Monday, November 6, 2017


It's been over five years since I injured my spinal cord due to injury.  During this time, I've thought differently about my recovery. I can categorize these thoughts into three stages.  The first phase was hoping for a spontaneous recovery. The second phase, I'll refer to as the "quantum leap" phase, because I experienced rapid improvement during a short time. Phase three is my current and longest phase, which I will call the "kaizen" phase.  This also summarizes my entire recovery.
When I first injured my spinal cord, I wished for a spontaneous recovery – hoping I would wake up one morning to find all my body parts working as they did before my injury. Even today, sometimes I will go to sleep and think, "Gee, wouldn't it be nice if I could walk and pee efficiently when I wake up in the morning."  For the first month or two, this was my dominant thought regarding my recovery.
About two months after my injury, I started to experience great leaps of improvement, especially with my legs. It seemed I made major improvements day-to-day, week-to-week. By three months, I was able to stand for a few seconds, and by six months, post-injury, I was walking short distances with only the aid of a quad cane, and at nine months, switched to a single legged cane.  I stopped using a catheter, and bowel eliminations became less dependent on manual stimulation. I thought, "Boy, at this rate, I should be 100% pre-injury by my second anniversary."
As expected, the more I improved, the slower the improvements came. 16 months into in my recovery, I'd reached a point where I was satisfied with the amount I had recovered. It was at this point that I lost my motivation.  I started practicing a passive recovery; I waited for things to improve than doing things to cause improvement. I needed a concept to re-motivate me into action. I found that concept in the Japanese term, "kaizen."
Kaizen, loosely translated, is "improvement through small gradual changes," resulting in a major improvement.  I tested myself to see how well I performed physical tasks and realized that during even the most recent of months, I had been improving – it was just so incremental that I hadn't noticed.   I renewed my efforts to seek out motivational aids, such as songs, videos and readings; I renewed my dedication to physical exercises.

In hindsight, Kaizen applies to the entirety of my recovery. None of my improvements were spontaneous; it took days for me to breathe on my own, weeks for me to move my toes, and months for me to walk using only a cane.  Kaizen also applies to the efforts I made to improve myself. I tried to breathe on my own everyday. I tried to move my toes everyday; I exercised each day and when I reached a threshold, I made the exercises a little bit harder.  Each effort, each little motivational pep talk - all contributed a small amount to my recovery.  However, the sum of all these little improvements are greater than the parts. This is Kaizen. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Infection gone, improvement in legs

Update to my last post.  My infection seems to be gone, and I am feeling much more normal. My legs are a lot stronger, but not quite pre-infection strength.

Both my thoughts about my legs appear to have come true - that is 1.  that my leg strength would improve as I recovered from the infection, and 2. that my legs would not experience a spontaneous recovery.

That said, my legs have improved more rapidly than I thought. I probably no longer need a cane when I go out, but for now, that'll be a case by case basis.

When I first started experiencing this setback, I was angry and scared, I kept imagining life again using a wheelchair. The strange thing is,  "scared" isn't the right word because the thought of using a wheelchair again didn't feel so traumatic - I guess because I had gone through it before - I think it was more losing the recovery progress I had made over the past 5 years.

So, hopefully, I will continue improving again, even if slowly.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Muscle Spasms

It's appropriate I write this during sci awareness month. It started on July 23, when I developed a 103 fever, nausea, lack of appetite, extreme fatigue, and inability to pee. Turned out to be a urinary tract infection. My appetite never came back, my nausea never went away, and two weeks ago, I started experiencing extreme fatigue and dry heaves again. But this time, I also lost much strength in my legs, and lost much of the bladder control I had regained over the past 5 years. As a result, my recovery from sci has regressed back to where I was in 2013. I can go outdoors, but need a cane and cannot walk far. Still, I am much better than 2 weeks ago, when I could barely stand long enough to take a shower, and I have lost 17 lbs, which can be seen as a silver lining. I've learned two things out of all this. One, losing bodily functions can happen in a minute, but regaining them may take months, or two, no matter how much I recover, I'm some minor medical incident away from losing all that I've recovered. As Tony Stark would say, I'm still at my lowest ebb, but I guess my body knows that I'm still at a point that I need extra rest and sleep. The human body is an amazing thing, it can break down for no good reason, and yet know whats best at the same time.

Somewhere around this time, I think it was in-between the two attacks, I had a couple of episodes where my legs spasmed uncontrollably. I took a video of one of these occurrences. 

It's been a while since I posted, so here is a link to my book on my own recovery

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Guest Posted for Invacare's SCI blog, Roll Revolution

One of the necessary evils of being a writer is to engage in "shameless self-promotion." But, as someone who survived a spinal cord injury (SCI), and experienced a significant recovery, I've always been forward to sharing my story(ies).

Recently, Invacare, a leader in the medical equipment industry (especially pertinent for people with SCI) started a blog called Roll Revolution. It focuses on helping people deal with SCI.

And, they asked me to write a guest post for the blog. Needless to say, I was stoked. But I am more stoked that they decided to use the post I submitted.

Of course, this is a plug for the post I wrote, but I encourage people to check out the blog. It's still early, but the blog posts so far are really useful, and I think and hope it will mature int a great site.

Please check out my post called "Inspiration as a by product."

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mr. Heavyfeet

Although I walk around pretty normally these days, it feels different. How different?  Being a big fan of the "old" comedy troupe, Kids in the Hall, here is a clip of how my legs feel on a normal day.

My Heavyfeet clip from Kids in the Hall

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Toe Up to 10K wins Gold Medal in 2015 Reader's Favorite Book Awards

My book, Toe Up to 10K, won the Gold medal in the 2015 Reader's Favorite Book Awards in the category: Non-fiction - inspirational.

It's been a busy half year. I will try to start posting regularly again.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Motocross Star Pauly Plewa Spinal Cord Injured Set to Run 10K

Pauly Plewa was a motocross rider who injured his brain and spinal cord in an accident in March, 2012.  His chances of regaining any sensation below the chest was given at 2%.

Now, 3 years later, he is set to run 10K May 10th in the Wings For Life World run, which takes place in several cities at the same time.  If I remember correctly, it is a race that is organized by another motocross racer who also injured his spinal cord resulting from a racing accident.

Regular readers of this blog know that I set a goal of running a 10K myself, and it will also be three years for me in June, 2015.  I cannot yet "run" any distance longer than  the length of an intersection, but I think I can improve enough to do a 5K before the end of the year - who knows, maybe even a 10k.

In any event, this is truly an inspirational story reported by last week.

Pauly Plewa, SCI motocross rider set to run 10K