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Chef Mary

Hello there! Welcome to Mary’s Cafe. Our specialties include macaroni and cheese, cauliflower crust pizza, and waffles with fried eggs. Take a seat and enjoy!

Before my injury, I loved to cook. I was always looking up new gluten-free recipes on Pinterest and trying them out. Since my SCI, I haven’t done much in the way of cooking. I typically find the recipes then direct Mom how to cook them.  I thought cooking would be pretty much impossible with only one hand. Turns out I was wrong!

When I was at Shriners rehabbing after my tendon transfer, my OTs, Justine and Sarah, had me in the kitchen chopping veggies and baking cookies to strengthen my arm back up. My kitchen creations there inspired me to try cooking at home, too. They gave me a rocker knife and helped me find a single-handed cutting board, pictured below. I highly recommend both of these products for amputees or anyone with paralysis in one arm/hand.  

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For the past several weeks, I’ve been participating in a coaching study with two OT Doctoral students at Jefferson, Bernadette and Taylor. The gist of the study is that I set a handful of feasible goals and the students check in with me every week to see my progress. So far, it’s been a great experience!

One of my goals has been to continue gaining independence in the kitchen and since our kitchen is not very wheelchair-friendly right now — hence the dent in the fridge — we made my own little kitchen! I feel like I’m back in my Temple dorm room circa 2013 with a mini-fridge and toaster oven right in my bedroom. My menu is not very extensive yet, but I’ve independently cooked myself breakfast and lunch several times so far. Trader Joe’s gluten-free macaroni and cheese is my current go-to. Yum. 

It feels good to be taking little steps toward more independence like making some of my own meals. My next step is to add a Keurig to my makeshift kitchen so I can make coffee or tea whenever a craving hits. I always need that 2 pm caffeine boost. If you ever need one, stop by my cafe and I’ll whip you up something nice.

As always, thanks for reading. Talk soon.

Uncategorized

Sweet Dreams

In my dreams, I walk. Literally and figuratively.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream so vivid and funny that I just have to share. I was in the King of Prussia Mall (it was unclear who I was with) and I was able to walk, but only if I was pushing a Swiffer mop. Some people use walkers. Some people use canes. But I, apparently, use a Swiffer. Totally a normal thing to be walking around a mall with, right?

Now, it’s not uncommon for me to walk in my dreams. Actually, it’s uncommon for me to be in a wheelchair in them. Usually, I’m able to walk, not perfectly, but I am able to walk, sometimes with a little help. The Swiffer (Mom’s favorite cleaning tool) is a new twist though.

I’m not sure what my sleeping mind was trying to tell me … maybe I miss cleaning? Nah, can’t be that. Anyway, I thought you might get a kick out of my silly dream. I know I did.

In other news, I am finally back doing some physical therapy at Magee! I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I did any formal physical therapy there. I had to be really careful with my arms during my surgery recoveries, so I couldn’t do any PT, just OT with my friends at Shriners. I had an evaluation at Magee last week and will be going twice a week for the next couple of months. I’m looking forward to being more active, getting stronger again, and seeing some of my old Magee friends.

That’s all for now! I hope 2020 is treating everyone well so far.

Sweet dreams!

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Thanks for the help, Swiffer.
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My Tendon Transfer Experience

Happy fall, everyone!

I can’t believe summer is over and the holidays are right around the corner. It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on my progress. To be honest, it’s been a long, challenging two months but good things are happening. Here’s a little glimpse into what I’ve been up to:

On August 22, I had surgery on my left arm. Before my SCI, it was my nondominant arm, but since then I’ve had to rely on it for everything because my right arm is really weak. I was really torn about having the surgery because I knew it meant giving up my arm for a couple of months. But after talking to several people who had it done and doing a lot of research, I decided to go for it. Sometimes you have to take one step backward to take two steps forward, right?

My left arm worked pretty well and I was independent in a lot of things before the surgery, but my left triceps was absolutely nonexistent. If I was lying in bed and reached up, my arm would fall and smack me in the face. Let me tell you, it’s not fun (and that’s just one example). Dr. K and Justine and Sarah, my awesome OTs at Shriners, decided I would be a good candidate for biceps- to- triceps tendon transfer surgery.

Basically, you have three different muscles in your arm that work together to flex your arm up towards your face — the brachialis, brachioradialis, and the biceps. Turns out you don’t need all three muscles to still be able to feed yourself, brush your teeth, and do everything else that requires elbow flexion. It’s pretty genius that our bodies come with all these spare parts — the gracilis, biceps, appendix, etc. During the surgery, the biceps brachii are snipped and wrapped around the elbow to act as triceps.

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After surgery, my arm was in a straight cast for a week. My friend Erin drew a cute picture of a wiener dog on it. Very fashionable. Since then, it’s been in a brace so it can’t bend past the allowed range and I’ve been going to Shriners for OT almost every day. The biceps are used for flexion, so I am in the process of retraining my brain to use them for extension. It’s actually really hard! It takes a lot of patience and practice during OT, but I’m starting to get a hang of it.

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Right now, I’m allowed to bend my arm to 90 degrees and I’ll get the brace off soon. I’m super excited about that. I will finally start to work on strengthening it back up and using it to do things independently again. Thank God for that because Dad is a terrible teeth brusher and Mom needs to work on her makeup skills.

Another exciting development is that the gracilis in my right arm is finally coming alive. It’s not strong enough to make much movement yet, but the whole muscle contracts now! It’s a start. The doctors from Shriners and Penn seem very excited and optimistic that it will continue to strengthen over the next 18 months.

This whole process has been a test of my patience and at times has been a little scary. But with every new movement I know I’m headed in the right direction.

Until next time! Thank you for reading.

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Five Smiles #3

Before I jump in, I’d like to say thank you for all of the birthday wishes on my previous post. I’m still in denial that I’m actually 25, but I had a great birthday! I went out with some friends in Philly to celebrate on the 3rd, had a delicious gluten-free cake with my family at home on the 4th, and wrapped up the celebration visiting my Grandma and Uncle John in Massachusetts on the 5th. It’s safe to say 25 is off to a good start.

1) I had an abdominal surgery about a month ago and today was my follow-up with my doctor at Jefferson. He said that everything looked great! I’m only a month out from the surgery, but I’m incredibly happy with the results so far.

2) Do you remember when I wrote in a previous post that I thought my van would spontaneously combust one day? Well, I was right. I want to preface story this by saying that everyone is fine and after three days at the auto shop, the van is home, happy and healthy (at least for now). Anyway, my mom went into the Gap to buy a gift card and I decided to wait in the car. All of a sudden the car made a weird noise and white smoke started pouring out of the front of the car. I could feel a panic attack brewing. So, I followed my first instinct, called my mom and shouted: “Mom the car is on fire!” My mom sprinted out of the store, turned the car off and immediately got on the phone to the car mechanic. Long story short, we were stranded in the Gap shopping center for almost three hours as the car was towed and we waited for a wheelchair-accessible transport to take us home. It was a bit of an inconvenience for sure, but in the end, wasn’t so bad. We got açai bowls while we waited, had some nice conversation with the lovely people who drove us home, and the car problem ended up not being too serious. Phew.

3) Willow has been extra cute lately so here are some recent pictures of her enjoying summer. Dad brought her home this funny doormat from his work trip to Arizona. She loves trying to steal Dad’s fresh-picked veggies off the back porch. Green beans are her favorite. It’s crazy to think that she will be a year old next month. They grow up so fast!

4) My dad found a cute little brunch spot in Wilmington called the Bellefonte Cafe and we all went over the weekend. Despite the heat, it was nice to relax on the patio and be with everybody. My sisters are both going back to school next week so it’s going to get pretty quiet around my house.

5) I have another surgery tomorrow! This is the last one that is currently scheduled. I’m having a biceps-to-triceps tendon transfer on my left arm, which is my stronger arm. Basically, they just take a piece of your biceps and flip it into your triceps. After some occupational therapy, I’ll be able to push off of surfaces easier, reach overhead without my arm falling and smacking me in the face, etc. It’s a pretty routine surgery, but out of all the surgeries I’ve done so far this one is definitely giving me the most anxiety. The looming loss of independence for a couple months during recovery is nerve-wracking. However, I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve had it done and they say the new strength you gain is absolutely worth it. So, here goes nothing!

Surgery Recovery, Uncategorized

Adios, cast!

On Wednesday, I had my six-week checkup at Shriners. The place was hopping; Dr. K had just gotten back from doing some mission work with kids in Ethiopia, so everyone was eager to see him — especially me! I couldn’t wait to get my cast off. I had been wondering, with a mixture of anxiety and excitement, what was going on under there and how my arm would look.

Dr. K and his orthopedic team started off by draining my leg — I’ll spare you those lovely details. Then they got to work removing my cast. I’ve never broken a bone or had any reason to be in a cast before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The saw they used was pretty cool. Even though it sounded terrifying and cut through the fiberglass cast with ease, the blade couldn’t cut you if it hit your skin. Medical gadgets are pretty amazing.

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The big reveal!

I was worried about it possibly being moldy and gross under the cast, but Dr. K said everything looked great and was headed in the right direction. The incisions are healing up nicely and the new flap on my triceps (where the new muscle and nerves are) appears healthy. Yay! Good news. My arm may not be the prettiest anymore — there are quite a few scars — but, oh well, it’s worth it. And it’s just nice to be able to see my arm again! Continue reading “Adios, cast!”

Surgery Recovery, Uncategorized

Onto my next adventure…

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m getting surgery! It seems like I’ve been waiting forever for it to happen, but now that March 7 is only a week away, I’m starting to experience a whirlwind of emotions — I’m excited, nervous, anxious, and everything in between. Before I jump in and explain the surgery, let’s rewind and take this chapter in my journey from the top. I’ve covered a lot of hard miles to get to this point.

I’ve been dedicated to doing physical therapy for a year and a half now. I’ve seen some really good return in my left arm/hand/fingers and a bit in my left leg, but my right side is still very weak. Over the summer, I started feeling like I ‘plateaued’ in PT and in my recovery, but I was still determined to recover more function, especially in my right arm. A common misconception about people who are paralyzed is that they’re just trying to walk again. Of course, I would LOVE to walk my dog and run the Broad Street Run again someday. But honestly, I’d trade that any day to be able to put my hair in a ponytail, write with my dominant hand, and be independent again. Continue reading “Onto my next adventure…”