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Standing, engaged and nearing the end

With each week drawing to a close, I am getting closer and closer to the customs line within LAX. 

With only three weeks to go until I am back in Australia, I am prepared to give every last bit of energy and effort into EVERY day. Not to say that I have not given my all for the past 8 months but the next 3 weeks will be somewhat special, especially after having achieved the goal I set last year; to stand. Although nobody was holding me, my knees were leaning against equipment helping them lockout (something I’m not quite able to do myself just yet). The reason this is such a massive achievement for me other than the obvious, I have had to learn how to lock my hips and control my trunk, allowing me to remain balanced and standing. I always imagined once I was finally standing that I would feel a massive sense of achievement and relief, it was something more than that. The term “My life flashed before my eyes” now holds some meaning for me. I felt as if in that 30 seconds that I initially stood, I reflected on significant times and people from the past three years of my life. The very early stages at the Royal Talbot, my first public appearance ever in a wheelchair, the first weeks of waking up each morning  PARALYSED, the immense pain ALL over my body, the ‘bad’ thoughts every day and the never-ending tears!  The significant people, with an “education” telling my parents that “Whatever recovery Joel makes in the first two years post-injury is all he will get back” or the other individual that told me to my face “It’s not worth going to America for rehab, YOU WILL WASTE YOUR MONEY and get NOTHING out of it”. Eat your fu**ing words.  Both of you. Those who used a more humane/positive approach yet remaining professional and realistic, my nurse’s and my OT. Most of whom I still have an excellent relationship with. All of this came rushing through my mind as I was standing on my own 2 feet, three years after losing the ability to do so. (it's crazy what your mind can do such a short period of time) People have reached out to me from all over the world to congratulate me, it was amazingly humbling to realise I had so much support from so many. Tell me I can't do something, I will prove you wrong. This mindset may stem from some of my stubbornness, but after achieving what I did last week, stubbornness had very little part to play in this, to say that it's played a major part in my achievement would be discrediting so many and so much. When I stood last week I did that thanks to the endless list of people/ groups/ businesses who have donated money/time and services, my friends, my family, who have never been anything but positive for me. I did it for myself, to prove that there is no ceiling to my recovery, that I will dictate what can and can not be done. 

My health recently had not been the best thanks to a stray cold/flu I picked up somewhere. I missed a whole week of training and was beginning to panic and worry about losing my gains I had made in the gym. Fortunately, I came back well rested and better than expected. I weighed in last week and was astonished at what the scales read back to me. 66.6kg. Bringing my total weight loss to 27kg. I celebrated my standing and weight loss by stopping off at Costco on the way home and inhaling a slice of pizza. This could have potentially been the greatest tasting thing I have eaten all year! Red wine at home later on and one ‘piece’ of rocky road chocolate from Australia. I was one happy man! 

As per usual, I now look to the future and plan for the next few months, setting goals and setting myself up to achieve them. With intentions to continue exactly what I do over here, I am searching for gym equipment (1 machine), a standing frame and someone who can help train me. Elisa has been watching and learning how things are done in the gym and will assist with the early stages of my training in Oz, but she has to return to work and normal everyday life, so the search for her replacement as my temporary trainer is now on. Most of the year I have been working on trying to activate my glutes and hip stability, and I’m quite impressed with the progress I have made. I would not be able to stand the way I was last week without any activation in those areas, my results speak volumes for many aspects of my progression. My core stability improvements have been astounding, unfortunately there is no tangible proof of this it is something that only I can feel, it is noticeable when I stand, seated balance and Rolling/ manoeuvring on the floor or tables in the gym. There is one weakness within my trunk, the right side, which is affecting my posture when I stand. I lean predominantly to my left side. The weakness down my right side is a common issue for a lot of modalities that involve the isolation and or requirement of muscles on that side. Note to self; an area to work on. 

As many of you may know, Elisa and I got engaged about a month ago. It was a night that was carefully planned for, months in advance and executed to perfection. I had been paranoid all year when Elisa would use my laptop or phone, worried that she may see or read something that would give my plans away. Fortunately, Elisa is a nurse, not a detective, my social media was flooded with diamond ring ads because I had been doing research into where and how to attain a rock. She claims to have never seen anything and going on her response to me on the night, I think she was being honest.  Thanks to Steve, Jason and Felipe for helping me get on my knee and thank you to Stacey for keeping Elisa occupied. I never thought that I would get so nervous for such an event but on the day, all day, I was watching the clock, confirming the details with the crew who were going to be helping, deleting messages and trying to remain normal about our dinner that night. The night went perfectly and now we have a fair bit of planning ahead of us. The emotions I went through on the night were something I had never felt before, absolute pure happiness, nothing could wipe the smile off my face. It was quite timely considering the plebiscite that was conducted back home, as ridiculous as it was, but would you expect any less from the monkeys who run our country!? I thought to myself later that night “How wrong it is that a man and another man or woman and another woman couldn’t experience what I’m feeling right now, who is the Church or Government to deny them this?” Congratulations to all that can benefit from this. Now let's move onto the next thing, medicinal cannabis. 

Two weeks ago I went back to where it all began. With a different name and some amazing people, I began working out at “ADAPT”. In what seemed more like a massive family reunion than a workout, I was back working out around my old mates! Most of the old “Project Walk” trainers had come together after one extremely benevolent and selfless Individual set up a non for profit organisation named “ADAPT” and gave this team of trainers the opportunity to do what they do best. Here I am able to work out with my old trainers for two days a week and compliment what I am doing the other three days at “STRIDES SCI”.  It is a very fortunate position that I now find myself in, essentially I now get 4 different minds to learn from, absorb their knowledge and maintain my progression towards achieving successes in my rehabilitation. On a personal level, I could not be happier for a group of people, especially considering the incredible effect they have had on SO many peoples lives and can now continue to do so. Recovery is not about getting back to exactly the way things once were, it is the journey you take. The guys at “STRIDES SCI” and “ADAPT” are creating one for me that is rich in success, challenges and positive memories. 

JS

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