Excerpt from “No Pain, No Gain”
By Ed Rietveld
As I work out, I am beginning to feel what the wear and tear of all this exercise can do to my legs. I am wondering whether or not I can do it for much longer. If you came and observed me when I have physical and occupational therapy at the Adult and Child Rehabilitation Center in Woodstock, you would see how hard I have to work doing things that most people take for granted.
Upon arriving at ACRC, most people would probably be amazed at the size of the building. It would not seem like they have enough room to take care of all their patients. When you first walk in, you come across a waiting area that is basically a hallway with chairs. After waiting for a short period of time in the waiting area, I am greeted by Helen, my P.T., who takes me back to the workout room.
The hallway opens into a large area with two blue mat tables as the focal point of the room. Now my work begins. I have to pull up my wheelchair close enough to transfer out of my chair onto the mat table. Helen usually asks my occupational therapist, Carol, for help with the transfer. I feel awkward with two people helping me transfer because I am used to one person transferring me, like my mom or dad does at home. Now that I am flat on my back, Helen starts by taking off my shoes and braces. During the first exercise, she focuses on stretching my legs by pushing the soles of my feet towards my knees. When she does this, I feel the most pain in my hamstring muscles. After a while, she gets a bolster which is a padded pillow shaped like a log. She puts it under my knees, causing them to bend. This actually does not hurt. It loosens up my knees and hips.
Now that I am loosened up a little, I practice rolling from my back to my stomach. Even though it sounds pretty easy, this is probably one of the hardest things I do during therapy. I think this is because I have so many of my muscles working together at one time. Most of the time, Helen has to help with a final push to get me all the way over. Once I am on my stomach, I bend my knees at a ninety degree angle. I usually feel a pain that goes along my hips. After that, I try to get on all fours by pushing my hands into the mat and getting up onto my hands and knees. I can usually hold this position for about a minute. My physical therapy session is now over.
Now I get a five to ten minute break when I can lie on the mat table and just relax. Carol, my O.T., sees me now. First, she stretches my hands by clasping my four fingers together and pulling them back. It sends a shooting sensation down my arm to my elbow. She also might stretch my legs so I will be able to sit up all by myself with my legs hanging off the mat table.
Now we usually play a game while I sit by myself. This is the hardest thing I do in therapy because I have to remember to keep sitting up so I do not fall backwards, while at the same time concentrating on the game. Often we play Mancala, a game that requires you to put little stones into little compartments. This means I have to lean forward, stretching my arms while trying to maintain my balance. I do this for about twenty minutes. I usually transfer back into my wheelchair and do several resistance exercises with the theraband, which looks like a huge rubber band. I stretch the band forward, pushing it as far as I can go fifteen times. Then I stretch it across my body fifteen times. Then I repeat them with my other hand.
My two hours of therapy are over for the week. I feel the pain in my arms and both my legs, but this pain is worth it because it just means I am getting stronger. I will be back next week to do it all over again.