Saturday, December 31, 2011

Jack Jablonski

I started to write about 2011 and what a difficult year it was for me when I read about Jack Jablonski and felt like a complete whiner.

On December 30, 2011, Jack Jablonski was injured by a hit during a hockey game and is now paralyzed.  There was great news today when Jack moved his arms!  According to his mother, the first thing he said when his arms moved was "when can I strap up my skates?"  This kid sounds like someone I'd like to know personally, and although I don't, I am praying for him and wish nothing but the best for him and his family.  I will continue to follow his story, and hope that he is able to defy all odds and make a full recovery. 

If you would like to follow Jack "Jabs" Jablonski's story, you can go to or his Caring Bridge website at

Jack, you are in my thoughts, and I will send out all the positive energy I can muster that you are once again able to strap up those skates!

Friday, November 18, 2011

For Angela

I know I haven't written in a while.  I am not sure why.  Several times I have opened up my blog, clicked on "new post", and then sat staring at the screen while my mind goes blank.  Is it possible to have writer's block if you're not technically a writer?

I suppose the important thing is I'm here now.  I was inspired by an email I received from someone who found my blog and has a friend who is going through a very similar situation that I did almost 14 years ago.  Amanda's friend, Angela, at only 23 years old, has just been diagnosed with GBS.  In a very similar set of circumstances, they misdiagnosed her and sent her home where she came close to death just as I had in 1997.  This is such a terrifyinig experience that I won't even attempt to put it in words.

Reading her email made me cry harder than I have in a long time as I relived my own experience, remembering just how scared I was, and fearful of the unknown.  I had resigned myself to death at one point.  I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, and here is another young girl facing the same thing.  It just doesn't seem fair. 

But, as we all know too well, life isn't fair.  All we can do is fight back.  I hope that I am able to help Angela with my words.  I know that it's a very difficult thing to come back from, and it's very easy to just give in and say "fine, you win".  There is lots of pain, and lots of what seems like failure.  Every day is a new challenge, and there is so much that goes into the process of recovery after your entire body has been shut down that the mind boggles at where to start first.  You lose balance, coordination, reflexes, sensation, motor skills... I mean, the list is so long and depressing I won't even attempt to finish.  For anyone that has never experienced trying to come back from that, there is no way to even begin to imagine the difficulty.  Had I known back then what I know now, I would have never let myself give up for one second. 

Just like my blog's name states; never give up.  That is all I can offer to anyone who finds themselves at the raw end of this deal.  Just never give up.  Fight, and fight hard.  Imagine you are training for something, like climbing Mt. Everest, or whatever it takes to give you that inspiration and fight within you that won't allow you to give in.  Don't let this horrible disease win.  Just don't. 

I still struggle daily with the fight, and it has been almost 14 years.  But, in my case, I truly believe I wouldn't still be in this shape had I never given up in the first place.  I let the disease defeat me for a time, and I put myself that much farther behind.  Now, instead of working from the ground up, I've been backtracking.  Nevertheless, I'm getting better.

The body is an amazing machine, and it wants to work properly.  If you give it something it needs to do, it will figure out a way to do it, against all odds.

This post is for you, Angela.  You and your friend brought me out of hiding and inspired me to write, and I look forward to hearing more from you about your progress. 

Never Give Up!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

One Year Down

I'm a day or so late with this, but it has been one year that I have been walking.  I have mixed emotions, as I fully expected to, but I thought I would be much more excited than I am. 

I have no complaints, that is for certain.  I mean, come on, I'm vertical again.  I no longer feel like a troll.  Elevator rides are much more scenic now that I'm not staring at (and smelling) asses the whole ride.  Life is good.

So, why am I not more excited?  Maybe there is still a part of me who just doesn't quite believe it's true, and maybe another part is pissed off that I still have to use a walker even though I'm a lot stronger than I ever thought I would get in the first place.  The post Guillain-Barre me has always been grateful for the smallest of things in this life, so what the hell is my problem all of a sudden?  Is walking somehow taking me back to the pre-Guillain-Barre me?  Nah...

I suppose I am still adjusting, both mentally and physically.  I guess I never prepared for the mental side of things because I was too busy psyching myself up for the physical part.  The pain was the first thing I had to get used to (even though there really is no getting used to that), and then there were things here and there like the aforementioned elevator rides, which I have to say, the first one was a doozy to say the least!  Traversing different terrains has been an adventure, and just figuring out how to live life as a biped once again has been interesting.  You spend 12+ years on wheels and you forget a lot of what goes into walking.  I even had to get used to being up so high!  Being 6' tall, that was my first obstacle.  That's not something you think of until you do it and say "whoa! Holy hell, Batman, I'm high up!"

A year seems like such a long time, until it flies by in the blink of an eye and you wonder where the hell the time went.  I've said it before, and I have to remind myself time and time again, I spent close to 13 years in a wheelchair, it's not going to happen overnight, or even in a year, or maybe even in two years, but it WILL happen.

So what am I going to do for this next year?  Should I start transitioning to crutches?  Maybe I'll just say hell with it all and get myself a Segway... Nahhhh.

I think I'll work on trying to be happy for myself, even if just a little bit, and then I'll worry about what to torture myself with this coming year. 

13 years ago.  Still in the hospital after six long months.
See... "it's never so bad it can't be worse"

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend

I hope everyone's weekend was a safe one!

I had a nice time down in Detroit Lakes, MN visiting with my best friend, and seeing old friends from high school.  We put on a benefit for my best friend's daughter who broke her arm in gymnastics.

I got a lot of exercise, and had a lot of fun!

It really put into perspective for me how far I've come.  Six months ago, a day like that would have worn me out so bad I probably wouldn't have made it through half the day.  Not only did I make it through the whole day, but I did it on four hours of sleep, and I partied with my friends after!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Lost Loves

I've been thinking a lot today about lost loves.  Those people in my life who made an impact on me in their own way, who are now gone.  That includes my dog, Bruno.  My animals become more like people to me than actual people. 

Anyway, my thoughts go deep, and my love for these people even deeper.  It is approaching a year since my friend Susan passed from cancer, and I feel like I miss her more now than I did a year ago.  Every time I think of her, I cry.  The tears just flow, uncontrollably.  She meant a lot to me, and she was a very important pillar in my life at a time when I really needed one.  I just think she would be so proud of me if she knew how far I've come with my walking.  I wish she were physically here so I could show her.  I don't know what's out there after we go, and I would swear she has visited me and told me she is OK, but I wish she were here so I could look her in the eyes and tell her it was in large part she who got me off my ass and trying, and she didn't push, she was just my friend.  A true friend.  I miss her.

Soon it will be a full year since I began this journey, and I am quite obviously stronger and can see the changes in my body.  It's remarkable, actually.  Some days I can't even believe it's real, or that the twelve years I spent sitting in a wheelchair are real, either.  I try not to dwell on the idea that I quite possibly could have done this a lot sooner and would already be walking and healed, so I just focus on the fact that at least I finally did something.  There is no turning back now.

In memory of those who have graced my life with love, and are no longer with us, I will be getting a tattoo on my back with all their names, and I will get this tattoo on the date Susan died one year ago today. 

Dale Peterson * Charles Reiners * Daniel Secore * Ryan Riggle * Jim Blick * Bruno "The Big Feet" * Susan Furlan

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Nine Months!

I started the transition from chair to walker nine months ago.  At the moment, I am at a loss as to what to say about it.  Nine months seems like a long time; then again, you can create an entire human being in just nine months! 

I'm not real sure what to say or how I feel about where I am just yet.  I will have to think on it and post something later.  I just wanted to recognize the time frame.  Nine months since starting the transition, and three months since leaving my wheelchair behind in FL and only using a walker. 

More later...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eight Months

It has been eight months since last summer when I ditched the chair and went on my long vacation using only a walker for the first time.  I can still remember how hard that was, and how scared I was.  When I got home, I got rid of my house chair, but used my outside chair for trips to the store, etc. 

When I moved back up north, I left even that chair behind.  I have been walking with just a walker and have had zero access to a wheelchair for 2 1/2 months now.  I still use a scooter for trips to Walmart or the grocery store, but I still have to walk in and out of the store, and if I want to go somewhere that doesn't have a scooter, I have to suck it up and do my best.  I do think my endurance has definitely improved.  Maybe not as fast as I would like it to, but it has, and I know my lower body is stronger.  I can stand for much longer periods of time without getting so extremely fatigued that I have to sit down or I will collapse.  In fact, I am in shock at how long I can stand now.  As long as I shift my weight now and then and change my posture, I do very well and only continue to improve.  I have also noticed a big change in my ability to balance. 

There is just so much that goes into learning to walk all over again, and after twelve years of not walking, I guess my body is going to need some time.  Eight months seems like a long time, but in reality it's just a blink.  It has taken me this long to regain better balance, endurance, and very minimal strength.  I think now that my balance and endurance are coming back, I will be able to work more on the strength part. 

I am even considering using my forearm crutches at home.  I am certainly going to take them out and give them a try, and if I feel I can maneuver them fairly well without falling, I will use them on a regular basis.  They are much harder to use, but that's kind of the point.  Push the body beyond its comfort zone so as to build strength and better balance.

I'm also getting much more used to going out in public with my old grandma walker :-)  It was tough for a while, but it has become such a routine for me that I hardly notice anymore. 

Spring is just around the corner here in the Arctic Circle, and although I have really enjoyed the snow and change of scenery, I am looking forward to Spring now, too.  Spring means less ice to maneuver and more warm weather to be outside more :-)  That is after "Big Red" (the Red River of the North) gets done swelling and possibly flooding!  March melt is here and Big Red is on the rise! 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

I Love My Home

Since being back in the Arctic Circle, I have had to work harder than ever before.  The snow and ice makes walking so much more challenging, and so much more rewarding, all at the same time.  It has been an adventure, to say the least, and one that is making me stronger and happier than ever before!

Walking in snow, when you are as challenged as I am, is like walking in sand.  Every step is not only more difficult, but more challenging to my balance muscles so that I don't slip and fall. 

On top of the added challenges outside my home, I live in a half-underground apartment which requires me to climb up and down six steps whenever I go in and out.  That is just another obstacle that is making me stronger.

All in all, I am happy to be home, happy to be more challenged, and just happy in general!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Repost: Brad Burns - What an Inspiration!

I received an email from Brad the other day, so I decided to repost his amazing story! It had been so long since the first post, I had almost forgotten who he was -- shame on me!

"I came across this incredible story via The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation and had to share it with you:

"Name: Brad Burns
Injury: Incomplete quadriplegia
Mechanism of Injury: Auto accident
Date of Injury: May 31, 2008

Brad Burns says he is happier now than he was before the auto accident that left him living with quadriplegia in May 2008 at the age of 24 ... and he has a Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation tattoo to prove it.

Burns, now 26, went from having his C4, 5, and 6 vertebra fused together, a C5 burst fracture, broken right ribs, lacerated lungs, two torn muscles in his right deltoid, and an open-book fracture of his pelvis, to now being able to walk independently with just a front-wheeled walker."

Read the rest of this incredible story here:  Nothing's Impossible

What I found particularly interesting is how they initially got him up and walking.  I've heard that doing the motion forces the brain to create new paths if necessary, but I've never seen it actually work in such an amazing way until I read that story!  Wow!  I feel so incredibly happy for him."

And to think he emailed me and told me I'm a fighter!  I am humbled by his kind words because I think he is just incredible!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis timelapse HD - Tromsø 2010 from Tor Even Mathisen on Vimeo.

Home, Finally

I am finally back in Norsk country and it has never felt better!  I have had many laughs so far at all the things I had forgotten about in my 20 years of being away; for instance, up here they say "pop" and down south they say "soda".  Up here around this time of year when it hits above zero degrees it's a heat wave, down south if it drops to twenty degrees the entire state panics and shuts down completely.  And, up here in the great state of MN, if you're a weakling, you will never survive.

The most interesting change we have had to make so far was teaching our Chihuahua how to go to the bathroom in the snow!  It took her two days to figure it out, but she finally did and now it's tough to get her inside!

I am looking out my window at the piles of white snow wondering why I ever left.  Yes, it's cold.  Yes, it snows almost all winter long, and yes the sun doesn't shine near as much as it should (in fact, it seems that the only time the sun shines is when the temps hit below zero!), but it is my home and I feel blessed to be back.

People ask me why the heck I moved from Florida back to this tundra, and I simply say because I wanted to come home.  I suppose had I never left I would ask me the same question, but knowing what Florida is really like to live there, I wouldn't go back if you paid me.  A vacation, maybe, to live there, never again.

The best part of all of this is when I left Florida, emotionally I left the old me behind, and physically I actually left my chair behind.  I have been completely without wheels since Jan 5!  I have to say I have done just fine and I don't even miss it.  I just keep getting stronger, yippee!

It has been six months now since I have been walking on a regular basis, and although I am still progressing slowly, I am still progressing. 

It will be up to 30 degrees by the weekend here.  I think I'll go find an ice fishing hole and go swimming!