Everyday in Physical therapy brought new challenges and experiences and lessons. Some I didn’t realize I had learned until months later. As crazy as it seems I am still learning things. I think a lot of times it takes distancing yourself from a particular experience and thinking about it over and over in your mind before you actually grasp what is there for you to learn.
My second day of therapy went much better it seemed. I was able to move a great deal more. Alex came to get me for the day and I told him I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do very good today because my leg hurt really bad. I told him it had been hurting ever since therapy the day before. He asked where it hurt and I pointed at my knee. He asked if he could pull up my pant leg to see better and I said yes. He pulled it up and there was a massive bruise the size of a baseball on my knee. We figured the only way it could have got there was from the day before when he had braced his knee against mine to keep it from buckling. I joked that I would only do therapy today if he wouldn’t give me another bruise.
This time instead of Alex lifting me into the wheelchair we got a transfer board and slid that under me and I was able to scoot myself, with the help of Alex, over onto my wheelchair. That was a huge step from the day before and I was quite proud of myself.
Lesha and Alex helping me into the wheelchair
That transfer board was actually quite a convenient little contraption
After that was accomplished Alex wheeled me into the hallway outside my room. There was a square patch of carpet just outside my room that resembled a rug. It was probably ten feet by ten feet. I have never been very good at estimating distances so I might be completely off, but it was somewhere around that size. He rolled me to the edge of the square and pushed a walker in front of me.
“You are going to walk with walker today,” he said.
I stared at the walker. “How far?” I asked hesitantly.
“To the end of that square.”
I could have guessed as much. I was terrified yet at the same time excited and curious to see if I actually could walk. I was terrified maybe more then I was excited so I sat there at looked at the distance I was suppose to conquer. What if I fell? That had turned into a nagging fear of mine, I was always afraid I was going to slip and fall, and who knows how it would hurt me next time. I was constantly asking Alex if he wouldn’t let me fall, and after a little while I finally trusted that he wouldn’t. They take a lot of precautions to watch out for that sort of thing though. They always strap a belt around your waist so that its easier to grab onto you and they are always right next to you.
As I sat there contemplating standing up, walking across the rug, I realized I didn’t quite know how to make my body do it. Last time I had had firmly secured metal rods to hold onto. This time there only a flimsy little walker in front of me. Alex assured me he would hold onto it and not let it tip over or anything but still that meant I had to use more of my body. More of my muscles, more of my legs then I had last time. What if I couldn’t do it? What if I tried and my legs collapsed and I fell? What if I tried and failed, and I had to admit defeat and live with the realization that I would never walk again. What if I wasn’t strong enough? What if I plain and simply could not do it?
There is a song I love, I haven’t always loved it, in fact I found it rather dull and monotonous. It was in this moment that I discovered my love for the song. It was in this moment that the words came to my mind and resonated with my soul.
Fear not I am with thee.
Oh be not dismayed for I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee,
and cause thee to stand….upheld by my omnipotent hand
I will cause thee to stand. There has never to this day been a song that has spoken to me like this one. Never been a song that fit so well for that exact moment. Those words are forever burned into my memory. I can not even began to convey what that song does to me. I am reduced to tears every time I here that particular verse. I will cause thee to stand… It was like God himself was speaking to me. Speaking to me in the most perfect and beautiful way that I can imagine. Through a song.
I suddenly was no longer afraid. I could do this. We could do this. I now had an overwhelmingly fierce desire to succeed. I grabbed hold of the walker. It took a minute to figure out the best position to put my hands and my feet but we finally figured it out and I braced myself and pulled. By some miracle I stood. I actually stood. I laughed at myself for the joy that I had taken in such a small accomplishment. But I wasn’t done yet. I still had to walk across that suspiciously widening rug. I slowly and hesitantly put one foot in front of me and took a small step. then another. I was doing it, I was actually walking. Less then three weeks after falling thirty five feet and I was walking. Less then three weeks after dying I was walking. Technically I’m not sure you could really call it walking in the full sense of the word. My body felt huge and heavy and beyond slow. Every command I gave it took years to actually reach the particular part I was trying to move. My step was more like dragging an unresponsive tree limb. Only heavier. It took every ounce of strength and then some just so slide my foot across the floor.
By the time I had made it halfway I was completely and utterly exhausted. I was SO tired. I wanted to curl up on the floor and go to sleep. I have never been that tired. And my body hurt! I was using parts and muscles that had been dormant for weeks, and parts that were still injured. I stopped there in the middle of the rug half in tears. I could not do it. There just was no way. Everything screamed at me to give up. I was so close, yet the space left seemed like and ever widening perilous chasm that my broken body could never dream of conquering. I didn’t want to give up but I had too. I literally could not take one more step.
It was then that I heard a voice. It broke through my fog of pain and utter discouragement. It said simply, “Come on Hannah, You can do this.” I looked up and there sat Brandon.
Brandon was another therapist on the floor. He was permanently confined to a wheelchair. I never asked but it looked like he was paralyzed from the waist down. Its not that that encouragement from Alex or my family wasn’t enough because they were cheering me on, I just looked at Brandon and I felt like we understood each other. I felt like he understood the struggle and the strength that something like this would demand. I looked up at him misery written all over my face, and he looked at me straight in the eyes.
“You don’t know what I would give to be able to do what you are doing right now.” he said softly. It was almost like a thoughtful slap in the face. I stared at him as I contemplated what he had just said. Here he was confined to a wheelchair. Permanently. He didn’t have any hope of ever walking again. Yet here I stood. I was given the chance to walk again. I was given the hope. Why me? What was so different about our lives that I had been blessed with a second chance. Why me and not him? I realized that so easily the tables could have been turned. It could have been me ending up in a wheelchair watching someone else use their chance as I withered away. It was a horrible thought and I almost couldn’t stand to consider that outcome. He was living with it though, and doing well it seemed. In that moment I felt so ungrateful. I wanted to do anything in my power to give him that chance. But I couldn’t. The only thing I could do was not waste mine. I was on the edge of giving up, throwing it away. Suddenly I was struck with a fierce determination to continue. To prove to myself that I had the strength within me to continue. And I did. I crossed that last five feet of carpet and the satisfaction, and self confidence, and fulfillment I felt at the moment has been, to this day incomparable.
There are a lot of things to be learned from that experience. The biggest purpose it has served is to remind me that somewhere inside of me i have the strength to endure whatever is thrown my way. I have recalled that memory more times then I can count, drawn on the courage of that moment. We all have those many times, whatever it may be, when we feel like we just can no longer keep going. We feel as though there is no way we can take any more pain, any more sorrow, anymore hurt. We feel like it is to much and we are ready to give in. We all know what that moment looks like. Everyone one has experienced to some degree or another.
There have been many times since then that i have felt I could not endure whatever trial i was going through at the moment and every time without fail that memory comes back to me and I think, “If I could do that, I can surely do this.” I remember the strength I discovered from some secret place inside of me and I go back there. I go back to that moment and I know that I can do it. I can survive.