Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Moving on...

So the past few weeks have been extremely busy, yet productive.

Ivette and I finally moved into our new apartment in Westchester (close to Culver City and LAX) on Wednesday, June 20. We just moved a few boxes and supplies on Wednesday (thanks for your help Dad) and painted some of the walls on Thursday (thanks for the help Gabe, Mom and Uncle Joel). On Friday, Ivette and I went to Long Beach. We had to first move the dresser from the third floor of the condo building to the garage (thanks for the help Kenny and your friend). Then we worked on painting it. It looked like we had a successful furniture remodel, but it turned out that the enamel messed up some of the paint, so we (more so Ivette) had to redo it after we moved in.

Saturday, June 23 was the big moving day where we moved everything from Ivette’s place to the new apartment. I don’t have very much stuff because even the large stuff at the Long Beach condo was Jen’s. Ivette’s dad (Jaime) and his friend (Mario) drove from Laredo, TX and arrived Saturday morning to help. Part of the reason they drove was to pick up an old Volkswagen van that we had from the 1970s to restore it. It’s one of those cool beachy/hippie vans. Our family has so many fond memories playing around in that old beat up, brown and yellow piece of art. Jaime and Mario were a big help moving. Also, thank you very much to the following for giving us a helping hand on Saturday: AJ, Alex, Anthony, Eva, Jaime, Mario, Jacklyn, James, Jeff, JT, Kathryn, Kenny, Marlene, Mickey, Mom, Row, Ryan, Sandy, Tita Fely, Uncle John, Uncle Luke and Zach.

We have pretty much moved in most things and are relatively settled. It’s so nice to have a place to have all of my things in one place rather than living out of a suitcase like I had for the month and a half leading up to the move. Although the apartment isn’t slated as an “accessible” unit, we made everything work. The facilities are real nice with a pool so that I can do some water therapy and a gym so that I can continue to stay in shape when not in rehab.

Project Walk
I was finally able to schedule and start my rehab at Project Walk in Carlsbad, CA on June 25. The facility is 30 miles north of San Diego; this equates to a 100 mile drive to and from my house and Project Walk, 3 times per week. Why do I drive 600 miles per week to attend this facility? Because this is apparently one of the best of its kind. It’s very different than normal rehab/therapy. I looked around a lot at various centers and those were general rehab and therapy, stretching and doing some other less strenuous work. However, Project Walk is not a typical therapy center. They concentrate on “exercise therapy” and they work my legs a lot in addition to my core and they have innovative to foster recovery on the nervous system.

This is my third week there and I feel great. My legs are actually sore from some of the exercises that we have been doing! All of the trainers are motivated and positive.

My commute isn’t as bad as other clients. My first day there, I met a lady from South Africa who moved to San Diego for a year so that her son could attend Project Walk. And it is really not uncommon to hear similar stories where people pick up and move long distances for this program. So I'm actually lucky to be only 100 miles away!

4th of July and going into the ocean
On the 4th of July, I went to Manhattan Beach with Ivette and a bunch of her friends and we hung out on the beach all day. This was my first time to the beach since the injury. We rented (for free) a beach wheelchair that has balloon-wheels and makes it easier (not easy though) to navigate through the sand. (Thanks Kathryn and Ted for picking it up!) I lounged around in the chair and on the sand for most of the day.

Then Ivette’s friend’s (Peggy) boyfriend, Amir, invited me to play catch with a football. So he whirled me around and we threw the ball among four of us. It was really nice to be able to do some sort of normal beach activities.

Then the kicker… Amir said, “You want to go in the water?” I said, “If I get into the water, it would be hard to get back into the chair.” And Amir responded, “Just go in the chair!”

So off we went to the water. Ivette started freaking out. But we even passed a lifeguard and asked if it was ok and he said, “Oh yeah!” So Amir took me out and held on to my chair so that I didn’t flip or float away and we took on the waves. We didn’t just wade in; we really went into the water. It was such a good time. It felt really good getting into the water finally after everyone else had gone in and come back and I thought I couldn’t go in. That was very cool of Amir to think about me and include me in football and the water. Thanks buddy.

Standing frame
After all of the jousting and stress and frustration of trying to get a standing frame covered by insurance, we finally just ordered one online, only to learn that it will come in the next 4 to 6 weeks. At least the process has begun. The standing frame is a device that I climb into and it helps me stand by supporting my knees and hips. It feels really good to straighten out my body since I’m sitting in a chair all day. Not only does it feel good, but it has a lot of medical benefits that I notice each time I use it. However, insurance doesn’t think so…

I have my car!!!
I got my car modified on July 10. A special vendor installed “hand controls” that allows me to accelerate and brake with my left hand and steer with my right hand. I took driving lessons in Colorado, so I’m ok at it now, but still need more practice.

What an incredible feeling to have my car back. It was such a bittersweet and strange feeling. Slowly but surely, I am regaining my life back and piece by piece, I am regaining independence. Now I don’t have to wait around like a kid from junior high or someone on probation, waiting for rides all the time. It was so nice to sit in my car again and drive the streets of LA. It was so comfortable and natural. However, it was also very odd that I was driving with hand controls and not my feet. Although I had training in Colorado in rehab, the sentimental feelings really set in when driving my own car, in my own environment, but all with my hands. And with the newness of the whole thing, I am driving like a 15-year old who just got his permit with regards to smoothness of ride. It’s more like a rollercoaster with the quick stop and go's. I’m sure that will pass soon though.

It really was incredible though. When I got out of my car, I just stared at it in its parking spot outside of the apartment. I thought to myself, “My car is finally here. And I drove it here.” How surreal everything is sometimes. Sometimes I turn to Ivette and say, “This whole thing really is just so crazy. It still sometimes doesn’t seem real." But it is very real.

Life man… It’s crazy sometimes.

Thanks for visiting in Colorado
This entry is very late, but I want to do everyone due justice. I want to say thank you so much to everyone for their support, but especially those who were with me in Colorado either for a short time or for a prolonged period of time.

-Ivette was there from day 1 and is still by my side every day. She watched over me like an angel all the time, whether that meant sleeping on a cot, on the floor or squeezing into my twin-size hospital bed for a hug.
-My mom and dad switched off in Colorado to make sure that one of them was always there and truly illustrated their unconditional love and sacrifice. They’re always searching for a solution and answer, although it may be as simple as there is not one right now, just time will tell God's plan.
-James drove to Colorado with my dad in Ivette’s car and hung out for a few days. Then when I was coming home, he flew back to Colorado and jumped straight into the car to drive it back to California. He also stuck around for a few days to play games with me, although I won, as usual ;)
-Judy was able to part with my nephew for almost a week and be extremely diligent and organized. She took all of my notes when people talked and organized some of the things that I had to do. She also tried valiantly to push me up the hills of Red Rocks amphitheater.
-Jen came up and visited me on 3 separate occasions! I don’t know if she came to visit me or just to play the wheelchair games (goal ball!!!). Or maybe it was so that she could party in the mile-high air!
-Anthony visited me during a layover and was the first XO Jr. to see me in a chair.
-The whole Flores family (and Jen) came and celebrated Easter with us in Colorado, although it snowed, it didn’t stop us from making fajitas! We played a little family feud and of course, the game of choice, UNO!
-Then Terence Ou, one of my managers from work made a valiant effort to visit me. He had a couple hour layover in Denver, took a taxi to the hospital (about 30 to 40 minutes out), hung out for a little while and headed back to the airport.
-Then Ali and Gabe stopped by for a quick visit and some awesome Italian food!
-Then Mitesh swung by just in time for the hospital’s 100 year anniversary celebration and he witnessed Elvis live (my dad became a celebrity in the hospital after that). Mitesh was also persuasive enough to get my dad to do his first sake bombs! Good times…
-Judy (and Jen) came for some nice sightseeing at Red Rocks and Boulder. We also played wheelchair basketball, except Judy used her legs ;)
-Jeff (and Jen) came the weekend after for some good Cinco de Mayo fun at a crazy Mexican restaurant with divers and clowns.

I really have the best friends, family and girlfriend in the whole world. You guys have been super supportive through this whole thing and it was so great (and necessary) to have each of you come up and visit and stay with me. Denver is not as close as it seems and I cannot thank you enough for coming to support me during one of the most difficult and hectic times of my life.

No, I do not have a tattoo. I’ve been meaning to add this to the post for a while. While I was at Craig Hospital, I met a guy who was electrocuted and had a foot amputated. He was telling me about a tattoo that he used to have and he said that he was going to get another one on the other leg for the person who saved him.

I MOST probably won’t get a tattoo, but he mentioned, “Hey man, you might as well get one somewhere on your legs now while you still can’t feel them!” What a stupid reason to get a tattoo. But, my call to you is, any suggestions? (Funny, stupid, serious, whatever…). Like I said, I am not planning on getting one in the near future; I just thought it would be interesting to hear what you think about a design.

Hasta pronto...