Discharged and its new challenges

My daily breakfast at 6am. Good spread of meds
Come 3rd weekend leave, I was given “homework”. My OT has requested for me to cook my parents a meal. Well, my parents had never eaten a meal prepared by me and that is because I didn’t know how to cook when I was back in Singapore. Let’s just say they were probably afraid of being poisoned by me. Convincing my parents that the meal was edible and nice was the least of my concern. Preparing the meal, in a wheelchair, would have the #1 challenge. Cutting and cooking the food with only my right hand was another big task (my left arm was still paralysed). Due to the muscle wastage, carrying the wok was a weight-lifting task. It was heavy, bulky, hard to manoeuvre and I dropped food all over the table. At the end of it, I managed to produce a couple of Asian dishes for the family. I even taught Shina how to cook something simple. No burning of food or my body. No cutting of my fingers. THAT’S GOOD NEWS. Like real good.
My parents were pretty amazed with the meal I cooked, insisting that they would have never imagined it being so delicious. Zac 1 – Parents 0. 
Lucky for me, the height was alright. Still, it is really different
The food which surprised my parents

Finally came the long awaited day of me getting discharged from the rehabilitation hospital. Its been a day I have looking forward to. Not only was it because I was getting really bored back at the hospital but also for the fact that being discharged meant that I have moved on to the next stage of rehabilitation: to be put back into the real world.
There was also something else that I have been looking forward to: to put my helmet back at the crash site. On the day I was transferred to the rehabilitation hospital (ironically, it is located within 400m from my crash site), I knew I would be able to be discharged one day. What I did not know was if I were to be leaving this place in a wheelchair or on my feet. Nevertheless, me being me, I told myself that I will be walking out of this place, with my own feet and I will, go to the crash site and place my helmet there. I want to have the courage to see that exact drain, to walk down that exact path and put that helmet there. Because, I am UNDEFEATED. I wanted to close this chapter in my life, in decisive head-on rock and roll style (looking back, this is so damn me). And so, that’s what I did. I walked down the crash site, cold chills running down my spine, slowly but surely, I wanted to absorb this moment, to remind myself I am undefeated and I will continue to fight hard, to recover and to live my life to the fullest. I told myself “one day, I will ride down this exact same road towards McGilivary and I will then go and do the next race. It is not over yet.”
My physio room, the place where I worked hard, day in day out.

Torture chamber that comes by the name of OT

Didnt get discharged with a good score. But to the nursing staff, probably one of the best they have ever seen.

all packed and ready to leave.. with my wheelchair. I insisted on walking out of the hospital regardless how long it may take me.

Closing the chapter.

Upon discharged, I was put onto the Rehab In The Home (RITH) program where the OT and PT would visit me a couple of times a week to have rehab with me. I was really looking forward to RITH as I have heard so much about it and how challenging the sessions were. I am always looking forward challenges in rehab. If it doesn’t challenge me, its not helping me. “always challenge yourself”- Prof Landers.
So came the day when I first met my PT. WE did a couple of assessments and we did some exercises before me mentioning to her that I had gym access to the school’s gym across the road. She then decided to have a final exercise with me and that was for us to walk to the gym to see if it was “safe” for me and also assess my fatigue level walking from my room to the gym. Away we walked, walking side by side.
Me: What do you think is the best for me? To increase the distance or to concentrate on my walking gait?

PT: So what are your aims?

Me: I want to recover and run marathons again. In fact, I hope to compete again.

PT: Compete in a marathon?

Me: Yap. I was training really hard before this happened. So I want to work really hard to get back to where I left off.

PT: Zac, you have to be realistic. 42km is a long distance. You might not ever complete it again. Even if you do, you will most probably be struggling. So it might be best for you to realise the reality of things and give up on competing. Maybe completing the marathon will be a good goal to have a couple of years down the road.
I froze. Looked at her and was really saddened.

PT: Just look at you walking from the room to this underpass, you have been limping, struggling to walk, its really not that likely that you will ever compete again. Allow me to be honest to you, you might not walk like a normal person ever again. You will always walk with a limp. So going back to your question, you should just go as far as you can and as you want because I doubt you will get a good walking gait pattern again.
For the first time, I teared. Even now as I type, I can feel the pain, the disappointment and the emptiness in my heart. And she didn’t end there.
PT: We are only half way to the gym and you are already panting and the legs are cramping up. There is no point in working out in the gym. Walking to the gym will probably be more than a workout you can handle. I hope you understand where I am coming from. You should really re-consider your aims and be realistic.
The goal that had kept me going all these while was vanishing right before my eyes. The goal that had made me worked my ass off, performing “miracles” week after week. Is this the end of the journey for me? Is this the truth that I will have bear and to live with, for the rest of my life?
I know life isn’t fair. But this is.. really too hard for me to swallow.
It took me a couple of days to allow the feelings to sink in. Luckily I always liked to prove others wrong. Luckily I have such a big ass ego. Luckily I don’t know how to spell “gife up” (see. I cant spell it).
One night, while I was crying myself in bed, the inner demon within woke up.
So what if you are an expert and have years of experience?
You have not met Zac before.
I am meant to achieve what others can’t. Just because others can’t make it happen, doesn’t mean I can’t. DO NOT GENERALISE ME.
I will defy all odds. I will make it happen. Because I can.
I will make you eat your words. I will make sure I am an outlier in your many years of being an “expert”. I will make sure I will walk properly, start running and do a marathon and send you my freaking timing sheet.
You dare to make such a statement about me on our first visit? Seriously?
My school has taught me never to give up. Nil Sine Labore. Nothing without labour. Hard work triumphs all. I WILL BE BACK.
Even if I were to crawl across the line, I WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN. I will do a marathon this year. 2014. I will do it.
I will make you eat your words.
Ps. Lots and lots of censorship were made. Probably at least once between each sentence.
On Christmas eve, I gave myself the best present ever. On the day of my accident, I set off from my office at Sport Science, towards McGilivary. So I decided to walk myself back to Sports Science. I left after dinner, telling my parents that I am going for a stroll.

1 hour later, I finally reached sports science. Just 2 days ago I was told I couldn’t walk normally. Just 2 days ago, I couldn’t even walk 500m. Today, I managed to walk to Sports Science (~1.6km) and I am going to walk back. This was probably the hardest and longest “endurance exercise” I have done since my accident. To think I was doing 28km within 2 hours just 2 months ago and here I was doing 3.2km in 2 hours. How sudden life changes. Its ok. I was feeling fired up. I had taken my first step. I am going to make this happen.
This will not be the last of me.
Off to my secret training on Christmas eve 2013
The reward? The nice welcome sign I first saw when i came to UWA. I made it back on my own, walking.

My Beloved King’s Park

King’s Park (KP) has always been special to me. KP was also where I had my first unofficial race (I crashed a 10km race with no number tag) and also my first official race (city to surf) gave me a good 10km of KP. KP was a challenge. I ran everyday to overcome it. But, most of the time, KP wins. And that’s the beauty of it.
Before I came to Perth, I have heard so much of KP, what nice view it offers and also how hilly it gets, making it a perfect training location for my marathon training. Living right in front of KP has been a blessing to me. Waking up in the morning, to enjoy the fresh air, nice view, good hills has become something I really enjoy doing.
So on my 2ndweekend leave, I told my sister that I want to go to KP. I wanted to have a bird’s eye view of the city once more. I wanted to feel the strong wind during the long winding road. My sister agreed and she drove me up after my acupuncture in the morning.
Now that I am in KP, I wanted to be out of my wheelchair. I wanted to stand with my own feet. I wanted to walk around this place independently. Thinking back, whenever I ran KP, I felt that I was racing against myself and often I will aim to overtake whoever is in front of me. I had never truly slowed down to have a good look at the scenery it provides. This time, I was able to enjoy KP to its fullest. Strolling (or rather walking as fast as I can), looking at the sun set and also to sit along the park is an amazing experience for me. I cant believe how much I have been missing out. It is indeed true that sometimes we really need to slow down to fully enjoy whatever we are presented with. Life in the fast lane really isn’t that amazing afterall.
I want to run along KP again. Looking at all the people running in KP, makes me so sad. Not too long ago, I was doing my long runs here, on this exact same footpath. Not too long ago, I was actually feeling awesome, blazing through this exact ground, knowing that come June I will be a PR in Goldcoast. Now, it all seems like a dream.. a dream that will never come true. There was so much mixed emotions as I stood there.
I wonder who could ever understand what im going through.
I wonder what else I could have done to improve.
I wonder if I could ever start running again..
I wonder..
All these thoughts go through my head at least once a day and it is a mental torture and mental battle which others do not see.
Whenever someone tells me that I will recover, my brain subconsciously tells me “yap thanks. You are just being nice. How I wish it is true”
When someone tells me “You have improved so much”, my brain tells me “ya. But look how far I am away from being back to where I was”.
When someone tells me “You will be about 90% of who you were, its good news!” my brain says “90% is not good enough”.
When someone tells me “you will not be normal again” or “you will not be able to run again” i will naturally be cursing at you.
So how, regardless of what others say, it just doesn’t make anything better. Not even 1%. It is MY fault that I feel this way. I know it. But. I cant help it. Till today, I battle with this.
As I am typing this entry now, I once again ask myself when will I be able to compete again.

Will I be able to qualify for Boston again? Will I ever do a sub-three again? When will all this happen?

There are so much doubts, so much questions and so much hardships. Nobody said recovery is gonna be easy, but no one will be able to understand how hard it is, unless, you are going through it.
Good days, bad days.
Happy moments, sad thought.
Being happy for others while being jealous and envious.
All these can happen within 10 seconds of my life now. Talk about mood swings. Sheesh.
Dear King’s Park. I will be back.
To enjoy the fantastic view you offer.
To take up the challenge your hills provide.
And one day. Hopefully, I will be able to defeat you.
Till we meet again.
I will not give up.

Nil Sine Labore


Lets go Church.. and then to King’s Park!

Happy just to be back, standing here, enjoying the wind.

prepared and written by Zac Leow

Back in Rehab hospital. again.

“Our brain requires glucose function.” Pretty sure everyone came across this. I personally experienced how important glucose (sugar) is to my brain and bodily function during OT.

Every now and then, my OT would challenge me with some tasks that were a little different, a little more challenging. Most of these challenging task would result in me almost fainting or having lost (whatever’s left) my body movements. I would often turn pale, head would start to spin and I would just become sleepy. I would want to ignore everyone, I would want to stop whatever I am doing and I just wanted to sleep. Th therapist would often have to remind me to provide them with verbal feedback “Zac, speak to me. everything ok mate? speak to me”. It kinda made me step out of the sleepy zone just by answering them. This is pretty dangerous for someone who is on a wheelchair and even more so, for that person to be unable to use the arms properly. I have never liked sweets or chocolates (probably due to the athlete’s diet) and surprisingly, I have been really dependent on them to get me through all these rough days and hard task. So, apparently, focusing really hard on a task requires a lot of glucose. So when I am focused, trying my absolute best to complete a task, I run low on glucose and results in giddy spells. Yes. All these occurred because I was trying to move my fingers 10 times. Valsa maneuver included. 

Thanks Phil and Grace for your wonderful sweets which got me through every single giddy spells. Thanks Zi for the top up of sweets from your secret stash.
Magic bouquet of energy supply! <3 nbsp="" td="">

Daily snack from the hospital. Biscuits, crackers and cheese. Emergency energy supply.

First Goal Setting
After my return from my first weekend leave, I had a meeting with the medical team. We sat down and we came up with my first goal setting. Well, I have done numerous goal setting sessions for myself as an athlete and also as a coach for my team. So this was no stranger to me. What was unique to this session, were the goals. In order to have a realistic yet challenging goal, one has to let go of all ego, pride, self-worth, self-pity, self-denial and admit to the world what an individual is incapable of doing. There was no hiding. Lucky for me, these were long thrown out of the window because I came to peace with my situation pretty quickly (although my psychologist believes it was all a façade). This goal setting session was just a written goal for everyone to know. I have been setting my own goals ever since I was admitted into Shenton Rehab and it sure felt good to be smashing them week after week but its time I get everyone to be on the same page as me.
I wrote:
  • To be able to pick up a 1/4 full cup and bring it to mouth using left hand
  • To use (L) hand when typing on computer
  • To use (L) to complete grooming task including: washing, drying and brushing hair
  • To be able to walk 200m with no hands-on assitance
  • To be able to cycle on the upright bike for 20mins on L4 resistance
sounds simple? yes.
was it easy? nope

I was determined to make it happen.
I know I can achieve them if I try hard.
Perth has taught me to: BELIEVE in MYSELF and be RESPONSIBLE.

I used to work really hard (that’s a given), but I would find excuses whenever I fall short, telling myself its not my fault, its because of weather, marathoners are bad at lactic workouts, the hills on course, my shoes, because I am not Japanese blah blah blah.. loads of BS. 
Coming to Perth, seeing how hard my team mates work, seeing how fast a 15 year old girl can run, seeing with my eyes how I would get smacked by them on a daily basis has given me the belief that if I believe, I would be as good as I wanted myself to be. I had to believe in the program my coach had provided. I had to believe that good things will happen when hardwork pays off.
I started to believe in my capabilities more and I started to improve and I was getting better till this accident happened.

Everything is possible for he who believes.
Be focused, work my ass off and believe in myself.
I am who I am.
Be responsible for my own actions.
It starts NOW.
Nil Sine Labore
I have been kept alive on this Earth, surely, I was not meant to be just another furniture. 
I will make the most out of whatever I have left. 
Make the best of myself and believe that I can do it. 
No time to lose, let’s go! 
Screw the doctor who told me I won’t be able to run, lousy diagnosis. 
I will do my next marathon by the end of 2014. 
My determination has no equal.
The end of the week came, let’s just say it is not a fairy tale ending for my goal setting. I achieved some, I missed some. Most importantly, I achieved everything that was strength based or speed based. It is important not because I am a muscle head, but rather it meant that I did everything I could, physically, to achieve it. Neurological changes, spasm, movement of my severely impaired left side were a little out of control for me. So, it’s alright. I will try again next week. No regrets.
Just got to keep going.
The world doesnt change because I am a spinal patient. yeap. It sure doesnt change.

Visit from Joel and Stephen
Visits were exciting. They were something different which made the mundane rehabilitation life that bit more exciting even if it is just for an hour or so. One morning, when I was having my horrible breakfast, I was told that I had visitors.
Who would come so early in the morning? Hmmm..
My church mates from Singapore came! It’s so nice of them to fly in to visit me and to bring cards and gifts from the others back in Singapore =) So much love. 
It has definitely renewed my strength and reminded myself that I am not alone in this.

Well, I live to fight another day.
Money is not important when you are bed ridden.
Branded stuff aint too.
Family and friends are my new found strength through tough times.
Not forgetting, having more faith in my Lord
They sure were stoked to see me standing up for this photo. I sure am glad I was able to stand =)

My new ward mate =)

prepared and written by Zac Leow