|10-13-2003, 04:35 PM||#1|
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: New Brunswick, NJ, USA
A rough twist in the road Big Bend professor makes noteworthy gains after summer bicycling accident
|12-05-2003, 05:33 PM||#4|
Vic Gilliland continues recovery
Vic Gilliland continues recovery
By Lynne Miller
Herald staff writer
Sometimes the simple things are the most significant. Two weeks ago, Vic Gilliland made a big step in his recovery from a spinal cord injury -- he twisted the switch to turn a lamp on, as shown in this photo.
When cards and letters started flooding in from all across the country, Vic Gilliland knew he wasn't alone in his journey. Last summer, Gilliland suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury in a bicycling accident during a timed trials event.
The 69-year-old is continuing work on regaining full range of motion in his arms and legs. On Oct. 31, he improved enough to be moved from Spokane's St. Luke's Rehabilitation Center to the Hearthstone Inn in Moses Lake.
Gilliland, a professor at Big Bend Community College, experienced an outpouring of support from his former students, past co-workers and current colleagues, as well as "a lot" of positive support at his temporary residence, he explained.
"I had all of these prayer warriors," Gilliland said. "I feel a lot has been accomplished in my life over four months."
He even received a card from a student he hadn't heard from in 35 years.
"She said I talked her into not dropping my class and I don't even remember doing it," Gilliland said. "I didn't have an inkling I'd influenced her."
Gilliland has experienced some entertaining diversions while at Hearthstone. The third week of his time at the facility, he reverted back to teaching.
He gave a one hour geology talk to residents on the Great Spokane Flood, shared the work of the late geologist, J Harlan Bretz and showed the 13 minute educational video "Cataclysms on the Columbia."
"I had a great time, it was fun," Gilliland said.
The history gleaned from Hearthstone's residents has turned out to be a bonus for Gilliland. He's learned about World War II experiences from former servicemen.
"It's an interesting place here. You can write a story on everybody's life here if you wanted to," Gilliland said.
But Gilliland know he still has work to do.
His major goals are to build up strength in his arms and torso. Proof of this will come when he can put on a long sleeve shirt and jacket. Today, he is walking with the aide of a walker and a gait belt (a safety belt that prevents falls while walking).
He wears a compression glove three times a day, which helps him with a range of motion in his hands. Two weeks ago, he accomplished a task that may seem small: turning on a lamp.
"The best therapy for me is being here and doing things alone," Gilliland said.
Gilliland estimates he'll be out of Hearthstone in a couple of months. At some point, he said he would like to talk to elementary school children about the importance of wearing a helmet while bicycling.
After his accident, "the gravel was embedded in my helmet," Gilliland said.
Each hallway at Hearthstone is 700 feet long, plenty of room for indoor strolls with a walker. But, compared to St. Luke's, "this is leisure," Gilliland said. "At St. Luke's, they put you through so much. Not a day goes by without therapy."
Gilliland said he wouldn't be where he is now if it wasn't for his son Steve and daughter-in-law Jolene, who both live in Moses Lake. He also mentioned how his daughter Stephanie even addressed his Christmas cards.
Progress has been good, but too fast for Gilliland. His doctor and therapist asked him to slow down because they want to see greater regeneration in his body through small improvements. Tendons and ligaments have to be gradually broken in, he explained.
"I tend to want to push myself too much," Gilliland said. "This recovery from the spinal cord injury is going to be very slow, steady and challenging."
Gilliland takes advantage of every opportunity to improve his progress, even when visitors arrive to see him.
"I pick on people. Grab this gait belt," he said. "Dick Deane says 'faster, faster'...I purposely pick on people who are big and strong."
He'll have guests massage his hands to force the lymphadema out and walk the stairs with him.
Another type of therapy happens when his son bring his German Shepherd dog over. Even stroking the pet is good therapy for his hands.
"When you go through what I have, everyone's your support team," Gilliland said. "People take so much for granted. I'm so grateful I can do what I can do."