Shortly after my injury, I learned two things about my prognosis for recovery: the damaged nerves needed time to relax and, if possible, regenerate and new neural pathways could be formed as the nerve signals find shortcuts around the damaged areas.
Since nerves are supposed to regenerate at a rate of a millimeter a day (about the same rate your hair grows) it doesn't make for a great spectator sport, I can tell you. The gains are so gradual, I'm never really convinced anything is changing at all.
And while it's nothing to shoot off fireworks over, the re-routing of neural pathways at least has the appeal of novelty. What's more, I'm pretty sure it's actually happening. It's hard to explain but I'll try.
If I move my fingers or raise my eyebrows, it's very easy. I've been doing it for years and I've got it pretty well figured out. In fact, just thinking about raising my eyebrows is nearly the same as actually doing it. I almost can't think of it without doing it. Try it yourself and maybe you'll see what I mean.
When I consider my toes, though, it's an entirely different story. If I think about moving my toes, the first impression I get is "Yes, I have toes, but No they don't move." It's exactly the same impression I had we I first woke up in the hospital. The difference now is I can move my toes but the way I do it has changed.
To make the movement happen, an extra step has been added to the process. It's like I have to translate a phrase into another language-- a language I'm not fluent in– to make the movement happen. So there I am, the Ugly American, shouting for my toes to move but my poor toes only speak Esperanto and have no idea what I'm saying. Then I remember to say, "Movi via toeis, placxi!" And my toes say, "Ho, kial did ve ne diri do?" *
Now here's the really strange part. If I concentrate very hard and don't send the translated command, if I use the old pathway, I can manage only the slightest, weak movement. So, somehow, the two pathways exist side by side.
*My apologies to anyone who actually speaks Esperanto. Or as they say in Esperanto: sorry.
movi via toes, placxi is supposed to mean "move your toes, please."
ho, kial did ve ne diri do is a transliteration of "oh, why didn't you say so?"