Dianah has worked with many clients over the years, and although the journey with her son was the start of her love affair with learning about the impact of sound, Diana has her own story which serves as a testimonial to the power of music and sound on the body.
I had been to see my oldest after the birth of my first grandchild (they live in the US and I live in Australia) and I had finally arrived home after a long trip. My other son and wife (who were living with me at the time) had left earlier that day to visit friends 2 hours away and were staying for a few days. I have two dogs, Annie and Millie.
Annie is a Belgian Shepherd X Husky X Border Collie and is calm and sensible. Millie (the one on the left in the above picture) is a Kelpie X Bordie Collie and is full of energy and fast. She often outruns most other dogs so will run like the wind but look behind her, which means sometimes she runs into something.
After arriving home it was hot (in the middle of summer) so I thought I would go down to the back yard and check on the garden and give it a water. I always whistle the dogs and say “Down the back” and they race to see which one gets there first. I always am aware of where they are, but after a 10 hour flight and a 2 hour drive home, I didn’t make sure they were in front of me before I said it.
I Had No Idea My Life Was About To Change
Millie was right behind me and took off as she normally does, but she wasn’t looking and collided with the back of my knee. She hit with such a force she completely knocked off my feet. I landed on one foot with all the toes bent upwards (now touching the top of my foot) which made me fall to the right onto the cement. It was a big fall and I knew the way my foot was looking that it wasn’t good.
The pain was incredible and so I called out for help. All the neighbors were at work and there was no-one to hear my cries for help. The pain intensified and tears started to flood down my cheeks. I realized no-one was coming so after awhile I started to crawl back to the house and inside. The dogs knew something was wrong but were unable to help in any way. I didn’t have my phone with me so crawled into the bedroom and got myself onto the bed.
The pain was unbearable but I thought I had badly sprained my ankle and bent my toes badly. I rang my children to tell them what had happened but tell them I was all right. They insisted I go to the hospital and ring an ambulance.
Anyone who knows me knows that I hate hospitals and I hate bothering people so I decided to wait and see how I went.
It Ended in a Trip to the Hospital
I waited for over a hour but the pain was so bad I knew I needed to see about it. My children were threatening me with calling an ambulance themselves if I didn’t so I rang a friend nearby who was just about finished work and came to take me up to the emergency department. I started to walk on it and just fell to the ground. She called an ambulance and they took me to the hospital.
Several hours later I found out that I had broken my fibula, my ankle, a couple of metatarsals and my big toe was damaged. I was feeling pretty good by this stage as I had my green whistle, and I knew the fall was a big one but I had no idea what that would mean moving forward.
I went into a cast for 6 weeks and was on crutches. FINALLY the time came to get my cast off. I thought the difficulties were over but little did I know they were just starting.
The After Effects of the Fall
While I knew it would take time for my leg to regain strength, I had no idea the extent of other challenges that would arise as a result of the initial fall.
- I could not walk in a straight line. It didn’t matter how much I tried, I veered to the left considerably. For weeks after, if I was walking on the sidewalk, I kept running into the shop windows beside me.
- I could not step off a curb or walk down stairs without holding onto something.
- I could not walk in a straight line toe to heel. I couldn’t even stand on one leg anymore – either leg.
- I was also bumping into things around the house; doorhandles as I went past, walls, chairs. It was as if my brain just didn’t know how much space my body took up anymore.
- I could no longer lift my heels off the ground. It was as if my brain had forgotten how.
- I felt weak and it was difficult to think clearly. The brain fog was real!
Knowing what I know about the vestibular system and sensory issues, I knew the only way I was going to get any better was to retrain my brain through sound therapy. My brain had literally forgotten where my feet were in space, underneath my body. My proprioception had been compromised and the sensory input I was getting was not being processed in the same way it was before the fall.
It is common after a fall that the vestibular system can be challenged. For older people, that is often why they continue to fall more frequently after the first fall.
So, I wrote myself a therapy plan and started to implement it. It consisted of sound therapy, physical exercises, strength training and proprioceptive and retained reflex activities. I found out I had some retained reflexes. I had no idea before this, and I think the fact that I had been involved in so much high-level music and brain exercises during my life masked the presence of them. Having the fall exposed them in a way that I no longer miss.
Then there was also my age. I had just turned 50 and all sorts of decline happens naturally in regard to balance and processing sound if we are not doing something to retain what we have. It also meant that while retraining the brain was possible, the age factor would mean it would take longer than a child.
As we age, the brain starts to “prune” connections that we no longer need and we have to work much harder to rebuild them the older we get. Everything takes longer.
It was also a factor (I found out a couple of years later) that I was severely anemic, including red blood cells, iron and vitamin B12. My muscles were weak because they were not getting what they needed to function properly. All things combined; things were not easy.
Improvement was Slow But Steady
I was diligent in doing my sound therapy every day. I never missed my scheduled time and I noticed it didn’t take me long to be more relaxed. I was not as anxious about fixing everything. Other improvements after the first 12 weeks were:
- More clarity of thought. My brain just felt like it worked better.
- I was becoming more aware of my body and where I was in space. I wasn’t bumping into things as often.
- I could now stand on one leg for 1 second because having to put the other foot down on the ground. Before I could not even lift one foot off the ground without falling.
- If I bent my knees, I could stand toe to heel for 2 seconds before having to grab something for balance
- I became more aware of how my feet were walking and where they were when I was walking
- I could lift my heels off the ground once.
I continued for many months (and still am making gains today) but my brain is slowly retraining and learning to process information from my vestibular and proprioceptive systems. I no longer fall like I used to and can now step off a curb and my balance is nowhere near as bad.
I was able to feel what the children I work with feel to some degree and while it has been a difficult road, it has made me more appreciative of the knowledge I have, and the insight it has given me into the struggles they face and the process of improving them.