The Foot Diaries no 4 ; Phase 2 Begins, May 18th 2016


'It always seems impossible until its done ". Nelson Mandela

Mandela served 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. What thoughts must have gone through his head on awakening each morning, or last thing at night ? What kept his spirit alive, his motivation active, his drive ?

Around 1914, Joseph Pilates was a performer and a boxer living in England, and at the outbreak of WWI, was placed under forced internment along with other German nationals in Lancaster, England. There he taught fellow camp members the concepts and exercises developed over 20 years of self-study and apprenticeship in yoga, Zen, and ancient Greek and Roman physical regimens. It was at this time that he began devising the system of original exercises known today as "matwork," or exercises done on the floor. He called this regimen "Contrology," meaning 'the science of control'. A few years later, he was transferred to another camp on the Isle of Man, where he became a nurse/caretaker to the many internees struck with wartime disease and physical injury. Here, he began devising equipment to rehabilitate his "patients," taking springs from the beds and rigging them to create spring resistance and "movement" for the bedridden.

This is my Day 13, my year one . Jeez, thats nothing compared to poor old Nelson .

Some people would compare post operative recuperation or rehab or having a limb in a cast or any restricted movement that takes ones 'norma'l freedom away, or illness, to a sentence, or an Internment , but what it really is, is a loss of control, being in control , a loss of freedom of sorts, a time for change, imposed change.Your body does't move the way it ought, the smallest task can become HUGE, everything takes ages from the basic tasks like getting your clothes out of the wardrobe or drawers to washing and dressing. Its tiring and annoying, really annoying but like everything else, you learn to adapt, to accept this change is temporary (although most of the time it feels like its forever) and adapt to it. Adapt , like "leave that plastic stool in the bathroom in front of the basin, so I can kneel on it when washing, or brushing my teeth" I can slide it along toward the mirror to put make up on and use it as a pit stop when hopping around the bathroom . The "bag of tricks " as I call it, must be checked and contain glasses, book, suncream ,brush, phone, charger and sweather and must be brought downstairs or upstairs, depending on where I am camped out. Golden Rule - do not forget your bits and pieces in the morning when about to descend the cliff face that is the stairs and again in the evening when about to scale the Dalkey Quarry on the way up to bed. Bed is for sleeping. Upstairs is for sleeping. You dont want to do the Cliff face and Dalkey quarry but once a day. No more.

You also learn to move camp yourself, solo. Crutches at the back door, knee scooter always near by. On Sunny days it’s a scoot to the back door, brake on, throw pillows onto garden seat, get onto crutches, hop down one step to garden, slide onto garden seat, move along, pick up pillows that have fallen on the ground, last about 15 minutes as its not very comfortable, crutch to garden lounger, negotiating exactly how you will get back up again in advance. Drag chair to have nearby as a half way mark. Read, relax and chill for as long as possible and then reverse the action back inside, only to find you have left your glasses or phone on the Garden table. Enough Said.

Last Monday, I escaped the confines of my Dalkey Domain and made my way, sprawled across the back seat of the car with my leg elevated, to St Vincent’s Private Hospital, where I had my Review with my surgeon, stitches out and new cast put on . As we travelled along the Seafront Route it seemed that the sea looked particularly stunning, the sky was bluer and sunnier than usual and the blossoms looked particularly “blossomy”. Was I  more aware of my surroundings or was there perhaps a hint of residue from the very strong (crazy dream inducing ) pain killers I had taken the previous night, or might it be due to the ponstan forte I had popped an hour before? It does pay to have nursey friends who warn you the procedure will be painful and to take pain meds in advance, who also warn you about the unveiling of the operated foot and the fact that it will look like you have been attacked by a crocodile. Sound advice, 20 stitches removed stings like hell but is short lived, unveiling of the foot is traumatic and yes it does look like a crocodile bite and yes it does fell like its an alien hanging off your leg and not your own foot. A lot of work done by my hero surgeon, a lot more to do by me, my body, my own healing. Phase 2 begins. Another 4 weeks in this cast  and then…lets just get through phase 2. Day by day, phase by phase.

Excited to be out and and feeling positive on the way home, I was planning scoots down the pier, to maybe the third bench ( eventually the Bandstand ), dog and hubby could go on to the end and back to collect me, picnics up killiney Hill, Vico Road and more .The sun was shining and everything was bright and beautiful.

By Tuesday afternoon the clouds were gathering and the sun was not shining all the time. I was also not shining, my own storm clouds looming and with a cast that was now starting to feel like a ski boot that’s too small and toes that felt they had electrodes attached to them, and pains in my belly, I feared the entrance to my “cave “ was not too far away. That cave that sometimes we feel we want to crawl into until those storm clouds pass by. It can be a bit dark and cold in there. Most of us have a “cave”, a “Dressing Gown Woman’ morning, day or sometimes longer, where we just opt out. Luckily, I rarely get low or feel the urge to hide in my cave, but it does appear from time to time, that cave entrance. It was now  time for “Iron Granny 2016 “ to take on the  first challenge of Phase 2. After shifting and snuffling and unable to get comfy I announced I wanted to try out my “iwalk 2 “ hands free crutch and with my beau at my side, set off for a walk around the green outside. A walk, a hobble, a limp whatever, I was upright and could smell that post rain air, feel it, the scent from the clematis blooms, the recently cut grass The clouds were disappearing, the sun was starting to shine and that cave was disappearing. I was outside, moving. I was alive.

The following evening it was two rounds of the green.

Today it was a half hour, obviously modified, Pilates workout with Fitness circle and toning weights. Legs table top resting on the sofa, back on the floor neutral spine. Ab Preps with fitness circle, Hundreds, Leg Circles, Single Leg Stretch, Cat Stretch (operated foot off the floor) Sissors, Breast Stroke Preps, Knee Sways and more. I was indoors, moving, I was alive.

Perhaps it’s worth rereading the brief account of Joseph Pilates at the beginning of this blog. He designed his exercise routines to promote wellbeing, to feel good, for rehab. No mention of weight loss .

Physical and mental wellbeing. It works.

Thank you Joe .

Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.
Joseph Pilates