Saturday, July 28, 2012

Niketa Wells - Hope for RSD Sufferers

Diary of Niketa Wells's recovery from RSD by Master Paul McPhail

Niketa Wells is a remarkable girl.

In 2011 Niketa was struck down with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), now more commonly known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). By the end of 2011 she was unable to walk, confined to a wheelchair and in constant pain. New Zealand's leading pain specialist told her to forget about using her feet ever again.

This is my video diary of her most amazing recovery. 

Niketa is a 1st gup (red belt, black stripe) in International Taekwon-Do in New Zealand, and one of the up-and-coming stars of the art. She competed for New Zealand in Australia just prior to being struck down with RSD, and had done well at many Regional and National events.

It was through her incredible mental toughness and perseverance, that she was able to beat the condition, return to training with tickets booked to compete at the ITF World Cup in Brighton, England in October. She is also training to sit for her 1st degree black belt in December 2012.

I have been honoured to teach many people over my 37 years in Taekwon-Do, and helping Niketa was one of my most rewarding instructing experiences. Below is a brief outline of what we did in our weekly training sessions, including the a list of the nutritional supplements I had Niketa take, which I believe were beneficial. 

At the end of the day, I think Niketa's continuing recovery was a combination of many things, which came together that the right time, most importantly her incredible attitude. She shows such courage throughout while maintaining a positive outlook. Something we can all learn from!

If anyone has any comments or questions please post them here or email me.

We started private sessions in March 2012. Niketa had returned to club training at this time, and was managing to train the entire session on her knees! Because the pain was mainly in her lower limbs, she could actually do much of the session, including patterns, by using her crutches on down on her knees. This would be quite painful at times and also must have taken a lot of courage.

Our weekend sessions were done at my home with no spectators. Niketa's Mum or Dad dropped her off then went to a cafe for an hour while we trained. This is the Niketa wanted it and worked well.

From early on I had Niketa start taking coconut cream morning and night. She would mix a smoothy containing Living Fuel Protein powder with coconut cream, and experimented with adding other ingredients too. I also had Niketa supplement with fish oil and Vitamin D daily.

I had been interested in nutrition for some time and as on a high fat diet myself. I had read a lot about the benefits of good fats and lowering the amount of carbohydrates in the diet.

I came across a podcast interview with Dr Mary Newport and how she discovered the benefits of coconut with her husband's Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms. My understanding about about RSD was that it is neurological in nature, I thought it was worth a try to supplement with coconut cream.

Here is an video article about Dr Newport and coconut products.

The training sessions were very casual, and Niketa would chat away about her week or what was happening in her life. Although casual, there we many times in the hour where she would be in great pain and have to push hard to achieve the goals I set her. In the first few session in particular she would be crying, and she showed incredible courage.

3rd March 2012

On the first session with Niketa she was still on two crutches - but at least out of her wheelchair.

We began by trying to stand in a parallel ready stance (legs straight, feet apart at shoulder width). My plan was to do some basic punching, however I quickly realised Niketa could not stand on her own, let alone perform movements.

I changed the plan and helped her up onto our trampoline, and stood holding her hands and slowly bounced - well more like just let the tramp move us up and down gently. I remember being amazed at how much I was having to support her weight - I didn't realise was how much she relied on her crutches. Every now and then I would let her go to see if she could support her own weight. She would drop to her knees in pain. At that point I would give her a bit of a kick in fun and we would try again.

After around 20 minutes on the tramp we moved back to the ground (grass) and tried standing again, using a chair behind her to sit on when she couldn't continue. We managed some punches and even some walking stances on that first day.

10th March 2012

On our second session I thought of the idea of videoing Niketa when she was punching, so we could see her progress each week. On this second session she managed to do 3 punches in a sitting stance before having to sit down. See the video below and notice the obvious pain she is in.

10th March 2012

By this second session I had come up with a bit of a routine, and recorded how many of each exercise she could do, or the time it took. My challenge for her was to double the number of each exercise every week, so she would have to practice at home.

E.G. On session two:

Sitting stance punches - 3
Walking stance - stand in a walking stance for 10 seconds on each side
Walking alone - 10 steps un-aided
Front snap kick - 2 kicks each leg (this was almost impossible at this stage)

18th March 2012

By our third session, Niketa had successfully met my challenge to double the number of techniques she performed the previous week.

18th March 2012

You can see above Niketa doing 11 sitting stance punches - a great result for our third session. We continued to work on walking stances, front kicks and normal walking. We would start and end each session on the trampoline "sparring" as best we could. A highlight of the session for both of us.

1 April 2012

The video below is Niketa doing 33 punches - on session 4.

1st April 2012

6 April 2012

Here is what we did on this session on 6th April 2012:
  • Parallel Stance - standing 2 x 2 mins
  • Walking Ready Stance - 3 x 1 min
  • Front snap kick - 20 each leg un-assisted
  • Walking - 100 steps x 3 sets
  • Sitting stance punching - 100
  • Chairlift  2 x 15 reps
    (holding the chair above her head and pressing up up)
  • Stand and squat x 6
  • 4 directional Punch both sides (shown on video below)
  • 4 directional Block both sides.
You will see from the video this this is a challenging session and she had to work very hard to achieve it.

6th April 2012

13 April 2012

The stand and squat exercise was changed to an "overhead squat" with her crutch this week.  Here on video is her first attempt at this exercise.

13th April 2012

20 April 2012

By this session on the 20th April Niketa had made dramatic improvements. In this session I added an obstacle course type timed run around the back yard. This took her 50 seconds the first time, then down to 18 seconds the following week.

The three videos below show the big improvements.

20th April 2012

29 July 2012

Here is Niketa performing her pattern, squats, burpees and some kicks.

Although not quite 100% yet, I'm sure you will agree her recovery is nothing short of remarkable. We are continuing to have our session as she works towards the World Cup and then the black belt grading at the end of the year.

Beyond all Possibilities

29th July 2012

Beyond all possibilities less than a year ago, Niketa went on to win 2 medals at the ITF World Cup in Brighton, England. Her Gold Medal was in Patterns - Niketa's specialty. The event was streamed live around the world and had her mum in tears back in New Zealand.

Niketa was a bit of a celebrity at the World Cup, being introduced to may of the seniors including the Grand Masters. Read below an email received from one of the competitors Dads:

Dear Master McPhail,

My name is Gerry Mooney, 2nd degree black belt instructor at the Beaumont Tae Kwondo Centre in Dublin Ireland.

I am very lucky to coach some great kids in our club and one of those is my wonderful daughter Rebecca Mooney (3rd kup). Rebecca competed at the Taekwon-Do World Cup in Brigton and put in a fantastic performance to make it to the final and compete against Niketa Wells. I knew nothing of the story about Niketa's recovery until after the event. I carried out some research and came across your blog.

Rebecca wears her silver medal with pride. She was very emotional when she won the silver and the tears flowed, but they were tears of joy.

Niketa is an inspiration and my daughter went through the entire blog. You and Niketa are a credit to Taekwon-Do and we both wanted to send our congratulations once again to Niketa on her fantastic achievement both on and off the mats.

I hope you get this email and I hope one day we meet Niketa once again. Please pass on our best regards and congratulations to Niketa and to her family.

Our very best regards from Ireland
Gerry Mooney
Rebecca Mooney

Congratulations to Niketa for showing us all how dreams are possible!