Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Life After Injury

English first/日本語は英語の後

Some of you may be interested in what's going on to me after my injury (photos 1 and 2,

My shoulder/arm/hand/fingers stopped their mobility right after my ski accident. Almost 10 weeks after that, my left hand/ fingers regained their mobility but their power is only a half of my right part. My arm and shoulder began to move but can't sustain themselves against the gravity.

Here are some of my memorable experiences after my injury:

1. Bread, Blueberry Jam, and Coffee:
While the dinner on day 2 after my injury was my first meal at hospital, which I had still in pain and vomit-like feeling, the breakfast on day 3 was the meal I can't forget. It was just a cup of coffee with bread and blueberry jam, but I then realized my survival from the semi-fatal ski slope and felt glad to make sure that I'm still alive to have this breakfast. I couldn't stop my emotion from the bottom of my heart with thankfulness and a big sigh, and tasted every bite as running tears down.

2. An Apple:
On day 3 again at hospital, I was served a dinner with an apple. I was going to just bite it, but the Italian guy (who broke his right leg because of skiing) walked on crutches to me, talked to me in Italian which I couldn't understand, and began to cut and peal off my apple. I understood that kindness and help is worldwide common despite linguistic difficulty. Thank you, Roberto.

3. Schweizerhof Blanket:
On day 4 at hospital, Mr. Martin Scherer, my life savor visited me at hospital. He brought his hotel-signatured blanket as a present to me. I should've visited him first with a present as my appreciation for his kindness, though. Before my injury, I thought that Swiss preferred their privacy and were exclusive to strangers. But, this was a moment when I noticed their hospitality and kindness. Thank you, Mr. Scherer.

4. Lake Zurich:
After being discharged from hospital on day 5, I rode a train going back to Basel. The train ran by Lake Zurich at twilight. It was very beautiful but gave me a feeling of regret, anxiety, and loneliness. I just looked at the lake view from the train as again running tears down. This was another view I can't forget for the rest of my life.

5. Medical Appointment:
My wife contacted the representative of the Japanese group living in Basel who made a medical appointment at the University of Basel Hospital for me. Over the phone on day 6, she told me that, if I couldn't pay a deposit to the hospital immediately, she was ready to loan money to me. At that time, she even didn't meet me at all. I felt that I was not living by myself but in support from many people whom I haven't even met yet. Thank you, Hiroko-san.

6. Email from My Former Director:
My wife and parents wanted me to return to Japan as soon as possible for my rehabilitation in their direct assistance. I asked my wife to let me try if I could sustain my life at Basel by myself for a week. On March 11th, (exactly after the week has passed), I received email from Chuck, my former CSS director. He just heard about my injury, and gave me a message: he hopes that I'm healed rapidly and my work is going well on my sabbatical. Yes, he is the person who gave me this valuable opportunity. This was the moment when I decided to continue my sabbatical research as planned.

7. Canceling My Cancellation of Physiotherapy:
At Basel, I took 10 physiotherapeutic (PT) sessions at the University of Basel Hospital. One day I canceled a PT session in order to get in time for attending the NetArch'09 conference. Christine, my therapist pointed out that an almost week recess from physiotherapy would delay my recovery, canceled my cancellation, and rescheduled a PT session at 8am just before my departure for the conference. I really appreciated her pursuit for professional responsibility.

8. Kent, My Son:
My wife and kid visited me at Basel on March 22nd (photo 3). The next morning, I did some exercises for my shoulder rehabilitation as usual. It of course entailed a lot of pain and made me face to the reality: how far from my ordinary life I previously spent. I kept lying down on bed after my rehab. as feeling void. Kyoko told Kent, my son to stroke his dad's head gently as saying "a good job". I wondered if I could hold him up again with my both hands like I used to do, and if so, when it would be. I sobbed.

9. BA49:
On April 1st, I left Basel for Seattle via London. I've reserved a right-side of the bulk seats where I can get more space in front and protect my left shoulder from the isle. However, an Indian couple with a baby wanted to take two adjacent bulk seats including mine. As a result, I had to move to the left side of this bulk seats. Although a cabin attendant asked me if I'd be happy, I couldn't say "I was unhappy", because, as a dad of a kid, I knew that this couple really needed these two seats for their baby. Meanwhile after the take-off, another cabin attendant talked to me and kindly assigned a premium economy seat to me. It's just like a Japanese saying: kindness is not for someone else. Anyway, thank you, British Airways. I'll use this carrier again.

10. Green Lake:
I stayed at Shinko-san, a ski-school colleague's house in Seattle till April 7th before my departure for Irvine, CA. April 6th was a perfect spring day in NW (photo 4). It was warm, sunny, and beautiful. I walked around Green Lake near by Shinko-san's house, as enjoying the view of Green Lake in the background of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Mountains (photo 5). I ran into the same woman with her injured leg twice. It seems like she walked clockwise and I did counter-clockwise. So, when we saw each other again, she began to speak to me. We talked about each other's injury, hard life, and emotional unstableness. At the end, she taught me her positive-thinking way: pick up one of my photos taken when I was physically healthy, look at the picture, and imagine how my shoulder will be healing back like I used to be. This was what I didn't even come up with into my mind. April 6th was a really nice day because of not only its weather but also this woman's suggestion.

11. UC Irvine:
Suzanne, my friend flew up to Seattle and drove me down to Irvine with my Honda CRV. After the three-day drive, we arrived at Irvine in the evening on April 9th. When my CRV ramped off from I-405 to CA-73 that was reaching to UC Irvine, I was trying to look outside and swallow my emotion. But tears couldn't stop after all. As the car exited to University St. and turned right on Campus Dr., I saw the sign of "University of California, Irvine" on which I sat 15 years ago for a photo pose. I felt very glad to come back here again after my survival from the ski accident and at the same time was filled with thankfulness to all my friends and colleagues who extended their unstinting help with taking me from St. Moritz to Basel, Basel to Seattle, and Seattle to Irvine: Hiroko-san, Shu-san, Kato-san, Lidia, Shinko-san, Dane, Suzanne, and John, (her husband who allowed me to ask Suzanne to drive me down to SoCal.)

12. Prognosis Postponed:
I met Dr. Rose, an orthopedist at Newport Beach on April 16th. He did some motion test on my left shoulder and arm: put my left thumb onto my mouth; stretch my forearm forward; put my left hand on my hip; etc.. I was unable to do any of them. His comment was "a very devastating injury". Although Suzanne asked for his prognosis, he postponed to mention about it for the next three weeks. He scheduled a neurological test on my injured shoulder. April 16th was truly a nightmare to me; I felt that my paralyzed shoulder and arm would even remain permanent; and so I cried tears of hopelessness.

13. Deltoid Muscle:
Dr. Rose referred me to a new physical/occupational therapist in Costa Mesa, named Wendy. Upon my 3rd visit to her on April 24th, she suggested to move my upper arm up in her support so as to check if my shoulder muscles could react. Since she supported my left arm and shoulder, I really couldn't tell if I moved my arm, using my shoulder muscles or she moved my arm. However, Wendy told me that, while it was very subtle, she felt my shoulder muscles reacting. She kept saying, "let's try one more time". As you can easily imagine, I followed her instructions as crying on a big relief but not a big pain. :-)

14. Neurological Evaluation (a.k.a. Extreme Excruciation)
I visited Newport Neurology on April 30th. The physician told me that the evaluation was made up of two steps, each taking 20 minutes: first tapping a bunch of probes on my left shoulder/arm/hand and transmitting subtle electrical pulses, and second sticking very thin needles into the muscles like "acupuncture" and evaluating electrical conductance. However, I realized that he extremely exaggerated the subtleness, thinness, and painlessness. These electrical pulses were so shocking that my body reacted unintentionally; the needles are like ordinary injections rather than acupuncture; and despite the pain, I was asked to move my muscles with needles stuck! After the evaluation, the physician pointed out that my brachial plexus must have been stretched thin, which was resulted from repetitive impacts onto my shoulder rather than just a one-time fall-down. I recalled my accident's scene and said in my mind: "bingo!". But I kept quiet, because Suzanne explained to him about the details of how I rolled down on the slope. Anyway, good news was that he didn't say "your nerves are dead". :-)

15. My 46th Birthday
On May 7th, I visited Dr. Rose again to listen to his prognosis for my brachial plexus injury. His comments were: "There is a very guarded prognosis for your brachial plexus injury but patients with brachial plexus lesions are observed for spontaneous recovery for several months. Typically patients who do not demonstrate clinical electrical activity by three to six months often undergo operative intervention." How nice! What a birthday present! It seems like my timer keeps counting down for the next 3.5 months to see if I'll be recovered or permanently handicapped. Anyway, all I have to do is keep engaging in my rehabilitation program and using my left hand as much as possible even in support of my right hand.




1. パンとブルーペリージャムとコヒー

2. りんご

3. シュバイツァーホッフの毛布

4. チューリッヒ湖

5. 診察予約

6. 前の上司からの電子メール

7. リハビリ予約の取り消しの取り消し

8. 健人、私の息子

9. 英国航空49便

10. グリーンレーク

11. カリフォルニア大学アーバイン校
私の友人のスザンヌがシアトルまで飛行機でやってきて、私のホンダCRVを運転して、アーバインまで私を連れて行ってくれました。3日間の旅程の後、4月9日の夜にアーバインに到着しました。私のホンダCRVが国道405号線から州道73号線に折れて、いよいよUC Irvineに着くとき、私は外を眺めて、感情を押さえようとしましたが、結局涙は止まりませんでした。車は大学通りに出て、さらにキャンパス通りへと右折するとき、15年前に写真のポーズを取るために腰掛けた大学の看板が目に入りました。私は、スキー事故から助かって、再度ここに戻って来れたのだと言う喜びと、サンモリッツからバーゼルへ、バーゼルからシアトルへ、シアトルからアーバインへと私の移動に惜しみなく援助の手を下さった友人と同僚(ひろ子さん、秀さん、加藤さん、リディア、信子さん、デイン、スザンヌ、そしてスザンヌが私を南カリフォルニアに連れて来るのを快く許してくれた、彼女の夫のジョン)への感謝で一杯でした。

12. 予後(回復の見通し)の延期

13. 三角筋

14. 神経科での検査(別名、究極の拷問)

15. 46回目の誕生日
5月7日に、私の腕神経叢損傷 についての回復の見込みを聞くためにローズ先生を尋ねました。彼の見解はこうです「あなたの腕神経叢損傷の回復の見込みについては、とても申し難いが、数ヶ月程度で腕神経叢損傷 を自然治癒する患者も見受けられる。通常、3ヶ月から6ヶ月の間に医学的な(神経の)電気伝達活動が回復しない患者は、そのまま障害が残ることが多い」あ〜ら素敵!何て誕生日プレゼントなんでしょう!私が回復するか、このまま一生障害者になるか、残り3ヶ月半、タイムウォッチがカチカチと動いているかのようです。とにかく、私がしなければならないことは、リハビリを根気よく続けて、右手の支えを使ってでも左手を可能な限り使い続けることだけです。

Photo 1: My injured left upper arm (right on the photo)

Photo 2: A plate attached on my upper arm

Photo 3: my wife and kid

Photo 4: Spring in Northwest

Photo 5: Green Lake