Wednesday, May 4, 2016

An Update!

Our new home is on the Nicomekl River in Surrey. There are paths along the river and two parks next door, with lots of opportunity for exercise.
It has been almost exactly one year since I have updated the Get Well Trev blog, and there is a lot of catching up to do. I really don't have an excuse for not posting more often, other than not a lot has been going on as far as my injury and recovery. Everything is going well, and medically I have been stable with no problems over the year. That said, there have been some changes and improvements in a few ways.

Last summer, Deborah and I moved from our condominium in Richmond to a townhouse in Surrey. We were having some problems with our unit at the old place, and had trouble with the building management trying to get it addressed. Once we got everything sorted (we actually had to go to court over it, several times) we thought it best to leave as we were just not happy with the whole situation. Our new home is in South Surrey, about a half hour's drive south of our old place and almost at the Canada/U.S. border.

We are much happier here, our unit is very nice and the entire complex is great. We have a two-story townhome, called a "quad" as it's one of four corner units in the building. There are three other quads in our little area, and in the whole complex there is another set of quads, four apartment-style buildings and a number of three-story townhouse units. The entire property is 75 acres, and includes a golf course, an indoor swimming pool, tennis courts and a clubhouse. It's all beautifully maintained and our neighbours are very nice.

There are paths along the river that have great views of the mountains. The paths are all hard-packed gravel and not too difficult for wheeling, although there are a few hilly spots. I try to do a loop of five kilometres at least once a week.

As for our own unit, yes it's two stories. When we were looking for a new place, we originally limited ourselves to single-story homes, although we did look at a three-story condo with an elevator. At some point we realized that there was a decent selection of "master-on-main" townhomes in the area, including several units in the complex we now live in. As the name says, these units have the master bedroom and bathroom on the main floor, with additional rooms upstairs. There were not many single-story townhouses in the area that had what we were looking for, but once we started including the master-on-main two-story units, there was a lot more to choose from. In our unit, the ground floor has a huge master bedroom (that doubles as my office) with the en suite bathroom, and upstairs are two bedrooms (one is Deborah's office and the other we have set up as a guest room) and a bathroom.

So far, I have not even been upstairs, but at some point we may look into a lift; there is really no need for me to go up, the ground floor has everything I need and is actually bigger in size than our entire unit in Richmond was.

We have started to use the pool once a week, it's indoor and the water temperature is kept quite warm, which is great for me. I have steadily increased how far I swim, and currently I do 36 lengths with a mix of front crawl, back crawl and elementary backstroke (also called reverse breast stroke). Several people have asked me about how I get in and out of the pool, and how I manage the various strokes. To get in the pool, I transfer out of my chair to the deck (by dropping down from the front of the chair in a dip) and then shuffle down the steps into the pool. When I swim my legs just float along behind as I go; as I've mentioned before, for some reason I float very easily now and my legs are usually right at the surface behind me. To get out of the pool I shuffle up the steps to the deck, and up into my chair with a dip onto the front.

If you remember from my rehab the floor transfers were the hardest part, and I struggled with them for a long time. I have been continuing with yoga once a week, and as part of the class there is always a floor transfer as we everything on the floor. Now there is an additional floor transfer every week when we go to the pool, so I am getting lots of practice and can do them on my own fairly easily now. When we are at the pool I still have Deborah spot me as the consequences of falling on the hard pool deck would be pretty severe.

I have been taking lots of pictures and my photography is getting better; this is a spotted towhee. Deborah bought me a nice Sigma lens, which makes a big difference for bird pictures.

Our complex is right on a river, and - like our previous place - there are paths along the river in both directions. In one direction I can do a five-kilometre (three-mile) loop through two parks, following the river. It's about the same distance I did before, but more challenging as there is more gravel surface as opposed to paved, and there are some hilly areas. I try to do this wheel once a week, it takes me about an hour and 15 minutes depending on the exact route I take. There are several options, and I am working up to one that takes me up a very steep hill to return to our unit.

In the other direction, the path follows the river for a short way and then turns south toward the border. This section is interesting, it's call the Semiahmoo Trail and dates back to 1873; it was the original wagon trail between New Westminster (just north of us) and the U.S. border. I have not been this way yet for a couple of reasons: The trail crosses a very busy road, and they only recently installed a crosswalk; and once across the road the trail is very steep for a long way. It would be a big challenge, but now that the crosswalk is installed I hope to attempt it soon.

At work at the racetrack last summer. I looked after data acquisition and electronics for Canadian Superbike rider Jodi Christie and the Accelerated Technologies team.

Last summer I helped out one of the race teams in the Canadian Superbike series, doing data acquisition and looking after all the electronics on the bikes. For the races in Ontario and Quebec I flew to London and stayed with my brother Peter and his family, and Peter and I drove to the races from there. There was a round in Edmonton and another in Halifax, and Peter met me there for those. I managed pretty much everything on my own, all the flying was no problem and the overnight hotel stays are routine now. I think I'm at the point that I could travel somewhere on my own if I had to now, but it's still nice to have someone there to help if I need it.

There are a couple of sticking points with travelling on my own that I can see. The first is that, because of all the "stuff" I have to take, I end up with quite a bit of luggage. Carting it around by myself is difficult, but not impossible. The second and more difficult is transportation when I am away from home. Car rental companies do offer hand controls in most cities, but the controls are portable/temporary and Velcro around the steering column. It sounds dodgy, and when I went through rehab the therapists did recommend against it. I definitely don't want to risk something like that., and if I was to go somewhere that is not accessible with public transportation I would need someone to drive me around.

There is an eagle's nest on the property, so I am getting lots of eagle pictures. The last couple of weeks it has looked like there are babies in the nest.

That covers all the major happenings over the past year, I will try and post more frequently with regular updates in the future!

Saturday, May 9, 2015


A mallard on the pond behind our condo

For Christmas last year Deborah gave me a lens for my camera. It's a super-telephoto zoom lens from Sigma (150-500 F:5-6.3, if you're a photography buff) and lets me get some great shots even from far away. I have been out a bunch of times experimenting with it and learning more about photography. The lens is so big and heavy that I have to be careful not to tip out of my chair when holding it up, although I am figuring out how to use a tripod from my chair as well. The picture here, a duck in the back yard, I think is one of my better shots so far. You can see some pictures that we took at Boundary Bay on my Facebook page here (you don't need a Facebook account to see the pictures). Now that the weather is getting nicer, I'm planning to get out a lot more often to use the big lens, and to learn more about photography as I go.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Nerve Transfer Surgery Restores Movement to Man's Fingers

This video from the Ottawa Hospital gives details of the operation to restore some movement to Timothy Raglin's fingers. There is some graphic surgical content that you may want to skip through.

Last month in Ottawa, surgeons performed a nerve transfer operation on Timothy Raglin, a quadriplegic, to give him some movement in his fingers. My understanding of the procedure is that there are duplicate nerves in your arms, and the surgery involved rewiring two of these duplicate nerves in Timothy Raglin's arm to nerves in his fingers that are not connected to the brain after a spinal cord injury. Some regrowth of the nerve is necessary, and the doctors figure it could be up to a year before any results can be seen. According to a story on the Ottawa Hospital's website, this type of procedure has been performed only a few times before, but research is ongoing.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Paralyzed Rats Walk Again - Update

A flexible implant helps restore walking in paralyzed rats

A couple of years ago there was news about a study in Switzerland involving paralyzed rats that were able to walk again after intense rehab with chemical and electrical stimulation. I wrote about it in June of 2012. Now comes news from the same group in Switzerland that they have developed a flexible implant for the chemical and electrical stimulation part, with good results on rats. Because the implant is flexible, it can stay in the body for longer without inflaming the spinal cord where it is placed. More details are in this article from CNET magazine.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Physiatry and Occupational Therapy

Some two-wheel shenanigans earlier in the summer

A couple of weeks ago I had an appointment with my physiatrist - the rehab doctor that oversees everything and looks at the big picture as far as how I am doing. I hadn't been for two years and even this visit was more of a checkup, but it was a good opportunity to ask some questions that I've been saving up. The physiatrist seemed quite happy with everything and we talked about making a couple of changes to my supplements and routine to make some things a bit easier. It was all pretty much good news, and she said there's no need to see her again, even in two more years, unless something specific comes up.

One thing we did talk about was travel and how I could be a bit more independent away from home. Right now I am okay when Deborah and I go away somewhere, as she can help me if I run into trouble with anything. Hotel rooms are sometimes not as "accessible" as they could be, and it doesn't take much to make doing something a lot more difficult for me. A couple of examples: Some hotel beds are really high, so the transfer into bed can be a bit tricky. Or, sometimes there is a really nice bench in the bathtub, but it's fixed to the wall at the opposite end to the shower controls and I can't reach them.

I am good with most of the other aspects of traveling. Last summer I helped one of the teams in the Canadian Superbike Championship, going to three of the races. For those trips, I flew on my own to my brother Peter's place near London, Ontario, and he came with me to the track and could help me if I had trouble in the hotel room. For next year, I would like to be able to do this on my own if Peter can't make it, which means staying on my own in a hotel room.

The physiatrist made an appointment with an occupational therapist for me to see if it's something I need to work on myself or if it's some kind of equipment that I need to make things easier. It was an interesting appointment, the therapist showed me some benches and sliding boards that are small enough to go in a suitcase or even as carry-on luggage on a plane, and we came up with a few good ideas. Now I have a few options to look at as far as different equipment and what I could use on my own, and it looks like I may be able to come up with an answer.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mute Swans

The mute swans busy preening in the historic fishing village

Our little village is home to a pair of mute swans that we occasionally see when we take a stroll on the boardwalk. The first two springs that we were here, the swans had a nest near a building in the historic fishing village but unfortunately the eggs never hatched. Both years the nest was quite close to the water, and it's likely that at high tide in the spring the nest and eggs got wet. This year, though, the swans built their nest on a higher nearby bank (according to this news article, a local fisherman actually towed the nest from its usual spot to the new location). We couldn't see the nest from the boardwalk, but we were told that it was there and safe, and eventually the chicks hatched. There is a great picture here by a local photographer of the family in the nest. Two of the babies survived, and we saw them several times over the summer in the village. Evidently the cygnets, as they are called, fledge at 60 days old, but can stay with the parents until the next breeding season.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cannon Beach

Deborah and I recently went on a holiday to Cannon Beach in Oregon. We took two days to get there, taking the scenic route along the coast. On day 1 we drove down Whidbey Island and took the ferry across to Port Townsend, and stayed the first night in Sequim, Washington. On day 2 we followed the 101 through Aberdeen, Astoria and through to Cannon Beach. We spent three days in Cannon Beach and then returned home on the less scenic round, Interstate 5.
Most of the buildings in Port Townsend date from the late 1800s, and have large signs painted on the side. We stopped in the downtown area for an hour or so before driving through to Sequim to stay the night. We will go back again sometime and stay longer for sure.

A tall ship was sailing through the harbour when we were in Port Townsend, I am not sure what the occasion was. The cannon shot it made sure gave us a jolt though!

The salt air near the beach is not so good for anything made of steel...

Deborah on Cannon Beach. The huge rock in the background is haystack rock, the centerpiece of the town - although the town itself is named Cannon Beach because of a cannon that washed ashore long ago.

Haystack Rock is 235 feet high, when the tide is low you can get out right to the rock and look around in the tide pools.

This is the view of Cannon Beach (and Haystack Rock) from a lookout in nearby Ecola State Park.

The lighthouse on Tillamook Rock, as seen from the same lookout in Ecola State Park.

One of the highlights for me was actually getting out on the beach, the first time I have done that in my chair.

My friend Andy Cherney, who I used to work with in Los Angeles, now lives in Portland and came to visit us at the beach. Even though the weather was not quite as nice, we went out on the beach again at low tide and wheeled out to the rock for a look around.