I apologize for not writing recently! I have been so content having Sydney home that I have not been diligent in updating the blog!
Since Sydney has been home, she has continued to improve. (The miracle continues!) She now walks everywhere with one cane, and around the house she walks without canes! In addition to wiggling her right toes up and down, she can now move her foot to the side! The next big recovery we are watching for is the ability to flex her foot up, which will enable her to take a step without requiring a brace to hold her foot in a flexed position. Her pain has become very manageable; she only takes Tylenol.
She goes to therapy at TOSH in Murray twice a week. At therapy Tuesday Jason put her on a treadmill in a harness, and gave her pointers on how to improve her walking technique. She was so excited for the specific tips! Thursday, Nikki had her practice dancing to “The Wizard and I” music. This was fun, and very timely as Sydney just got asked to the Christmas Dance which is on Friday! She is so excited!
She walks and strength trains at home 4 days a week. (Many of you have seen her walking at WalMart or at the AF Rec center.) She walks a mile in about 20 minutes – which is quite fast – without canes! She works on homework in the afternoon, and is steadily getting caught up! (Thank you teachers for working with her!) She anticipates attending school full-time in January for third term. She sent in her college applications a few weeks ago, which is scary and exciting!
She still has muscle spasms after she has exercised or walked and her muscles are fatigued (clonus – a common result of spinal cord injury). However, these have really decreased! Her legs used to shake all the time after standing and walking, but now it is only after quite a bit of exertion (walking a lot or exercising). She still has a strong plantarflexion spasm (her foot pushes down like a ballerina) every time she steps on her right foot. Dr. Dodds put her on an anti-spasm medication at our last visit, which seems to help. By decreasing this right foot spasm, it makes it easier and less painful to walk. We believe this will decrease over time as she continues to heal.
Good news – she is driving! She uses her left foot to drive, and says it is really easy! It is nice for her to have this form of mobility and independence back.
Sydney has great friends who invite her to hang out. For example she went to see the Music Man play at Lone Peak and loved it! Her productions class made her a beautiful quilt made out of jean pockets they donated! (See picture). They each wrote her a note and put them in the pockets. It is the cutest thing I have ever seen! It is very soft and warm, and Sydney now uses it for a bedspread on her bed. Many of you have watched the video Makenzie made and asked if you could hear sound for the song Sydney sings early in the video. Here is a link where you can watch this with sound: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPUpZscUGCk
Many people have asked why Sydney has had to re-learn how to walk. Why did she have to work so hard to learn how to roll over, how to sit up, how to stand up, etc.? After being paralyzed, did her body forget how to do this? Was she weak from being in bed? Here is the scoop from a non-medical professional (me): When Sydney's spine was broken it damaged her spinal chord. The spinal cord is the bundle of nerves that conducts sensory (feel) and motor nerve impulses (for movement) between the brain and the rest of the body. Her breaks were in the middle of her back (T10-L1), with one vertebrae dislocating and twisting her spinal cord out at a 90° angle. At that point, the cord was damaged and could no longer relay information between her brain and her body from the middle of her trunk down. Even though she hadn't lost any muscle mass, she no longer had any nerve communication to her muscles. She could not feel them, could not tell them to move, etc.
As the miracle of her recovery started to take place, some of this nerve function was restored (some of the nerves in the spinal cord healed), and some of the nerve function regenerated (her body built a new pathway from her brain to her limbs to work around the former damaged pathways). But here is the challenge: visualize, for example, 100 nerves going to each leg to control the individual muscles. Let's say you have now regained the use of 10 of these nerves. Using the few muscle areas the 10 nerves now control, you need to somehow learn how to move again (without the benefit of all the other supporting muscle areas), and you need to intensely strength train the 10 muscles that have nerve function to do all the work for the other 90 muscle areas! This is why learning to move again is such hard work and seems so awkward! As Sydney was regaining function, her legs felt very heavy, and had only limited feeling and function. She has been regaining feeling and function from the top-down. At this point she has moderately good feeling and function in her trunk, upper legs, and pretty good in her lower left leg. She still has areas of numbness everywhere, lack of sensation in her lower back (cannot feel hot/cold or pass pin prick test), and still feels quite a bit of numbness in her lower right leg (but it is recovering and coming back!) The more nerve function she regains, the better she can move. She continues to heal and amaze us all! Likewise, the more strength training she does, the better her muscles with nerve control can adapt and take over for areas without nerve control.
She has been using an e-stim kit at home for a few weeks, which we love! She secures two electrodes on her right shin, turns on the e-stim, and it sends a strong electrical current down the working nerves to her foot and forces her muscles to contract. It will only work if there is a working nerve path to follow, so she has only been able to use this since she recovered some nerve function to her foot. Placing the e-stim on her shin forces her toes to contract up, and also contracts her right foot to the side (the nerve paths that work today). The benefit of this is if she only has a few nerves working to control her foot, they may not control enough muscle to flex her toes up very much. The e-stim strengthens the nerve signal for these few nerves and forces a stronger muscle contraction, which means the few muscles she controls will be strengthened faster so they can better lift the weight of her foot. When we first started using the kit we were so excited to watch her toes flex up so high that we just sat and watched it for about 10 minutes! Family entertainment at its best!
We love you all and appreciate your prayers and support! We call Sydney our “Walking Miracle” (coined by Mrs. Woolsey!) We are so grateful for the Lord's mercy in healing her, are so grateful for your September fast and continued prayers, and are grateful for Sydney's example in exercising such great faith and in living an exemplary life following all the commandments, for which we believe she was blessed. After the fast and prayer, our family was blessed with peace and comfort; so we didn't need to struggle with the ongoing anxiety, fear or discouragement which can be such a burden under these circumstances. After Sydney was told in a blessing she would recover, we felt such immense hope, gratitude and joy, that we have treasured the miraculous blessings we have observed during her recovery. As friends heard about this tragedy and came to visit or extend sympathy, please forgive our family for not having the typical tears of sadness. We have felt so blessed and are so grateful by this miracle that we can only express joy and gratitude.