High

I am currently writing this while high. No it’s not drug induced this time. But rather exercise. You may think it lame, or me mad. I can’t blame you, a year or two ago I would have thought the exact same thing.

But I am buzzing. I am euphoric and riding high on endorphins. It has been this way for hours.

Everyone here thinks I am mad for wanting to visit the other gym daily for cardio but if they could experience this, if they could feel as good as I feel right now, they wouldn’t doubt me for a second.

On the cross-trainer Chris tells me it is good to see me smile.

I am puzzled. I always smile.

“It’s different down here,” he says with a laugh.

It’s true, I am happiest when I am working out. I feel powerful, strong and like I can conquer anything.  The future seems bright and in that instant everything is perfect. This is what the happiness experts are talking about when they talk of mindfulness, being present and ‘flow’, where you are so consumed in an activity you are completely present, in the moment and time flies.

I think Chris can sense how important this is to me and how happy it makes me and today he lets me stay the longest yet. He has been roped in to work late and he is letting me use the gym after hours.

He keeps telling me five more minutes and threatening to kick me out but somehow it never quite happens. Again I am flooded with gratitude.

Dan has switched to being an inpatient and joins us for a shot of cardio.

Chris says it’s good to have something else to do in here, some other form of exercise that isn’t on the leg.

I tell him it feels good to take a break and do something I am good at when the rest of the day is spent struggling with tasks where my body betrays me.

He shakes his head.

“Your walking is going well. I’m happy with the progress you have made. You’re not walking bad, you are walking good compared to how you were walking last week. And look at how quickly that has happened.”

I don’t know about quickly, it sure doesn’t feel that way right now.

“I admire you guys,” he says.

“I know you probably get sick of hearing it but I do. What you do in the gym I wouldn’t be able to do. It’s true.

“Other people might look on and think it’s easy but I know how much hard work goes into it.”

It is clear he is being genuine and it means a lot coming from him. Especially when I had been concerned he was disappointed in having me as patient considering how slow my progress has been.

His roster changes in a week or so and he discusses with me whether I want to change gyms and continue to work with him or stay in the same gym and work with someone else.

Someone else? Is he kidding?

Of course I want to finish this rehab business with him. Not only is he the best here from what I have seen, I started with him and there is no way I am finishing this journey without him.

It may have been Dr Al Muderis that made all of this possible with the surgery but it is Chris that has been on the front line working with me day after day. I owe all of my small victories to him and I’m not sure I would succeed without him.

In no dramatic terms he has already made a huge difference to my quality of life and helped to shape my future. I will be forever grateful for the work he has done with me. Really every step I take is in a way thanks to him. Dr Al Muderis, Stefan, Chris; they are my walking saviours.

I still have so far to go with my walking but I feel as if there has been some slight improvement. This morning I try walking with just the one crutch. I do it in the hallway just outside the gym so if I can’t do it, it’s not far and I won’t be in too much trouble from Chris for attempting something I am perhaps not ready for.

Two of the other physios monitor my walking and comment that I am not walking as well as they have seen and tell me to swap sides with the crutch. Sure I can walk better with the crutch on the left side but I’m not doing it properly and it’s not what Chris wants.

The male physio makes some slightly cruel comments about my walking and imitates my limp with a gross exaggeration. I know it is all in jest but it reminds me of the kids at school when I was young and they would poke fun and mock how I walked. It didn’t happen often but it hurt when it did.

He also tells me my leg is the least trendy of the three. Yeah it is also the least expensive of the three. Way to kick me where it hurts. Thanks a lot.

It’s good to have Dan in here with me today. Unlike Ali he seems to be struggling with a lot of the same walking issues as me and is also lacking muscular strength. It’s really good to be able to talk to him about it all.

He comments that he had seen me in the hall and thought I was sailing through it all and is surprised to realize I am struggling just as much as him. Like me he felt inadequate compared to how easy Ali has been finding things.

“I thought since you wore the leg all the time previously this would have helped you,” he tells me.

It’s funny really. All along people have constantly told me how ‘lucky’ I was to have been an amputee from birth. How I must be used to it since I don’t know any different. Dr Al Muderis almost didn’t perform the operation on me as he thought I was managing too well since I wore my leg all the time previously. And then everyone seemed to assume and told me I would find this learning to walk business quite easy as I had never really stopped walking. I hadn’t been on crutches prior to the operation so it seemed assumed I would just put this leg on and away I would go.

But in fact, being an amputee from birth has not made me ‘lucky’ in this case. It has not helped in the slightest. In fact it has made it far harder. Since I never had a real leg those muscles never developed so I have far more work to do to build them up plus since I walked with the old leg for 25 years, I have 25 years of bad habits to break. My brain needs to be completely retrained.

But perhaps I was dealt this hand in life because I am strong enough to live it.

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