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Help Welcome me back this Saturday from 5pm-7pm at The (smoke-free) Royale

As regular readers know, I was in three hospitals over the course of three months (February-April) following my stroke on February 1st. I received so many cards and emails of support it was wonderful. I know some of you came to see me while I was still in ICU at SLU and later while I was at St. Mary’s. Cards are great but nothing beats a face to face conversation. I think many others didn’t really know me other than as a reader and they didn’t feel comfortable showing up at the hospital.
When I knew when I’d be returning home some of my close friends wanted to throw a big party — at my place. I ruled that out quickly — I wanted something more casual and where everyone could just show up.

So this Saturday (5/17/08) I will be at The Royale at 3132 S. Kingshighway from 5pm-7pm. Weather permitting I will be on the back patio. Stop feel free to just stop by my table and say hello or even tell me how much you disagree with me. Get a drink at the bar and pull up a chair. I might even do special tricks like walking or moving my left arm!

The Gadfly is back!


Lead with your strong side

Today I did something stupid which can serve as a good analogy for cities.  For new readers I had a stroke on Feb 1st that took out my left side.  Through more than two months of rehab I can walk again with a cane.  So today I decide to pick something off the floor.  In rehab I had done squats to pick up stuff before.

Here is where the analogy and lesson part come in…

I was in a hurry and ignored all that I had learned up to this morning.  Rather than positioning my feet and body so that I was more relying on my strong (right) side I just squatted down as I would have prior to the stroke.  Conditions had changed but I tried the old way.  I ended up sitting on my butt on the floor.
Cities do the same thing— they don’t use their strong side to support then.  St Louis’ strong side is great urban architecture on a nicely scaled grid of walkable streets.  The suburbs don’t have those strong areas.  Yet here we tend to lead with our weak side — suburban anti-city stuff.  The more of this we have the less of the strong side we have.  Ok, so I was sitting on the floor now.

No harm done, people stumble just as cities stumble.  Unlike many cities I had a backup plan.  You see getting off the floor with only one good arm, one good leg and one weak leg is not just a pop back up sort of affair.  In therapy I practiced getting up off the floor — the assumption being that I’d end up there eventually.   Cities and their political leaders just don’t practice how to recover when they fall.  I knew to scoot across the floor and make it to the sofa.  From there I could leverage my strong side to get myself off the floor and seated again.  Cities don’t have such a backup.
St Louis has had a number of bad falls —such as the very expensive downtown indoor mall, St Louis Centre.  Had St Louis built up its strong side rather than coming from a weak position we would have focused on traditional storefront shops along streets.  Instead we went with the suburban mall model sans the acres of free parking and it flopped big time.   St Louis, like me this morning, was trying the quick route.  I recovered fairly quickly but a city’s mistakes are harder to recover from.

Remember that is is best to use your strong side for needed support.


Navigating the sidewalks in a wheelchair

Today, my first full day back from physical rehab, I attended a Society of Professional Journalists luncheon down the street.  So I ventured out in the power chair from my place at 16th & Locust over to Lucas Park Grille at 13th and Washington.

Not a huge distance but one that would have been pretty difficult in a manual chair.  Curb ramps were in place on all the corners except one.  The ones that did exist, however, were often broken or had a huge edge at the point of approach.  Again the power chair was able to handle the situation but not everyone has such a chair.  Also I have to say that using a manual chair vs a power one can be rewarding — like riding a bike vs driving a car — one requires physical exertion but with that you get a sense of accomplishment.  You seem more connected to your environment.

At a casual glance we look around and see curb ramps and thus assume the environment is accessible to the physically disabled.   The real question we need to ask is how functional is the environment?  Poorly installed or damaged curb ramps reduces functionality, at times to zero.  Cities all over the country pay a small fortune to upgrade their intersections with curb ramps but when they don’t work as intended it simply becomes another waste of taxpayer money.

On the other side, when curbs and such are done right, disabled members of the community can lead independent lives rather than wasting away in costly nursing homes.    In that context, investing in accessible
infrastructure is very cost effective.

A fellow patient from MRC also returned to his home near South County Mall yesterday.  Despite being close to both a good number of employment and shopping choices his options for getting there are very limited.  His neighborhood of single family detached dwellings has plenty of paving for driveways but not sidewalks.  Getting to a point where he could catch a bus is nearly impossible.  He’ll need an expensive van with a lift to be mobile not because of his inability to push his wheelchair but because of the poor pedestrian nature of where he lives.   So while I may have issues with a ramp here or there at least we have sidewalks!

We all make choices about where we live and I must say I am very pleased with mine.


I’m Returning Home Today!

April 30, 2008 Steve Patterson 11 Comments

After three very challenging months, later today I will be back at home. I still have a lot of rehab to do in order to be back where I was prior to the stroke but that will take some time.

For the past nearly two weeks I have been “independent in my room” meaning that I was free to walk to the bathroom and to do my own transfers from the wheelchair to the bed and back. For several days now I have been “independent on the floor” which meant I could walk to the dining room for floor without a staff person at my side.

I still have some anxiety about being on my own again after having so much excellent help. Still I have managed to overcome great adversity these last three months so I know that I have the willpower to meet the challenges that I will soon face.

A couple of days ago I uploaded a new video to YouTube. It’s only 20 seconds but it shows me moving my left arm. My left hand is wrapped to a table top device they call the bicycle which you pedal with your hands. I’m able to use my shoulder to pull my arm back to my side — keeping this up allows me to rotate the pedal over and over.  Check it out:

I have a loaner wheelchair until I get my own in June.  Around the house I will be walking with my cane but the loaner chair is motorized so that will give me the freedom to run around downtown with ease.  It will also let me get to the bus and MetroLink.  I’ve got a folding cane ordered so I might use the power to get somewhere and then walk at that point.  The longest I’ve walked since the stroke has been about 600 feet — half a block roughly.
Sadly it will be some time before I’m back on my Honda scooter so I am reluctantly car shopping.

In packing up my stuff yesterday I realized this was the longest I had been away from the City of St. Louis since I moved here in August 1990 at the young age of 23.   St Louis is my adopted home and despite my criticisms of it’s flaws I am so looking forward to being back.

I want to thank my blood family as well as my St Louis family of close friends for being there with me on this journey — I could have not survived without them — literally.  In the coming months their help will again play an important role in my life.   Thanks to all of you sticking with me here at UrbanReviewSTL these last few months.

For the moment it is just so exciting to be returning home.


Former Sanatorium grounds offers glimpse into Missouri’s history

Since March 21st I have been at the Missouri Rehabilitation Center located on a big hill overlooking the small Missouri Town of Mt Vernon. Originally the facility was opened in 1907 as a Tuberculosis sanatorium. In the 1980’s the focus shifted to physical rehabilitation.

Back in the day the facility was completely self sustaining complete with its own farm fields, dairy cows and so on. So yesterday I got bored and decided to go exploring — in my wheelchair!

I did three outings yesterday in different directions, taking my camera on two out of three trips.

Above is the main administration building although this entry is no longer the main entrance. Wings were added on each side in the 1950’s. … Continue Reading