Sunday, July 24, 2016

Crutchless in Chapel Hill

So, you might recall the other, non-travel-related Summer Saga around here: Riley's broken tibia. He'd been in a cast--at first a regular one, then the "air" variety--and using crutches since the unfortunate event happened, on June 2nd. Meanwhile we'd been diligently obeying doctor's him extra Vitamin C and calcium...assisting him with his stretches...and sticking to the letter of the law regarding what he was and was NOT allowed to do...such as "put any weight at all on that leg" (this will be important later, trust me). We went back to the orthopedist for a progress report on July 14th, keeping our fingers and toes crossed that it would be all good news about his recovery, and that at least the most stringent restrictions would be lifted, allowing him freedom for more activity and movement.

With bated breath, we awaited the official Physician's Proclamation after she reviewed his x-ray...and she declared him HEALED. (Hallelujah!) Specifically, she said there was no longer any visual evidence of the break in the photo, and that he didn't need to be cautious about protecting it from pressure from here on out. She told us that he should begin walking in the boot, without the...metal appendages. Furthermore, he ought to work towards getting around without it--inside the house to start.

Well! All this sounded fine and dandy to us, opening up a whole new realm of possibilities that had been kept from him so far during his school vacation. For example, he might be able to finally stand and balance enough to throw a ball with his brother (who has been patiently anticipating Riley's return to form, but would desperately like to have his sports-mate back)...even if he's not quite ready to run pass routes, like they enjoy doing. He could potentially shoot hoops in the driveway...although chasing the ball down our steep slope if he misses will have to be delegated to someone else.

Then...a wild thought occurred to me: maybe, just maybe he's permitted to...but hold on, I'd better ask permission, just to be sure...wouldn't want to go jumping the gun and doing anything too crazy right off the bat. So I tentatively inquired, "Um...can he...stand on both feet when he's taking a shower?" I swear, the very kind, sympathetic orthopedist--who up until that moment in the conversation had been positively bubbling over with warmth and enthusiasm--screeched to a halt...and eyed me as if she was either totally perplexed...or I'd suddenly sprouted a second head. After a brief silence, during which it became clear that I was not, in fact, going to add anything to clarify, but that my question was meant to be taken at face value, she replied, "Uhhhh...hasn't he been doing that already?"

Oooohhhh-kaaaaay, lady--I get ya. Obviously, you don't know us, here at Team WestEnders, but let me clue you in on a little something: We. Are. RULE. FOLLOWERS. Therefore, when a trusted medical professional gives us a directive, we do not waver in our resolve to carry it out, to the best of our abilities. So, let me remind you that you distinctly said, with great conviction and gravity, that he should not stress the weakened bone by resting weight on it. Well, guess what? He DIDN'T!

Ay yi yi. This was certainly eye-opening for us--I mean, who knew that doctors expect you to cheat when they give you advice? Which may explain why, when she next tested his ability to stand, put pressure on the leg, and even take a step...the results were...shall we say "less than successful". The bottom of his foot, from not having touched the ground in 6 weeks, felt very uncomfortable; he had a huge bruise along his instep from the continuous confinement of the boot; and of course his muscles, ligaments, and tendons were all stiff. Then there was the psychological hurdle--which we didn't discuss in the doctor's office, but rather held off until we were alone in the car on the way home--of some...residual fear. Having been through the horribly painful experience of incurring a broken bone, Riley was just plain scared to challenge the limb...even if an authority figure who know what she's talking about gave him the green light.

This was something he was going to have to work through, but luckily he'd have help and support, because Dr. C also gave us the go-ahead for kicking off his "Return to Sports" physical therapy program. (Yeah, you bet I made that first appointment immediately upon returning home...) The next morning we left for 4 days in Atlanta, and using crutches was just quicker and easier than trying to practice ambulating in an unfamiliar city, with out-of-shape legs. However, when we got back....Riley still struggled to overcome the mental block...of trusting his leg to hold him up. He made a million excuses, and he got sooooo frustrated...but I figured he just needed some time.

Last night, he must have reached the point where he was ready--or, you know, maybe just "supremely fed up"--and I turned around to see him slowly, carefully strolling over to me...without the boot. Granted, it looked a bit awkward, and hesitant....but it was under his own power, unaided by any devices. (I honestly think I was even more thrilled than he was...but that could just be my naturally excitable nature...compared to that of a less-emotional, almost-teenage boy....) Next thing you know, with his newfound confidence, he's learning how to navigate in the boot, so he can go out into the big, wide world without the crutches. And now...he's outside playing BASKETBALL with Derek (in the stylish plastic footwear...we're not THAT rebellious..."acquiescent" is our middle name, remember? Or something like that...).

Definitely strides (ha!) in the right direction. Now we've just gotta keep up the p.t. sessions and at-home exercises, focus on rebuilding strength and stamina....and hopefully one day soon we'll be counting down to Riley joining his new team on the soccer least for workouts, even if he's not yet cleared for game situations. Baby steps...and keeping those fingers and toes in the crossed position!

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