Gabriel and His Wheelchair

I did something of my time last Friday. I went out and met (again) the community I wanted to give some of the wheelchairs I sourced from an organization in Australia and I went to visit Gab and had someone with me to check him and his wheelchair two years after we gave it to him.

(Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)
I am with a colleague adjusting Gab’s chair. On my feet half the time … I was tired but went home happy! (Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)

Gab is 8 years old last Thursday. I met him in 2014 together with his mom when I joined the local disabled people’s organization in my city. I offered my skills to help but my work does not allow me to fully commit to it. His mom and I continue to communicate. She contacts me when she has questions about Gabs condition and for some other pieces of advice.

He was born with cerebral palsy. He has spasticity on all of his extremities and he has difficulty to communicate. All his 8 years have been supported by therapy whenever money and professionals are available but he still cannot walk but he loves to be around people. So a wheelchair would be very good to have for him to be mobile and social and wheelchair he got two years ago!

(Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)
Gab and his chair of 2 years were recently adjusted. He’s happy to fit well in his chair and to be outside (Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2018)

When he was 6-years old, I managed to get ten wheelchairs I was hoping to give to children like Gab. At that age, his parents are already complaining that it’s becoming difficult to move him around and the DIY chairs they built him doesn’t offer much support.

He is lucky because his family makes time for him, you can feel a happy family around him when you visit, they seek help and save up for some therapy, while other children have no opportunity to access health and rehabilitation services, no caregivers and often no knowledge of their human rights. I saw many with deformities that cannot be improved anymore, let alone sit in the chair. Some, there’s hope if parents can be given the training on how to manage their child’s conditions if they cannot afford therapy and transport.

(Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2015)
Immediately after he received a new chair, Gab was able to participate in different activities for children with disabilities that summer. (Dhidhak Collection / Philippines 2015)

What has changed?

When I met Gab, he was smaller. My colleague who made most of the technical adjustment had to adjust his seat depth and more to accommodate his long legs. I also noticed how talkative he has become, although he was talkative then, this time I can understand them more and being able to carry more conversation with the small vocabulary he has. But he also has a shorter temper, which I think was because of the weather (summer temperature reached 35C that day) and being cooped in the house instead of going to the park.

Gab even has his own facebook page!

He follows instructions better. When we asked him to sit straight and put his neck straight, he can do it. He has better trunk control, I guess the time he can have the straight posture would determine his progress together with other activities. With the table attached to the chair, he interacts more with the people around the house, increasing his ability to use his hands. Feeding too has improved, and I noticed no drooling compared to the first times I met him. He will need continuous therapy, but I am happy with what I saw.

I even saw photos of him playing badminton with his siblings and had gone swimming with the family this summer.

What’s next for Gab and for the remaining chairs?

Experts say he needs to be re-evaluated together with his wheelchair. A 3-wheel type chairs that have hip, trunk and head control (depending on the design). The Wheelchair For Kids, Inc. produces these type of wheelchair. The organization is made up of a group of retired volunteer members of the Perth metropolitan community in Western Australia, and they donate these type of chair all over the world.

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Gab is featured in WFK website collage and see how small he was back in 2014 (Screen grabbed from WFK website)

I don’t exactly remember how I got to know WFK, but I remember it was during the time I was in East Timor. Later, when I returned home, I contacted WFK, Inc. and inquired whether they have links with a local organization here in the Philippines where I could get access to their wheelchairs and distribute to the children in San Pedro City.

No, they don’t have specific local partners in the Philippines, but they have better links – the RSL Angeles City, a sub-branch of Returned and Services League of Australia. They send wheelchairs to them and distribute them to children in Angeles City and neighboring province (which is in the north part of the Philippines). They suggested I contact them and request the 10 chairs I was asking them.

I made contact with RSL, after some negotiations, they agreed, and I picked up the chairs. Unfortunately, I only managed to give out 1 out of 10 chairs. For many reasons but one of them was me being called off to join an emergency mission in Nepal. Partly I am to blame for the delay, but I have a pretty good excuse why the delay but don’t worry, I already arranged with someone with technical knowledge on the wheelchair and good network in the disability sector, we hope to give out those chairs in the next three months.

This time, being ambulatory, I tried to revive the project and give the remaining 9 chairs to the rightful owners. I made contact again with experts in the field, and with their help, I would be able to reach out to those kids that could use this type of chair for their everyday lives.

So I ended the day tired, with a swollen ankle but went home happy. The feeling of not being able to do anything worthwhile had faded over the weekend knowing that I will have something to look forward to in the coming days. For now, I will focus on Gab and see how much more we can still improve his chair and until when we can keep him using them until we need to find him a new one.

Postscript:

If you want to know more about disability and how you can help get children appropriate wheelchair send me a message here! Thank you in advance.

The Shoe That Fits

I for one is not a fan of fashion but I know a good brand when I wear one, and I am willing to spend if I know I can use it for years.

Since I can now walk without any assistance, I try very hard to get back to my normal self maybe even more. Well, walking and I are not very good friends, people that know me can attest to that, but I like to wear nice shoes like every woman does (do I need to elaborate?).

After my doctor consults last week, I was out trying to find good therabands or similar products that I can use at home. Unlike in my projects, we don’t get take-home therabands from my rehabilitation center even if I have to shelve $ 20 per session. In my last project, we allowed the partners to give away at least 1 meter of bands depending on the color they need, and our services are for free, thanks to our donors!

Anyway, so I went to this sports shop and inquired about what I wanted to buy. All around me are sports gears including shoes, and it got me thinking about the different shoes I have at home — I have lots, but all are not made for my current condition.

  • My hiking boots and sneakers are out of commision at the moment because it feels tight even with loose shoelaces, my feet still swell when I stand for a long time 
  • My canvas sneakers don’t have the arch support I needed and will be too tight if I added an insole. 
  • My flats and of course my heels even with peep toe design doesn’t feel snug when worn, I have to crawl my toes all the time I am wearing them and of course balance. 

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  • And ballet flats don’t really look nice on me right now although they are my staple when overseas., next to my Birkenstocks of course. 
  • My Birks are nice, I swear by it, but I am not comfortable walking in it for a long time. My heel and the ball of my foot would have pain at different stages of my gait. 
  • Last, I am avoiding flipflops unless I am on the beach and I will only use one brand (Beach Walk) — I slipped using (Bench brand) in my bathroom. 

Until I found my (shoe) match last week. I was trying different brands and model, in fact, I only have VANS in my mind because I only want something that fits but after trying several I decided to have a better objective to what kind of shoes I will buy.

I want to believe that these new slip-on Skechers Women GO Flex Walking Shoe were designed for me. Although I am not a fan of the style and design but this time I am choosing comfort over aesthetics.

I am not promoting the brand, this is the first time I am wearing this brand and this style, but I have to say, I am happy to have bought it. The moment I tried it on and walked, my stance and steps felt different. (I should know I am the one walking right?)

(Dhidhak Collections / Philippines 2018)
My new ride … Sketcher Go Flex Walking (Dhidhak Collections / Philippines 2018)

Not to sound too technical but when I do the heel strike (putting weight on my heels), the materials of the shoes accept the load with ease allowing good balance. And the loading on the ball of my foot when pushing off was comfortable, no feeling of pain even when I still have some limitations in my ankle. The cushioned footbed and the flexible outsole allowed for that comfort it makes walking easy.

I also feel comfortable standing for a long time even if I still have swelling from time to time, it means I can do my stretching and some standing exercises without getting tired quickly. Even standing from sitting too long writing blogs, I don’t feel pain on my ankles and knees. The shoes absorb the weight and provide good contact on the floor and balance is not compromised.

(Dhidhak Collections / Philippines 2018)
Even my scar is happy … me resting after my morning walk (Dhidhak Collections / Philippines 2018)

Must be wondering about the heat. especially now that we’re in the 40 degrees. Well, the material is water resistant, it has mesh upper that allows the foot to breath (you know what I mean!) so there’s good airflow depending on the amount of activity you do, your location (indoor or outdoor) and condition of your foot. If your feet sweat a lot, maybe it’s good to wear cotton heel socks both for hygiene and comfort and make sure to air dry them when not in use (and make it a habit to throw your shoes in the washer when you can).

So for now, I am walking around the house in these shoes (also keeps my soles baby soft). And in the future, if I am allowed to prescribe footwear, I will do it, because these shoes are made for walking.

It’s Time to Get Those Feet on the Sand

Yesterday I talked to my so-called boyfriend and revealed to him my emotional state. He told me that I would feel much better if my leg completely healed and I completely recovered. I cannot complain on his answers or what was lacking in the way he said it. But he is telling the truth because I am slowly getting out of the rut every time I notice something different, focusing on the positive.

He didn’t reveal anything similar happening to him when he had his ankle accident. He very much knew my physical condition; he also had ankle injury when he was serving in the Turkish military back in the days. But I guess that’s where the similarity of our condition ends. His accident happened when he was very young, and from what he told me when he got better he continues to be sporty and changed careers. He used to be a boxing champion for his weight division until ten years ago, and he kept his form up to this day while honing his creative genius in fashion design.

Similar advise given to me by my sister. She also broke her ankle bone (medial malleolus), and a wire was also used to fix it.  It was from climbing Mt. Banahaw* with her students. I was out of the country when it happened so I didn’t know what happened during her recovery. It took her three months to 6 months to fully recover.

She told me she was using the wheelchair all the time and wheeled herself to her classroom. She didn’t use a walker, crutches, and cane nor wore plaster or used a boot to keep the ankle stable – she didn’t get out of her chair unless she needed to, like showering and going to bed. But I guess she was occupied, busy and had a purpose – which was teaching that there was no space to be emotional. I am also sure; she offered her pain and any problem she had with God and continued to be her good natured self.

But my disability journey was different.

When I thought I was recovering faster than usual, I was pulled back by pain in my foot, and my emotion went down with it (My Road to Recovery Is Bumpy, Now that I Am Thinking of It). Hearing what Hajj has to say about it made me realized that there is truth to what he told me. And since I am not my sister, my take on my emotion is very different but knowing she’s there ready to catch me gave me assurance enough to stop whining and complaining.

**

Right now I busy myself with writing and catching up on some online courses that I can use when I am ready to find work again.

I am reaching out to more friends whom I haven’t heard for years. I am sorting my photos and trying to see which ones good to showcase here and which ones worth keeping. With all the travels I’ve made and all the parties I attended imagine how much digital photos I had accumulated in my hard disk and sorting them out requires full attention.

Looking at my photos made me laugh out loud, made me remember people and places and good old times. Of course the array of food photos dictates that I entered a new decade, it means the millennials had all grown up and dictated a new trend that I was happily subscribing to.

**

I guess there’s no more room for drama in my life now. I am almost ready to go back out there. Find new adventures with my new scars.

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It’s time to get up now and see the bigger picture (I am with my friend in the balloon overlooking Goreme Valley at sunrise in Cappadocia, Turkey/2017)

I am not wearing a boot around the house and not anymore using any of the assistive devices I accumulated over the 3-months and if you didn’t know you will not anymore notice the swelling that accumulates in my foot when I sit here too long.

I’ve repeated this track of post for a while now, and I think its time to let go and see what this month would bring me … a looser ankle, a sexier ankle, a better gait or all of the above.

The Heat is On

Ah, the end of the month … it means that in two weeks it would be the fourth month since I broke my bones and third month since I started my physical rehabilitation treatments.

**

My bones had set well and good. I was already given a full-weight bearing go signal by my doctor, and my therapist had been wearing me out trying to work more on my gait quality and endurance. Strength is not a problem for me, but I still have residual tightness and numbness which as I was told is usual with ankle injuries.

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Although, my therapists been telling me that I recover fast and is able to do active exercises faster than most patients they see in similar condition. And my doctor also said the same and mentioned that some patients love their injuries so much they don’t want to be moving on their own, I am the opposite.

I challenged the norm pushing myself hard before it’s time, and it fought back putting me in my place by letting me feel pain.

**

The weather in the Philippines been rising. I was still happy until the summer officially kicked in because the heat is also kicking us all indoors.

My doctor was right when he said “let’s not put you on full leg cast” when he saw me the first time in January. Instead, he prescribed for me to use an Air Cast, a type of boots that I put on myself with help at first, and adjust the pressure on both sides to control the movement of the ankle as I start putting weight on my foot while keeping the ankle secured and stable.

 

He said I will thank him come March knowing that the temperature will continue to rise, and I am thankful indeed. Since 4 weeks, after wearing the boots at least 12 hours per day, I am almost not wearing it at all. I walk around the compound in shorts, without an appendage and only has one when I go to the hospital or attend a meeting like I did last week.

Wearing the boots outdoors now is more a precaution and protection from bumps in high traffic area like hospitals and malls. Otherwise, I almost don’t need it anymore, soon it will have to be shelved until I need it when my wires are removed.

**
In spite of the positive remarks from my treatment team, I still feel I am not doing enough, and I still feel sad and depressed sometimes with my condition. That was one of the reasons I had by set-back that I wrote all about here Happy Scar, trying hard to fast track my recovery that I almost re-injured myself, at least in my mind.
I am counting the days within the time frame I set for myself which is by mid-June to see if my physical and emotional self will be attuned. For the meantime, I am trying to fight off the heat playing in the garden with my niece and the garden hose.

Cooling Off
Cooling Off

Happy Scar

Must be wondering what happened to me since my last post Am I Lucky at 7?.

Well, my doctor gave me more thumbs up.👍👍👍👍👍👌 It means my bones have completely healed and I graduated from partial weight to full weight bearing when standing, walking and even climbing stairs. It was a natural high, I was elated until I crawled back under the rock and stopped doing exercises at home.

While my physical healing is improving every day, my emotions are like a roller coaster. Most of the time I stay at the base than up there looking at the blue skies and happily shouting coming down.

I am still trying to figure out why I am having delayed psychological reaction to my accident … maybe it’s not even delayed, it is just manifesting now. I have no answers yet.

When I do I will let you in my discoveries … watch out!

For the meantime, I am taking advantage of the high and blogging and taking a cue from my smiley scar.

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At least my scar is always smiling