Week 4 – Taking Steps Forwards and Backwards

20 May 2013

This week has been a real mix of feeling amazing and terrible…. an unexpected event put a spanner in the works on the progress front, thankfully only temporarily.

On Day 22 we had our first real outing that wasn’t needs-based – ie it wasn’t for food or medical supplies.  We got up early (since being in Chiang Rai means you can only really be outside in the morning because the afternoons are way too hot) and went down to the riverbank and sat in the shade for a while.  We reflected on how well my healing is going now and went for a small walk.  This is when I realised that walking on uneven ground is completely different to a flat floor and had a little bit of trouble.  I realised that there are a lot of different movements that your foot does in a day without you even realising and my foot needs to learn how to do them all again!  It was an awesome morning out and we both felt great that we’d finally reached a point where we could do something just for fun.

Hanging out in Chiang Rai
Hanging out in Chiang Rai

We also visited the hospital again to get another check, blood pressure and movement and the doctor even insisted I get an x-ray this time which I though was pretty stupid since I can now finally walk.  He said my lack of movement was mainly just because of the location of the burn and that I now need to exercise as much as possible to get the movement back.

Day 23 started off brilliantly with us going to the park.  I really just wanted to walk around the path there, since now with my crutches I am really focussing on getting the motion of walking right and trying to not have to limp when I use my left leg.  We spent an hour or so just walking, Dre said it was good practice for him for when we’re really old because I could only walk really slowly.

There is also some outdoor gym equipment at the park so Dre went on every single activity while he was waiting for me to catch up with him, and I went on 3 different ones too.  There is  a bike that has no resistance at all so it was perfect to flex my ankle on.  There is also a walking / swing your legs back and forth thing so I used that too, and another walking/leg swinging one that used my arms.

Healing from second degree burns
Chiang Rai Beach exercising at the outdoor gym

I was so excited and happy to have gone on the gym equipment and felt so good about all of my morning exercise.  We spent the day in relative peace, only stopping at the mall to pick up some veges for dinner.

I was putting the finishing touches on our salads, sitting at the dining table with my sore leg resting beside the neighbouring chair.  Dre walked up eager to eat his dinner, and pulled the chair out and accidently sprained my ankle.  The chair hit my inner left leg (thankfully not my burn) and twisted my foot around, so now my ankle is swollen on both sides and the back and inside of my leg and knee are really sore.

I am really sad for Dre because he feels so bad and is extremely distressed by what has happened.  Plus, my ankle is now more swollen than it’s been since the first week, and I am scared and worried about how long it will take to heal.

So this was an amazing day with a not-so-amazing ending.  We both went to bed worried about the following day, because it is to be our journey back to Laos because I have improved so much.  Oh dear.

The journey back to Laos on Day 24 really didn’t go very well.

My foot was swollen and sore and my entire leg and knee were now sore as well.  We tried to get a taxi to the border but despite all attempts we weren’t able to, so had to get the bus.  Had we known the afternoon before that the second injury would happen then we could have pre-ordered one, but right up until about 9pm I was feeling great so we didn’t think we’d need to.

I had to sit on the steps of the bus to lift myself in and was only able to sit at the back because otherwise there wasn’t room for my leg to be up.

The bus added about 3000 extra bumps to the journey made worse by the bus being full and there being a million bags and boxes on the bus too.  I spent the first hour doing my best not to cry but a few Nurofen’s later I was feeling a lot better.

Recovering from second degree burns
Travelling from Chiang Rai to the Lao border

Getting off the bus and into the tuk tuk was another challenge, this time though walking down the hill to the Mekong was easier because I’m really good on my crutches now.

Getting into the boat, however, was another story.  On the Lao side they happily carry people into and out of the boats because they are used to people having to go to Thailand for the hospital.  On the Thai side though, there is no such service (no-one in Thailand would ever go to Laos for any treatment) so I had to sort of crawl into the boat with Dre helping me.  Because the river was lapping and the end of the boat where you get in was so steep and uneven, I was worried about Dre carrying me into the boat even though he wanted to.

Once we got up the hill on the Lao side and made it to our lunch restaurant I was completely exhausted and we learned it was 41 degrees in the shade!  No wonder we were both huffing and puffing crossing the border.  Dre with having to carry everything, and my with the crutches being a full body workout.

We got a van back to Luang Namtha and it was nice to see everyone at the shop again.  After an hour of catch up, I had to go home and have a nap before dinner.  I managed the 60 stairs up to our apartment in about 10 minutes, so over the coming days was planning to get much better at this.  When I cleaned my burn the last bit of scab came off so I decided it was a new beginning and that everything would be OK.

Healing from second degree burns
Scab came off burn today – a new beginning

Day’s 25, 26 and 27 were spent once again trapped inside our house.  I was feeling really down about everything because the past week in Thailand I had made so much progress and had imagined coming back to Laos would be a lot easier.  I was able to mostly walk with the help of my crutches and my leg was getting stronger.  I definitely hadn’t factored in getting re-injured.

My foot was basically so sore and swollen that once again I couldn’t do anything.  This time my leg and knee were also sore too so on Day 25 I was back to worrying about my healing and thinking that we’d need to leave Laos again so that I didn’t have to be stuck inside and could once again let my leg recover and regain the ability to walk.

Day 26 I realised that I needed to seriously alter my mental state and feel healing energy again.  I spent the entire day listening to inspiring music, meditating, visualising, and feeling as many good feelings as possible.  I massaged a lot of anti-flamme and coconut oil and aloe vera into my burns and leg and knee and ankle and felt good.

Day 27 I was still trapped inside the house though I finally was able to start my exercises again.  My movement has reduced a lot down to abotu 50% up/down movement and almost no circular.  I am able to stand though and just have a pain in my foot every time I move.  I can’t really move my toes at all so spent some time attempting to work on this.

Healing from second degree exhaust burns
Lower burn darker now and healing nicely

Day 28 – Today I have been a lot better.  I got up and did all my exercises and spent some time walking around the house with the crutches.  Today I also began my balance exercises, and was amazed to find that I can no longer even balance on my right leg!  The accident and healing time has meant that I now have a lean when I think I’m standing up straight.  So I will be working on this over the coming weeks too, regaining my balance in both legs.

I then managed to take the stairs down to the shop and spent the morning sitting outside talking to Dre.  After lunch I came back up to the house and did some more exercises and meditation.  I am feeling really positive about everything and now have a plan to get really fit and healthy.  I received an email from the physiotherapist with some more exercises to help me progress and I’ve also found a good website www.physioroom.com that has some ankle rehabilitation plans for athletes so I plan to become super fit and strong.

So all in all the week has been quite a roller coaster, beginning and ending on a high.  Thankfully the high it’s ending on is a bit better than last week, so progress has been made.  Dre’s burn is doing well and he still has a final bit of scab to come off from the bit that was weeping heaps when he wouldn’t stop walking around in the beginning. My upper burn is turning white now so I think that maybe by next week it will be almost not visible. My lower burn is looking a lot more purple now than when the scab came off and so I’m wondering if it will scar.  I don’t care if it does, I just find it interesting now to watch it change and heal.  Until next week…

Healing from second degree burns
Karen’s lower burn at the end of week 4
Recovery from second degree burns
Karen’s upper burn at the end of week 4
Second degree exhaust burns healing
Dre’s burn at the end of week 4

Click here for the update for the completion of Week 5 – Gaining Muscles
Click here to read the story from the beginning – healing from second degree burns while living in a third world country.
Catch up on last week:
Day 21 – 3 Weeks of Healing Completed
Day 20 – Finally Drug Free and Feeling Awesome
Day 19 – Building Walking Muscles
Day 18 – Celebration!

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