Ascending to New Heights

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The body performs it’s best when upright and weight bearing. Duh, this sounds so simple. However, it’s a lesson that took me a long time to learn. Not out of personal apathy, but more of lack of holistic body training within the general medical community, especially when I was growing up. I was introduced to the standing frame via a reality show 3 years ago. Humorously, again, the boob tube casts a lifeline! My first thought was,”What is that thing?” and,”Why am I not doing it?”

Ironically, the brand name of “that thing” is the Easy Stand, but this contraption is anything but easy! The Easy Stand has an extensive number of health benefits for people in wheelchairs:
*weight bearing while standing improves and maintains bone integrity
*lessens the progression of scoliosis
*strengthens cardiovascular system and diaphragm
*builds endurance
*improves circulation
*reduces inflammation (swelling)
*improves bowel, kidney, and bladder function
*prevents atrophy
*improves strength
*manages pressure ulcers. Sometimes it’s impossible for me to wrap my brain around the fact that over 40 years of consistent doctor visits brought not one mention of this device which would have done me an imaginable world of good.

Nevertheless, God’s grace has guided me to REACT: perfect place, perfect time, perfect equipment. The Easy Stand is a machine which cranks a person up from a 0 degree sitting position to a 90 degree standing position. Acclimating myself to the Easy Stand meant reintroducing gravity to my body for the first time in 36 years. In April 2015, going from a 0 degree sitting position to 30 degree standing position while in the standing frame began a stressful initiation. I was terrified that my SI joint would succumb to new and unfamiliar duress. Remarkably, my lower back gained strength the more I pushed, preventing SI dislocation, and just recently, allowing for the removal my SI belt. For an entire year, the Si belt was my literal “security” belt holding my SI in place, and like the American Express card, I never left home without it! The ability to, again, sit comfortably, make worry free transfers, and most importantly, coordinate stylish outfits without a confining belt, is a true blessing!

In May, my body was adapting quickly, sprouting taller from 30 degrees to 60 degrees. For the most part, challenging my muscles was difficult, but not painful. My speedy progression was more than encouraging. And, at this rate, I was going to shatter the goal of standing straight up at 90 degrees by September! Then came June…

June took any cocky thoughts of grandeur and ran them head first into a brick wall. It made me question the reality of reaching any September goal. Frustratingly, my body, also, hit that same brick wall, refusing to go past 60 degrees. It took the entire month of June to, painstakingly, go from 60 degrees to 70 degrees. Discomfort in my right foot prevailed due to a misaligned ankle and knee. This was no surprise. The kicker that gave me the most grief was my diaphragm. As Dr. Cris explained, the diaphragm is the main muscle of respiration and should lay flat in the center chest between the lungs and rib cage. It’s function is to expand the lungs when breathing air in. Years of sitting in a wheelchair rendered my diaphragm into more of a tightly shaped ball. Notably measurable was every degree increase on the Easy Stand as I strived to pry open the clenched metal fist centered in my chest.This explains, precisely, why my voice is so weak. Hopefully, loosening up my diaphragm will, in turn, strengthen my voice. On top of that, pushing past 65 degrees would cause my blood to pool and my blood pressure to plummet, creating the much loved look of white lips accompanied with cold, clammy skin. Once stars and tweety birds began circling around my head, I knew immediate descension was the only thing to keep me from passing out.

Before I knew it, the first week of July hit. My body started relaxing and I shot up to the 75 degree mark. The bricks were starting to tumble down, and standing felt more natural than ever before! Let me clarify, I said natural, not easy!

The simple act of uprighting my body in a standing frame has rocketed my exercise routine to an all new level. And, as I edit this post, the second week in July, my dad, Dave Marshall, was delegated to be in charge of cranking me up today. Innocently, (yeah, right) he just happened to give me the surprise of my life by bumping me up 5 unsuspecting degrees on the standing frame – going from 75 to 80 degrees in less than one week ! No floating stars or twirling tweety birds trying to impede my progress! As sneaky as it was, I was thrilled that my body could handle such a quick leap in such a short period of time! Hours prior to this session, I had a corrective body works specialist massage and manipulate my diaphragm, loosening it up and making it more receptive to a greater stretch on the standing frame. It must have worked! Only 10 more degrees until I hit straight up at 90. Who knows, maybe I’ll beat my September goal after all!

Using REACT’s Easy Stand has provided me the extraordinary opportunity to challenge my body at it’s highest potential. Again, feeling so blessed!


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