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Melanie Reid of The Times (UK)

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    Originally posted by Fly_Pelican_Fly View Post
    How to Survive Spinal Injury Without Flying to Switzerland kind of thing.
    LOL..I wonder how many people clued into that..
    C5-6 / '88


      Many thanks F.P.F

      If anyone comes across a copy of this....

      Originally posted by Fly_Pelican_Fly View Post
      Maybe I need to send away for 101 Tips to Avoid Procrastination.
      ....... please let me know.



        First, I would like to echo the chorus of thanks to Pelican for posting these articles. Over the past several weeks, I have read this entire thread, with great interest and not a little emotion. In fact, I joined this forum to read these articles, having been alerted to Melanie Reid by a friend who clipped her first article that had been syndicated in another magazine, and found this forum through a Google search for her name. It has been a fortuitous find! I have found the reactions to the articles as interesting as the articles themselves. It’s good to know that there are others out there who share my experiences and emotions.

        I am a c4 incomplete quadriplegic who is still currently in rehab after having been hit by a car while on my bicycle at the end of November. I’m lucky enough to be staying in what is probably the best rehab centre for SCI in Australia: the Royal Talbot, in Melbourne. From what Melanie says of the Queen Elizabeth, it appears that this centre is very similar in terms of facilities, programme and staff. Indeed, one of the physios here worked at the Queen Elizabeth some 10 years ago! Thus, I can relate very closely to her experiences. In every one of her articles, there is something that strikes a chord of recognition, from her outing to the bowling alley, where the “teacher” has to carry your money to the close bond that develops between patient and physio. I’m struck by her humanity and humour, but above all by her honesty.

        Yes, hers is a personal account, but I believe it speaks to the experience of all of us. Many people have asked me why I don’t write an account of my experience in rehab, but when Melanie has done such a good job, what is the point? Moreover, in order to write such detailed and moving pieces, it would be necessary to make notes every day, as she has done, about what has happened during the day. Quite honestly, I don’t know how she finds the energy – I’m completely worn out by the end of each day by the few hours of physio, weights and occupational therapy, in addition to the effort of mundane tasks such as eating and brushing my teeth. As she has said, I believe this has been extremely therapeutic for her, being a writer.

        In many ways I’ve been lucky. Not only am I incomplete, meaning that I am up and walking with the assistance of a walking frame (not pretty, and barely functional, but it makes transfers a lot easier given that I have limited upper body function; however, I am up to 55m at a stretch), having done the hard yards on a bodyweight supporting harness, and slowly having brought myself to an upright position; but also, I’m the beneficiary of what’s known as the traffic accident insurance scheme. This means that, because I am the victim of a traffic accident, I will be looked after for life: the traffic accident commission will fund modifications to my house, pay for a modified vehicle and will supply carers for as long as I need them. There is a parallel insurance scheme for those injured at work. I feel for those poor patients who wait for months and years for a care package from social security and to fund their own home modifications.

        I note one post advocated that Melanie should be aware of this forum. A note of caution from somebody who has worked in publishing for many years: the reproduction of these articles is technically a breach of copyright, and although it may be churlish to take legal action against a forum for paras and quads, remember that we are talking about a paper owned by Rupert Murdoch!

        All the best to one and all.

        PS, unlike Melanie I have no aversion to using Dragon speaking naturally! And now that I have posted something, perhaps I won’t be classified as an “lurker”!


          Welcome Martin. Best of luck with your rehab.


            I read all she writes with huge interest and admiration.

            I hope she doesn't object to her writings being published here (The Times want money for internet viewing and I don't live near a shop - over 45 mins to the nearest newsagent).

            I am one of the lucky ones.

            I fell over my horse's head 2 years ago when he tripped in the indoor school and rolled. I did irreversible damage to L4/L5/S1 and ended up having a Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion in December of 2010.

            Today, I did this and when I feel sorry for myself or am fighting my painkillers, I read this thread. It puts my life back into perspective.

            I do wish Melanie was on this forum. I feel I know her from her writings and it is a privilege to have such an insight.


              [QUOTE=Melbourne Martin;1398247] A note of caution from somebody who has worked in publishing for many years: the reproduction of these articles is technically a breach of copyright, and although it may be churlish to take legal action against a forum for paras and quads, remember that we are talking about a paper owned by Rupert Murdoch![QUOTE]

              I'm sure the last thing the Murdoch P.R machine would want to be associated with now is the persecution of a bunch of crips.

              I'm loving this phone hacking scandal!


                Martin, welcome to the community. You mentioned your fatigue after getting through a day of therapy and...just living. This will pass, with time. Keep working and getting stronger. Focus on the basics, strength and flexibility and other things will follow. I wish you the very best. Oh...and I love the word 'churlish'!


                  Thanks for your good wishes & advice.

                  I too am loving the phone hacking scandal -- Murdoch's is truly the evil empire! I too doubt that his PR machine would allow any public litigation against this forum; however, his lawyers could lean on the administrators to take these post down quietly. Since we are technically in the wrong, I'm not sure any media organisation would take up our fight against the evil empire!


                    A Meeting With A Horse

                    Tammy is 19, blessed with kind eyes and chestnut hair with sun-kissed blonde highlights. She’s one of those typical teenagers who doesn’t do very much in the summer, just mooches around with her pals, watching the world go by. It’s been so long since I’ve seen her that I’d forgotten how pretty she is. “I know women who would kill for hair colour like that,” I tell her through my tears, as she looms over me, burying her rubbery lips in the crook of my neck. She sighs deeply, exhaling a sweet gust of grassy breath down my T-shirt, her whiskers tickling my cheek.

                    Tammy is, of course, a horse: the first one I have encountered at close quarters since my violent accident 15 months ago, when my own horse refused a small cross-country jump during training and I landed on my face and shattered my life.

                    Now, I’ve never been overly sentimental about horses – they live, they die; some are very special and you cry over them, most are not and you don’t – but having them around was my lifelong passion. I loved their smell, their beauty, their grace, their generosity, the thrill of riding them.

                    Some people need to wear nice clothes or drink alcohol to forget or be happy; I needed only to stand in a darkened stable at night, listening to that heavenly sound of big, placid creatures munching contentedly at their hay nets. And I was at peace with the world.

                    When I decided that I wanted to get close to a horse again, post-accident, I knew it would be an emotional occasion, reconnecting with something that had meant so much but had caused me so much grief. A sort of private redemption; a moment of such bittersweetness that I put it off for as long as I could, because I knew it would open the floodgates of regret and pain and loss. Nevertheless, it was something I had to do.

                    Going to see my own horse was out of the question – he is several hours away up north and I am not yet up to the long drive. And I’m not, if I’m totally honest, sure I’ll ever be strong enough to face him again. So I asked my friend Gillian if I could come to visit Tammy, her 16.1 hands Irish liver chestnut mare, a much loved pet who would be unlikely to spook at my wheelchair and might tolerate my tears in exchange for a few Polos.

                    And so it proved. Tammy sniffed at the wheelchair, slobbered politely over the mints and refrained from eating my fingers, which was kind of her. The first golden rule around horses – if giving them treats, hold out your hand, palm flat, fingers outstretched, so you don’t get bitten – no longer washes for me. I can’t straighten my fingers.

                    Second golden rule: always be ready for the unexpected and never, ever sit down or kneel next to them, at risk of being trampled or kicked should they get startled. Stuck in a wheelchair next to an instinctive creature of flight, I was totally vulnerable.

                    But Tammy seemed to understand my frailty. She bent over me, her head – so newly enormous from this position – lowered next to me, vast liquid eyes taking me in. And, mints devoured, she snuffled and nuzzled and rested her muzzle in my collarbone, while the tears washed down my face. I kissed her nose and reached up to stroke her neck with a clumsy hand that can’t stroke any more. And remembered that unforgettably sweet, heady scent of grass and leather and warm horse.

                    Jane Smiley, the novelist, says that the eyes of a horse always tell you something a little bit beyond your comprehension. They always ask more of you than you are able to give. I’m pretty sure that Tammy was aware of the stifled sobs inside me, of the anguish and broken dreams. She didn’t ask anything; she simply understood; rested her nose against my face and offered silent comfort with her presence.

                    On a more practical note, I looked up and quailed. How could I ever hope to sit on a horse again? From a wheelchair vantage point, she seemed so impossibly tall, so narrow. I can’t even lift my backside high enough to get into a crummy SUV, let alone swing out a leg from my hip.

                    On that same rehab front, the intense highs and lows continue, often piling in, like weather, on the same day. The steadiness, the calmness that once pervaded my life, has evaporated, leaving me at the mercy of these peaks and troughs of hope and despair.

                    Here’s an example. On a recent Sunday, Kenny, my paid-for neurophysiotherapist, came to see me. Under his supervision, and using my newly learnt pelvis-tilting techniques, I found I could stand up to my walking frame with remarkable ease for the first time. Getting up, walking a circuit of the (small) room with the frame, and turning to sit down again on the bench. All without him holding me up or rescuing me. He even started to teach me the process of standing without using my hands – the way you would do automatically – an exercise during which he knelt in front of me and gripped the front of my thighs while I strove to lift my bum just a fraction. “I can feel,” he said, “the muscles flickering on and off automatically as they try to balance you. That suggests the nerves are starting to fire by themselves.”

                    Thus, high as a kite, I retreated to the living room, where Dave was watching the finale of golf’s Open Championship. My pint mug of coffee was there waiting; all I had to do was transfer into my easy chair and share my good news. Full of bravado, I launched myself at the chair; except the thighs had turned to jelly and there was nothing to prop me up in front. Which is how, a second later, I came to be swimming on the wooden floor in a giant pool of milky coffee, clothes soaking, having never felt more utterly helpless.

                    “I wouldn’t have minded,” said dear Dave later, after he had mopped the floor, changed me and dragged me back into my wheelchair as unceremoniously as a corpse, “but you chose to do it at the most thrilling bit, just when Darren Clarke shot an eagle.”


                      Originally posted by Melbourne Martin View Post
                      Thanks for your good wishes & advice.

                      I too am loving the phone hacking scandal -- Murdoch's is truly the evil empire! I too doubt that his PR machine would allow any public litigation against this forum; however, his lawyers could lean on the administrators to take these post down quietly. Since we are technically in the wrong, I'm not sure any media organisation would take up our fight against the evil empire!
                      Bring it on I say!


                        Oh, I love reading her articles. I have read a book by the author she mentions, Jane Smiley. The book is called 'Horse Heaven', and I really recommend it.
                        Thank you so much for posting Melanie's articles FPF.


                          I really miss that horse-y smell. It broke my heart to leave KS, had to sell my horse. And move to the city, ugh, it was so repellent to me, I had a baby and a horse and a dog and a husband that got transferred.

                          That 10 yrs in Houston were such an adventure!

                          I still miss my horse, sure she's long gone, but she was one of the special ones. She didn't like men...she really liked me, luckily.

                          LOL, Mel had a post-rehab wipeout. Many more to come, girlfriend!
                          Does This Wheelchair Make My Ass Look Fat?


                            Welcome Martin.
                            Francis,I enjoyed those pictures very much.


                              Thank you, Linda.


                                The Hobbit Returns

                                The hobbit is back! Susan, my beloved physiotherapist from the spinal unit, came to see me last weekend.

                                She’s been away getting married and honeymooning, oh way beyond the boundaries of the shire, across the misty lands of Erebor and Rohan to a Hobbit paradise in the Maldives, and all the while neglecting me shamefully.

                                “Bet you felt guilty about deserting everyone,” I say. “Yes, of course,” she says, flaunting her tan. “Deeply.” An opportunity for her to dream up new tortures, though, and this visit she decided to see if I could crawl. Yes, crawling. Not something you ever really think about doing, unless you’re varnishing the floor or joining the Marines; and definitely not a technique you’d ever analyse. Until you have to. Exactly how does one make one’s body crawl?

                                One starts, in my case, lying flat on your face on a bench. Then you raise yourself on to your hands, elbows locked, arms outstretched, in an impressive paralysed press-up; and then you walk your hands backwards while pulling with buttocks and hamstrings so that, all of a sudden – help! – your backside rises scarily high in the air and you are teetering on hands and knees in what the physios call a four-point kneeling position, but which actually resembles a randy heifer.

                                What’s alarming for me is that my joints, as usual, aren’t giving me any feedback about where they are – other than feeling precariously near the ceiling – so unless I peer between my arms or look in the mirror, I don’t actually know what position I’m in. In a weird way it’s like playing with a life-size mannequin, only the mannequin is actually me.

                                Now, I’ve been physically capable of getting into this kneeling position for a good few months; it’s just that I don’t often do it, and never without a physiotherapist present, because I don’t want to keel over and traumatise my amateur helpers for life. But today Susan is pushing the frontiers. “OK, let’s try a crawl. Move your hips left and slide the right knee forward. Then lean the hips right and do the same with the left knee.” She’s up on the bench behind me, stabilising me. Teeth gritted, I glance under my body at my knees and will them forwards one at a time. With a gargantuan effort, they obey me, sliding a couple of centimetres in turn.

                                “Now do the same backwards,” she commands. And in grotesque slow motion, with me grunting like Serena Williams, the knees manage it. “Again!” she says, and this time I manage a few tiny slides with each knee, to the extent that I have to walk my hands forward as well. She helps me a bit, especially with the right leg, always tail-end Charlie, always recalcitrant, always requiring twice as much effort as the left. A reader sent me an interesting letter the other day rebuking me for being so hard on my right leg. “On the contrary,” she said, “you should give it extra praise, love it, be kind to it; it’s trying so hard to catch up; it’s done so well and come so far.” And she’s right; it’s just that my impatience gets the better of me sometimes. If the right were only as strong as the left, how much further on I might be.

                                Anyway, for what the boast is worth, I can crawl ten centimetres, swaying like a yacht in a force 8. Your average nine-month-old could crawl a hundred times better, and faster, and probably cry less than I do. In fact the only superiority I’ve got over a baby is that I know how to say “superiority” and don’t dribble when I’m doing it. But, hey, I guess it’s progress.

                                Before Susan leaves for Bag End, I do two small circuits on my Zimmer and demonstrate my (only just viable) ability to turn and sit down. Turning is so much harder than walking in a straight line, but so essential if anything I do is ever going to be functional. She remarks on an improvement; she notices that muscles in my ankles and hamstrings are now flickering automatically. Not that she goes so far as to compliment me or anything.

                                With this entire recovery process, one of the biggest challenges is to describe how difficult movement is in the absence of any proper sensation. People see me on my feet and think, “Fantastic! She can walk!” But nothing is that simple. Sure, I can move my torso and legs a little on demand, and I can just about, by way of a distant tingling, feel when someone is rubbing my skin. But I have no real sensation, when I stand, other than the deep, constant burning of neuropathic pain.

                                I get no messages back from my joints – the natural process called proprioception – telling me what they’re doing. When I haul myself to my feet and try to balance, it feels as if I am an amputee, propped on two deeply uncomfortable wooden stilts.

                                I truly am a mannequin. That discomfort alone is exhausting; it makes me yearn to collapse into my chair, from where life, by comparison, is a whole heap easier. Part of the exhaustion, I now realise, comes from the need to concentrate all the time. Because my lower body will not – yet – do anything automatically, I have to watch it like a hawk, controlling it with my eyes: for example, I can’t tell that my knees are buckling unless I actually see them buckle; and by then it is often too late to catch myself.

                                In the spirit-weak parts of the night, I often wonder whether, by choosing rehab or bust, in this most public fashion, I have trapped myself in a hell of my own making. Certainly, I have chosen the harder road. Certainly, I live with profound fears that, instead of eventually getting easier, things may get harder. But I can’t give up now; I’d let too many people down. Faux courage or real courage, maybe the two amount to the same in the end. Besides, the hobbit would never forgive me if I gave up now. And by next week I’ll have sat my driving assessment, which should open up new freedoms. If I don’t fail, that is. Now, remind me, how does it go? Mirror, signal, manoeuvre?