Author: Steven Fujita
In June 2012, Steven Fujita went to the emergency room, and was diagnosed with meningitis. After four days of improvement, he was scheduled to be discharged when his condition worsened dramatically. His blood pressure, body temperature and sodium levels all became dangerously low. He started to lose consciousness. He was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit. He had suffered spinal cord damage at the T4 level. Upon regaining full consciousness, Fujita could not speak, eat, breathe independently, control bodily functions, nor move his legs. “Once we understand what we have to go through, become resolved to see it through, and know we will survive, we feel our ordeal is not so bad,” Fujita writes. In this book, he takes the reader on a journey of recovery from a spinal cord injury. It is not only a journey of determination and hard work, but of positive attitude, of drawing inspiration, of gratitude towards those around him: his family, his friends, co-workers, and medical professionals.
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The Paradox of Spinal Cord Injury and Fitness
Not that I was ever an athlete, but I could at least run, and when attending beach parties in the summer, could participate in a game of volleyball. Since injuring my spinal cord in 2012, I haven’t been able to do either. However, I consider myself more fit now, than before my injury.
When I was still in a wheelchair, my occupational therapist incorporated upper body weight training. I would later learn that the more strength the upper body has, the less pressure would be placed on the legs, and learning to walk would be easier when the time came. Also, as light as modern wheelchairs are, they still require lots of arm strength and endurance to roll around all day long. A co-worker point out to me, “no wonder you see a lot of people in wheelchairs with these huge arms.” As for me, I am no longer in a wheelchair, but still work out the arms with a kettlebell. My legs are strong enough to do a 5 mile walk, but I still cannot run. And considering what they went through, I think they deserve to not have to work as hard anymore.
Once I regained movement and some strength in my legs, my physical therapist had me do leg lifts and bridge exercises to strengthen my core. I was paralyzed in the abdominal area, so the muscles in this area did need to be rehabilitated. However, balance continued to be a major issue with me, and after I had been walking with a cane, I saw a physical therapist who specialized in balance rehabilitation. He started me on a planking program. Planking is considered one of the best exercises one can do to strengthen the core. It is also one of the hardest. I continue to plank, and currently up to 4 sets of 100 seconds – which I know is more than what I could have done before my injury.
Currently, I try to go out for a walk each day of at least ten blocks. A few times a month, I try to walk at least two miles a day, and once every couple/three months, I will try to do a 4 to 5 mile walk. Except for the really long walks of 2 plus miles, this is actually less than what I did before my injury, but I think it is still adequate movement.
Fitness oriented people talk about “leg day,” or “core day,” or “arm day,” when talking about their exercise plans for the day. For spinal cord recovery patients, it is “leg day,” and “core day,” and “arm day,” everyday. All these parts must be worked on a majority of days. For mobility purposes, the legs (feet, ankle, knees quads, rear end) do most of the work. But for spinal cord recovery patients, all the upper body strength contribute, thus the balance of work is more balanced. If upper body strength is absent, the legs will not be able to support the body on its own. This is way it is important for spinal cord recovery patients to continually work on the upper body.
So here is the paradox. Before my spinal cord got injured, I could do so much more physically, but post-injury, despite the limitations, I do actually do more physically.
Steven Fujita was born in Los Angeles and raised in Torrance, California. He attended college in Washington, D.C., and currently lives in Long Beach, California.
Listen to Steven Fujita's interview on the Book Club with John Austin, which aired November 2, 2010, about his novella, Sword of the Undead, a re-telling of Bram Stoker's vampire novel, Dracula. http://www.internetradiopros.com/bookclub/?p=episode&name=2010-11-01_zbookcub_for_110210_1st_segment_steven_fujita.mp3
His other book, $10 a Day Towards $1,000,000, is available on Kindle. This book promotes the idea of using time and savings to build wealth. His new book, Toe Up to 10K, was released in September 2014. This book chronicles his recovery from spinal cord injury he sustained in 2012. Visit his website at: www.stevenfujitaauthor.com