Exercise for the Disabled, by CentOre

First, my credentials, such as they are:  I have an AS in Farm Management which included Animal Anatomy & Physiology; a BS in Business Management; an MS in Human Resource Management which included considerable work with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  In addition to these I spent nearly fifty years as an American Red Cross Instructor.  Some of you might remember back in the dark ages of First Aid, there was a job of ‘Red Cross – Highway First Aid Unit’.  For those areas of our Nation that did not yet have ambulance coverage.  Well, I constituted a Red Cross Highway First Aid Unit.  In addition, I was disabled during a Coast Guard Rescue in 1977.  At first it was but a small disability, only 30%, however, by 1997 it had advanced to 100%.  The doctors prognosis for me in 1977 was, four years to 100%.  I rather strenuously disagreed with them.

How did I prove them wrong?  I refused to just sit down and surrender.  I exercised in every way I could.  I pressed my limits.  Now there are a lot of jocks out there that will scoff at my rather puny efforts, compared to their exercise routines.  I can only stand back and admire their dedication, and their abilities.

My disability is to the nerve bundle feeding down the ventral side of my right thigh.  It effectively prevents me from most strenuous work with my right leg.  I’m not whining, just stating facts.
So, what did I do?  In the beginning I still did what amounted to modified, full exercise routines.  I swam, bowled, played racket ball, and rode many many miles on a bicycle.  The government helped out by providing me with as much pain medications as I wanted.  More than I wanted.  My doctors and a progression of two wives have chimed together often, and loudly that I should partake of more medications.  I still resist.

I am fortunate to have a doctor who believes me and my ‘hidden’ disability.  No missing or deformed limbs nor a gait that could, or could not be that if a disabled leg.
In about 1996 he recommended that I partake of a Pain Management Group that was forming at our clinic.  My initial thought was, “Right, I want to sit around and listen to other vets complain about their pains.”  Boy was I wrong.  Our group leader had an in-depth background in pain management, and was continuously updating Her knowledge which she passed along to us, her ‘group’.  I will not attempt to do justice to the training she provided us with.  I can never do it justice.  I will stick to what she taught me, and what the group taught me.

First we learned about pain cycles.  I knew I had varying levels of pain throughout a month, but I have never equated this to an identifiable cycle.  Now I can.  Next we covered ‘hidden disabilities’.  Those that Joe Public never see’s.  When the average stranger or casual acquaintance asks that old standard question of, ‘How are you doing today?”  They don’t want to really hear how you are doing.  They can’t handle the knowledge anyway since they cannot identify your ‘problems’ with anything in their backgrounds.  If you proceed to tell them how you are actually feeling, they will get that thousand mile stare and end with something like a head shake and a ‘Oh, that’s too bad.’  In the future they will attempt to avoid you ever telling them again by just not asking the question, or avoiding you totally.  For those true friends who ask, I often have to point out, ‘You don’t see me on the days I cannot get out of bed.’  The implication being, they only see my ‘good’ days, and try to average my condition based on only these ‘good’ days.

1996 was a pivotal year for me.  First, I had to give up my Professorship at the University of Nevada, Reno. Next, I had to accept the stigmatizing title of ‘Unreliable Worker” that was tagged into my file.  This caused me to go out, find a job, and work up to sixty hours a week at it just to show them I could still be ‘of value’.  For a short while I worked this job with a truly understanding boss.  There were several tasks at this workplace that I could perform.  My boss knew that.  As I would walk in the door I would be greeted by,”Good morning X.  Is this an ‘up’ day or a ‘down’ da?.”  It didn’t matter which I told her, she would exclaim, “Great!  I need you over in XYZ today.”  She made it sound to me, and anyone else within hearing that I was doing her a great favor by working ‘that’ department that day.  Too bad it was a short time job as the company made one of those famous ‘moves’ to another land!

But that was okay.  Ninety days on that job just about killed me.  It was also the low spot for me psychologically for me.  I considered suicide.  This is when I was placed in the pain management class. I began to turn my life around.  I learned what I could do, what I could not do, and what I should do, and what I should not do.  It was a revelation.

Now I exercise as I can.  I do not care about keeping up with the Jones of the world.  I do this for ME.  Sounds selfish?  You bet.  On a ‘normal day’ I will get up and take my morning meds.  I assess myself.  If I think I can do manual work, I head out to the greenhouse, or the shop building and tackle one of many ongoing projects.  Which one?  That depends totally on how I feel.  If I can lift things, I move materials, maybe pot some plants, or stack a little bit of firewood.  If it’s a marginal day, maybe weed plants.  I just sit on the 2×6 ledge that tops the 24 inch deep vegetable beds in the greenhouse that I built myself [both the greenhouse and the raised beds.  It only took me nearly three years.  The greenhouse folks tease me that it takes most folks three days to assemble the greenhouse and a couple of weeks to make the beds.  I know they are joking as we have been friends a long time.  They never have to ask me how I’m doing.  If I can walk in their shop, they know I’m having a good day.].

How long can I work outside?  It varies with the day.  The trick is to work to the limits of your ability, and then stop.  It’s the stopping point that’s hard to learn.  Sometimes I can work a light job for nearly an hour.  Sometimes a more strenuous task for a few minutes.  I then must make myself stop.  Sit down, and do a non-strain task until my body is ready to be worked some more.  How long?  That’s the other hard part, first to learn, then to apply.  The only reason I ‘got it’ was the pain management group. 

If, instead, when I eat breakfast, I assess that outside work is out, then I look for an inside task.  My wife and I have accumulated a large library.  We are currently cataloging them.  I can sit with the computer on my lap, in my recliner with my feet raised [best ‘bad day’ position for me] and type.

Some days I can work an ‘up’ job for only twenty minutes, then need a ‘down’ task for a bit.  A bit is sometimes the better part of the day.  So be it.  But, I’m up and moving just as soon as my body will allow.

I need to be careful here as I do not want you to think I avoid all pain medications.  This is unfortunately, not the case.  There are many days that turn out ‘blank’ in that I am not a reliable person.  These are the days, if you were to call me, my wife would answer the phone. After finding out you are calling for me, you may get a response something like, “Oh, I’m sorry, but X. cannot come to the phone today.  May I help you?”  She’s very good at this.  She was my care-giver for fifteen years before we married nine years ago today.

So how do I tie this into prepping?  Our group stress’s physical training and preparedness is based upon, ‘Each to their own abilities’.  The group knows I ‘exercise’ to my limits every single day.  The group, and I, know it is a losing battle, but one I will continue to fight until the real end.  Without all the support of true friends, the pain management group, and my background in education, I would probably just sit down and wait to die.  It’s going to happen anyway, so why fight it, right?  Not me.  I expect my disability will contribute to my end.  But I’ll keep that ‘end’ as far away, as long as I can.  Exercising to my limits every single day is the best that I can do. And I’ll do my best, just as long as I can.

Where do I get off telling someone who is disabled to get up and hit it?  Mainly it’s the thirty years of OJT, the help and support of true friends, the wonderful pain management group and our group leader, and in my case, the desire to see just as many sunrises as I can, before my sun finally sets.  My group knows I cannot do everything.  They also know I will carry just as much of the load as I can.   No free-loading here.  My military days were spent in the US Coast Guard.  The Coast Guard’s motto is Semper Paratus– Always Ready.  To this day I remain just as Semper Paratus as I can be, every single day.

So, get off your dead center, stop listening to all those who tell you that you can’t, and even worse, those people, who by just ignoring you, try to make you feel useless or insignificant, and start living life to its fullest for you, not them.  You can do it.  I did, and still do.

CentOre is a loosely connected group of people centered in the Oregon High Desert interested in improving our existing skills, and learning new skills that will enhance our odds when it hits.

JWR Adds: Any readers that are dependent on pain medication should do their best to gradually get off them, as soon as possible, since supplies of all medications will be uncertain in a disaster. I recommend that you cultivate Valerian Officinalis in your garden. Valerian Root is a natural muscle relaxant and sleep aid that is not habit forming. Be self-sufficient in as many aspects of your life as possible. A diverse herb garden is part of this.

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