|Chapter 31 - Walking
Erick and Crystal managed to arrive at Candice’s office with about 3 minutes to spare. “I see you did manage to remember to bring the limbs with you this afternoon, didn’t you, Crystal?” Candice teased, remembering how much fun they were going to have the night before without them.
”Yes, I did, Candice,” Crystal laughed. “I had a feeling you’d say something about that. Thank you. I love the way you let us see how we touched you yesterday. Thank you for that, too.”
”You’re very welcome, Crystal. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much you two had done for me with that simple gesture yesterday. I had a wonderful talk with my husband last night, and he admitted he had realized something was missing too, but he hadn’t said anything yet because he couldn’t put his finger on it. Now, thanks to you two, we both know what it is, and he and I are working to get that kind of romance back in our relationship. Thank you again!”
”You’re very welcome, Candice. That’s wonderful to know,” Erick said warmly.
Candice sniffled a moment as the memories of both yesterday with Erick and Crystal and last night with her own husband danced through her head one more time. “Well, now, Crystal, are you ready to learn how to walk again?” she laughed.
Crystal burst out with a short but genuine laugh. “What kind of a question is that? You can bet I am!” she all but shouted. Candice smiled knowingly.
”OK, young lady. Here you go. The fun, and the challenge, both start now. The fun will be in having the chance to learn how to walk that you’ve wanted for so very long. The challenge will come in succeeding at it. And trust me. You won’t get completely there today. You will learn all you need to know, but then you and Erick will have to really buckle down and practice what you learn today for quite some time before you get truly proficient at it. That, again, is where that determination of yours will stand you in good stead. And, we'll have weekly sessions to check your progress, work out any problems, and answer any questions you may have. So. That said, let’s get going. Erick, pick her up out of the wheelchair and sit her in this more typical chair next to it. I want her to start by standing up again, but I don’t want her to try it from her wheelchair. She should never do that without you actually helping her up, not just steadying her. Too risky.”
Erick picked Crystal up and carefully sat her in the other chair. “Now, Crystal, I want you to stand like you did yesterday, when I tell you. The difference this time, is that once you get to your feet, you’re going to stay still while I get Erick positioned to steady you while you take your first steps. When she gets to her feet, Erick, be holding her as you were yesterday when she stood. Then I’ll guide you to move your position so she can take steps safely with you still helping her balance. Ready?”
”You bet!” Crystal yiped.
”Go,” said Candice calmly.
Candice watched as Crystal slowly stood, remembering to keep most of her weight off that right leg till it was half way open. When she reached the standing position, Erick’s hands were in place already, having steadied her from the moment her arms left the chair arms as she stood. “OK, you two. Now. Crystal, for your steps, I want Erick to help balance you if you need it but not support any of your weight as you step. Would you feel better if his hands were at your waist, your hips or your shoulders to help you balance? It’s your choice - you’re the one who has to be totally confident in what you will be feeling physically here.”
”I think I’d feel more secure with his hands at my shoulders, Candice.”
”OK, then. Erick, without letting go of her, obviously, slide your hands from around her waist, up to her shoulders, resting your hands very lightly on her shoulders. Just enough to keep her from falling, not enough for her to lean on you for support. Go.”
”Candice, there could be one small problem with this maneuver on occasion,” Crystal laughed. “With Erick running his hands over me to get to my shoulders and still keep me upright, his touch can easily give me ideas. It did this time.” They all chuckled.
”That’s going to have to be one of those things that just has to happen,” Candice smiled. Not many alternatives since you’ll be working together on this quite some time for you to practice. You can’t let anyone else do it, though with you two I doubt you'd want to do that anyway", she said, smiling warmly. "You should have the same partner for all your practicing, for safety reasons. But that's why I just said you wouldn't want someone else's help anyway," Candice said, smiling again. "You two have indeed become that “well oiled machine” you called yourselves a while back. And your minds are now relying on that teamwork to a very fine detail level. You’ll just have to work your way past the ideas your imagination gets when you two are practicing this. But don’t worry, I also know that won’t be easy to accomplish,” she laughed. Erick and Crystal laughed with her.
When their laughter quieted down, Candice said, “OK, Crystal. Here we go. There are two styles to how you can walk with this leg. One would be to take normal size strides, leading with your left leg, then, balancing on that leg, you would basically pull your right leg forward to meet it, then step again with your left one. That would let you take bigger strides, but you would appear to walk with a limp since your right leg would never be taking a step in front of your left one. You would be able to do that in time, with this style, but I would advise starting out with shorter strides, for safer balancing, and letting your right leg take normal steps too, right from the start. You won’t move as fast at first, but as your experience grows, you’ll already have a normal walking pattern down so you’ll have fewer problems and also look truly normal when others see you walking. What do you want to do?”
Without hesitation, Crystal said, “The shorter strides with the normal movement make a lot more sense to me. Let’s do that.”
"I was hoping you’d say that, Crystal. In your case I think you’ll truly appreciate that choice later. OK. When I say go, you balance on your left leg, with Erick’s help, and lift your right leg up enough to take a step. Raise it only as far as you normally would to move it forward, remembering to bend your knee a little as part of lifting it. Like any normal step. You can work on more normal flow of movement as your experience grows. My goal at first is simply to get you walking again, even if it is slow, and not necessarily graceful. Got it so far?”
”Yep,” Crystal said, smiling. What now?”
”There’s that enthusiasm I love seeing,” Candice said smiling at her. “OK. At the same time you lift the right leg to take that step, lean forward so that your weight will be on the right leg when it touches down. And remember to watch how far you bend your knee because your ankle doesn't bend, so your foot has to come down flat on the floor."
"Geez, Candice, I haven't given the ankle a thought since I got the leg!" Crystal exclaimed. "Thanks for the reminder!"
Candice chuckled. "Most patients don't think of that till I mention it, Crystal. They're too wrapped up in the chance to walk again to see all the details. That's why it's part of my job," she laughed. "Now. When I say ‘go’, you take that step, and stop with your right leg in the front, your weight resting on it. Erick, be prepared to keep her balanced in that position please, but only help her if necessary. Ready, go!”
Crystal, trusting Erick completely as she always has, leaned just enough to her left to lift her right leg then moved it forward, leaning with it, bringing it down about 5 inches in front of her left one, and leaning on it as Candice had instructed. But her foot wasn't flat on the floor. She wavered. Erick caught her.
"Straighten your knee out just a little, honey. You're on your toes," he said softly. She did, and and immediately felt the added support and stability.
"Thanks, honey," she said lovingly in return.
”Excellent, Crystal. Now. Do you feel comfortable with your weight in that position? Like the leg is supporting you securely?”
”Yes, I do, Candice. Can I try and see if I can balance this way without Erick’s help? Just for a minute?”
”When I say ‘go’, Erick, slowly move your hands away from Crystal’s shoulders but only an inch or two, and be ready to grab her shoulders again if she leans in any direction. Ready? Go.”
As Erick moved his hands away, all of them noticed that Crystal’s position did not change. ”That’s even better, “ Candice said warmly. It will help you speed up the pace of your practicing outside this room. Dr. Bernhardt was right yesterday, Crystal. You two ARE making us look VERY good right now and we appreciate it. OK. Now. Erick, put your hands back lightly on her shoulders, but remember, do NOT support any of her weight when she leans. Only keep her from falling.”
”Right,” he said, knowingly.
”OK, Crystal, now when I say go, take the same step with your left leg, balancing on your right one. The challenge here is two things. They have to be done together, and that makes this the toughest part of what you need to learn to walk. So don’t get frustrated at the practice this will take. You of all people know by now that you will succeed in this eventually and that the important thing, like you’ve already said, is not to rush it. Now. When you take that step, you need to make sure your left leg does not go forward much, if any, farther than about what your right one did, so that your strides are even at all times. That will make your balancing easier to catch onto, and in turn make walking get even more secure and faster for you sooner. The trick to that though is that while you’re taking that step, you’ll need to gradually change the angle of your right leg to push your body weight forward and onto your left one. But you don’t want to push so far that you throw yourself off balance or you’ll fall forward when your body leans too far forward for your left leg to support it. Understand?”
”I… think so,” Crystal said. “I think this is one of those things that will be easier to do than to explain to each other verbally. Let’s just try it, OK?”
Candice laughed. “You could be right, Crystal. OK, you two. GO!”
Crystal took a deep breath and pushed off with her left leg. As her weight went to the right one, she leaned forward to take the next step, raising her left leg and pushing herself forward by slowly straightening out the right leg as Candice had indicated. She wavered just a little on the right leg, but Erick caught her and she continued. Her left foot came down, her weight on it as planned. She stopped there, and grinned at Erick and Candice. “TWO steps! I took TWO steps!” she exclaimed.
”That’s great, baby!” Erick said as he carefully hugged her, being careful not to throw her off balance with his embrace.
”Good, Crystal! That’s the idea,” Candice said, grinning with them. “Now. Do you have any thoughts about why you had a little trouble balancing on your right leg?”
Crystal thought for a moment. “I think it’s because I have no feeling in it. No muscle sensations to tell me how far I’m leaning, and in what direction.”
”RIGHT!” Candice said, grinning again. “You can’t feel any muscle movement to tell you how far you’ve moved, OR leaned, and certainly not in what direction or directions. Like forward and to one side at the same time. That sort of thing. And your left one was in the air at the time, so it couldn't tell you either. Exactly. Gee you two are sure making my job easy this time around and I thank you for that,” she said warmly.
”You’re more than welcome, Candice,” said Crystal just as warmly. Then her mind went back to the business at hand. Walking. “How do I fix this?” she asked.
Candice and Erick both noticed the curiosity AND the hesitation in Crystal’s voice on that one.
”I heard the hesitation in your voice, Crystal,” Candice said slowly. “You’re very perceptive in this, and that will stand you in VERY good stead later on. And I know, too, that right now, that same perception has you a little nervous. Right?”
”Right,” Crystal admitted.
”Don’t be,” said Candice. “The answer here is something you have already known from the beginning would be coming. It’s practice, and lots of it. And here’s why. Until they can adapt motion sensors to this purpose and have a way of telling you that you’re leaning too far, and in which direction, such as a contact sensor on your upper thigh, practice is the only way. The more you do it, the faster your steps will become. And the faster your steps become, the shorter the length of time you will depend on that leg for each step. And when you reach that point, you’ll no longer over- or under-compensate for it. Do you follow me?”
”Yes, I do, Candice,” Crystal said slowly. “Let me guess. Walking, properly and safely, is the best way to solve the balancing problem, and therefore the biggest single reason you and Dr. Bernhardt want me to have Erick right there with me for at least a year.”
”Right again,” said Candice, calmly. “That’s the biggest reason, but we want him there for all your practicing. Standing up, sitting down, walking, and other things we’ll get to later. Especially when you’re going up or down stairs. I suggest Erick be in front of you when you’re going down them.”
”Geez. I hadn’t thought about stairs yet, either,” Crystal said. “But just so you know, Candice. I’m still glad I picked this leg. It’ll still be worth it in the long run.”
”Now THAT’S the true spirit of a determined fighter,” Candice said, grinning.
”Did you expect anything less?” Crystal said, smiling back
”From you? No,” said Candice as she chuckled.
”I didn’t think so,” Erick chimed in. “And you’d have been wrong if you had,” he laughed.
”Don’t I know it!” Candice laughed back. “Want to see if you can balance in that position too, Crystal? That would help your confidence, too. Because you’ll know that you can trust your sense of balance to help you while you work on this rather than having it be part of the problem.”
”Good idea,” Crystal said. “Will you watch me like before, honey?” she asked.
”You betcha, baby. That’s the very reason I’m here. You ready?”
Erick slowly moved his hands from her shoulders. She didn’t move a muscle, much less a leg.
”Great!” said Candice.
”I love this!” Crystal shouted in agreement. “Can we take a few more steps?”
”That’s what we’re here for, Crystal,” Candice laughed. “Erick, help her turn to her left. That way she can walk all the way across the room if she wants, then back to me.”
”I’d LOVE to do that!” said Crystal excitedly.
”I'd say the enthusiasm is certainly intact,” Dr. Bernhardt said, smiling, as he entered the room. “Mind if I watch?”
”Not at all, Doctor!” Crystal grinning. “Ready honey?”
”Anytime you are, darling,” Erick said, his hands barely touching her shoulders.
Thanks, baby, I love you for this,” Crystal said as she pushed off with her right leg to begin her first real walk.
”You’re welcome, baby,” Erick said lovingly as he walked in step with her as she went. “Don’t forget to watch how far you bend that knee, baby. Make sure your foot comes down flat.”
As Erick and Crystal approached the opposite side of the room, Candice said, “Erick, you’ll have to help her turn around. We haven’t covered that yet. I want her more comfortable with walking before we try that one. It’s not easy either.”
”Got it, Candice,” Erick said as he did so. He and Crystal both saw Candice and Dr. Bernhardt smiling broadly as they walked back across the room.
”GREAT!” Dr. Bernhardt said as they arrived.
”I agree!” said Candice. “Crystal, how’s it feel to be standing up again?”
”WONDERFUL!” she shouted, her wide grin reflecting the feeling in her heart.
”I thought so,” Candice echoed. “Now. I have a ‘prescription’ of sorts for you that I think you’ll love. I want you to do as much walking as you’re comfortable with over the next week. Anywhere, anytime. But always with Erick. Just two guidelines, one of which you know,” she laughed.
”I love that idea!” Crystal squealed.
”Why doesn’t that surprise me?” Dr. Bernhardt asked rhetorically. Crystal blushed. “And don’t let yourself get frustrated, Crystal. Balancing on your right leg will take a little time. But you of all people have the motivation, and the reasons, to do this right.”
”Thanks, doctor. What are the guidelines, Candice?” Crystal asked.
”One, if you’re on uneven surfaces, like a bump in the sidewalk, or stepping on or off of a curb, take your time, with Erick’s help. You’ll need to get used to uneven terrain. Don’t bypass it and chicken out; you’ll only slow down your own progress.”
”Got it, Candice. I hadn’t thought of that one, either.”
”And the other, bottom line rule you already know.”
”Yep.” Crystal cut in. “If I feel the least bit tired, get back in the wheelchair till I have my energy back.”
”Right, or have Erick carry you,” Candice smiled. “Just remember you may not get your energy back till the next day. This is harder on your body than you think.”
”Got it. I found that out with our first session,” Crystal laughed. “And having Erick carrying me will be like old times.”
”Your stamina will build as you use them, Crystal,” Dr. Bernhardt said warmly.
”I figured that,” Crystal said, smiling.
Dr. Bernhardt stood up, reaching to shake Crystal’s hand. She smiled again as she obliged him. “Wonderful job, Crystal,” he said. Then he shook Erick’s hand. “And you, Erick, I want you to know once again how much I appreciate the support you’re giving Crystal. “It’s a major factor in her recovery, and it’s already showing. I’ll see you two next week,” he said as he left.
”That goes for me too,” Candice said as she stepped up to them. Next Tuesday at two then?”
”YOU BET!” shouted Crystal.
”If you’d like to walk out of here, to the main entrance, I’ll take the chair for you,” Candice offered.
”I’d LOVE to!”
”Well, we sure don’t have to worry about that enthusiasm, do we?” Candice teased again as she followed them slowly with the chair.
”Not any more!” Crystal chirped, as if to prove Candice’s point.
All of them were laughing as they entered the elevator. Erick steadied her firmly as the elevator began its descent to the main floor. Once they got to the main entrance, Candice held the wheelchair firmly still as Erick helped Crystal into it. “Till next week then!” she shouted after them as they went through the automatic door. Candice returned to her office. “I think I’M going to have trouble trying to keep up with HER,” Candice laughed to herself. “In terms of being ready to teach her each new step; each new move. But then, actually, that’s how it SHOULD be.”. And I love that!”