William Cotter almost lost in the hosptial, I would be willing to engage in every one of these things! I am, selfishly, so happy you are deaf, balance-less, and willing to take to do all it takes to still triumph and function VERY nicely, William Cotter, because that means that you are ALIVE!! Rock on, Annette and Bill Cotter, Big Pharma's got nothing (except billions and billions and billions of dollars which they have stolen away from the poor and infirm) on the courage and the will of the witty, the intelligent, and the strong minded amongst us

Paw Paw Bill said...

For anyone reading this who does not know, Heidi is my daughter, whose love, respect, and admiration is mutual, only more so.

Tina said...

Way to go, Bill !! Keep up the good work. You have really stuck to it, and it's paying off.

Paw Paw Bill said...

In my adolescence, as an actual high school athlete, signs were posted in the locker rooms saying things like, "As you practice, so shall you play," and "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." I guess times have changed, certainly the audience. At the Wellness Center, the banner over the track reads, "Triumph of the Human Spirit."


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