Work, work, work. Work some more. And did you notice it’s done with a smile? This is how I would define a day in the life of Kreg Palko – Spaulding Rehab style.
I had the honor of spending the day with Kreg last week. When I arrived at his room at 10:45, he had been up for awhile, and was checking out the view of the active shipyard from his window. It was a bluebird, almost summer day. The kind that beckons you to come out and play.
Spaulding had other plans for Kreg, though. Leslie, his part-time OT, arrived shortly after 11:00 and we headed down to the therapy gym. From a personal trainer standpoint, the place was like heaven. I could have watched and learned all day. For Kreg, and the other Spaulding residents, this was a place of mixed emotions. The hope of improvement comes with a cost. Working so hard that 45 minutes seems like an eternity; giving all your might and focus to stand from your wheelchair and then sit on the therapy table. Trying to make your muscles remember how to do a crunch. Then realizing that you are using your newly awakening shoulder muscles to help push up from a sidebend. Victory! Small victories everyday that hopefully lead to that breakthrough.
After watching Kreg give absolutely everything he had during the session, I figured he’d be beat, but in typical Kreg style, the wheelchair went in to Drive 2 (read: fast) and we boogied back up to his room. We took our lunch to a windowed break room on the other side of the building that afforded a magnificent view of Boston, and our focus turned to news of Kyle and Gabby, plans for the house, and making plans for life after Spaulding.
With a little more than an hour before the next therapy session we headed out to enjoy the gorgeous day. We strolled down the boardwalk that surrounded a now quiet park full of crazy playground equipment. Around the other side of the Spaulding building we stopped in a peaceful garden. Kreg pointed out where, just the day before, he and Elizabeth had ridden recumbent bikes all through the quiet neighborhoods of Charlestown. Of course, Kreg’s therapist was riding with him to steer, but Kreg was doing the work with his increasingly strong legs. Victory!
Before we knew it, Leslie was back to take us to yet another therapy room. Kreg maneuvered his chair right up to a special adaptive bike that allows him to sit in his wheelchair while his feet pedal. 15 minutes at level 3 of pretty solid pedaling. The first time he used this machine at Spaulding the motor had to do the work. Victory!
With his feet barely out of the pedals, Kelly and Kristin met us for pool therapy. Once again, Drive 2 and we were flying through the corridors! (does Kreg do it any other way? ) The pool was 91 degrees and looked so inviting. Kreg mustered his strength to go from his chair into a power lift that would lower him in to the pool. And then, aided by the buoyancy of the water, Kreg walked. Across the pool. And stood to do even more shoulder and arm exercises. Then he floated on his back and kicked his way from one end of the pool to the other. And back. Smiling through the excruciatingly hard work. Always willing to do what was placed before him. Never complaining. He WALKED. Across the pool. Victory!