Friday, August 14, 2015

Some Nightmares Come True, So Do Some Dreams

Five years ago I was facing cervical fusion, going into shock every other day from venous access, stuck to an IV pole for nine hours a day in a nursing station. I couldn't turn my head without passing out and the diagnostic process for Dysautonomia was cloudy. I underwent testing for Chiari-I Malformation, lived in my cervical collar, and suffered overwhelming amounts of physical and psychological pain 24 hours a day.

I didn't know how much time I had left to go on like this or who could help me, but it tanked my life. It bled my savings and retirement dry.

My (ex-)wife was miserable, I was miserable, I was just a few months away from graduating from college which had taken me ten years to complete. My family was furious and "disgusted" with my IV fluids, not convinced that drinking more water was not working. My work was very compassionate but worried about my ability to perform. My friends were scared. I was scared, and fed up. I could not continue pre-med studies.

Three years ago began refusing treatment and my doctor stood up for me (again) to tell my insurance that this was not working. I got my port 28 June 2012 and things got immediately better. By August I could get my port accessed once a week at the nursing station and run my IV fluids at home, during which time I rested, worked, and did physical therapy to rehabilitate myself. I still could not regulate my body temperature or stay conscious over 65°F.

I started practicing karate on 9 October 2012. That was the day my real life began. I could stay conscious if I ran fluids. By November 2012 I was able to access my port by myself (which saved a lot of money!) and I got an IV pump which allowed me to run IV fluids on the go with a backpack. I still follow sterile procedure like my life depends on it--because it does.
My physiotherapist told me, "While you have time, go live. Because when you're lying in that bed, you're going to want those memories."  I had wanted to practice martial arts all my life. No dojo would work with me because they were afraid of liability. Finally I met my Sensei, who let me try, and we were very careful. The rules were (and are) strict, to ensure my safety and success. Everybody was worried about whether I could do it, and I didn't care. I was on death's door with blood pressure collapses and had lost a hold of my dreams. What if this port thing was my last chance at living?

I wanted martial arts. I wanted EDSers to be able to protect themselves. A martial arts seminar showed me there were things I could learn to do; once I knew there was a dream within my reach I wanted it. I told myself that if I died after that, I would conclude that I had been a useful person in this world. I asked God to just give me this one dream, give me one merciful gift before I fell to ruins. I begged for strength, and my port was just enough to bring strength back to me.
I proved to myself I could do it, and set out to inspire others with EDS to learn what they CAN do. Today my dream came true, thanks to my Sensei, my doctors, and my friends.

Today, on 14 August 2015, I co-taught, beside my Sensei, a session on Self-Defense and Martial Arts with EDS and Dysautonomia. We showed people that everybody could do /something/. 

At first people were nervous about what they couldn't do without dislocating. Sensei dispelled their fear using the same basic techniques that I found so grounding: he started with curling the toes. So small a thing, but so simple. I watched a room full of antsy people wiggling little tiny toes, watching those toes intently, and succeeding. The tiny toes curled down into the floor, curled up, and down. The corners of mouths curled up and stayed up.  If only for a moment, a room full of people with EDS found a physical thing that they /could/ do.

It was like we'd unlocked a treasure chest, and the doubtsstarted coming: what about my ankles? What about my balance? What if I can't stand? What if I can't take my shoes off?

Within minutes, those doubts became wonderings: "How can I do this if my ankles are loose?" "Can I do it this way?" "Will it work if I do this instead?"

I understood for a brief moment that what I had done in pursuing martial arts was larger than just overcoming my Dysautonomia and chronic dehydration. Today I changed the way at least one person perceived their body.

Die when I may, I finally feel like I've made at least one satisfying change in this world, one real act of gratitude for all the kindness that has cushioned me along the ridges of a very, very hard life.
Thank you all for your help along the way, and for helping make my dream a reality. I think I  finally feel brave enough to dream again. Yes, I'm ready now.  Onegaishimasu.

Be well.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Stay Tuned

Topics to cover:
Finding a Dojo
Getting Started
"Am I cut out for this?"
"Can my kid do this?"
"Can I afford this?"
Dislocations during practice
IV Fluids during practice
When Injury Happens
Skittish Partners
Reasonable Accommodations / Doctor's Note
Adapting Specific Moves
Technique Is Power

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Karate for Life, From Head to Toe

This morning I washed my hair in the sink, which I do when I want to use hot water, because I take cool showers to avoid passing out.  I felt the rug bunching up beneath my toes because I had been gripping it like we practice gripping the floor in karate!  I knocked one of my knees (gently) against the cabinet because I had been keeping my knees slightly bent as I'd practiced in physiotherapy!  This is fantastic!  A year ago I could not have washed my hair easily, and my hair had been shaven short.

Not everyone who practices martial arts will subscribe to martial arts as a lifestyle.  But everyone who practices martial arts will, at some point, observe a lifestyle impact.  Clearly, the lifestyle impact for me has been profound, by the cumulative impact of small changes.  For one thing, I don't fall so much anymore, which means I don't carry my cane so much anymore, which means my hands don't suffer so much, which means I don't suffer so much.

Sensei says it's when we are tired that we need to work the hardest to stay focused.  He also says it's important to focus on the small things, like foot positioning.  These points have worked out well for me, without having to be complex.  Goju Ryu can get complicated, but the most basic elements are straightforward, which helps me stay grounded, with my feet firmly planted, and my toes curled around the rug!

Be well.