Mar 10, 2012
Mar 5, 2012
This blog has been so wonderful for me. It has allowed me to vent my frustrations, express my emotions, inspire and motivate, educate and raise awareness on spinal cord injuries, and keep friends and family updated on new and exciting things happening in my recovery and follow me on my journey of going back to rehab and regaining my life back. Now that things are beginning to take off with my artwork and other possible fundraiser ideas, I’ve decided to move to a new domain. Not only is the address easier to remember, but it will host everything from my paintings, updates, blog posts, and background story- the whole shebang. I will never forget this blog because it has been therapeutically beneficial for me as I go through this journey, emotionally and physically. I'm so grateful for everyone who has continued to follow me as I push forward to recover from my spinal cord injury. So if you would like to keep updated on my story, my artwork (because I will begin selling prints soon), blog posts, and upcoming fundraisers and events, please follow me at www.rehabforkaty.org
Feb 27, 2012
Well, here we are. In just four days a dream of mine that I have worked towards for nearly 21 months is coming true. Thursday morning at 5:30 AM my mom, aunt, uncle and I will be headed to Atlanta, GA, for my evaluation at the Shepherd center. I feel so many different emotions: excited, nervous, anxious, thrilled, scared- just about any emotion other than sad or angry. There are lots of reasons for the way I feel. For one, it is a near six hour car ride, and I already dislike long distance driving (more so since the accident). Also, six hours is really the maximum time I should go between catheterizing. So I must be sure to catheterize as soon as I leave and as soon as I get there and make sure to limit my fluids on the ride up. I will also have to figure out how to do an outfit change while in my chair. I will have to wear a skirt up there so I'm able to catheterize; however, I will need to be wearing shorts or pants for my evaluation. I'm not sure if you ever had somebody else try to put pants on you while you're sitting down and unable to lift or help in any way, but take it from me, it is quite a difficult task!
This will also be my very first time staying somewhere other than my home or the hospital. So that in itself is a little nerve-racking. Because it is usually just my mom and I, we still use the Hoyer lift to transfer me from the chair to the bed. Fortunately, I am borrowing a portable Hoyer lift to bring with us to be able to get from my chair to the hotel bed. The unfortunate part is that most hotels have their bed flat on the ground and in order to be able to use the Hoyer lift, you must be able to get the wheels underneath the bed. So, if we are unable to use the Hoyer lift, then my mother and my uncle will transfer me to the bed, for the first time I may add. This will also be my first time to sleep in a bed that is not a hospital bed so I will be unable to raise my head and sit up. For those who do not see me and may not know, I cannot sit up unassisted or sit myself up without some sort of support or help.
So all this combined with the excitement of the actual evaluation is causing me a lot of stress and anxiety. In addition, I have been trying to paint as much as possible as well as try to coordinate and organize a T-shirt fundraiser, not to mention that I am actually designing the T-shirt as opposed to having Southern Belle do it. Hopefully within the next few weeks I will have prints made of my work to be able to sell. I have roughly 15 paintings “in line” at the moment that people want to buy. During the work week I have an exercise routine so I usually do not settle down to paint until 2 or 3 in the afternoon and I generally stop around 6 or 7, after dinner. All the painting has been a blessing in so many ways. It is mentally therapeutic as well as physically. It is the one thing that can distract me from everything else going on in my life. However, painting is really like physical therapy and occupational therapy combined. By the end of the day, I'm barely able to hold my head up on my own because my neck hurts so bad. But I wake up the next day, grit my teeth, and go back to the grind. And though I love to paint originals and try new and different things, I will be so relieved and happy when I finally have prints so I'm able to sell a lot more without having to individually do each one due to it being very time-consuming and physically painful.
And one reason for me being so anxious to start selling my artwork is because I'm starting to make car payments on my new van! Yep, I have a new vehicle that I am totally and love with! It is a 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT and it is going to make life so much easier and better for me and my mom.
I am actually able to take the remote/key and by the press of a button open the door, let down the ramp, and drive myself into position for someone to lock in the tie downs. Then I can shut the door and we’re ready to go! In the van I was in before, the 96 Chevrolet, it was about a 10 min. process to get me up in the van and loaded in. Now it takes less than 2 minutes! It is incredible how much of a difference a ramp makes instead of having a lift. It is such a blessing and I'm so thankful that we were able to find something so quickly. And it is a blessing that I will be paying on for a long, long time! Hence why I will need to be doing some fundraisers as soon as possible! It is amazing how expensive anything medical related or handicap accessible is. It's ridiculous, really. But what can you do? I just know I'm so fortunate to have the support and help that I do. Hopefully within the next few weeks I will know more about when I will be able to have the new vehicle modified with hand controls so that then I can drive myself into the driver seat and take myself where I need (or want) to go! What an incredible feeling that will be on that day. It is amazing all the things they can adapt. I will be able to independently get in my van in my power chair, open and close the doors, drive up to the steering wheel and the tie downs will automatically lock into my chair. If people think they hear or see a lot of me now, just wait!
And one final thing I want to talk about is another realization I had the other night of how this accident has been a true blessing in disguise. All my life prior to my injury, I always put something or someone else in front of me. Whether it was a boy, friends, social life, school, or work, I always put myself on the back burner and took care of other things before I took care of myself. For the last year that I have been single and working so hard on me and my recovery, I have realized more about myself than I did in the first 23 years before my injury. I would have never known how strong I am mentally and emotionally. I would've never realized my passions, not only in the arts, but as being an inspiration to others. I have always been a very passionate person and it has definitely helped in my recovery. I recently told a friend that yes; I truly believe I can walk again. I know it will not be easy, it will not be over night, and it will take the proper help, rehab, and therapists along with the determination and strong work ethic. I know I possess the latter qualities but the real challenge is getting the proper help. But I know and I believe that those things that are truly worth having do not come easy, but if you want it bad enough, you can make your dreams come true. I believe I have proven this in the last 20 months. Going to the Shepherd center has been a dream of mine now for so long that the reality of the fact that I'm going Thursday, in just four days, is so surreal. Who would have known the power of the Facebook page and how much good would come from it. I am forever indebted and thankful to everyone and anyone who has helped in any way. Whether it is an encouraging word, a prayer, participating in a fundraiser, or sending in a donation, I am so grateful for each and every one of you who continue to support me on this journey of regaining my life back.
I look forward to my next blog where I can tell you all about my evaluation and when I will actually be attending the Shepherd center for a month of rehab. Let this be proof that dreams do come true and that hard work does pay off in the end. March 13 will mark 21 months that I've been injured, but honestly, this is just the beginning of all the great things to come. Stick around and see where I am in another 21 months, because I'm going places and plan on doing great things with my life! Time to buckle up, it’s gonna be a fun ride.
PS- if you are not on Facebook it would like to see my art, please visit the following link: http://photobucket.com/katyblake
Feb 15, 2012
I cannot believe it has only been a little over 3 weeks since my last update! There has been so much going on it is hard to keep up. Honestly, I'm not even sure where to start. I suppose I will backtrack to my canceled surgery, which has turned out to be an amazing blessing in disguise. If you are unaware of what happened with my canceled bladder surgery, please read my previous post. Upon returning home, I poured my heart, emotions, and all my time into painting. (if you are not on Facebook and would like to see my artwork, please visit this link: http://photobucket.com/katyblake) Not to sound cocky, but I had no idea I could paint so well; especially considering the complete lack of finger function. I wake up early to do my exercises (roughly 2 hours of leg stretching and arm exercises with theraband and/or weights) and eagerly rush to paint every afternoon. Not only is it therapeutic for my mind but my body, too. I'm still trying to figure out exactly how to go about selling my work. I am hoping to be able to make mass prints of popular pieces so I do not have to individually paint each one because it is very time-consuming. It generally takes me between 2-7 days to finish a piece of art; and that is if I'm able to paint for long hours at a time. I recently recorded a video to show people how exactly I am able to paint without finger function.
Although I am learning that I can paint many things -owls, Fleur de lis, the Cross, octopus, ladybugs, crabs, the evil monkey from Family Guy, butterflies and flowers- I am still expanding my collection to see what else I can possibly paint. However, my favorite painting by far is my Saints “Hoo Dat!” owl. Those who are not on my Facebook may not know but I have been trying desperately to find a way to deliver this to the person who inspired it: Saints quarterback, Drew Brees.
Call me crazy but you never know what dreams may come true if you let it be known what your dreams are. I am sure much crazier things have happened! As soon as I'm finished with the letter that I intend to send to Drew, I will post it for all to read. I want him and everyone to know how inspiring he is through his actions rather than his words. He is a true role model for anyone to look up to, Saints fan or not! Although I have had a few potential leads, nothing is officially official as of yet. So if you or someone you know knows Drew Brees or any connection to him or the Saints, please do not hesitate to contact me!! You can e-mail me here.
So aside from painting and exercising, we have recently begun actual van shopping… for ME! What do you know that the very first van I got in, I fell in love with. So I'm crossing my fingers and praying hard that everything will work out and I will soon own what will be my next vehicle (for a very, VERY long time). The vehicle comes already modified with an automatic door, ramp, tie downs, and movable driver’s seat and passenger seat. After I purchase the vehicle, the state will then modify it with hand controls so that I could drive right up to the steering wheel in my power chair and take myself wherever I need to go. What an amazing feeling that will be!!! It will be made to where I can drive it with hand controls or so my mother -or anyone else I allow- can disengage the hand controls, put the driver seat back in, and drive it like a regular van. I could even sit in my wheelchair in the passenger seat! As exciting as it is, it is equally as stressful! Not to mention extremely costly, which means I will more than likely be trying to organize fundraisers to help raise the money.
So, you can imagine how hectic things have been around here. Between exercising and painting, I'm trying to coordinate a new fundraiser, buy a new vehicle, preparing to go for my evaluation at the Shepherd Center on March 1, and then attend the fundraiser hosted by Sigma Nu fraternity at Ole Miss in Oxford, MS, in late March. I am extremely honored, blessed, and fortunate to be chosen to be the recipient of the 2012 Charity Bowl. If you're interested in reading about or donating to this fundraiser, please visit the following link: 2012 charity bowl. We're trying to get a new van as soon as possible due to all the long trips that we have coming up because our current van (96 Chevrolet) is not a fun or pleasant ride, not to mention an extreme gas guzzler. It is also more of a process to load up in my current van as opposed to the new van. You cannot have the car running while using the lift, which is not very much fun during the summer when the temperatures reach 100°! The Mean Green Mystery Machine (my name for the beast of the van I have now) is too large to even park in a parking garage because it is too much of a high-top! Also, it is by far easier to load up with a ramp (which the new vehicle would have), as opposed to a lift (what I currently use).
So I think that is all I have to say for today! So I have basically just been doing these things: painting (I currently have about 10 paintings that I have promised to do for people who want to buy them- I promise I'm working as hard and as fast as I can), exercising, researching vans, scoping out different rehab and disability programs, preparing for my evaluation at the Shepherd center on March 1, trying to get a grant to purchase an FES bike ($15,000 piece of equipment but well worth the cost), coordinating a new fundraiser, planning the trip to Oxford, MS, in late March, and trying to have a social life! It is a lot to balance but I know in God's time and in His Hands, everything will work out the way it was meant to be. I have learned a very long time ago that we live on God’s time, not our own. Just to think, if I would I have had the bladder surgery on January 18, I would have never discovered how much improvement and talent I have doing arts and crafts. In addition, I would not be making all this physical strength progress as I continue on a rigorous exercise workout. As more information becomes available regarding any fundraisers, it will either be posted here or at my new domain: www.rehabforkaty.org (not yet completely up and running). Or you can always just check Facebook! Thank you all for taking the time to read this and continuing to help support and pray for my family and me as we continue on this long road to recovery. We’re only at the beginning of the journey and I know I have a long way to go before I reach my destination, but I refuse to give up until I do! God bless.
PS- Did I also mention that I managed to move my thumb??? It's only a twitch now but it's a start! Always believe!
Jan 23, 2012
Well I most certainly did not expect to be blogging today -or even this week or month. If you have not already heard the news, let me fill you in: my surgery was canceled. To spare you the details and make a long story short, here is a rundown of what happened. I was admitted Tuesday (17th) to start different antibiotics, IV, and to properly cleanse my entire body. Monday I had started my clear liquid diet as instructed to help with cleaning out my intestines. Well, apparently my mom is right and I am full of it. I was unable to completely clear out my body. In addition, late Tuesday night I became violently ill. I have not thrown up so much since my accident. (Brief lesson: since my injury I am not able to vomit like before. Sorry if this is TMI. When I become nauseous, I am usually only able to dry heave.) So throwing up like I did that night was quite unusual and took a lot out of me. Wednesday morning it was decided that I could not have the surgery at that time. The next possible surgery date would be March 7; however, this is almost impossible because of a few reasons. Late March I will be traveling to Oxford, MS, to be awarded as the recipient for the Sigma Nu Charity Bowl at Ole Miss University. It is highly unlikely that I could have the surgery in the beginning of March and be recovered enough to make a long trip in just a few short weeks. I also have intentions of attending the day program at the Shepherd Center in April. I am currently scheduled to be evaluated on March 1st to determine if I qualify for their program (which I have already been guaranteed that I will). After my evaluation, they will then schedule me to attend actual therapy, which would ideally be April.
So my options would be to have a bladder surgery on March 7, not be able to attend the fundraiser in my honor at Ole Miss, and have to further postpone going to the Shepherd Center-something I am rather unwilling to do. My only other option is to hold off on the surgery until some other time, yet I have no idea when. I will not lie and say this last week has been easy. I have been mentally preparing myself for the surgery since November. It has caused a lot of anxiety and mental anguish over the last couple of months. I was keeping the mind frame of one of my favorite mottos: “Hope for the best but plan for the worst.” When I would say that, I was hoping maybe I would only have to stay in the hospital for 5 days, but I was going to plan to have to stay for 14 days. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my surgery would be canceled. I have overcome a lot of obstacles since my accident: A pressure sore keeping me in the hospital for three months; a feeding tube leaking into my stomach leading to emergency surgery; having a poor seating system and intense spasticity that has helped in causing severe scoliosis; being denied Medicaid.. It is always seems like there's something. Two step forward three steps back, right? Even before the accident, I was an optimist. My glass is half full and I always try to find different perspectives, but the surgery ordeal has really hit me hard. But I keep telling myself there must be some reason this is happened. I must believe that God did not want me to have the surgery for some reason, at least not at this time. Perhaps one day I will know why or perhaps I'll never know, but I have to believe. Sometimes a little belief and faith is all we have to hang on to.
So that has been my last week. I have been putting my emotions into my art and been painting more. Keeps me focused, calms my mind, works out some of the smaller muscles in my arm, and helps me work on my control and holding my hand steady- it's a win-win all around!
Jan 10, 2012
This may be my last entry for a month or two. A week from today I will be going to Jackson, MS, to have what is called a Mitrofanoff procedure. I know that word probably means nothing to you so let me explain what is. Currently, I have to be catheterized every 4 to 6 hours. Not doing so can easily lead to accidents, dysreflexia, infections or bladder failure. And because of my injury and lack of finger function and trunk control, I am unable to do this on my own. You can imagine how inconvenient it is to have to go through this process every 4 to 6 hours (especially when going out). With this procedure, my bladder will be stretched so it can hold more, generally for up to eight hours. In addition to enlarging the bladder, my appendix will be used to create a stoma through my stomach- more than likely my belly button. I will then be able to go longer periods without having to catheterize and will also be able to catheterize myself through my stomach. What now takes 5-10 minutes and discomfort will only require little time and effort. Not to mention with a stoma through my stomach, I will be able to catheterize myself. It is a large step towards becoming more independent.
To sum it up, a lot of my organs will be rerouted and stretched. My intestines, bladder, and appendix will be operated on. They expect me to be in the hospital 7 to 10 days and they say recovery can take up to 1 or 2 months. From what I have heard from other people and have read online, it is a very hard and long recovery, but well worth it in the end. I decided to do the surgery now in the beginning of the year so that I could recover and it will be behind me as I go forth in this year to get as much rehab and recovery as possible. It seemed like a moot point to go to Shepherd and then have a surgery that would stop therapy until I recuperated. I am very anxious about the surgery after hearing how tough it will be. I know I have been through a lot and I can get through this too, but I still find myself very scared and nervous. But I will keep the faith, as I always do, and find comfort in knowing two things: God will never give me more than I can handle it I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I would just like to mention that the last couple of weeks I have been very motivated and strict with my exercise plan. My PCA, Mary, stretches my legs every morning for a good hour. I roll over on my stomach and stretch. I practice pulling myself up and then sitting unsupported in the bed to work on my trunk control. Then, we stretch my arms and I do 10 different arm exercises using a theraband, 30 times apiece. I can already tell such a big difference in the mobility and strength in my arms. It is crazy to think about exactly how many muscles are in your upper arms and shoulders that you have to build. I have to make sure to concentrate to use the right muscle or I will subconsciously compensate with a stronger muscle. It is such a rewarding feeling every day to work so hard and be able to see progress. I pray that I can push myself during my surgery recovery to try to keep up with some of my arm exercises that are not too strenuous so I do not lose anything that I have gained here recently.
One final thing I would like to mention: I finally have everything in for the Shepherd center and have been put down in their scheduling book. As of right now I am scheduled to be evaluated on June 11 to make sure that I qualify for the Day Program. After my evaluation I will be scheduled for a month of therapy. I am trying to get my appointment moved up so that I can attend sooner. Ideally, I would go for an evaluation the beginning of March and then enroll in the program April or May. So that is where I sit right now on the Shepherd story. I will get there eventually and it will be worth the wait!
Please remember to keep me in your prayers as I prepare for my upcoming surgery. I look forward to writing again when I feel better and everything is running smoothly! God bless
Dec 29, 2011
Season’s Greetings! I hope everyone reading this has had a warm, safe and happy holiday with the ones that you love. I am a year older and 2012 is only days away- typical time for many of us to reflect on the past year. By this time of the year I always think the same thing, “Wow, time sure has gone by fast.” That is a severe understatement for this year; days seem to go by so quick that I cannot keep up. Time is a precious thing many of us take for granted. What matters is how you use your time. Are you spending it with people you love? Are you making yourself a better person? Or are you spending it not making the most out of it? You cannot sit back and wait for your world to turn into what you want it to be- you have to work for it. You have to want it enough that you fight for it. Days when you don't want to, you do it anyway. This is how I feel about my recovery. I know I have made great progress, but I'm disappointed in myself for not working harder to make more. On one hand, I give myself a break because this was still my first year. I am a little over 18 months post-injury so I am in a stage where sometimes I feel like I know everything there is to know about my injury, but then I am still experiencing new things and learning different ways to improvise and adapt that makes the injury/lifestyle feel so new. For instance, recently I have learned how to independently go into the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face. One day I even managed to get in the pantry and get me a spoonful of peanut butter by myself! Things I could definitely not do this time last year. However, looking back now to this time last year, I was probably a lot more depressed than I wanted to admit; it was my first birthday, Christmas and New Year in the chair. One of my most favorite times of years yet I did not feel the spirit of the season. Then, in January, I was denied Medicaid and all therapy stopped. Therapy not only gave me the chance to physically work out, but was also the only place I went repeatedly and was able to socialize with other people aside from my family. Not to mention having to adjust to relocating back home, whereas most my friends lived in Hattiesburg or New Orleans. Also having to adjust to being back in my house where I used to be able to do so much more that I could no longer do (get in the whirlpool bath, lay on the chaise, eat at the bar, sleep in MY wonderful queen-size bed). Then my relationships with people who I was extremely close to drastically changed. I'm sure there were also some “seasonal blues” involved as well because last year was extremely cold and nasty. Every aspect of my life had changed and I know it takes time to adjust, but it was so much to deal with that I shut down and did not follow through with my promise to myself to push as hard as I could every day.
Then in April, I decided to do something about it. I created Help Katy Back to Rehab and life has not been the same since. Each day I would get excited to check the page and see what new things had developed. Having so many people, most of whom I've never met, believe in me and support me was the hand that I needed to pick me up. That page has truly changed my life and so much good has come out of it. Other than raising money for me to go back to rehab, I also made a whole new group of friends- both online and off. I have learned that I can inspire people, which in turn inspired me more to make the accident and my injury have as much purpose as possible. I read a quote the other day that really hit me, “Maybe your sole purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.” I can use my story to either prevent an accident happening to someone else, or inspire just one person to live their life the best way they can. That you can live your life without drama and negativity; reminding yourself every day that life can change in the blink of an eye; time goes by so quickly and once it's gone, it's not coming back. There's no Mulligan when it comes to your decisions in life. If I can make somebody realize that, then it is worth it. Because really, that is the only option there is. Life truly is what you make of it. My injury has slowed me down but it has not changed my passions, my goals, or my quality of life. If anything, I appreciate little things so much more now than I ever did before. I have learned so much more about myself this past year and a half then I think I knew before. Prior to the accident I never thought of myself as a strong person, at least not the kind of person who could handle such a drastic change with my head held high. But to me it was simply the one thing I kept repeating to myself: there is no other choice. And that really applies to any situation in this life that you find yourself in where you do not have any control over what has happened (such as my injury). It is inevitable that there will be hard times in your life, that you will struggle without knowing why and find yourself stuck in a situation that you do not know how to control. But the one thing you can control is your attitude, and that makes all the difference in the world. You could sit, sulk, cry and pout all you want, but it won't do you a lick of good. Time will go by, wasted because you decided to let yourself be defeated by a situation you could not control. Or you learn to grab the bull by the horns, thank God you're alive, and start to count your blessings and not your problems.
So this is how I will start 2012, equipped with the knowledge and the drive to really push myself this New Year, the knowledge to know that life is tough but I am tougher. I will admit, without sugarcoating, that I have been lazy this year. I have not pushed my body like I told myself I would. I have not worked as hard as I told myself I would, know that I can, and must do in order to achieve my goals. I will not get anywhere if I don't take the first step, so to say. I cannot control the fact that my injury has already happened, but I can do as much as I can, physically and mentally, to get myself back to where I need to be. Where I am at now in my life, not finished with school, out of work, and fully dependent on somebody, is just a speed bump. Before my accident, I was going nowhere fast and God told me to slow down. It has always taken drastic measures to get through to me. Now that I can look back on the year and realize how much further along I could be I get angry with myself. I will use that emotion to push myself on the days that I hurt; the days I don't want to get up and do hours of intense therapy. I will allow myself to feel angry to give me that push that I need on days where I feel weak. I will feel that anger without letting it consume me, but to instead let it motivate me. I will use that emotion while constantly reminding myself that nothing will change if I don't make it happen. Now that I have Mary as my personal care attendant to help me with my exercises, I have no excuse not to do it. Like I said, you cannot sit back and wait for your world to turn into what you want it to be. Carpe Diem!
So long 2011, I have learned so much more than I ever expected. I am ready to put this year behind me and move forward into a happier, more productive, more self-aware, and more knowledgeable year. I look forward to reading this post again when we find ourselves approaching 2013 so I can smile and be proud of everything I will push myself to do in 2012. All the while remembering that this is merely a year, and in the grand scheme of things, that is not that long at all. These are things that take time, dedication, and determination. I must remind myself to be patient. The things that I want to accomplish will not happen overnight, or even over a week. I will have to complete the small pieces of the puzzle before I can see the whole picture. As the saying goes: Rome was not built in a day.
In less than a month (Jan 18) I have my bladder surgery. I pray that the recovery will be smooth and quick. In March I will be traveling to Oxford, MS, to be awarded as the Sigma Nu Charity Bowl recipient at Ole Miss. In April I will be traveling to Atlanta to attend the Shepherd center. During all this, I am also preparing myself to start the process of being evaluated to drive. Yes, driving a car. It is scary but I am so excited and ready for what great independence that will give me! It is going to be a big year; I can feel it in my bones. There are great things waiting to happen. I am keeping my goals high but realistic: to be able to transfer myself from bed to chair; to be in my manual chair 50% of the time; to be driving; and enroll in online classes in the fall. These are not New Year’s resolutions (because I can never keep my New Year's resolutions); these are New Year’s “absolutely-no-excuses-will-most-definitely-do-must-dos.” Simple as that... That made sense, right?