What in the world does water have to do with Cauda Equina Syndrome?
Well, nothing really, but water did have a unique effect on me in the months and years after I got CES.
After I suffered my injury, and after those first few terrible months where my symptoms were the absolute worst, I settled into my “new normal” where I had two sleeping numb legs, bad foot drop on my left foot, and lots of intermittent nerve pain in those supposedly numb legs.
It had always been mentioned that aquatic therapy might help the muscles in my legs, but we lived in a tiny rural town in the middle of nowhere, and the closest towns with Physical Therapy clinics did not have aquatic therapy available due to not having actual pools in their clinics.
A little over a year after I got CES, my daughter had her birthday party at the city swimming pool in our town. While at the party, I was coaxed into actually getting into the water.
I really did not want to do this, my head filled with visions of my dead numb legs dragging me down to a quick death by drowning.
The pool was huge with most people just jumping in and then using one of two ladders to climb back out.
Me and my numb legs jumped in, and I was sure that was the last gasp of air I would take on this planet.
I hit the water, bobbed to the surface, and then much to my surprise, I started floating.
Although I’m a BIG guy, I have always been very buoyant in the water, convinced I must have been a whale in a previous life. Now, here I was, laying on my back, motionless, and much to my surprise, my numb legs were floating right along with me.
And then I had a startling realization……..
MY LEGS FELT LIGHT AS A FEATHER!!
My numb dead legs, which I had been dragging around like heavy logs for over a year, felt………
They weren’t heavy weights dragging me down to a water grave!
I could sense no difference between my floating legs, my floating arms, or my big floating butt!
For the first time in a long time, I momentarily felt what it was like to have “normal” legs again.
Sure, my range of motion was decreased, and I was still getting the occasional electrical-shock nerve pains in my legs, but my legs just floated along like they were normal again.
It was awesome!
Then, reality came crashing down on me.
It was time to get out of the pool.
I floated over to the closest ladder, grabbed the rails, and started climbing.
As I started to climb the ladder, two things quickly became apparent. First, my numb legs instantly become huge heavy logs as I again placed my weight on them. Second, I quickly discovered that trying to climb a ladder with numb legs and feet, and a bad case of foot drop, was NOT EASY! Just trying to center my feet on the rungs of the ladder was maddening. I literally had to use all the strength I could muster with my arms and upper body in order to pull myself up that ladder.
When I finally stepped onto the concrete outside the pool, completely exhausted, my family and others around me soon got a shocking sight.
My legs were completely blue and purple. One rare side-effect of my CES is that the circulation in my legs is horrible. Since getting CES, I had already beaten two blood clots in my left leg due to the poor circulation. It was now apparent that the cool water of the swimming pool had taken my bad circulation to all-new levels. I was soon in the Emergency Room of the local hospital.
Thankfully, my circulation gradually improved and I was soon back at home in bed.
I learned three things that day.
1. Being the water was AWESOME! It allowed a brief escape from the nightmare of CES as my legs actually felt “normal” while I was in the water.
2. Never use a pool that has ladders. After that day, I only use pools that have steps that you can walk down into and out of the pool. My dead legs do not do ladders!
3. And yes, my legs will turn blue in cool water. It will freak everyone around me out, but I’m fine.
About three years ago, while my youngest son and I were out of town for a week, my wife made a major purchase. (She commandeered the check book!)
She bought an above-ground swimming pool.
After years of her insisting that I needed “aquatic therapy” for my legs, which was just a veiled excuse for “Your son and I want a pool we can play in!”……….. She waited until I was out of town and she went ahead and purchased a pool on her own.
It is pretty small, just 18′ across and 4′ deep, but since it was installed, I now have the ability to go out and float in my own small pool whenever I want to. I don’t care that it’s really not big enough to actually swim in, because I am perfectly happy to just FLOAT………… (and do handstands, and somersaults, and just act like a total kid)
I can go out there on hot 100 degree days in the Texas summers and just float for an hour and forget that my legs have any kinds of problems.
And with the Texas heat, the water temperature is usually above 90 degrees for most of the summer, so my circulation is not affected by cool water.
One bad part about the pool was that it used a LADDER to get into the pool, so we hired a contractor to come out and build us a set of permanent wood steps that we now use to get in and out of the pool.
Have any of you had similar experiences with water or swimming since you got CES?
Have you noticed a change in how your legs feel in the water?
It’s now November. I’m bummed out because the swimming season is now over, even here in Texas. The pool is about to be covered until about March or April. My legs are already looking forward to the first float of the new year.