Danielle has not OK’d this, mind you. Last we spoke about cycling, she said we’d reassess in a week. But my walking is steady, and as long as the streets are as sleepy as they are today, I should be fine. I decide the test is hoisting Lucille’s 30lbs of joy down the stoop unassisted. All other things being equal, if I can do that, I feel ready.
I choose Lucille as the safer bike because of her lower center of gravity. The unfolding is seamless (muscle memory), even if she is initially “twitchy.” After waiting for the few cars there are to go by, we make our way on city streets to the Greenway.
Up we go, ambling past The Magic Pan
Now, I can (and have been doing) the exercise bike for weeks, so I have a certain amount of cardio conditioning. But here’s the thing about exercise bikes: the pedaling is like cycling, the sweating is like cycling (though far more unpleasant). But the breathing…the breathing just isn’t there. Is it the indoor air? Or am I just not breathing the same? All I know is haven’t breathed like this since January 29th. I wouldn’t have missed this ride for anything.
And that’s a good thing, because I pay for it.
By the time I return to Recovery PT two days later, my walking is once again fighting a limp, the right foot swollen up like it hasn’t been for weeks and my left leg (my “Godzilla Leg”) is stressed from doing all the work. I’m expecting Danielle to be in full “Ratched” mode, tapping her foot. Just the night before, I’d emailed her triumphantly, “I rode!” I did not get the congratulatory response I was hoping for. She is miffed, but more than that she’s concerned. “You could have been hurt!” she replies.
The thing is, I know my walking is compromised. From the moment I get out of bed, that reality is ineluctable: I struggle to maintain a steady gait; walking is an exercise in concentration, a moment-to-moment battle with gravity. I’m impotent and frustrated and there’s no escape. But my bikes are like a phantom limb: because I haven’t tried riding since my fall (exercise bikes don't count), in my mind I still can. And I’ve clung to this construct as the one place where life could still be what it was. But now the jig is up. This injury is real and I’m stuck here until I get better. Which will be…when?
Thankfully, if Danielle is disappointed, she doesn’t show it. I’m not the first frustrated patient she’s had (though I may be the most contrite). She asks where it hurts and the length of the ride, noting my responses on her clipboard. We run through some old exercises and I learn some new ones.
Once home, I sink back into despair and try to remember some of the encouraging messages I’ve received from those who’ve been through this before me. After all, I had given up ever walking again and now I can (if less well at the moment). From hereon in, I will do what I’m told. And when I’m ready, I hope to ride once more.