Monday, May 2, 2016

Rock and stroll



Tumblrs: Vasquez Rocks

One of the most challenging places we hike is Vasquez Rock. It's also one of the most visually stunning. Indeed, it has been a backdrop to countless TV shows, movies, and commercials. And next time we go, I'll be a bit more sure footed because of the hiking boots Keith bought me for my birthday.

But I still managed pretty well with my athletic shoes--with an occasional small slide in slippery sections--during our hike on April 24. (We skipped the hike this past Sunday to attend a charity event.)

Except for the flights of stairs I climbed (I avoided the elevator for the exercise) and the steep steps to
our stadium seats, the loong event was only a workout for my butt. Still, we more than made up for it on our typically strenuous hike at Vasquez Rocks.

But it was a far cry from the first time I left the rollator behind and tried out my hiking sticks there. The terrain which seemed so difficult for me then feels like an easy stroll now.

Just as I could barely imagine hiking the rough interior of the park, I can scarcely picture what I'll be able to scale next year, after another year of rehab and recovery. Plus, more appropriate footwear for what can now be properly termed a hike.

We'll be back to hiking next Sunday (we're taking our moms out to dinner on Friday to avoid the crowds). And I don't want to miss another hike. I didn't get where I am in my recovery by sitting on my butt.

Well, except when sitting down seemed to be the easiest way down a steep, natural stone step.




Some easier past walks through Vasquez Rocks, though they didn't seem like it at the time.

Walking in view of the monolithic outcropping I've nicknamed Gorn Rock in March of 2014.


Leaving my walker behind amidst the wildflowers in March of 2015. (Yes, I wound up wearing the same dress, but note the smaller rollator in the background,)

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

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In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.

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.