Patient Testimonial: “Having a Goal is Everything to My Recovery”

Back Patient Stories - - 4 minute read.
Chris Conrath

In October 2022, Chris Conrath suffered a kite-surfing accident that left him with severe backache. In January, he began to experience paralysis below the knee in his left leg, and was diagnosed with a major prolapsed disc. He tells us more about what happened and the support that he is currently receiving at AECC University College.

Kite-surfing Accident

“In October last year, I took a nasty fall while kitesurfing. I had bad backache afterwards. It was really painful to run and I couldn’t kitesurf anymore.

“In January this year, things worsened, and I found I couldn’t move my left leg below the knee. I was diagnosed with a major prolapsed disc that was causing nerve damage. I visited lots of the local hospitals and was eventually sent to Southampton where they did surgery on my spine to release the nerve. Unfortunately, the movement in my left leg didn’t come back.

“I was told by the hospital that it was unlikely that the nerve damage would repair itself and that I would not recover movement in that leg.”

Physiotherapy Service at AECC University College

“I referred myself to Clinical and Rehabilitation Services at AECC University College and saw Fran Caliendo, who is a MSK Physiotherapist. We started working together and considering where the surgeon originally told me I would be, I’ve done incredibly well.

“I’m now at the point that I’m walking normally and a couple of weeks ago, I started doing a little bit of running.

“I think it was really important that I didn’t just sit around at home and feel sorry for myself after I came out of hospital.

“Working with Fran has been so helpful, along with being in the mindset that I am going to recover. I feel my treatment has really helped me psychologically.”

Integrated Rehabilitation Centre

“When I first saw Fran, I didn’t have control over my left foot and I had foot drop. I had to wear a brace to walk. The exercises that I worked on with Fran were specifically tailored to this.

“Another example is when I was still on crutches earlier in the year, my walking was really odd and painful because I had to swing my left leg to move forward. Fran did some work with me on the Alter G treadmill and that really helped me.

“The Alter G has a camera, which was really useful. Fran would ask me to walk and then show me what I was doing on the video. I would walk on it for half an hour, just watching myself walking.

“It helped me to understand what wasn’t right with my walking. We started off by significantly reducing the amount of weight I was bearing, which you can do on the Alter G.

“Quite early on, I came off the Alter G and walked across the gym – not normally, but much better than when I first came in. It was great.”

Working Towards Goals

“Fran has helped to manage my recovery, so that I wasn’t pushing too hard and actually making things worse again. I am at the stage now where I can push myself more. We talk a lot about balancing risk and reward.

“There’s a big Ultramarathon Race in France that I’ve got into this year. My goal is to get there and do the race if I can. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to, but having a goal is everything to my recovery. Even if I can’t race, I’ll be in a much better place than I would have been if I hadn’t been aiming for this.

“I’ve done a few Park Runs now and I managed to do a trail race over at Swanage with a couple of friends recently, which was 15km. I ran slowly and was exhausted at the end, but it feels brilliant that I’ve done a race – considering where I was at the start of the year.

“Having someone there through your rehabilitation makes such a difference. It’s the encouragement to keep doing stuff and to keep you focused.

“You can’t feel sorry for yourself, you have to get on with it. Even when you’re told by other health professionals that you won’t make progress, you have to keep trying.”

You can find out more about our Clinical and Rehabilitation Services here.

Fran’s Perspective

MSK & FCP Physiotherapist, Fran Caliendo, added: “Chris and I set realistic goals together and agreed on his treatment plan. He was highly collaborative and motivated from our first session.

“I provided him with specific back stretches and a progressive strengthening programme to help him achieve his goal to return jogging. He also used the Alter G which helped him tremendously to re- establish a correct walking pattern and face the return to running.

“It was nice by the end of treatment to see Chris in control of his condition and he has been able to self-manage his further progress and challenges.”

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