Limits can be authority-defined rules, natural laws, or personally-felt confinements. Nations go to war and citizens take to the streets when there is a perceived limit on growth or freedom. Individuals who have broken the law have limits imposed upon their liberties and rights. The RedBull YouTube channel seeks to illustrate that limits in the capability of the human body seemingly don’t exist, and the variety of initiatives created by Elon Musk shows this in both our capacity and passion for innovation.
On the one hand, a spinal cord injury is all about limits: the properly-functioning part of the body stops somewhere down the arms or torso, doctors say that there can be only so much recovery of ability, onlookers think of the anything-is-possible circumstance as turning into only-so-much-given-the-disability, and undoubtedly the one who has been injured begins, understandably, to assimilate these ‘ceilings’ into his or her own thinking.
On the other hand, the conscious disregard for any one of the above traps-of-thought will turn the tale from one burdened by limits to one focused on possibilities. This is a crucial element in the process and, indeed, in any endeavor.
Our motto at SCI-FIT (my primary rehab gym) states: “There are no limitations, only possibilities.” Anything that we, those in recovery, can do to lift limits of all kinds from our bodies and minds is important; in my mind, this is the process of turning those possibilities into futures.
ONE way that I have found to breathe new life into this journey is to try a totally different modality for therapy. There is always a liberating sense that this new strategy could click with my body – given that everyone is different – in a way that nothing else has or could. Of course, this ‘clicking’ does not always, or even very often, happen, but I believe that this sense of openness is important when doing any kind of experimenting.
Just recently, I have begun exploring the stimulating effects of a hand device that is designed to mechanically spark a muscle to life. Designed by the Galileo company in Germany, the handle oscillates back and forth between 5 and 40 times per second (that’s a lot of repetition over an hour), and the force is enough to cause muscles to contract and relax very rapidly. By exploiting the body’s hard-wired stretch reflex (think of the doctor’s rubber mallet hitting below the knee, rapidly elongating the patellar/quadriceps tendon to produce the reflex), the device is able to stimulate a muscle contraction to build bulk, while at the same time forcing nerve signals to be sent from the muscle to the spinal cord and back again.
We have also invested in another Galileo machine that is paired with a tilt-table to do the same for my legs: by standing on its oscillating plate, most muscles in my legs will be forced to contract. I have used the device at SCI-FIT with great results, so I am very excited to begin using one at home as well. The goal is to get my hands, arms, and legs strong and functioning properly, of course, and the idea is that stimulating the muscle 1800 times per minute will, over time, promote recovery.
ON a somewhat different note, and in reflection on my moving beyond my teenage years, I am reminded of the importance of being able to adapt to whatever comes for us. Going back to the notion of limits, I have found it to be very rewarding – freeing, even – while pursuing my goals, to be able to exchange my presumptions for a sense of openness when an experience begins to diverge from the expected.
Just before turning-in last night, I told my parents – my indefatigable supporters on this journey of mine – that while I did not expect to spend my 20th year at home, I still believe that I, and we, are doing a good job of “hiking the path we’re on.” I guess I felt that very imagery was particularly appropriate because in previous years we four have always hiked in the woods as a family during the holidays. That will not be the case this year, but it will be again in the future, and I know that the next ten years for me will be the best ten yet. I choose to make sure of it.
Happy holidays to all those celebrating the season, and spending time with their families and their supporters of all kinds.