Although I was “stuck” in California for two months, I had it pretty good. I had my cousins to drive me to my appointments with my doctors and physiotherapist and my grandmother to cook me great Filipino food ALL the time. If I were back in Canada, I would have to wait in the evenings until my parents and brother came home at 5:30pm (at the earliest) for them to drive me to any appointments. I would also need to cook for myself, something I would normally love doing, but it’s a whole different story with a halo and one functioning arm.

Furthermore, my aunt’s house was at least twice as big as my parents’ house – I needed space for moving around in my halo! Finally, I would spend this time apart from my husband anyway since he was up in Arctic Canada doing field work and working for his Master’s in Geology.

The only real disadvantages were that I was paying for all my ongoing treatment (since I am a Canadian in the US) and I was away from my all family and friends. That being said, I just told myself that a) my husband and I had always been smart financially so these surprise costs wouldn’t be such a big deal… and they didn’t amount to that much anyway; and b) my family and friends we still going to be there after two months.

Even then I struggled with the thought of how long two months would be in the halo. It felt like an eternity. I counted the weeks left in that thing, just about every night as I tried to go to sleep. Seven weeks left… six weeks left… sigh, I thought. I found myself deep in thought sometimes, trying to figure out the purpose of life, the meaning of everything that had happened to me, God’s plan for me, and so on.

I wasn’t completely alone in this emotionally draining time in my life. My family back home FaceTimed me every night. Understandably, my parents were probably worried sick. I called and FaceTimed my closest friends for support. But most of all, I had the encouragement and support of my relatives who were hosting me in their home.

High school summer vacation began that June, which meant that my 15-year old cousin was completely available to hang out and help out with me. She wasn’t old enough to get a job and she was going to play video games at home nearly all day anyway. I was 16 and she was 5 when we last saw each other!

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She helped me with my daily activities such as bathing, washing my hair, combing and braiding my hair, going up and down the stairs, etc. She was even staying at my room with me, going home only on the weekends – now that’s dedication, right? Needless to say, we bonded hardcore that summer!

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She actually celebrated her 16th birthday four days ago!!! Happy birthday, dear Ria! 🎂🎁🎈I can’t believe she had to deal with doing this more than twice a week:

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I owe the world to her.

Two weeks had gone by since my husband left. Although I was going to physiotherapy three times a week in the afternoons, I just did whatever I fancied to pass the time each day. I read a lot. In fact I finished three books in six weeks.

PURELY HILARIOUS!!!
3.5/5
I OBVIOUSLY cried when I saw the movie.

My cousins and I watched Seasons 9 and 10 of Food Network Star and the entire Game of Thrones series.

I was also on the Internet a lot (not so uncommon these days, I guess), reading other halo brace blogs and learning about spinal fractures and spinal cord injuries.

Being extremely physically active pre-accident, it was frustrating for me to just sit around at my aunt’s home like a useless bum. My only safe form of exercise was walking and I was already maxing myself out at one hour a day. (Fortunately, my halo didn’t scare many children at the park.) I had to walk around with a five- to seven-pound weight on my head and shoulders, so I just couldn’t walk or hike for two to three hours a day! With this physical aspect of my life substantially reduced, I never felt fulfilled. While talking on FaceTime my friend Jen advised, “If you can’t improve yourself physically, focus on improving yourself intellectually.” She was definitely right and it had never been a more opportune time.

Rummaging through the internet for free online courses, I found coursera.org.

Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide to offer courses online for anyone to take. Other similar websites include edX and Khan Academy.

There were literally hundreds of free courses on Coursera. I signed up for two, not just one, courses on creative writing. Why? Let my first assignment for one of the courses tell you:

I began to write creatively as early as age 8. While English was not my first language, I became a voracious reader and wrote short stories based on my dreams, poems just about anything, and journal entries on my classmates. I even got published in the junior section of our national newspaper… three times! My early interest in writing stemmed from the fact that I was the eldest, only daughter, preferring my own company instead of playing video games with my brothers. I continued to write exceptionally well in high school, always receiving positive comments from my teachers back home in the Philippines.

When I moved to Canada at 18 and had to repeat Grade 12 to enter university, I took Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Calculus, but felt truly challenged and intimidated only by my English class. My writing was simply not up to par. I remember spending so much time and effort writing and narrating an essay in front of the class with a collage I made, only to get a 70%. When we were tasked with a book report, I was so fazed that I resorted to copying book reviews from the internet. My teacher noticed the obvious plagiarism and reprimanded me mildly. Embarrassed and ashamed, I swore never to do this again even in times of such desperation. I strived to gain his faith and trust again, writing an outstanding critical review of Shakespeare’s Macbeth in our next assignment and doing very well in our final exam.

In university, I did not have time or outlets for writing creatively, so I focused my energy on writing academically in the sciences. I enjoyed writing lab reports and research papers, culminating in my honours thesis in geology. I continued my forays in writing professionally by describing and logging rock types and structures when I worked in gold exploration and mining.

Two months ago, my husband and I met an unfortunate car accident, leaving me temporarily disabled and unable to work for the next couple of months. I felt it was productive to explore and improve creatively and intellectually on my writing and reading skills while I have the opportunity. I want to pick up where I left off as a child and write more for the fun of it again.

The first, more basic course called Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade (Fundamental English Writing) would last a month. The second, English Composition I, was more technical (as it focused more on academic writing) and lasted two months. Two months? Perfect timing for my halo removal!!!

These courses kept me busy and challenged, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Our first major assignment for English Composition I was a critical review of a selected chapter in a book with proper citations. Talk about a throwback to my university days. I had to prioritize my time so I could meet the weekly assignment deadlines. (Like I had so much on my plate, right?) I was following through with one of my passions in life. Most importantly, all that idle thinking time was not spent in negativity any longer… it was now spent doing research and proofreading my writing four times over.

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I also did some “research” (i.e., Googling) about what kind of bone-building diet I should really follow. I was getting a lot of conflicting information. Should I increase my calorie intake substantially? Should I just focus on increasing my protein intake? Was drinking three glasses of milk a day enough? I settled on:

  1. Eating a healthy balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables
  2. Increasing my protein intake (at least 75 grams per day; apparently 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight is recommended after surgery)
  3. Drinking two to three glasses of milk a day for calcium and Vitamin D
  4. Avoiding salt
  5. Avoiding caffeine
  6. Avoiding refined sugar at all costs. Whether this is a load of bull or not, apparently refined sugar damages your bones (this is only one article out of many that claim that). I ate one dessert in a month and a half, which was biko that my Auntie Charing made.

I couldn’t resist. You wouldn’t be able to either!

I am one huge dessert and baked goods lover so this was really a big sacrifice! BUT HEY, ANYTHING FOR THOSE BROKEN BONES IN MY NECK TO HEAL.

My neurosurgeon estimated three months in the halo, but it could take up to four. I didn’t want to take any chances. It really wasn’t much of a “diet overhaul” since I always ate a healthy diet anyway, but I definitely became more conscious of what I ate. I ate more of those recommended bone-building foods like dairy, tuna, salmon, kale, broccoli, spinach, lentils, etc. I wanted to limit my intake of animal protein but it was nearly impossible in a Filipino household. My grandmother didn’t even know what lentils were.

July 9th, 2015 arrived and my dad and two teenage siblings from Canada came to visit me. My dad was leaving in two weeks but my two siblings would stay until I got my halo removed. The three of us would go back home together. As well, my husband arrived for a short, five-day visit a week later.

I had it pretty good indeed. 😀

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