Submitted by Cathy Cuff-Coffman

This is Part 9 of Cathy’s multi-part blog series, documenting journey with a Baclofen pump implantation. You can read Parts 1-8 here.

Another Weekend at Hershey

I got some weekend physical therapy since I arrived mid-week last week, no such luck this weekend.

This was expected; I did spend two months in the Penn State Hershey Rehabilitation Hospital in 2020, and weekend sessions are reserved for newcomers or long-time patients who may be having a breakthrough.

However, my physical therapist, Kate, gave me “weekend homework.” With that and my Level 3 mobility status, I was more than ready to move on my own.

On paper, the “homework” exercises don’t seem difficult. They are:

· Standing marches with a walker (focus on (leg) keeping straight and not going out to the side).

· Standing heel raises with walker (focus on control of the movement).

· Laying in bed, raising your knee towards your chest like a march without letting it fall to the side.

· Stretching your calf/ankle with the blue leg lifter.

· Sit/stand with arms crossed over your chest.

However! My body has been locked in “high tone” and spasticity, been wracked with pain I wasn’t comprehending, and is still fighting paralysis. This little homework list is challenging!

I was definitely up to doing it, though. I did each exercise in sets of 3, with 10 reps. Then, I walked the long spinal cord unit hallway at least twice after doing the exercises. And I ensured I did this at least three times on Saturday and Sunday.

Not only did it fill my time, but without the distractions of the PT gym and the cues from my therapists, I was free to assess my form during the workout and my gait during the walks.

Before, I was using my high tone to facilitate what I thought was walking.

I’ve got a long way to go, and I can see where I might get easily frustrated.

However, as if on cue, one of the physical therapists I had when I arrived four years ago was walking down the hall toward me.

She said she saw my name on the census and had to see me. It was great catching up, and she told my story to the nurse and aide on staff. “She couldn’t even feed herself,” recounted the therapist, “and two months later, she made it out of here with a walker.”

When she said that, it reminded me how far I’ve come and that I shouldn’t get down because of this new challenge.

But for two years, I paid a steep price in pain, brain fog (from ingesting too much oral medication), wasted physical therapy sessions that were not helping, and “lost time” with family and friends due to pain or exhaustion.

So, it was good to see one of my old PTs—not only for the renewed connection but also for renewing my resolve to do my program right and to the best of my ability.