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August
8
2019

August 7, 2019

Since my last update a lot has happened in my life. I now have my prosthetic leg, and I’m steadily better at walking with it. I first got it to take home July 2nd, and was so excited to walk.  The sense of freedom of movement with 2 legs is empowering, compared to just my crutches or the wheelchair.  All of a sudden I could carry things in my hands – like a plate of food!  With my leg on I can feel useful again. I was able to load some Red Cross items that I no longer needed into the van all by myself – which I certainly couldn’t have done before. 

 

Once I got my leg, I could certainly see how my hard work at physio paid off.  We did a lot of core and stump strengthening exercises, and this meant I could walk pretty well the first time with the leg on. Walking with the leg showed I have a lot of learning and strengthening to do to walk without a crutch, a curved spine or a limp. Right now when we take the crutch away I dip very pronounced to the right to attempt to stabilize myself.  I can do a few strides and not dip too much if I really press the end of my femur against the edge of the socket and lock down my inner core muscles to stabilize my pelvis, but it is exhausting. 

 

The main challenge so far is keeping the leg on.  What is happening is my stump is shaped like a cone, and so is the liner that I roll onto it. With my skin graft stuck to the underlying muscle it is not free moving like regular skin that has a layer of fat under it. This means that around the edges of the skin graft as I flex there are large creases that allow air to come into the liner. Once air gets in then the liner falls off and my leg falls off.  We have been working a ton at loosening up this stuck skin, but it will take a while still.  I am also struggling with blisters at the junction of my skin graft to my old skin. I guess this is to be expected and is part of the process; it just means it will take me a while to be able to wear the prosthetic consistently.  Right now I am wearing it about 1hr 3 times a day.

 

I am going into Calgary once a week for the amputee physio class, which is great as I am working with physios who work with amputees on a regular basis.  I also see the prosthetist once a week for fittings or adjustments. Back in Canmore I do physio twice a week at the local hospital, and then twice a week with Cindy to loosen up my scar tissue. And of course Catherine keeps me in line daily with twice a day walks and lots of strengthening exercises! She also carries my leg home for me when it falls off. Or we randomly visit a neighbor and I put my liner back on and then my leg back on. 

 

Other exciting things, I won the “Young Professionals Award” at McElhanney for my work developing our trail building team and business.  This occurred at a dinner with around 100 people and I got a standing ovation, which really meant a lot to me.

I recently did an interview with CTV about the Ha Ling trail reconstruction.  For it I walked up the trail with my prosthetic about 500m, which was actually quite an accomplishment as I find walking up steep hills a real challenge as I am always landing on a flat foot and it is hard to get the knee to lift very high. https://calgary.ctvnews.ca/sneak-peak-overhaul-of-ha-ling-trail-makes-route-safer-for-hikers-1.4525376

 

Perhaps the most excitement was on Monday I got flown to the saddle of Ha Ling because the contractor needed to fly materials around on the mountain and had space to fly us up.  It was awesome to be up in the sky and then land perched on the narrow cliff with the helicopter still going.  Getting out was a bit awkward to get my leg and stump onto the helicopter skid and then onto the ground. From there it was manageable. I didn’t take my prosthetic as I was fighting with a blister, so I crutched down wherever I could. There were a few spots that were too steep or loose rock over bedrock slab where I gave my crutches to my coworkers with me and I lowered myself while on my bum.  It was awesome to see all the work that Jeff and Brady and their crews have completed on the mountain.  There are cable ladders based off my dad’s design from NB and lots of stone steps.  They blasted the trail right into the bedrock side slope where people were not able to get footing and had stripped all the vegetation off of massive expanses of the mountain. Part way down I met Adam and Catherine who had brought up wheeled transportation for me to coast down on, which was a thankful reprieve as my arms and one leg were getting pretty tired!

 

I did try my prosthetic with my bike, which was a miserable failure.  I think a combination of the knee angle, the socket coming so far up that it hits my torso, and my flexibility inhibit me from being able to make a pedal revolution.  So I continue to pedal with one leg and my stump protector. 

 

I have also been rock climbing at the gym, where we made coverall straps for the stump protector to hold it on, and I put a bike tire on the outside of the stump protector to give it grip.  I can now use my stump quite a bit to smear the wall or take weight off while I bring my other foot up.  It’s been really fun and quite challenging, I even made it up a 5.10B route with one mess-up!

 

I’d like to thank all the physiotherapists, doctors, prosthetists and healthcare workers for their help.  All the neighbors and friends who have helped me one way or another like dropping off food or, letting me use their place to put my leg back on!  Also to all the people who donated – I have been very touched by your generosity – thank you.

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June
7
2019

June 6, 2019

Hi all, it has been a while since my last update. Since then I have continued to get more energy, stronger and I am feeling way better. 
 
I have settled into a steady routine of physiotherapy at the Canmore hospital three days a week, swimming two days a week, one or two appointments in Calgary, and one or two bike rides per week.  Each day I try and do mirror therapy and hand therapy multiple times, and usually core once. It seems quite busy at times!
 
With all the physiotherapy we have been able to get my stump to now have fairly normal range of motion.  Previously my sciatic nerve was stuck in my glutes and stump, and it would send jolting volts of pain.  The progress in flexibility and strength eventually pulled my nerves from a stuck position back to their new home. Thanks Todd, Catherine, Cindy, and Lisa all for my Physiotherapy!

My phantom pains have subsided significantly, who knows why that is, whether it is just time, my mirror therapy, meditation and yoga, stretching and strengthening my stump and core, or the medication.
 
Major highlights recently would be being able/allowed to bicycle now. After my last post about riding, the prosthetist said "that's awesome, so good for your mental health, but don't do it again until you get a stump protector". I then had to go back to crutching and wheelchair for exercise, as I was not allowed to swim or bike at the time. One day Catherine and I wheelchair travelled about 3 km of town paths, where I went as fast as I could, she was able to keep up with a fast walk.  I guess this chair wasn't built for gravel as the armrest bolt fell out and then when we went to load it into the van the front wheel bolt was half out too! Friends, Eric and Dwayne also took me out for a picnic up on the Spray Lakes, it was great to spend time in nature and we did a pretty extreme crutch on an abandoned trail with me crutching over trees and through brush that could catch the crutches. 

Now that I have a custom fit stump protector I can ride for exercise - which is a huge source of freedom and excitement. The stump protector is hard plastic with a foam liner and is basically a helmet for my stump. The night I got it I went for a pedal down to the river and along some city gravel paths. Since I'm pedalling with one leg, I have to pedal clipped in to be able to complete the pedal revolution.  That means that my hip flexors have to do a lot of work, and man do they ever get tired. That first ride I had to stop twice to rest it, then Catherine and my friend Tyler helped push me up our street as it is fairly steep.

Other challenges with riding are stopping and starting.  Typically to start I need something to hang onto - a sign post, a wall, a friend etc.  Imagine how we normally push off with one foot from the ground and down with the opposite pedal - well I can't do that with only one leg. I have now figured out that I can start on a slight downhill as I can get rolling there and then clip in. Eventually I will master the push off and clip in with the same foot... for now stop lights remain an issue. Hopefully I never get a red light or a train. 

The other solution to starting and stopping is to ride a tandem!  Ryan and Tanya Hopping loaned us their tandem, and Catherine and I have figured out how to ride it. Our first ride was terrifying.  We decided to start in our yard holding onto the gate, and then planned to go right of the van and turn onto the street.  Well, we pushed off and our pedals are directly connected with a chain, so we have to match cadences.  I pushed hard on the pedals and then planned to coast, Catherine on the other hand kept pedalling and basically lifted me off the seat! This created quite the imbalance and we nearly wobbled into the spruce tree. Our wobble continued and we were pointed directly at the van from a close proximity, at the last second Catherine then decided to go with the momentum of our wobble and head left instead of right.  Now we were heading right into the rocks around the culvert, but with a few more wobbles we were able to stay on the driveway and veer onto the street where luckily no vehicles were coming.  About 5 seconds after the adrenaline subsided we then instantly started arguing about which way the bike was leaning and how terrible Catherine's cadence was, and how she forgets to shift...  I hear this is what people do on tandems - argue,  and we certainly can argue about how best to ride a bike, especially when she has the handlebars, brakes, shifters, so all of the controls.

Another highlight is being able to swim. I got cleared again to swim, as it too had been taken away as there was concern from a different doctor that the chlorine would dry out my skin graft.  Now that it is OK, I go swimming with Lisa Pearson, another physio from town who is volunteering to help me with my rehab.  We do some "strict rehab", however a lot of it is her teaching me swim technique.  It is a lot of fun!  It is one of the activities that I feel the least disabled at. In the water, I can move without imbalance or fear of falling and hurting myself.  I also think my sense of enjoyment at it is due to my huge improvements; I am now a better swimmer than I was before the accident. 

On the prosthetic front, hopefully I get my first liner next week and then ideally into a prosthetic early July.  Then it will be an hour a day for a while in the prosthetic until my skin hardens up. On the home front things have calmed down as we start to settle into our "new normal" and the stress level has decreased.  Catherine is doing better and sleeping a lot more.  Adam has been away for a few weeks in Toronto with his research work.

That's enough for now, next update will be about E-biking and mountain biking - yes I'm still in one piece, Catherine on the other hand may have experienced some extreme stress. Apparently I don't look in control as I bounce down a technical single track on a hardtail. 

 
 
 
 
 

May
6
2019

May 6, 2019

Give an inch take a mile. I think that about accurately summed up what just transpired today... 

Matt and I went to physio and Todd had a variety of interesting exercises for Matt. Todd also got Matt on a stationary exercise bike. This was the first time Matt was able to sit on a bike and a rather big deal for him! Todd had Matt do a couple 10 min light efforts on the bike, but that was it. "Wouldn't want to over do it" Matt says.

After we got home Matt crutched past my dirty mountain bike outside waiting to be washed. Matt stopped and looked at it for a while and clearly some gears were turning... You should put your bike together" he said and crutched inside. I was thinking he just wanted it out of the way, but by the time I was inside his helmet was on and he was putting on his mountain bike shoe. You know what they say about gateway drugs...seems like there are also 'gateway bikes'. Clearly Matt was quickly planning to escalate to 'harder bikes.'

Well... what could really go wrong as long as I held onto the transfer belt? Catherine was still out riding so...why not? As Matt was trying to get on the bike he said "we should open the gate". I asked "why do we need the gate open?" He said it was so he could lean agains the opening. Off we went...

The start was a bit wobbly and I had a death grip on the transfer belt, but then he got things straightened out and we headed across the yard. Matt pedaled with his left leg and I ran behind. Next thing I knew we were heading out the gate! We looped around the van and were turning around on the street when Matt saw Catherine riding up the hill towards us. Busted!

"What do you guys think you are doing??"... "Did Todd say you could ride a bike?" Catherine hollers as she rides over. "No" we both say sheepishly. "Did the doctor say this was okay??...did anyone??" But the ear-to-ear grin on Matt's face says it all. "Want to head up the street" he says? Somehow by the second time up the street he had convinced us to let go of him and he was on his own. (One of us would stay on his right side just in case)

I don't think I have seen him happier!


May
5
2019

May 4, 2019

Apparently I got nominated to write this post as Jane and Eric flew home and Adam disappeared for some riding. So yes, this is the elusive Matt himself typing away.  Let me say hitting the space key with my right thumb is a new sensation that it is not used to and maybe not quite strong enough for yet.

My parents flew back to NB today.  It sure was great to have them out here and they did a ton of looking after me, with things like; sewing pant legs short, taking me to appointments, cooking and cleaning, shopping, installing a shower wand that I can reach, and a million other things that needed doing that I can't do right now, or that would take me 10x what it should. 

Adam headed off to Invermere at the last minute with a friend to go riding for 2 days in sun and warmth. It is snowing again here, like the sort of blizzard we wish we would get in January. It does make the mountains look beautiful though with all the fresh snow on the peaks.

While Catherine was at work today I called up the hospital plastic surgeon and he gave me the OK to go swimming. I was ecstatic about this.  I am not much of a swimmer, however my activities right now are really limited to crutching, the wheel chair, and gym/core type exercises.  And it seems that I have borderline overuse injuries already with crutching and the wheelchair, as all my weight is on 1 foot and really 1 wrist.

Alana and Fraser took me to the pool and we swam probably 4 laps of the big pool before I got cold. It was really fun and felt great to move in a different and supported manner. We then headed to the lazy river which was a lot warmer and did a few laps of that. We finished off with a bit of hot tub time to warm up and massage my back.  Seems like every muscle is tight from laying in a hospital bed and in weird positions for so long. Fraser and Alana helped to make sure I didn't fall while using the crutches on the pool deck, and they seemed very solid.  Enough so that Fraser and I tested out how far out there was traction, and at about 45deg my right finally gave way - I caught it with a few hops and he was there to catch me if needed.  It is these dumb things that have me the closest fo falling. They then made my day even that much better with bringing "second lunches" to snack on as a picnic before heading home.

When we got home Guy Pollard was working on the railing to the back door.  He had built the railings from scratch, and got them mostly installed a few days ago, but the top rail was flimsy as the studs in our house are not always where they should be.  He had to open up the drywall to add blocking to make a secure attachment point for the railing.  It is much better now and Catherine is excited that I can get downstairs to do laundry! Haha like that is going to happen. 

During dinner my nerve pain and phantom limb pain got really bad. Talking to the doctors before we left the hospital there are apparently very few meds that work well for nerve pain, and I am on a pretty high dose of one of them.  If the medication is working, I sure would hate to experience this without the medication, as it is excruciating with it.  My brain thinks I still have a right foot that is about 4" shorter than it should be, and usually has the worst case of pins and needles you ever had, maybe with a few knives and screws added in. Then every once and a while I get a huge ZAP of some nerve that sits me up straight and makes me grit my teeth. This feels like at least a 12volt battery and somehow it is often out at my shin or foot that doesn't exist.  Clearly my nerves still think I have a right leg. I do find mirror therapy helps, but also exercise seems to help.  So, despite the blizzard happening Catherine and I went for a crutch walk to the end of the street and back. It was a good distraction despite getting soaked and squinting our eyes with the ice pellets and snow. 

While these blog updates have been excellent for keeping everyone informed, they do require quite a bit of energy and time from the family. I am now past the critical stage of my recovery, and will be doing lots of physio and exercises, and in about a month hopefully start walking in a prosthetic for maybe an hour at a time. We have decided to move to doing the updates just once a week with the major events that took place that week. Thanks for following along on my journey and sending encouragement and good wishes, I have appreciated reading all the comments and feeling the support of so many. 

Matt

May
4
2019

May 3, 2019

Today was Jane and Eric's last day before heading back to New Brunswick. We started things off with a nice pancake breakfast. I would say pancakes are a Hadley family comfort food in many ways. We will be sorry to see our parents go. Before they left Jane even found the broken off piece of sewing needle that I had accidentally flung across the table ...we had been almost certain that Catherine would locate it by embedding it in her toe...

Matt used some off-camber single track to try and dull some severe nerve pain. Off-camber roots are a real struggle with crutches and apparently force the brain to focus on something else. During this evening outing he also summited an 82 step staircase! Nerve pain seems to be something that is increasing lately and typically worse in the evening. 

The major event of the day was that Matt had an interview with CTV news this afternoon. He may be an inspiration to all of you, but the inspiration goes both ways. As he says, his positive attitude is often facilitated by having the support and friendship of all of you! You can watch it here : Injured hiker returns to his passion


May
3
2019

May 2, 2019

Matt and Catherine had a rather exhausting morning. They got up early and went to Calgary for a slew of meetings with prosthetists, and rehab professionals. This took the bulk of the day. Once they were back they both basically passed out a slept for a couple of hours.

They revived in time for dinner and Matt suggested we have dinner outside on their deck. The sun was out and just beginning to set on the mountains. It was great to enjoy the vistas and birds in the backyard.

Post dinner Matt decided it was time to get rid of a bunch of annoying paperwork that had been collecting. It was time for some therapeutic burning. Catherine started with a nice little blaze of burning papers. Matt couldn't resist and needed to make it bigger. Yard debris and left over Christmas greenery we quickly piled on while Matt fanned it with a burning branch. He even employed his crutch as a fire poker. Thankfully no return to the burn unit was required, however I did have to quickly carry him away once when the smoke got out of hand! All in all I think the felt quite pleased with the "fire cleansing."

May
2
2019

May 1, 2019

Today Matt had a meet-and-greet with physiotherapists at the Canmore hospital. It sounds like that will work very well and one of them has even suggested they will periodically go to Calgary with Matt to ensure that they can provide up to date exercises for him here in Canmore.

Matt got to test some wheelchairs. Turns out size does matter when it comes to wheels. His current tester has little wheels that can't even roll over doorway transitions. (At least not without some gripping ;) Considering Matt was always a little wheel stickler with bicycles and resisted 29er wheels until recently, his little wheel whining is kind of amusing. Now he is "wagon wheels" all the way. We consider him a "big wheel convert"...although he did specify this only pertains to wheelchairs...

As Matt continues to heal we decided to keep things exciting by setting traps for Catherine. Last night Eric and I spread gravel on the driveway to cover the slippery mud where they get in and out of the van. The gravel was still only loosely packed so when Catherine came back in the dark her bike wheels caught and slid somewhat alarmingly. Then as she approached the steps we had laid out carpet to prevent Matt from slipping. Turns out anti-slip for Matt is extra slip for Catherine... Her knee is only slightly bruised and on the other leg her shin didn't really bleed that much... The carpet (or "lubricated blanket" as she called it) was replaced first thing this morning. Today after returning from several appointments with Matt, Catherine got back to the house and only had about 10 min to get lunch and get ready to drive to Banff for work. She rushed into her bedroom and we heard a loud snap and simultaneous yelp! Matt had made a list of things for our parents to do...one of which was to set mousetraps... When I peered in to see what was going on Catherine was jumping around trying to shake a trap off her toe! Something to the effect of "how would you like someone to stick a trap just under the edge of your bed" might have been uttered. I think both sock and toe will recover. Not sure about her case of nerves though.

Homecoming celebration:
Some friends have organized a homecoming party for Matt on Thursday, May 9th at Canmore Brewing. This party is your chance to come and say hi, share a pint and a laugh if you are in the area. (See the advertisement below for the complete details.)

 

May
1
2019

April 30, 2019

Matt cut his beard today! He went with some nice pork chop sideburns and kept the mustache. He also decided it was time to go to a gym. Turns out this isn't a typical gym, but Canmore's version of a jail-yard gym. They have a bunch of machines outside where you can do body weight workouts and other exercises. Picture a bunch of convicts working out pumping iron outside and that is pretty much exactly NOT what we looked like. We should get some toughness points for working out in a snowstorm though. Turns out that you can't really get the proper stride going on either an elliptical or a nordic strider when you only can operate one side...