And 2018, Here We Are

I’m now in a year that was portrayed in my childhood movies as the distance future.  We are well passed Back to the Futures hoover boards and were predicted to me living in the sky as well as other planets outside earth.  Flying cars and Terminators judgement day is well in the past and we should be fighting futuristic robots lead by John Connor.  Although I am pleased that these ideas out of Hollywood never came to fruition we are really living in an exciting time for medical robot assisted rehab.  And I am lucky enough to be not just living it every day but helping get this exciting rehabilitation technique to all the people like me fighting to live life to the max.  This is always in my mind weather building Rex devices on the product line or doing my Rexercise program.  This invention out of Auckland New Zealand is bigger than all the Hollywood movies out together for helping people reach their rehab goals.

After receiving the go ahead to weight bare again from my surgical team I was anxious to get back up and look at my physiotherapy from a standing position again.  This all went very well and although I was only standing and walking around for and maximum of ten minutes at a time with no Rexercise stances it was enough to put a smile on my face and I felt complete in my rehab again, it doesn’t seem like much but the mental satisfaction was almost overwhelming after the injury I had just been through.  Some more x-rays followed up a week of weight bearing and everything was intact and bone was calcified back together, throttle down and back to life again.  3 months post femur reconstruction and its nothing but a memory and story.  I know this fast recovery is due to been in a fit and healthy state.  Always be ready for war, you don’t know what battle tomorrow will be so prepare prepare prepare…

Now back to full function I am more determined to go further with my health and fitness.  I have started to look into my breathing to help with my endurance training.  Endurance is something I have struggled with since my spinal cord injury.  Cardio training is very difficult without function of my lower limbs.  It requires a lot of strength training to get my upper limbs to a point that they have enough endurance to get my heart pumping before they hit the fatigued state and I can no longer move them.  I have now reached that point and my arms have the power in them to get my heart pumping and get myself puffing for air, I feel like this is really good for me.  I do this in a few different forms because every time I move my arms in a different way I find it changes how long my arms last or how quickly they get fatigued.  So, I shadow box as well as banging on a speed ball. I use a stationary hand cycle and now have the endurance to go out and push up hills in wheelchair.  I have never being more focused on my cardio and endurance and am wanting to push it further and further every day.  After all endurance is closely related to longevity and I want to be he for longer than I ever have before, I also know I can be if I work for it every day.

I am also finding that with my added endurance I am more able to handle the heat of summer which has always made me uncomfortable.  But with my cardio training and getting out there and getting after it I can now handle getting a sweat up and a little raised body temperature and not feeling like I am going to pass out.  The big change in all this is learning to breathe properly again, belly breathing.  My every day preparation involves breathing.  Just breathing seems so simple and natural but when I looked deep into it we all forget how to breathe.  It is the cornerstone of our health and fitness yet always overlooked. So breathe, just breathe as deep and fully as you can with every breath.

Rest, recovery…and getting back at it

I had a better time this month following my broken femur and reconstruction surgery.  Most importantly I have owned my injury and in a better mindset to get things done and get back at it.  I could get up and back at it and was enjoying a lot more time moving around and doing things around my house.  I jumped in a little too keen and only days after getting the permission to get out and about I scalloped my big to on my aluminium door frame.  Not to be disgruntled I self-dressed the heavily bleeding wound and carried on with my day.  A simple staph infection anywhere on my body was still capable of infecting my recovering thigh and femur even a month post-surgery.  I was well informed and knew I had to look after my body and wounds like my toe over cautiously.  I self-managed my toe dressing and it healed well quickly.  I was on light duties so was not doing anything too strenuous until I was giving my pigdogs a run in the paddock one morning.  I have 2 pigdogs for hunting and I have a completely fenced of paddock for them to run around in when I let them out for exercise.  I built the paddock last summer.  It is entirely netting fencing with the idea being that they cannot get out of there and up to no good when my back is turned.  I also have a house dog, mainly for security and pest control which hangs around and sleeps inside.  She is very antisocial and fights with a lot of other dogs.  So, I knew when I saw one of my hunting dogs jump the full height fence towards my house dog there was going to be trouble.  They went for each other straight away, I managed to get them apart but only by chocking out my dog with her chocker chain to make her release her jaw on my hunting dog.  Most people think of pigdogs as big angry dogs that will attack anything, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  They are working dogs highly trained to chase and catch wild boar and nothing else, rarely do I have problems with them fighting as they hunt in a pack.  It was my pet dog actually causing the problems here.  But I got her off and held her down.  As I did this my hunting dog thought I was getting hurt and jumped back in to help me.  This pulled my out of my wheelchair and onto the ground where I wrestled around with them until they dragged me to the fence, they jumped through and kept fighting on the other side where I couldn’t get to them.  After yelling at my house dog till I was blue in the face and my hunting dog was limp in her jaw she finally gave up and headed back to me with her tail between her legs.  I lifted myself back into the wheelchair and locked her in a kennel to assess the damage to my valuable hunting dog.  She seemed ok but had what looked like a broken leg.  She has since healed up ok with only a slight limp remaining.  My leg was pretty sore for a couple of days after that so I put it up and rested it some more until the swelling went down again.

The next Tuesday I was excited as I had planned to return to work and then my physio routine.  I had quiet day at work and it all went ok.  After work at my physio session and after getting assessed for what to do with my leg in my physio routine.  This didn’t go as planned as I was told to stay on the side of caution and take another couples of weeks to get further on my leg recovery before anything else.   I was very downhearted as I felt like I was good to go, I did know my leg was still fragile because of some pain and swelling that I was doing the best to ignore. This was not helping myself, so with that and all the threats of causing long term damaged circling in my thoughts I stepped backward and continued to rest.  After two more failed attempts at getting back to work and am happy to report that now after 2 months recovery I am back to my job full time and deep back into my physio programme. I still have to wait another couple of weeks to weight bare and start up my Rexercise programme.  It’s a struggle and has felt like a spinal cord injury all over again not being able to jump in my Rex and walk around but I have a lot of that in my future so am patiently waiting for my Rex time to start again early next year.

So, finishing my year with work and with training and my health and fitness state of mind still intact is a win, a huge win.  Thanks again to all my support through work and physio and my home and family life.  It’s all closely connected and I am the never missing link. Mum and Dad and other family and community support, Rex Bionics staff and clients, my physio world, High performance N.Z and All my other friends and motivators.  You all got me here.  Happy and safe holidays.  Get out there, get after it and get livin and doin every day.

The Exercise That Broke Me

One event and one exercise has consumed my time this month. We tried something new in a Rexercise session where we strapped my FES machine to my legs while I was in Rex. This enabled us to be able to electronically stimulate the right muscles in my legs with a FES clicker as I was performing sit to stands from the static squat Rexercise. This worked extremely well. We then moved things around and provided FES to my legs while I was walking around in REX, it took a lot of coordination to be operating the REX joystick and activating the FES clicker. We managed to get it all sorted and running smoothly. We were not stimulating the moving leg but the weight baring leg to try and get it to help support my instead of REX holding me up solo. We were having a casual conversation about how your muscles are so strong that if you over stimulate them they have the potential to snap you bones, this was a high-level coincidence with what was going to happen to my later that night.

On the drive home after that physio session on my legs there was all sorts of burning and tight muscle sensations going on. When I got home I jumped straight onto my floor exercise mat and thought it would be a good idea to work on my core and do some stretches. One of my back stretches is getting onto my knees and leaning down and forward with my arms out in front. As I was getting into position for this with one leg under me a was pulling the other leg out and around to try and get it under me too. Now this is not the usual way I would get into a kneeling position, I was being lazy and karma was about to get at me for that. When I had the leg half way around my weight fell the wrong way onto my thigh and I heard a bang like to planks of wood been hit together. A shock went right through my body and intense pain went for my knee shooting to the sole of my foot. Thinking I had dislocated my knee somehow, I started crawling to my wheelchair. When I got to my wheelchair I tried to pick up leg and I felt like jelly bone with a grinding bone feeling deep in my thigh. I called on my phone for some assistance from the house and my partner Bianca quickly arrive at the shed. She asked if I wanted her to call an ambulance and I quickly replied, “Hell Yes”. From that point, she knew we were in trouble as I normally I would never want an ambulance called unless I was on deaths door, but the pain was getting too much to even be able to move at all by this point. The ambulance arrived in an hour and just at the point of me nearly passing out for pain, another thing that is rare from me as I normal have an extremely high tolerance for pain. The paramedics gave me pain relief then assessed me and I was loaded up heading to hospital with a suspected dislocated hip. On the trip to the hospital I kept telling the paramedics it was something up with my knee and my hip felt fine, I can never trust pain though because it can sometimes get signals from the wrong place.

Once we arrived at A and E some x-rays were done and it turns out my pain messages were right this time. My hip was fine but my femur was broken into 2 pieces just above my knee. The orthopedic surgeons were called in to make a plan for repairing the fracture. They informed me that normally, (meaning with able body patients) they would do a surgery that involved putting a rod up the middle of the femur and screwing it in place. Because I was a spinal patient and don’t walk we could just plate it. The doctors then got a full on angry rant from me that I do walk and I must be able to load bare on my leg again. I told them about my job at Rex Bionics and what REX dose. As they went away to discuss the job ahead I saw Me and my REX on google images appear on the computer monitors in their office. They were doing some research and quickly came back to me and said that they can see REX is really important to me and would perform a function surgery so I can still use REX and live out my goal of walking independently in the future. My leg was put in traction and I was book in for surgery the next day.

Surgery day was a long day as I was 3rd on the list and didn’t get to go in until 2pm for a 2-hour procedure. The operation ended up taking 3 hours with a few extra precautions taken with my soft bones and strapping them up right to heal. I woke up with my leg bandaged from my hip to my ankle to keep it out straight and keep pressure of the wound that was stitched from my lower knee to my hip. Normally they would out cast on but with the risk of pressure sores under the cast and my not been able to feel much that option was opted out. I spent another 2 days in hospital on painkillers then was back home resting.

My biggest fear while on all this bed rest again was losing all my strength gains from all my hard work at the gym. So I adapted TheraBand to my bed in the hospital and at home and developed some sets using my body and free arms for resistance. I also kept using my hand weights while parked up and recovering. The Stitches came out a week later and I began moving around in my wheelchair again. But, me being me, I started to feel to good so I spent a couple of days lying under my car working on it and done some odd jobs around the house. The day after my knee blew up like a balloon and was full of fluid and a bit of the pain was back. I asked some advice from my physio and was bluntly told to pull my head in, rest means rest which isn’t odd little jobs and working on my car is it pork up, out that leg up and recover before I damage myself more.

So, the next two days were laid out watching movies and only getting up when I had to eat and go to the bathroom etc. I have since been up and moving around a bit more but mostly resting my recovering leg. I am trying to listen to my body more and more but often get I wrong and do things to quickly when I feel good, there is a fine line between doing good and doing damage with active movement on my body and I’m still trying to find that line. I know I will always be on the wrong side of it as I always push things to the limits, that’s just who I am and is never going to change. So, I have realized to need to take in a bit more of the professional advice I from my support group I have around me, also not easy as I always think I know best. Thanks to all the amazing people around me from physios to REX professionals to family and friends, your all stars in my eyes and make the hard time manageable. I am now looking upwards and onwards to get back at the world and back up walking and training again with my Rexercise programme.

Work, Diet and FES

We have been very busy at Rex Bionics the past month, developing some new designs and features for the future of Rexercise. It is very important and close to our hearts here at Rex Bionics to stay on the cutting edge of Exoskeleton technology and delivering the best design and innovation results to neurological rehabilitation to help our customers achieve their goals and over all better quality of life. I have the extra pleasure of finding new ways to excel in my own rehab by working closely with the amazing team Connect Nero Physiotherapy. Together we are always finding new ways to challenge my body and mostly my Nero effected injury. I can definitely see that with new technology advances and scientific research along with a lot of hard work that one day my Spinal Cord Injury will be a thing of my past, just another story to tell around a camp fire of how I overcome a problem and knocked over the walls fencing me into a restricted lifestyle.

I also had the pleasure of traveling over to Sydney, Australia this month to show Rexercise to just a few of the amazing Nero Rehab centres available in Australia. There is currently clinician training going on in two of those facilities that are going to employ Rex and Rexercise into their Nero Rehab programmes. I really enjoyed getting away from the wet winter we have had here in N.Z and enjoy the dry warm winter Sydney has been having.

I have also stepped up my own Rehab through trying to fit in two training sessions a day into my daily programme, not every day but at least 4 days a week and one session on “off” the days. My self-satisfaction with sticking to my programme has been ok but I have been falling behind on my Functional Electrical StimulationFES (FES) programme. I have been struggling to find the motivation to do this as I currently have no movement in my lower extremities while using FES. I also know that the Nero recovery rate for this procedure is slow. If I was to stick to a 3x a week schedule I will start to see some results in about 4 months, although this is slow and a long wait the results will be amazing. So, I have been working hard on getting my headspace around looking forward to the results rather than looking at the quick fix results. Unfortunately, Nero Rehab is working hard for slow results so I just must keep on keeping on waiting for the FES rewards that are coming in my future. Anything worth having is worth working hard for so when prescribed an FES programme 3x a week I am going to do it at least 4x a week and more when time permits.

I’m also ramping up my ketogenic diet which seems to be the best dietary programme to suit my digestive system, training programme and lifestyle. I have come to the realisation that diets are hard to stick to because we always try a diet schedule off paper, no two indigestion systems are the same just like no two Nero conditions are the same and no to people are the. So, the best method is to find a good dietary baseline then mould and adapt to meet your personal needs. Most importantly make it fit your lifestyle, you don’t want your diet to be hard to menu or you will go hungry when you can’t find the right foods and binge later through hunger. I don’t think a diet should ever be set in black and white so I will continue to educate myself every day and adjust my diet to meet my current lifestyle and needs.

Pushing Through

First things first, I know for a fact that I have added a year to my life this this month. And with little, well no work. I was contacted by a friend who was reading my bio for You own it. Their message was simple, it said go back to the year you were born and count how many years old you are. So, I did and realised since my last birthday in March I have been quoting my age a year older than I actually am. I was left feeling confused with been happy for being a year young than I thought, but also feeling older for suffering from the memory loss for getting my age wrong to begin with. I am a “the cup is always half full or it is empty enough to top up with Jack Daniels “kind of guy so I took the path of “awesome I’m a year younger” emotionally which obviously feels great. I recommend anyone to have a 2-year birthday just for a feel-good time later in the year when you get to take it back.

I am also getting more consistent with all the new things I have adapted into my daily routine for life quality and longevity. The 2 weekly Rexercise sessions at the gym have involved revisiting my home weight programme, reassessing my current weights, and add some more. In doing this we noted a big change in my core strength. I am starting to develop some real core strength and stability instead of fixing my shoulders and using my head for balance when not having the comforts of a back support like I have been doing for years. Those are some good new skills which automatically plant good feelings. Also, the weights are getting heavier and the reputations are getting easier, signs that I’m getting stronger every day. With getting stronger daily tasks are also getting easier and most importantly taking less time. Paralysis from the chest down and taking a wheelchair everywhere means everything takes longer. Some days are a rush and running late with no short cuts to catch up to the clock again. Everything just consumes my time from the moment I wake up till the moment to go to sleep again. I am quite surprised just how much strength and discipline can add extra time to my day.

I recently purchased a shooting chair to make my hunting and rifle positioning a lot easier. The chair I brought was designed for able body full function shooters, it had arm rests but I was still to wobbly to successfully discharge a firearm when I sat in it for the first time, so I pulled it apart and modified it to suit my extra support needs. I didn’t have to do much I just swapped out the seat for a saddle type office chair seat. I also swapped the back support for a bigger more supporting one that I took off an old shower commode I no longer use. I have tested it with my rifle and now supports me enough to be the marksman I need to be to bag my game.

I enjoyed 3 quadbike rides in the last month also finding everything associated with riding my bike a lot easier. I strap my knees to my quadbike with a simple strap around my legs and under my seat. I still normally have some issues with sliding off the seat when I hit the speeds I want to be going to enjoy myself. I found this not to be so much a problem anymore, still happening occasionally but to as much as it used to. My big goal for my quadbike use is to be able to mount and dismount it from the ground and not just my wheelchair. I am a little way off been able to do it repeatedly as fatigue still gets me on this one but I can do it a couple of times a day so that’s a start.

I had an interesting experience one weekend while feeding out to my cows with my quadbike. This winter has been extremely wet and most of my grazing land is either mud or underwater. This particular day I loaded up my quadbike trailer with 100 litres of water and some extra bags of feed for my cows. As I got through the muddy swamp my bike stopped and wouldn’t start again. I knew straight away I should have filled it up with gas but was in a rush so here I was. So, my challenge for this afternoon was getting back to my house through 50 metres of swamp on a wheelchair will super skinny tyres, “better start now” … About halfway through the swamp I hit the wall. Thinking I could go no further but knowing I was getting about a foot every push I just kept going through that mud. A couple of times I did think of lying on my belly and driving through like a snake in the grass but never got to the point of having to go down that path. All in all a good lesson was learnt to not only have more than enough gas that is required for the job but always carry a cell phone on my person.

I am at an amazing point in in my journey right now with pain management under control without pharmaceutical intervention, which has always been important to me. My fitness programme making me want to get fitter and stronger. I’m living natural, preparing every day and am the best version of me I can be today. And tomorrow I will be an even better more advanced version of this.

How Rexercise Has Changed My Life!

I am currently a fairly fit and healthy 37-year-old male.  Two years ago I was far from this state having sustained a spinal cord injury in 2006 and not changing my way of life, health and fitness wise.  I have always lived a fairly active outdoors life and didn’t let my Spinal cord injury stop me.  The drawback from this was I was now (temporarily) using my body in a way it wasn’t designed to, be used.  I was using what parts of my body I could use to enjoy my life to its fullest.  After 9 years of fixing with my shoulders and neck and gripping with my arms during my daily activities I had developed a lot of neck and shoulder pain and daily headaches. I was over working my active muscles instead of retraining my areas of weakness to recover from my Spinal cord injury.

In 2010  I was lucky enough to start a job with Rex Bionics where we have developed a “free standing” exoskeleton which wheelchair users like myself can transfer into and freely walk around in.  This helped me a lot with bladder function and back pain just from standing up and walking around daily like we were designed to.  I started with the company doing the first medical trial for this device and ended up working for the company full time as a demonstrator/device tester and now also work on the production line building devices for others like myself to enjoy.

Last year in 2016, Rex Bionics developed a new Rex function called “REXERCISE”.  I started training daily with Rexercise along with some postural realignment exercises.  This was the game changer for me and would lead to the end of my headaches and shoulder pain. Before starting this programme, I had got to the point where my spinal cord injury had consumed me. I was spending any time I wasn’t working on bed rest with chronic shoulder and neck pain.I also had developed some pressure areas that couldn’t seem to be resolved with endless cushions and seating assessments.  All my outdoor activities I live for had gone and I was just living purely for the point of being and no more.  I was completely unsatisfied with my life and no longer had any point to developing more wishes and dreams.  I believe this is the unhealthiest state anybody can be living in.  I could also not find any way out, until I started my Rexercise programme.  Although it wasn’t this alone that turned things around for me.  I think I just had to start something because as I progressed into my training I found myself making positive changes every day that were beneficial to a better quality of life.  Diet, exercise and basically closer management of my body are now a daily routine and will be forever.  I now think of my body as my most treasured asset and maintain and care for it as it needs and deserves.

A year on from starting my Rexercise programme I am a completely new version of me.  My weekends are now full of my hobbies and my week days are back working full time and enjoying my career again.  My next challenge for the upcoming summer is to do a solo hunting trip in which I will venture in the bush on my quad bike and spend 2 nights and 2 days alone on a camping/hunting adventure.  I am currently work on strength and endurance in my daily training program to make myself fully prepared to enjoy this solo adventure to its fullest.

(p.s. You can find out more about Rex Bionics by clicking here)