Thursday, April 26, 2007

Another tiring day...

Today was another tiring day in therapy, starting with the nurses waking me up early in the morning and then heading out to classes.

Here were today's classes:
9am to 10am - Chair class. This class focuses mainly on developing skills while in a wheelchair. The first day in class, I had to learn to do a wheelie in the wheelchair. The thought of doing this was very scary at first, but now I do them with ease. Besides being able to show off my cool wheelie skills, wheelies are actually very functional on a day-to-day basis. We also learn how to ascend/descend stairs in the wheelchair, build wheelchair endurance and navigate various physical obstacles that we will encounter while being in a wheelchair.

10am to 11am - Mat class. This class focuses on stretching, building core strength and learning how to manage getting from a wheelchair to other surfaces (ground, other chairs, etc.). We start the class by stretching and then proceed to exercises for strength and mobility keeping safety and technique in mind.

11:15am to 12pm - Swimming pool. There is a 96-degree pool that goes 5-feet deep here at the hospital. As the pool offers buoyancy, my body easily floats and I do not have to fight gravity. I still cannot move my lower body in the water, but it is a lot easier to manage. We work on other strength and core exercises. Ivette and my dad have even come in the pool with me!

12pm to 1pm - Lunch. Although the food here is pretty good, it really isn't that healthy. That is contrary to what I would have thought at a hospital. I figure, it's a hospital, so it should have healthy food. Wrong! A lot of it is greasy and fatty, so it's really a challenge sometimes to eat healthy. But the one-hour lunch break is a nice break nonetheless.

1pm to 2pm - Physical therapy. I have a 1-hour personal physical therapy session every day with the same physical therapist, Alissa. We work on all sorts of things from strength, balance, daily life practicalities, etc. Today we worked on ascending and descending a staircase without a wheelchair, but by lifting me and the wheelchair up each step. It was quite a challenge, but so are most things the first time around. It took an hour to go up and down 10 steps.

2pm to 3pm - Rare break. Ever since I got to the hospital, I have rarely had any breaks between 8am and 4pm. This is one of them (as well as 8am to 9am this morning). My sister, Judy, arrived today (until Tuesday!), so I was able to give her a tour of the hospital.

3pm to 4pm - Fit class. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we hit the gym and lift weights only for the upper body. On Tuesday, there is a clinic on the basketball court with various stations to build strength and endurance. Each station is timed/counted and tracked week-to-week to track improvements. Thursday is game day. Today we learned to play wheelchair basketball. Judy and Ivette played too!

6pm to 7pm - Acupuncture. This was my 3rd acupuncture session and I can actually feel my body reacting to the needles. It's really weird when they insert the needles into my body as you can imagine it's not a very natural feeling. They even put an electronic stimulator to help make the treatment even more powerful. Although weird, it feels like I'm getting good results out of it.

7pm to 7:30pm - Dinner. Finally! I ate my dinner that was delivered to my room. However, the kitchen closed at 6:15pm, so my food was already cold. :( But c'est le vie...there are worse things in life than cold food...

8pm to 8:30pm - Facial. I know, I know... Like scuba diving, this was one of the additional recreational activities. Through this whole process, I've come to appreciate volunteers. Whether it be someone helping in the swimming pool or someone offering free scuba instruction or someone offering free facials, it really does make me smile for everything they are doing that they do not have to in order to make us patients happy in a not so happy time of our lives.

8:30pm to 11pm
- Watching Lakers beat the Suns (in progress). Let's go Lakers!!!

Other classes/activities that I have but not today:
Occupational therapy. This class teaches other functional things for daily life, such as dressing in bed and the wheelchair, grocery shopping and cooking, vacuuming and cleaning.

FES bike. For this class, the therapists attach electrodes to my quads, hamstrings and gluts and digitally stimulate the muscles to help me ride a standstill bike. This really helps with my incredible ;) muscle tone and endurance.

Psychology. Each patient has a psychologist assigned to them. We have a meeting once a week just as a checkpoint to talk about anything and everything.

Driving class. I've had 2 driving lessons. For paraplegics, there is something called hand controls that we use for the gas and brake. We obviously do not use our legs. I've had 2 sessions and did well. We did everything from parking lot driving to freeway driving. I had to drive one of those really cool cars that said "Student Driver" and I felt like I was in driver's education again. When I get home, I need to have someone install the hand controls on my car.

Standing frame. I sometimes use the standing frame when I can. It does as advertised. It's a contraption that stabilizes my legs and allows me to stand vertically while supported. It's really cool because whenever I use it, I realize how tall I really am since now, I always look up at people from the chair.

Massage. I've had 2 therapeutic massages. It sounds cool, but actually kind of hurts. They said that because of all of the additional stress that I impose on my upper body because of the injury, I am extremely tight and I need a lot of work for maintenance and fluid mobility.

Cold-laser treatment. I've gone a few times to try an unproven treatment called cold-laser therapy. This is conducted by a doctor off-site and we actually have to drive 30 minutes to see him. They are simply lasers aimed at my head, back and legs that supposedly have very good therapeutic results in cell regeneration. Although I've gone a few times, I have not felt any changes or improvements directly related to the treatment.

Reiki therapy. I had this done twice in Hawaii and plan to have it done again here in Colorado. This is a very spiritual healing that channels energy throughout the body to heal. We also found out that Ivette's grandma was a Reiki master (performed Reiki). This is supposedly a very powerful healing treatment. When the Reiki master came in Hawaii, she also worked on Ivette's cut and her cut was visibly improved.

So, that's a brief synopsis of my daily life. I do my best to find time to rest in all of the craziness. I'm usually exhausted at the end of the day, but I fight through it. Here are a few more pictures. More to come!

My first week in the hospital... Since I was bed-ridden from Monday, March 12 through Friday, March 16, my lungs were really weak and I had to exercise them using this breathing toy.

This is at the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific in Hawaii. Since Ivette and I were supposed to be in Hawaii on vacation, I wasn't about to let my injury stop me! So I prepared an ice cream date for her and me at the hospital and dressed up and everything.

My parents and me with some of the flowers sent to me in Hawaii.

When I arrived in Colorado, one of my best friends, Anthony, coincidentally had a layover my first weekend there. So we picked him up at the airport for a few hours, went to Outback for desserts and then dropped him off again.

Here's us at Outback. When we came to Colorado from Hawaii, my mom and Ivette came directly here with me. My dad stopped at home in LA for about a week to take care of some things and then he drove up the following week in Ivette's car with my brother, James. When I was traveling from Hawaii to Colorado (commercially), I actually had a layover in LA and was able to see my Uncle Joel and my brother and sisters and their families, including my nieces and nephews! Thanks so much to my cousin, Efren, an LAX security officer who helped coordinate everything there.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Starting my blog...

I am a relatively technically savvy person, but this is my first blog ever. The first two posts below are the e-mails I sent out previously.

Again, I cannot thank you all enough for the support, cards and gifts. Things are still very crazy around here as those who have visited can attest to with therapy from 8am to 4pm daily with droves of doctors, nurses and others stopping by after that.

My physical status is relatively the same, with no movement from the stomach down and impaired sensation. A little sensation has returned in my stomach area, but so far, it is minimal. I am still very patient, taking each day as it comes and thanking God that I am alive with such great people around me.

I cannot wait to write about all of my experiences here from playing competitive wheelchair games with friends, family and other patients to scuba diving at a local scuba school. However, with the limited free time I have and the energy that I have left after expending it during a long day of therapy, I will keep up with updates as much as possible and include pictures.

But for now, know that I am doing well and staying positive and accepting life’s challenges and moving on. There is no point in moping or being sad about what is going on, as that is simply a waste of energy. I am focusing my energy on coping with my current situation and getting ready to live a normal life again.

My tentative discharge date has been set to May 11. I should be returning to Southern California around this time. I will not return before this, but if I show motor improvements, it is possible that I will stay in Colorado for longer as they will keep me here as long as I show improvement and there is additional aid that they can provide.

That is all for now. As I said, I will try my best to post pictures and updates. Feel free to pass this site on to anyone that I may have missed.

Lots of love…

My parents and me at the wedding in Hawaii...

Ivette and me enjoying the beach in Hawaii...

Paying our respects at Pearl Harbor...

Great view of a live luau from our hotel room...

In our wet suits getting ready to surf...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Second E-mail created on March 28, 2007

March 28, 2007


I want to start by saying thank you so so much for the kind words, thoughts, stories and prayers. Each one really means so much to me. I am still in very good spirits, and I truly attribute that to the support and prayers that I have received.

I apologize for making this e-mail so impersonal and for not responding sooner. I will make every attempt to reach out to you personally.

I sent the last e-mail when I checked into the rehab hospital in Hawaii on Friday, March 16. The therapists performed various evaluations on Saturday and started therapy sessions on Sunday. After hours of conversations with my family and friends and prayer and lots of coordination by my girlfriend, I transferred to a specialized spinal cord rehabilitation hospital in Denver, Colorado called Craig Hospital on Wednesday, March 21.

Since my arrival, they have performed a number of tests trying to gather more information about the nature of my injury. The MRI taken last Friday showed a decrease in the swelling in my spinal cord, but some abnormalities were still present.

There really have been no significant improvements or changes to my mobility or sensations since the last time I wrote. However, this is consistent with the doctor’s prognosis that this will not be a short recovery process.

Things have been excellent and very professional here at Craig Hospital. I am very patient and look forward to positive results while keeping myself grounded in what is currently happening. My mom and Ivette are out here with me right now and have been such a blessing. My dad and brother are driving up as I type. I was able to meet up with one of my best friends, Anthony, during his layover in Denver last Sunday.

Again, thank you for the love, as each message, call, text, e-mail and support really means a lot and gives me even more strength and courage to persevere.

Hasta pronto and lots of love,

Mark 2:11-12

First E-mail created on March 16, 2007

March 16, 2007

Hi Everyone,

As you may or may not have heard, I suffered a serious injury on Monday, March 12 and currently have no mobility from the waist down and am hoping to begin the process of walking again in hopefully a few months, although nothing is guaranteed.

I left for Hawaii last Friday (March 9) with Ivette to join my parents for my cousin’s wedding on Saturday in Honolulu. There were other wedding festivities on Sunday as well. Ivette and I set off on our own Sunday night. On Monday morning (March 12), we decided to go surfing close to our hotel in Waikiki. It was my first time surfing while Ivette (being the cool super hip person that she is) had gone a few times before.

That is when I suffered an extremely rare and scarcely studied injury called "surfer's myelopathy". There was no "accident" in the sense of a bad fall or crash. I was simply laying on the surfboard stomach-down look up for waves, paddling and standing up on the board. My first try at catching a wave, I caught it! Somewhere in that flow of movements, I apparently cut off blood circulation by hyper-extending my spine. When I was jumping off the board at the end of the wave, I noticed a sharp pain in my lower back. I assumed this a normal pain incurred during the course of surfing. Since it was my first time surfing, I assumed the pain to be a result of muscles that I had never used before. I was wrong. I was actually very good at surfing. I caught my first four waves and stood up - in the first 20 minutes! However, I could not catch any other waves for the rest of our time in the water, a total time of about 60 to 90 minutes. Ivette and I were cut and scraped from the rocks in the water; Ivette with a cut on her foot that was almost “stitch-worthy”. I actually also had a sea urchin stuck in my foot that will supposedly dissolve into my bloodstream. We stopped by the lifeguard to whine about the pains of surfing and after his blessing, we limped back to the room. We cleaned our wounds and I could not get comfortable, sitting, lying down, standing or whatever. We went to a Mexican restaurant to catch lunch and drink margaritas to make our pains go away.

Unfortunately, my pain persisted and it was soon after that, I limped into a doctor’s office. Once he heard of my complaints, he told me to lie down immediately and they transported me to the hospital right away in an ambulance. My parents were about to board their flight back to LA when I called them. They immediately rushed to the hospital and are still here in Hawaii with me.

They took an MRI and easily diagnosed my injury. Before I went into the MRI, my leg strength had already considerably decreased and after the MRI, I had no mobility from my waist down. I could feel if someone touched my legs or vibrations were set on my leg, however, they are quite numb and I still cannot differentiate very well sharpness.

I am currently still in Hawaii and was transported today to a rehab facility (with internet!). We are in the middle of arranging for my return to the Southern California area for additional therapy. I hope that I will be back in the LA area sometime next week.

Since the majority of victims of "surfer's myelopathy" are not from Hawaii, there is very little follow-up for the other few cases that have suffered this injury. Doctors are not sure what the best treatment is nor how long recovery will take. This injury occurs approximately one to two times per year in Hawaii. I said, “Why couldn’t I have had that luck with the lottery?”

But you know what, I am very optimistic, upbeat and not really down. I am very much taking this event in stride; it could have been worse and there was nothing wrong on my part or anyone’s part – it was just God’s will, and I am ok with it. I spoke with one of the neurologists and asked that if I instead went surfing for the first time at a different time (i.e. next week) instead of Monday, would I still have suffered the same injury. He said most probably yes, because the injury is the result of the way my anatomy is set up. With that in mind, imagine if I had taken my first surfing lesson in Malibu and decided to drive home. With my decreased leg strength, I very well may have driven off a cliff.

Again, I am in good spirits, here in rehab and making VERY FUNNY jokes with the nurses (as always). Right now, my dad, mom and Ivette are here taking the best care of me. And my brothers and sisters have pulled together and have been making every attempt to ensure that I get the best treatment as possible.

I know some of you have contacted me and I am truly very sorry that I have not yet responded. Doctors and nurses have been coming in about every 5 minutes and it has been exhausting, to the point where I almost lost my voice. I want to thank each and every one of you who have told me directly or indirectly that I am in your thoughts and prayers. You are also in mine. I truly am grateful and lucky for such loving friends and family for the amount of support.

Oddly enough with an injury this rare, another student at Chaminade High School suffered this exact same injury while vacationing in Hawaii not too long ago. I will not mention his name because I did not ask his permission but please also keep him in your prayers.

It is very possible that I may have forgotten some people on this e-mail or no longer have people’s current e-mail addresses. I am sorry for those missing, but please feel free to pass this on.

I know this is a shock to everyone, but please do not be mad, sad or discouraged. If anyone should be mad, sad or discouraged, it should be me, but I am in good spirits. God has a plan for all of us and we don’t know what the next day will bring.

With TONS of love,