07 January 2015

Continuing Recovery, Ditching the Wheelchair and More :: Bruce Snyder's Status

In the last quarter of 2014, I made considerable progress with my recovery from the spinal cord injury. The physical therapy has made a big difference in the last three months to fight back against the muscle atrophy.

Physical Therapy

Recently I purchased a Total Gym which has helped the muscles in my hips and butt tremendously. It's really crazy how difficult walking can be when the muscles in your hips and butt (the gluteal muscles) have atrophied so badly. The thing that the Total Gym helps with is doing one legged leg presses without lifting the entire weight of my body every time. Because the Total Gym is at an incline, I can do many more leg presses with each individual leg and focus more on my form on each side. This has made a big difference in a short amount of time. And because the stationary bike and the Total Gym are both in the basement, I'm also doing stairs much more to get down there and back up which also helps.

Every day I'm doing a variety of physical therapy including walking on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike and now I'm also doing leg presses. Some of the main workouts I'm doing involve walking on the treadmill for 60 minutes at a time, riding the stationary bike for 30 minutes at a time and doing four sets of 25 leg presses on each leg. When I'm not doing this work I have many other exercises I do that include much smaller movements that are focused on a specific task. Slow, steady progress is the name of the game.

Ditching the Wheelchair

I have not been using the wheelchair much lately and just this week I stopped taking it to work at all. I'm only using the arm crutches and my leg braces. There are some difficulties with the crutches, however, like carrying things. Although I can carry small things when I'm just waddling around without the crutches, bigger and/or heavier items are still a problem when I'm using the crutches. I have been using a backpack when I'm using the crutches and, although it's kinda awkward, it works for many things.

I'm certainly not ready to run a marathon, but the recent progress has allowed me to walk around the house now even without using the crutches. I rely heavily on the braces that I wear on my lower legs because my feet are still paralyzed and that's fine for now. I definitely waddle like a penguin without the crutches, but that will change over time as I continue to rebuild muscle. I can now go up and down the stairs several times a day without the crutches.

Continued Positive Thinking

I've been keeping in touch with many friends since the accident who have all given me tremendous encouragement. My friend Simone advised me from his experience how important it is to do anything necessary to keep my morale high. He suggested remembering good times, watching movies you enjoy, spending time with friends and indulging in anything you can enjoy -- basically whatever it takes to stay positive. I have found this to be very true in my situation as well. In fact, I'm reading a book about this very topic right now.

You Are The Placebo is a book about what causes the placebo affect in the human body. It's essentially a publication about the author's research and experience using the power of deliberate meditation to willfully bring about change to the genes and therefore healing to the body. The author used this himself many years ago to heal his own spinal cord injury by tapping into the forces that create the placebo affect inside the human body. This the second book I've read on the topic of epigenetics and it is extremely fascinating because this area of research has demonstrated that human genes are not as static as we have been lead to believe. I'm still working through this book, but I'm learning a lot about the topic.

Traveling to Celebrate the Holidays

I have not traveled on a plane since August which was quite difficult for me at the time. Sitting on the plane just for that two hour flight from Denver to Chicago was very difficult because my body was in a very different state back then. The muscles in my butt were so atrophied that sitting on anything but the cushion on my wheelchair was very difficult. In fact, sitting on that same cushion while in the plane was OK but it made me realize how much I moved around during the day even in the wheelchair. Sitting in the same seat with minimal movement for two hours was very difficult.

Contrast my experience four months ago with my experience traveling to Illinois and back last week to visit family for the holidays. Not only was sitting on the plane for the two hour flight not a problem, but I also was able to use a thinner cushion this time. This was definitely a test of the progress I have made in rebuilding my body from the ruinous side effects of the spinal cord injury. I'm happy to say that a two hour flight is not a problem at this point. However, I don't believe that I could do a 9-10 hour flight to Europe yet. (Prior to the accident, I traveled for business via a direct flight from Denver to Frankfurt, Germany and then on to Munich, Germany to my company's headquarters. Needless to say, I have not been able to make any trips to Europe since the accident. I am hopeful that by the one year mark in the second quarter I will be able to start this travel again.)

Although the two hour flight was much more manageable this time around, the four hours of delays in the airport due to weather were no fun. It meant that we didn't land in Illinois until almost 2am. Originally we were scheduled to land about 10:30pm. Enduring the delays was worth it to see family. I had not seen my brother or my parents since July when they left Colorado to return home. It was wonderful to see them all and they were very impressed by the progress I have made since they last saw me.

Janene and I are lucky that both our families live about 20 minutes apart. So when we travel to Illinois to visit we get to see them both. This is because we began dating way back in high school some 26 years ago. We have been in Colorado for 20 years this year and not once have we missed traveling to Illinois to visit our families for the holidays. But even with the short distance between our families, the schedule we adhere to when we are there doesn't leave much room for relaxation because just about every day we go back and forth between both houses. Still, we have a wonderful time visiting family and celebrating the holidays.


The resiliency of the human body continues to amaze me. Comparing the state of my body today with the state of it back in the spring of 2013 just after the accident is quite remarkable. But I will say again that I am very lucky to not have sustained worse injuries. As I was told by many doctors, most people who get run over by a car don't live to tell about it. I know people who were at Craig Hospital for spinal cord injuries when I was there who are not as fortunate as me and who have had numerous other complications after leaving the hospital. My heart goes out to the them because my situation was bad enough the way it was, it's so difficult to think about everything being worse. I'm just very thankful for all the compassion and support I have received from friends, family and otherwise.