The winter solstice dawned clean and clear. The shortest day of the year and 4 months 10 days days since surgery. The year is passing. After swimming at Manly on both Saturday and Sunday I could have done with a sleep-in but dragged myself out and confronted 4ºc air temperature as I walked to Manly in the darkness. Just before sunrise I stood shivering and watching a cold, orange sunrise at 7 AM, just as we went in the water. Don McClean and his son Michael, were also down for a swim. Manly is a beautiful place on day like this. Uneventful swim and headed back to the apartment for a brief tidy upbefore once more setting off to see Dave Shepherd, my physiotherapist at MGS Physiotherapy.This is the first time I have seen him in five weeks and I was looking forward to the checkup.
I told him about all the exercises I had been doing in the gym with Belinda and he approved of everything she has had me doing. I also mentioned that I was having a lot of difficulty stepping downstairs with my good leg forward while my right leg – the injured one – was bracing. He said there should be things I can’t do. That is all part of the exercise recovery program. We began by repeating the gym exercise of standing on a step and stepping down with my good leg. We did this over and over and over again. Thankfully, he not ask me to step backwards onto the step but kept repeating the same process for going downstairs by rolling forward with the good leg and taking all the way on the damaged leg. It is very difficult to master. I also had a bit of a moan to him that at this stage I am putting in a lot of effort but not seeing much recovery. I feel some days like I’m getting nowhere.
” The easy part where you see a lot of improvement is finished. That’s in the early months where you’re just trying to get range and mobility. It’s about movement. We are now in the strengthening stage and this goes on for months and any gain is incremental, ” he said.
I agreed with this observation. It doesn’t make it any easier.
“You just have to keep at it,” Dave said.
“How do other people get on, especially ones who aren’t used to exercise?” I asked. He had an interesting reply.
“You have put in a lot of effort and have been very disciplined in your approach. Some people do enough to get walking and then don’t do anything else. They don’t make any effort and they never make a full recovery. They just accept the disability. One of the amazing things from my years in practice is observing how easily humans adapt to a disability. I’ll say to them, ‘If you don’t do these exercises you will never be able to walk properly or you’ll never be able to ski again’ and they say,’Well I’ll just have to learn to adapt.’ Some people just don’t have the discipline to apply themselves over an 18 month period to ensure their recovery. Those sort of people will never make the recovery that you will but you’ll just have to be patient and keep at it. This is going to take at least a year from the date of surgery.
I find Dave a very practical, encouraging and experienced physiotherapist. I’m really glad I found him. Interestingly Catherine found a guy, Scot Thorn, who also works for MGS at Manly, very good at his job. I think getting a good physiotherapist and good personal trainer is really vital to guiding recovery. I asked him if I could do the Jatbula track in August given the state of my Achilles tendon. Like a good politician he wouldn’t commit himself.
“Maybe but you run the risk of getting stranded out there.” He said there is swelling on the tendon and has given me some exercises to do before I leave.