Blyth's Julie Sawchuk makes recovery breakthrough - June 1, 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Almost two years since the accident that left her paralyzed from the chest town, Blyth’s Julie Sawchuk is seeing some dramatic progress in her recovery.
Sawchuk, who has been maintaining a blog since her accident in 2015, recently wrote about the build-up of her hip flexor muscles, also known as the quadratus lumborum (QL) muscle.
The muscles are far below her paralysis line, which fills Sawchuk with hope that her extensive physiotherapy is working.
The revelation came through a recent physiotherapy session at London’s Parkwood Institute. Sawchuk was placed on her hands and knees and through one of the motions, was able to lift one of her knees off the mat thanks to the strength in her core and back.
If the building of muscle and healing continues, she said, she could see a future in which she’s strong enough to stand with the help of braces – all she needs is the core strength she appears to be developing thanks to nearly a year of physiotherapy and muscle-building exercises.
Sawchuk says she was surprised to see what she could do with her muscles and found it really promising for what’s in store for her going forward if she keeps up the hard work.
When Sawchuk first attended Parkwood, she was told that people with her type of injury only have an 11-15 per cent chance of any kind of recovery. Her approach to that figure has always been that she wouldn’t know if she was in that 11-15 per cent or not if she didn’t try her hardest to get there.
She says that her physiotherapy work, now that she’s seeing results, has been so important and staying dedicated and disciplined has been crucial to that success. Recovery, she says, has been a full-time job and like many jobs, there were discouraging days and days where she got up in the morning and simply didn’t want to go to work.
That hard work and perseverance has now paid off and is spurring her on to continue working in hope of seeing further progress.
She feels as though her body is continuing to heal in those areas, which is a great sign that will allow for muscle growth to occur. She also feels that’s why she’s so tired all the time, because her body is using up its energy healing.
This wave of enthusiasm is great, Sawchuk says, but it’s a reminder that not all days are like this. Sawchuk says she recently felt as if she had plateaued in her recovery and wasn’t making any progress. Days like those made it hard to continue the recovery process.
To now have firm evidence that the process is working and that she’s getting stronger every day, however, makes it all worthwhile, Sawchuk says.
Thinking back to those early days in the process at Parkwood makes Sawchuk realize just how far she’s come. She says she doesn’t do it very often, because those were dark days, but there are times where it’s nice to think back and mentally chart the progress her body has made.
For instance, she says that in the early days of using a standing frame she would struggle to get to the three-minute mark, whereas now she’s watching entire episodes of Netflix shows before she decides to have a seat.
Sawchuk says that at first she needed a wheelchair equipped with a special tilt function that laid her down if her blood pressure dropped too low. Now, she’s driving herself to London and back for her Parkwood appointments.
She’s continuing her work with the electrical stimulus bicycle, as well as her standing frame and the exoskeleton, which is all part of the ongoing recovery process.
Sawchuk is also remaining active in a number of different physical activities. She is currently working on learning to kayak, which she hopes will take the place of her passion for hiking before she was paralyzed.
Kayaking can easily be a way for Sawchuk to be outdoors and move through nature, given her current status. In fact, she has been invited to work with members of the Canadian paralympic kayaking team later this year, although a date has yet to be determined.
In addition, she recently completed the Dave Mounsey five-kilometre Run Around The Square, propelling herself the entire way in her wheelchair.
Sawchuk is also turning an eye to swimming after making contact with Vicki Keith a retired Canadian marathon swimmer who currently holds 16 world records. She was the first swimmer to cross all five of the Great Lakes.
Keith now lives in Kingston and works with children with physical disabilities and has become somewhat of an expert on helping those with physical challenges enjoy swimming.
She has agreed to help Sawchuk with her goal of swimming, saying that she feels Sawchuk should be able to swim using all four strokes, despite not being able to use her legs.
To follow Sawchuk’s personal blog and continued recovery, visit juliesawchuk.blogspot.ca.