Rehabilitation at St. John of God in Ballarat

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I’ve almost fin­ished my reha­bil­i­ta­tion stint at St. John of God in Bal­larat: I am sched­uled for dis­charge tomor­row. Home­ward bound! I’m very glad I opt­ed to do the rehab: it’s helped me very much in terms of relearn­ing basic move­ments, ensur­ing I can under­take sim­ple every­day activ­i­ties such as show­er­ing, mov­ing about the house, get­ting dressed and undressed, pick­ing up items from the floor, and so on, whilst pro­tect­ing my spine and keep­ing safe and healthy.

I guess the hard­est aspect of the extra week in hos­pi­tal has been, of course, the iso­la­tion from my part­ner Danielle, my two chil­dren and my cat. The kids have not exact­ly behaved them­selves either, so hav­ing the Fam­i­ly Pri­ma­ry Dis­ci­pli­nary Offi­cer absent has been tough on Danielle. It has­n’t all been neg­a­tive though: I have had vis­its from my moth­er and my good mate Flick, and the nurs­es and staff here at St. John’s are real­ly love­ly peo­ple. Addi­tion­al­ly, the café down­stairs makes a very good espresso.

I met a nice gen­tle elder­ly lady (a fel­low patient named Helen) who has a lit­tle toy dog she car­ries around with her as a sub­sti­tute for the real thing, being too old now to take on the respon­si­bil­i­ty of a live pet. It was very cute (and a lit­tle sad) and I had break­fast with Helen on Fri­day morn­ing and real­ly enjoyed her com­pa­ny. I’m the youngest patient on the ward by a coun­try mile, and there are some pret­ty sick peo­ple. One poor fel­low has spent the major­i­ty of the week cough­ing with such raw force that I imag­ine lumps of lung pop­ping out of his mouth with every retch. Poor bug­ger, hope he improves soon…

Rehab update from my room

I don’t like the drugs but the drugs like me…

I’ve been giv­en injec­tions in my stom­ach of Clex­ane (enoxa­parin sodi­um) twice a day since the surgery to avoid blood clot­ting. Nor­mal­ly I’d be pre­scribed this for six weeks post-op, but luck­i­ly due to my good mobil­i­ty I’ve been giv­en the OK to cease the injec­tions today, which I’m very hap­py about — the nee­dle isn’t very big, and the injec­tion itself does­n’t hurt at all, but there’s a lin­ger­ing sting/burn and I’ve a few bruis­es around my navel. On top of this, with­out a health con­ces­sion card the injec­tions them­selves would have been quite cost­ly (~$50 a day).

For pain I’ve been tak­ing alter­nat­ing heavy dosages of Endone (oxy­codone), Tar­gin (oxycodone/naloxone), Palex­ia (tapen­ta­dol) and reg­u­lar parac­eta­mol. I’ve also been giv­en Val­i­um (diazepam) to help relax the mus­cles each night before sleep. My next strug­gle over the com­ing weeks will be to get my pain down to a lev­el where I can back off the high dos­es of these drugs, espe­cial­ly the oxy­codone, which can be very addic­tive. They’ve blocked me up severe­ly in the bow­els too, so I’ve been flog­ging the Coloxyl (docusate sodi­um) pret­ty reg­u­lar­ly to try and even that out [I know what you’re think­ing: too much infor­ma­tion, dude!].

Restrictions/limits at this stage of my recovery

The restric­tions are very much the same as last week:

    • No bend­ing above the hip at all.
    • No lift­ing of any­thing more than 1kg.
    • No twist­ing at all. This one was described as Rule Numero Uno.
    • No sit­ting for more than 15 min­utes, 20 min­utes as an absolute maximum.
    • Lay­ing flat in bed, no raised hos­pi­tal bed, no sit­ting up in bed. I am allowed to have a pil­low beneath my knees to neu­tralise the cur­va­ture of my spine a little.
    • I can walk 50–100 metres at a time with a walk­ing frame — now grad­u­at­ed to a walk­ing stick. I spent my walk­ing time doing laps of the Reha­bil­i­ta­tion Ward (1 East) and occa­sion­al walks down­stairs to the café with Danielle or my daugh­ter Anneliese.
    • When I am out of bed, I must wear a Don­Joy Duos­trap sup­port­ive lum­bar back brace.
Don­Joy Duos­trap Back Brace

Spinal Rehabilitation Exercises

Exercise/ActivityWeek 1Week 2
Walk­ing: Assist­ed~100m laps of ward
4× daily
Using walk­ing frame
~200m laps of ward
4× daily
Using walk­ing stick
Walk­ing: Unassisted
Hip knee rolls10 left, 10 right
4× daily
15 left, 15 right
2× daily
Mini squats5 reps
2× daily
10 reps
2× daily
Glute squeezes10 secs × 10 reps
1× daily
10 secs × 10 reps
1× daily
Calf rais­es10 reps
2× daily
20 reps
2× daily
Seat­ed leg exten­sions5 left, 5 right
2× daily
Swing back leg5 left, 5 right
2× daily
Stand and sit10 reps
2× daily
Trans­verse abdomi­nus con­trac­tionsHold 10 seconds
March­ing on the spot20 steps (10 per side)
2× daily


Walk­ing has been encour­aged as the ulti­mate recov­ery exer­cise for spinal surgery, by every­body from the neu­ro­sur­geon to the phys­io­ther­a­pist, occu­pa­tion­al ther­a­pist and nurs­es. Walk­ing was assist­ed with a walk­ing frame which had 2 wheels at the front, and stop­pers at the back.

Lay­ing on my back, with my knees bent togeth­er at 45 degrees, then slow­ly and gen­tly drop­ping both knees to each side. By the time I left St. Vincent’s I’d worked up to being able to do 10 drops each side.

Very care­ful­ly and gen­tly squat­ting from a stand­ing to a sit­ting pos­ture with­out bend­ing my back, using my glutes and hamstrings.

Lay­ing in bed and squeez­ing my glutes togeth­er, hold­ing for 10 sec­onds for ten repetitions.

Stand­ing against a bench or oth­er sup­port, lift­ing up on my toes to stretch my calves, 10 each side.

Sit­ting upright, and lift­ing each leg to straight­en it as far as pos­si­ble, push­ing down with quads.

Whilst stand­ing, swing each leg back behind as far as it will go. A sort of reverse hokey pokey.

From a seat­ed posi­tion, stand­ing up, then sit­ting back down again. Rinse and repeat.

Lying on my back with knees bent and feet flat. Tight­en stom­ach mus­cles, pulling navel towards spine, with­out hold­ing breath. Hold for some time, then relax and repeat a few times.

March on the spot, bring­ing knees up and keep­ing feet about 12″ apart. Can hold a chair light­ly for sup­port if needed.

= New exer­cise intro­duced this week

Other posts about my spinal injury and recovery

Category: Spinal Injury & Recovery
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