Sarah joined us in May 2018 on our Recovery Programme to facilitate her recovery from a multi-level spinal fusion to correct her scoliosis curve. Below she shares her experience of her week with Restore and Reform.
My name is Sarah, and when I was 35 I had spinal fusion surgery from T2 to L2 to correct my curve from scoliosis and prevent it from deteriorating further.
I was warned of how hard the recovery from the surgery would be. I prepared myself the best I could but I was still taken aback by some of the struggles that I encountered post-operatively. I had some trouble sleeping due to pain and struggled with my restricted mobility.
Week 4 - Beginning Rehab
At week 4 I had my first appointment with my physiotherapist in London and things began to feel a little better. I was more awake in the day and starting to go for short walks and I was becoming more mobile which helped me to sleep at night.
Week 6 - Hitting a Wall and Discovering Restore and Reform
On week 6 a friend of mine said she had told her physiotherapist about me who had recommended I get in touch with a company called Restore and Reform. I looked at the website and sent them an email telling them how I was struggling and felt I wasn’t moving forward. I received a friendly response followed by a phone call from Lucy the director and co-founder of the company.
Lucy immediately put me at ease and was very easy to talk to. She had actually had the same surgery as me on a different part of her spine and even had the same surgeon as me. She explained what Restore and Reform did and how the Recovery holiday would be put into place once I got there. She checked with my surgeon that he was happy for me to fly and we talked in great detail about where I was with my recovery so far. She got in touch with my physiotherapist, surgeon and doctor to get as much information as she possibly could. I didn’t have to do anything apart from book my flights and make sure I had decent travel insurance.
Week 8 - All Aboard to Faro
About 2 weeks later I was on a flight to Faro. All on my own! This alone was a huge step for me, Although I could have taken my Fiancé with me, we both agreed it would be more empowering for me to go alone and build up my confidence. He had pretty much been by my side for 8 weeks straight and I had started to find it hard to leave the house alone. I would panic that there would be a door that was too heavy for me to open or someone would bump into me or I couldn’t breathe. It was good to have time to myself and get out of my comfort zone.
Lucy arranged for me to have assistance at the airport with my bags so I didn’t have anything to worry about. The flight was fine if a little uncomfortable but I made sure I moved about a bit and it’s not a long flight. I was met at the airport my Michelle who would be my physio for the next week. Michelle helped me with my bag and just like Lucy, she put me at ease straight away. We chatted all the way to the hotel.
Arriving at the Hotel
Lucy was waiting for us at reception, I checked in and we they made sure I had everything I needed and showed me round so I knew where to go for my various therapies and classes.
The hotel was beautiful and the weather was lovely. I had been up since 4am so I went to my room (which was gorgeous) to relax before my physio and reformer Pilates assessment with Michelle at the 3.30pm that evening we had welcome drinks in the hotel where I met the other people that where all there for various reasons, we shared are stories and compared war wounds! Everyone was really nice. Then I got room service and an early night.
The Weekly Programmes
Every day I would have a Physiotherapy session and reformer Pilates, I had soft tissue therapy 3 times (every other day) and every day I did the 2 optional group classes which where Stretch at 8am and Restore at 5pm. The schedule worked really well allowing time for breakfast and the sessions are usually grouped together giving you either the morning or afternoon to get some sunshine or rest in your room.
The Stretch class was run by Jo who is also the soft tissue therapist. Jo is incredible, she makes you feel very relaxed and really listens to you and what your body needs. The Stretch class really set me up for the day, and also focused on breathing which was something that had really been affected my by my surgery.
Physiotherapy was with Michelle. She is incredibly knowledgeable and was completely up to date with my medical history. This is one of the great things, you don’t need to go over and over what you’ve had done every time you see someone because everyone is up to date. You just focus on where you are at that moment in time. Even after one day I felt a difference and all the therapists would update each other throughout the day so they know what is going on and spent less time talking and more time working on what you need. She spent time working on my scar, as well as doing manual release work and also some dry needling
Reformer Pilates was with Ben. Ben has a great way of getting you to push yourself without you realising! I was a little frightened at first of the reformer as my only experience of it was pre-op in a big class with loud music on. I found the classes I went to before awful, almost impossible but with one on one sessions with Ben starting with the basics and having everything explained made the classes not only effective and less intimidating but actually enjoyable. Especially when every day you feel and see your progress which is really encouraging.
The soft tissue therapy was with Jo. My pain would change daily, sometimes in a specific spot and other times just all over! Jo was great at finding all those spots sometimes without me even saying. She also did some work on my diaphragm and spent some time on me learning to control my breath and really use my breath to benefit me. The first time I saw Jo I couldn’t even breathe in and out to the count of 2 and by day 3 I could breathe to 4 and now I’m at 7!! This has helped me so much because it would make me nervous to go out alone in case I couldn’t catch my breath.
The Restore class was a group class run by Michelle the physio who also teaches mat Pilates. I loved this class! As I was there alone it was nice to be in a group, it was a great atmosphere where we would have fun but also work through a varied and interesting mat-based routine. Michelle knew all of our bodies, our limits and how to build us up gently but also push us so we knew what we could do. I felt very safe and if there was anything I wasn’t sure of she would adapt it for me or talk me through it. It was a really nice way to end the day.
The combination of all the therapies and exercises over the course of the week worked so well together. With everyone communicating throughout each day so that they all knew what was going on with you when you turned up for your sessions.
Leaps and Bounds
You might be thinking how much progress can you really make in just a week! Well let me tell you… I went from feeling weak and tired all the time to feeling alert and ready for each day. My lower back pain has gone and my mobility is so much better. I feel stronger too. From the first Pilates session when my legs would shake to the last when I could really feel my muscles working. I would wake up feeling it in my glutes but that’s the beauty of having soft tissue, Physio and stretch class. By the time you’ve done your stretch in the morning you feel more alive and your aches have gone by lunch time after your therapies.
All of this is tied together beautifully by Lucy who is always on hand to help you with absolutely anything you need at all. She will shuffle things around if you need her to, meet you for coffee if you fancy some company, remind you to take your pain killers and answer any questions you have. She is also incredibly knowledgeable about surgery and all the therapies available. She has been through this process herself and is very passionate about the recovery process and people’s individual needs. It was great to talk to her about the emotional side of things too and how the surgery and the pain has affected my day to day life. When I left, I felt so good compared to how I felt when I arrived. It was empowering for me to go alone and I was ready to get back to real life and continue my recovery journey.
I actually can’t imagine where I would be if I hadn’t gone on the Recovery Holiday I did have a little worry about going back and slipping backwards without having such an amazing support team at my side, but once back I was sent a fantastic exercise program to follow from Michelle and Lucy has checked in with me a few times since. I know if I need anything or any advice they are all still there for me and I am sure I will see them again at some point. I would recommend this to anyone who is physically struggling with recovery but also if you need a change of mind set and to help you see what is possible.
Thank you so much to everyone at Restore and Reform for a fantastic trip.
Breathing exercises with Jo in Stretch Class