Recently, I was lucky enough to spend the day at Stoke Mandeville. primarily in the National Spinal Injuries Center. I had no expectations, which was fortunate, as it far exceeded anything I might have imagined. The sheer scale of the place is formidable, labyrinthine in structure. I was there to spend time with a lovely friend, and see what he could do in action. On the schedule was Hydrotherpy, Fitness, Basketball & the FES bike. This is nearly four hours of exorcise!
I found him the hydropool, where he had just had been for a swim, complete with scuba mask & snorkel, A little rest/ lunch period & a quick tour & then off to the next three hours of exercise. The Fitness portion required a 10 min journey to the stadium/leisure center which is open to everyone. There was quite a varied group, with many different grades of spinal injury & ages participating. From a twelve year wonder kid to middle aged patients, they are all improving skills, speed, & cardio health. The twelve year old beat the pants off the rest of the group.
Next up was basketball. Two teams of three in special wheelchairs faced off on the court, I was invited to be one of them I was rubbish at it, but had such a great time. This was quite fast paced, vigorously competitive, and from my vantage point of the next day- really hard work. But it provided a lot of fun along with improving dexterity and the all importaint competitive edge.
The FES bike can be used by anyone to improve muscle tissue fitness & health. You ‘pad up’ with small pads that deliver micro currents to the desired area. Talking with one of the physios about it, and why it was so effective, is what inspired this post. She said “It’s all about muscle tissue health and fitness.” The pads make the muscles work, thus improving circulation, lymph drainage, muscle & organ health. The organs can suffer from the toxicity that occurs when the muscles are not used enough, and is a huge problem for those with Spinal Cord injuries. Manually movement of muscles also helps to avoid the fusion of joints. Use of the standing frame helps to slow osteoporosis – a huge problem for anyone confined to either a chair or a bed. It also is good for circulation, tissue health & posture.
I have to say that this was the real highlight of my week, and I am grateful to my friend for letting me come and watch him at work. It’s now a lot more clear to me how he is making the impressive changes that I see in him every week. But I realized that he really is an exception, rather than a rule. Many aren’t competitive, either with themselves, or anyone else. Some have mostly given up, but still are still trying.
Watching the many patients with such different abilities, I was struck by the thought that it wasn’t what they could or could not do, it was all about the effort they put in, It’s not what you have, but what you do with what you have that matters. And that is going to make life for my more able clients all that bit harder in the future.