After the emotional chaos of 2013, I have a good feeling about 2014. I now have objective evidence that my strength is slowly returning. First I was able to lift my right arm above my head, then I was able to lift one pound, and then two. A recent neurological power exam showed some modest improvement as well. The fasciculations, which had relentlessly persisted for the first several weeks after my surgery, have finally started to decrease in frequency, and now I only notice them after I exercise. For the first time, I am convinced that ALS is off the table. That is worth celebrating. Yes, I still have significant weakness and atrophy in my right shoulder and arm, and I will probably never recover to where I was before. But I believe I will recover to the point where I can practice medicine. I feel like I have been given a second chance at life. It feels good to have a goal: to regain enough strength to return to my residency training and become a Neurologist.
I am pleased to report that I am recovering from my spine surgery in the comfort of my parents’ home in Lethbridge. The cellulitis is fading more and more every day. The pain is much better and I am now off pain medications (although there is still some pain in the background). I can get my right arm up above my head, which is a big improvement, but I am still unable to lift even 2 lbs above my shoulder. This is discouraging, but the fact that there has been some (albeit minimal) improvement is encouraging. I am still experiencing frequent fasciculations in my shoulders and arms, which is a constant reminder of what I thought I was facing.
I have recently discovered the existence of video footage of our 2008 motorcycle adventure from London to Cape Town. I had forgotten that we had done some video blogging along the way. Recently Tom found the video footage in his archives. I have edited a couple of entries together and and you can view it below. What you will see is a video blog entry of the aftermath of my crash in Ethiopia when I hit a dog just outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This was actually my second crash in Ethiopia. I have previously blogged about my two crashes in Ethiopia.
“Today, a great light has been extinguished. The boy from the Transkei has finished his long walk. His journey transformed not just South Africa, but humanity itself.”
― Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Above: Nelson Mandela holds the World Cup. I chose this image because I feel some connection having gone to the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010.
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
― Nelson Mandela
I am very glad that I had the chance to visit the Transkei, Nelson Mandela’s homeland, in 2010 by motorcycle. (The photo above was taken in the Transkei by Jeremy Bezchlibnyk). Nelson Mandela’s life-long fight for freedom and justice, and his message of reconciliation over retribution, is a message the world should never forget.
To celebrate our graduation from University of Toronto in 2010, Ted, Jeremy, and I rode our motorcycles 10,000 km through South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. We spent several days riding the rugged coastal region of Transkei, which is Madiba’s homeland.
Above: Ted and Jeremy in front of typical dwellings in the Homeland of Transkei, South Africa.
Above: Ted rides single track in South Africa’s Transkei region.
Above: Jeremy riding along the coast in South Africa’s Transkei region.
Above: A photo taken by Jeremy of me riding through the wild Transkei.
We also had the opportunity to attend a FIFA World Cup match, 15 years after South Africa hosted the 1995 Rugby World cup as a newly minted democracy thanks to Nelson Mandela’s life-long struggle.
Nelson Mandela used the power of sport to unite a nation. When he donned a South Africa Sprinkboks jersey at the 1995 Rugby World Cup, it was a powerful symbol because these were the colours of his former oppressors. He showed South Africa and the world with that gesture that he was willing to rise above revenge and retribution.
Above: Nelson Mandela presenting the William Webb Wellis Trophy to Francois Pienaar, the captain of the Springboks team after South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Francois would later say that President Mandela had thanked him for what he had done for his country. He replied, “No, thank-you for what you have done.”
On a personal note I was discharged from hospital yesterday. I am in some pain, but doing well. My parents have been pampering me. The one advantage of recovering from spinal surgery at this time is that I can watch history unfold over the next several days without being interrupted by my pager going off.
Below is a video showing footage of our motorcycle trip through several countries in Southern Africa, including our trip through Mandela’s homeland, the Transkei.
Ever since I started residency as a wet-behind-the-ears PGY1 resident, there has been a certain charge nurse on unit 112 who has always looked after me. Nights on call were never as scary if she was on, despite how sick the patients were that we were trying to keep alive overnight. Now that it has become my turn to be a patient on the very same unit, she has gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure my stay is as pleasant possible under the circumstances. In fact, everyone on unit 112 has been amazing. The nursing care I have received has been extraordinary, and delivered with an extra touch of compassion. I guess maybe I wasn’t too much of a jerk to the nurses when I was working as a resident after all, or things might not have gone quite the same way for me
lf naked on the bathroom floor next to a toilet with a piss jug in my hand. I couldn’t even take a piss. To be sure, what I was going through was so much better than what I thought I would be facing that it didn’t seem right to feel down. I had even overheard the nice elderly palliative lady in the room next to mine discussing with her sons how she would like to pursue the Sue Rodriguez option. When they explained that that wasn’t an option for her, her sorrow made me cry quietly into my pillow. And yet, I could not help feeling a bit sorry for myself. Only Phil was optimistic, telling me that he still thought that I could be discharged the next day (as I had been hoping). My guardian charge nurse, however, was more realistic and reassured my parents that I wouldn’t be going anywhere until it was safe for me to do so. Still, I like the optimism. Thanks Phil.
The hardest part now will be lying flat for 5 days to try to seal the repair. I am only on day 2 and I have to admit it has been way more difficult than I had anticipated. My incision site is swollen and I imagine way more painful than if I were able to get up and move around. Bedrest is not nearly as restful as it sounds.
Tomorrow I will be undergoing spine surgery. My operation has been scheduled for 12:05 PM and may take anywhere from 3-5 hours, possibly longer. I will be checking into the Hilton at 10:00 AM.