"Some Stages of Instability"
[Wednesday, August 5, 2014]
Three weeks after the attack,
Kenzie had a counseling plan
in place and his body was healing
well enough to move around more.
Ben and Ron encouraged him
to take longer walks, and Kenzie
no longer felt like people were
coddling him once he realized
they rarely went anywhere alone.
"We're herd animals," Ron said
with a shrug when asked about it.
"We just like to be together."
"Yeah, I get that," Kenzie said.
He enjoyed the sheer feeling
of inclusion that he got from
hanging out with them.
He loved doing what chores
he could, and lounging around
the roundhouse afterwards.
When people gathered -- which
was more days than not, now Kenzie
had recovered enough that he didn't
need so much quiet time -- he liked
listening to their stories even if some
of them were in Ojibwemowin.
Sooner or later, someone would
pick up a drum or turn over a bucket
and people would start drumming and
singing songs that they all knew.
Kenzie didn't know the words yet,
but he was beginning to recognize
the tunes they played most often.
Someone tossed a handkerchief
on the floor, and Mick went after it,
strutting and stomping as he tried --
and failed -- to snatch it with his teeth.
Blair Her Road Goes Both Ways
followed him and soon succeeded.
Then Many Tongues wanted to play.
Kenzie hadn't figured out yet how
all the rules went for him, because
he could use his hands when
nobody else could, hotdogging
around the floor in his wheelchair.
It looked simple enough, like
limbo where you tried to get as
close to the floor as possible,
aiming for the handkerchief.
Kenzie had no trouble
spreading his legs, and
even managed to bend over,
but when he tried to mimic
Blair's cocky bobbing motion,
his whole back seized up.
Many Tongues whistled a stop,
and Ben hurried over to help
Kenzie stagger back to his room.
"What happened?" Ben asked.
"Threw my back out," Kenzie said,
grimacing as he lay down on his bed.
"You need to be gentle with yourself,"
Ben reminded him. "It takes time."
"I'm tired of being laid up," Kenzie whined.
"I want my body back. I want my life back.
I want to be able to do things again."
"You can do more this week than
you could last week," Ben said.
"Pull your shirt up and let me look."
"Yeah, yeah," Kenzie said, but obeyed.
"Tell me when I find the sore spots,"
Ben said, and began pressing his hands
all up and down Kenzie's back.
Kenzie yelped. "There!"
"Yeah, you got a big knot here,"
Ben said. "Your back didn't like
that hanky dancing you tried."
"Blair made it look easy,"
Kenzie muttered. "I just
wanted to join the fun."
Ben laughed. "Blair makes
a lot of things look easy,"
he said. "That doesn't
mean they actually are."
"Did I rip anything?"
Kenzie said, wincing.
"Not this time," Ben said.
"I can give you a rubdown and
probably untie the knots for now,
but I want to call Blazing Grass
and ask about physical therapy.
It'd help you regain mobility faster."
"Then I'm all for it," Kenzie said.
Ben called Blazing Grass first,
who wouldn't be available
for at least an hour.
So Ben brought out
massage oil and rubbed
Kenzie's back until the cramps
finally began to go away.
Kenzie was half-asleep
when Blazing Grass arrived.
"I hear you lost a hanky game,"
the healer said with a smile.
"Yeah, I got my ass handed to me
by a piece of cloth," Kenzie grumbled.
"Rub it in a little harder, why don't you."
"It's not easy being injured," the healer said,
patting him on the shoulder. "You have
to work hard if you want to heal well."
"Ben said something like that,"
Kenzie admitted. "It is hard."
"Let me take a look, and I can
recommend some physical therapy
that should help," Blazing Grass said.
"Sure," Kenzie said. He reached back
to pull off the blanket that Ben had
draped over him. "Go ahead."
The healer's hands felt warm
and soft on his sore back.
"Oh, that's nice," Kenzie sighed.
"I could just lie here while you do that."
"Don't get used to it," said Blazing Grass.
"I'm about to make you hate me again.
Get up, I need to test your range of motion."
Kenzie hauled himself to his feet. "Okay,
tell me what you want me to do," he said.
"Twist left ... twist right," Blazing Grass said.
"Good, you're getting some flexibility back."
Kenzie untwisted slowly. "Yeah, right,"
he muttered. "This is pathetic and
you know it. Don't tease me."
"It's better than you had the last time
I saw you," Blazing Grass pointed out.
"Lift your arms over your head." He had
to support them at the upper limit. "Not
all there yet, but getting closer."
"I guess that's good," Kenzie said.
The healer's hands were gentle as they
guided his body, but some of the stretches
still hurt, and the routine was exhausting.
"The thing you need to watch out for, and
avoid when you can, is sudden movement,"
Blazing Grass warned. "I believe that what
caused the problem this time was bobbing
up and down trying to snatch the hanky."
"Yeah, that sounds right," Kenzie said.
"I was trying to push the envelope. It's
frustrating. I want my mobility back!"
"Of course you do," said Blazing Grass.
"It just takes time, and patience."
"Kenzie's willing to work on it, but
he needs guidance," Ben said.
"He's pushing himself too far."
"I feel it," the healer said smoothly.
"Don't worry, I can account for that."
"Sorry for the trouble," Kenzie said.
"Don't be, this is my job," said Blazing Grass.
He used a tablet computer to make a schedule,
with pictures that showed different sets of exercises.
Kenzie almost fell asleep again while the healer
taught Ben how to spot someone through them.
"Start with these stretches," Blazing Grass said.
"You can do some sitting down and some on
the floor. Use that support at first. Then
move on to the standing stretches."
Kenzie looked at the pictures.
He listened while Blazing Grass
and Ben explained the exercises,
then helped him through them.
"Okay, I can do that," Kenzie said.
"You also need everyday activities
that encourage you to move and
stretch more," Blazing Grass said.
"Like what, jogging?" Kenzie asked.
"No, definitely not," Blazing Grass said,
shaking his head. "Think about what
happens when you jog. Your whole body
bounces up and down. Jarring your back is
the last thing you need. We want something
gentle yet challenging. Let's see, your people
gather wild rice, right? When's the Ricing Moon?"
"Ahh ... I don't know," Kenzie admitted, looking down.
"I haven't been here long enough to learn that."
"August," said Ben. "The rice should be ripening
pretty soon. Teams will be forming up already.
You can join one of ours if you want to."
"Sure, I'll give it a try," Kenzie said.
"I like exploring new things. Maybe
there are some other ones that I can do."
"Why don't you try digging for cattail roots
too?" the healer said. "That's useful."
"What?" Kenzie said. "Why would
anyone dig up cattails? They grow like
weeds -- they don't need transplanting!"
Blazing Grass laughed. "Because they're
good eating," he explained. "The roots are
starchy. The base of the leaves is edible too,
and the pollen, but not as much this late in
the year. In autumn, roots come into season."
"I use cattail pollen or flour for cooking,"
Ben said. "Not quite pemmican, but
some snack foods inspired by it.
They're better than energy bars."
"I'll say," Kenzie replied. He'd tried them.
They really were. "Isn't all that gathering
wild foods ... kind of messy, though?"
"Yeah, so?" Ben said, frowning.
"I hope you like playing in the mud,"
Blazing Grass said with a chuckle.
"You'll be wading in the shallows for
cattails, or out to a canoe for ricing."
"You're not going to, I don't know, send me
to a hospital for physical therapy?" Kenzie said.
Blazing Grass sighed. "Most reservations have
medical facilities but not a general hospital,"
he said. "Where is the nearest one to here?"
"Northern Montana Health Care up in Havre,"
Ben said. "Since it's not a tribal facility, they're
unlikely to understand treatment goals such as
wanting to keep the scars and just make sure
they're flexible enough not to cause problems.
That's why we called you instead of them."
"Oh," Kenzie said. "I didn't know that.
"I'm sorry to be such a bother."
"Didn't we just go over that?"
Blazing Grass said. "You are
not a bother. I'm happy to help."
"Thanks," Kenzie said. "I'm trying
to be patient, but it's wearing thin."
"We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new,"
the healer said gently. "And yet it is the law
of all progress that it is made by passing
through some stages of instability –
and that it may take a very long time."
Kenzie thought about the days
he had spent staring at the sun
and waiting to die, followed by
several more mostly in bed,
before he got back on his feet.
He thought about the long walks
in very good company, and how
everyone encouraged him
to go slowly and carefully.
"Yeah," he said, "but it's worth it."
* * *
"We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time…"
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Kenzie's attack was on July 15, 2014. This is three weeks after that, August 5.
Watch the Handkerchief Game.
Wheelchair agility includes such things as basketball drills, stunts, and dancing.
Physical therapy can address upper and lower back pain. These office stretches cover back and arms. These focus on core strength.
Scars can be managed to increase joint mobility by teaching the scars to move. These trunk exercises were developed for burn patients, but should work for any substantial scarring in the same area.
Cattails are edible in many ways. The roots may be harvested in autumn or winter. Enjoy some recipes.
Wild rice grows in many states. It is a traditional food of some midwest tribes. In Ojibwe culture, August is the Ricing Moon. Learn how to harvest wild rice. Watch a video of people ricing in a canoe. You can buy hand-harvested wild rice.
Rocky Boy's Reservation has medical facilities but not a full-service hospital. The nearest general hospital is Northern Montana Health Care up in Havre. Since it's not a tribal facility, they're unlikely to understand treatment goals like wanting to keep the scars and just make sure they're flexible enough not to cause problems.
Distance between Box Elder, MT, USA and Havre, MT, USA (US)
Box Elder, MT, USA
Start Point: 5 US-87, Box Elder, MT 59521, USA
Havre, MT 59501, USA
End Point: 437 Montana Ave, Havre, MT 59501, USA
Driving Distance: 24.4 mi , Duration: 26 mins, Route: US-87 N
Different Units: 39.28 km, 24.41 mi, 21.21 nmi
Straight line or air distance: 35.5 km, 22.06 miles, 19.16 nautical miles.