Friday, January 15, 2016

Walking through a wintering wonderland

We took our very first rehab walk at the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve in late November of 2013. Keith had to roll me most of the way. The walker was hung on the handles of the wheelchair (see photo below).

Keith would park the wheelchair at the entrance path to the observation areas. I would get up and walk to the concrete bench and sit down again in the wheelchair to watch the birds. I would get up again and walk back to the concrete circle at the end of the path, then plop down once more in the chair.
On our walk through Sepulveda last Sunday, I walked the entire circuit around the wildlife lake, only sitting down a few times to rest while I watched the magnificent display of birds. There are no benches on the backside of the artificial lake, so I stood while I watched the hundreds of birds in this stop on the Pacific Flyway.

We walked less than half of the way with Keith's mom Joella, but she was tired. So after we had circled our way back to her, we headed home.

A panorama of pelicans viewed from the backside of the lake.
Yet I still had some gas left in the tank. Joella used to be the stronger one, but no more.
And here's the Fitbit map of my last round trip around the wildlife lake.

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.