Chris Leeuw's Journal
Written Oct 7, 2011 1:25amBelow is an article from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation newsletter, on Allison's Run on Sunday.
Many thanks for your support and contributions to this worthy cause!
Half a Country Apart, Leeuw Runs for Her Brother
Allison Leeuw running in the 2011 Chicago Marathon.
By: Michael Izzo
Name: Allison Leeuw
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
Occupation: Eligibility Company Manager
Team Reeve Event: 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon
At the time you are reading this, Chris Leeuw, 28, is rehabbing in South Jordan, Utah, over 1,500 miles away from his sister, Allison Leeuw, 33, who is in their hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. Chris is at the Neuroworx facility, a Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) Community Fitness and Wellness facility, after an accident in August 2010 left him living with an incomplete C4, C5 spinal cord injury.
The NRN Community Fitness and Wellness facilities are focused on incorporating locomotor training on a treadmill and over ground, electrical stimulation with cycling, cardiovascular exercise and strength training into a complete fitness and wellness program.
"He's had an amazing recovery so far and we hope it continues," says Allison.
Helping from home
Since Chris left for Utah, Allison has been working hard as well. This October, she will run the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon for her brother. "I still fly out monthly to see how he's doing and to help out," explains Allison. "But back in Indianapolis, I had to figure out what else I could do to help."
Her fundraising goal is simple: $2,620. That's equal to 100 friends, family members, and co-workers donating $1 per mile.
A lot of work ahead
To Allison, training presents the real challenge. She set a goal of five hours, which she says is a conservative number. "I have a lot of miles to put in," admits Allison, "but any time my alarm goes off in the morning, or I'm in the middle of a long run, I just think of the people who really know true exhaustion and true pain that have gone through these injuries. It doesn't compare."
Always a runner, coming from an athletic and outdoorsy family, this will be Allison's first full running marathon, though she has completed half marathons and a walking marathon before. To prepare, she is joining a local running group that includes other people running in Chicago.
While there is a lot of work left to be done with Chris, Allison acknowledges how far he's come, and says she is grateful for the assistance Chris and their family has gotten in the last year. "We know we've been blessed in his recovery so far," says Allison. "Chris has made progress. If it wasn't for the NeruroRecovery Network, places like Neruroworx, I don't know what we would have done. So many people don't have that sort of support."
Look for Allison Leeuw and the rest of Team Reeve in the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 9th.
Team Reeve hopes to raise money to help and assist more people like Chris. To make a donation for Allison's run, go here.
Written Sep 22, 2011 11:56pmOn Sunday, October 9th, my daughter Allison, Chris' sister, will be running the Chicago Marathon.
While any Marathon is an extraordinary feat, this one stands out because she is running for a specific cause. She is running with Team Reeve for the Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation for continuing research for future victims of spinal cord injuries.
Here are some of Allison's words from her facebook page...Chicago Marathon, Teem Reeve - running notes . . .Wednesday, September 22, 2011, 10:40pmBecause sometimes when I runI cry.Sometimes when I runI smile.And every time I runI think.I think about all of the things that I am grateful for, and all of the things that have changed in my life over the past 14 months…. I think about all of the new people we have met on this journey.I think about my brother, he loved to live an active life and I know he will continue to do so, but things may be different... and I think...I think and meditate... because life is a gamble and it is never fair, it just is. I think about new ways I hope CHris can find fulfillment and happiness…I think of his room-mates in the spinal cord unit at the rehab hospital. I think of the pain and the fear. I know many of them were sent home way too soon without the therapy they needed. I think of those that inspired us along the way. I remember the first guy on the floor walking with a cane… the first guy to share his story of hope with Chris… I think of the therapists, and how they became god-like in our day to day struggle, and how they were god-like in our day to day hope…Always there is hope.I think of how far Chris has come in his recovery, and yet I know how very different life is now.Running was always cathartic for me, but now more than ever…If I feel tired… if I feel pain… if the sweat stings in my eyes…I feel grateful and I think of those who cannot sweat, and those whose own bodies rebel against them, and those whom know true exhaustion, true pain.Because in truth; I don’t know pain. I don’t know fatigue.And I run for myself, it is a selfish, grateful act.Because I can, because I am able, because I have health and I want to appreciate it and take care of the flesh and bone I have been blessed with. Because I can’t sit still and waste this day, this opportunity…Because you can lose it all in the blink of an eye, in the blink of an eye….I thank you deeply for your support, if not to this Reeve Foundation Cause - I have tagged you in this cheesy note because you have supported me, inspired me, or been there for me and/or Chris in some way, in this life… or maybe in another, that life before SCI.For more information and to support Allison and her run for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation,
you can donate online at the link below. Thank you.
Written Aug 22, 2011 3:09pmOne year ago...
... on a hot August day, 2010, Chris set out on an ordinary kayaking excursion with a couple of friends. Suddenly, without warning, his life was interrupted by a tragic accident that changed his world entirely. In the blink of an eye, he was thrown into a frightening foreign reality that was anything but normal. The past year has been the biggest challenge of his life, every day working and plodding and willing.. LIFE returned to a paralyzed body. It has been a year of dark lows and triumphant highs.. many days going one step forward, only to slip one or two steps back. The steps forward were baby steps, sometimes seemingly insignificant. We gradually came to realize how truly gigantic each tiny progression... as there are those who remain at each level, never making the necessary step.
In one year he has come so far.. so many magnificently successful steps!
One year ago he was totally frozen on his back, lifeless and helpless, a neck brace confining his head to one position. Nurses had to turn him every two hours to improve circulation & prevent bedsores, rearranging his arms and torso with a circle of pillows. Immediately after neck surgery to fuse the broken C-4 and C-5 vertebrae, congestion and breathing was a problem.. mucus was suctioned from his nose & mouth, he slept with a respirator, and they had to assist/force a cough with an upward punch in the stomach below the diaphragm, called a "quad cough". They also had to bath him, change his catheter every 3-4 hours, and initiate the bowel program by inserting a suppository. We had to feed him, brush his teeth, shave him, even scratch his head... and do everything humanly possible to make him comfortable and try to keep positive spirits alive.
Gradually with healing and daily therapy, there were small movements... like the time when nurse Shelly excitedly showed me how easily she could transfer him from bed to wheelchair, as he was able to shift his weight and lend support. Another time nurse Brenda called me to his bedside & told me I needed to see something... and with a bold and steady motion, he kicked his right leg up in the air. I remember the first time he sat up alone.. it was only for a few seconds, as he felt the weight of his back inordinately crushing his body. And there was first time he could grasp my hand with the fingers of his right hand, the first time he moved his arm to put a peg in a hole or brought a spoon to his mouth, the first time he stood on two feet for maybe 10 seconds, and his very first unassisted steps in a crumpled "old man's body" with all the effort and grit of a body-builder.
Slowly, piece by piece, he was weaned off support apparatus... his neck brace was removed, he no longer needed the tilt-wheelchair for light-headedness from low blood pressure, and the "girdle" support-binder around his torso was no longer necessary. It was a glorious day when cathings and bowel programs were no longer necessary as function returned to bladder and bowels. Soon his wheelchair was used less and less, in favor of a walker and finally just his "handy candy" cane.
Each and every success was celebrated.. a victorious milestone.. and an impetus to move on and continue the fight. Looking back after one year, I am astounded at all he has accomplished. Today he pretty much walks where-ever he wants to go even up and down stairs. He has been sleeping in a normal bed for some time, no need for extra pillows or support. In the past two months he has become totally independent with showering, shaving, and personal care, doesn't even want anyone near the bathroom. He will probably be driving by fall, still working on improving the arms for a full circle of the steering wheel. And finally, there is life returning to the lagging shoulders, the delts and pecs, even in his left arm. It is slow, it is laborious, it is minimal.. but there is new life and new strength.
As I look back over the past year, surprisingly my over-whelming thoughts are not of pain and sadness, although it was the most painful, the most difficult year of my life.. and I wouldn't wish the experience on anyone. But right now I feel a great sense of gratitude and even joy.. that Chris was able to regain so much bodily function and will be able to resume a fairly normal life. As a mother I must also say how very proud I am of Chris' attitude and dogged determination. In the face of daily pain and the ultimate disability he has shown immense courage and has never even hinted at giving up. Day in and day out he continues the struggle with a gentle level-headedness and even a sense of humor. Many have said he is an inspiration.. I truly believe he is.
We have been back home again in Indiana and its been a wonderful month. Who would have thought how great a vacation at home would be... of course part of our home is Lake Wawasee. And much of our time is spent catching up with family & friends, the best kind.
It hasn't been all play as Chris has been doing daily therapy with Katie, his former O.T. at Westside. She is one of those very special people and has been such a blessing on his road to recovery.. he continues to have the greatest confidence in her. And thankfully, his ChaCha family has been warm and welcoming, easing him back into the work world with meetings and assignments. How fortunate to have an employer and caring group of co-workers.. they have been with him with support and encouragement all year long.
Its been one year... and counting. Its been a successful year, but the job is not complete. Chris knows he still has a lot of work to do. His left arm and hand is the big focus now, but he needs more strength everywhere. He is wearing a brace on his left leg to help with dorsi-flection (bending ankle upward before each step) to prevent tripping. His stamina is greatly improved but he often fights fatigue and weakens at the end of the day.
In the past, they used to say there would be no further return from paralysis after one year. Now many say that two years is the time limit. But Dr. Hull has said he sees improvement after nine years. The key is not to give up.. once you stop trying, there is no hope for further improvement & there is where you will stay. Chris is not giving up & in fact is gearing up for a full schedule this fall. We will be leaving again for Neuroworx in South Jordan, Utah at the end of August. And we're looking forward to more baby steps and more reasons to celebrate as he begins his second year.