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A walk to remember
By JOSEPH SITARZ
, Staff Writer
Sunday, April 13, 2014 12:00 AM
A couple of weeks ago, I marveled at a youngster trying to walk.
There in the hallway at Optimum Life Center was a toddler doing what toddlers do best — toddling.
Truth be told, I thought he was doing a better job of moving about than I was four months after a stroke. He had moments when he looked like he was going to fall down, but he caught himself and didn't hit the ground. Still, other times he wasn't as fortunate. It was nothing for him to fall on his butt only to get right back up.
My walk wasn't nearly as smooth as his and I wasn't as sure-footed as he.
As I got closer to him, I laughed to myself. I gave him the thumbs up and told him he was walking better than I was. He smiled at me on his way down to the floor, which made each of us smile.
In an instant, we were both moving about the hall again, one of us toddling and the other wobbling. I'm pretty sure we liked where we were that day.
It wasn't too long ago I wasn't wobbling or doing much of anything on my own two feet.
He was there waiting for a family member. I wasn't. I was there to continue rehab.
Four months ago, I learned we all take things we do each day for granted — until we can't do them.
Standing, speaking, bending, sitting, writing, typing, going to the bathroom, washing, shaving, drawing and walking are among the things we learn how to do. Once those tasks are mastered, we really don't have a need to think about doing them anymore. We just do them.
Granted, my typing still needs some work. My story about Mack Baltzeger's artwork was written by me, but not according to the byline. It was written by Jospeh Sitarz.
There's a lot that goes into the process of getting from Point A to Point B. Include stairs, curbs, hills, grass and dirt, and the task gets trickier.
It wasn't too long ago I needed a wheelchair to be mobile. With the help of therapists and my determination not to let the stroke beat me, I slowly learned how to put one foot in front of the other while holding onto bars at Greenwood Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. I advanced to a walker and was thrilled when I passed the 200-foot walking milestone. After leaving GRRH, I started going to Optimum Life. I entered the building being pushed in a wheelchair. It wasn't too long I was using the walker.
It wasn't until one day at home that I got myself into a situation in my bathroom that I had wandered away from where I left the walker. The only way to get back to the walker was either crawl or walk. I walked the short distance and latched onto the walker.
I showed the therapists what I could do and that's when things started to really get interesting during our sessions. They continued to push me and I responded. The sessions were difficult, but not enough to make me stop. They would tell me what to do and I did it after running through the steps in my head. It often took three or four attempts to achieve what they wanted, but I did it.
That hasn't stopped. The walker is basically a memory these days and is idle at home.
I've walked sets of stairs and conquered cobblestones in Wilmington, N.C. I've done laps in the big box stores using shopping carts. I've covered plenty of bare ground at Furman University going to watch rugby matches.
I, like everyone else, am amazed and proud of the strides I've made to walk like I did before my stroke. I'm determined to get it right.
I'm close to getting there. The little guy won't be falling on his butt much longer. There might be a day in the near future that he and I will be walking out of Optimum Life without as much as a toddle or wobble in our steps.
Sitarz can be reached at 864-943-2529 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.
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