Monday, October 20, 2014

An old acquaintance


Euonymus americanus

Last month I met a leafy acquaintance from my past at our Elkmont campsite in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

There was little fall color on display during our September visit. The spindly little bush pictured above offered a colorful exception.

I first met Euonymus americanus with its bright red seeds and seedpods in my late mother’s yard. It is commonly called strawberry plant or Hearts-a-Bustin’.

Hearts-a-bustin’ seed pod

Mother had transplanted it from Pascagoula River swamp to a black plastic, gallon-sized nursery pot. We didn’t know its identity at the time.

A cousin with a green thumb and an active sense of humor adopted the unusual mystery shrub. She identified it as a "Sidaroada," as in found on the “side of the road.”

Since then Google has informed me that, although deer may snack on the leaves and stems, humans should take the seedpods’ vibrant color as a red flag of warning. Pods and seeds are a potent laxative and cause severe diarrhea.



Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Life as a stroke survivor: Relief


Hallelujah! I am getting some relief from recent frustration with my Bioness L300 foot-drop system.

Oldest son Walt and me, March 30, 2013. (Photo by Walter Skupien)
  The electronic fashion accessory hanging around my neck in the photo above is the control unit for my Bioness.

Transmitter signals that my heel has struck the surface I am walking on.
The system electronically stimulates nerves and muscles that help my stroke-affected left leg walk better. A sensor in the heel of my shoe is wired to the transmitter shown above. The transmitter alerts the control unit when my heel strikes.

The control unit tells the receiver on the cuff around my calf to zap the appropriate muscles and nerves to lift my foot.

During a September trip to camp in the Smoky Mountains, the Bioness electrodes suddenly started stinging my leg like riled up wasps.

My cuff holds the electrodes in place. 
There were no wasps, though. I discovered a slight rash on my upper left calf where the e-stim system’s cuff fits just below my knee and snugs partially around the calf.

Since then I have been using my heavy plastic brace instead. It inserts into my shoe and fits from calf downward and under my foot. Unlike the electrical stimulation that lifts my toes up as I step forward, the brace is rigid and holds my foot in a fixed position.

Walking with the brace takes more energy, tires me more quickly and doesn’t contribute to my balance as much as the e-stim system does.

The rash has taken more than a month to heal, and today I wore my Bioness for the third time since the attack of the electrical wasps. It is exhilarating to be able to step out with more confidence and speed.

I removed the cuff after three hours. After an hour I put it back on for another three hours.

Skin eruptions under the electrodes are not uncommon among users of the e-stim system, but until now I have never had problems. I had forgotten, though, that when I first acquired the Bioness system, I had to build up my wearing time gradually.

I hope that easing back into longer sessions of wearing it will prevent return of the rash. So far, no wasps today.

Regardless of what comes next, those hours with my Bioness working properly helped me to stride right out of the funk I had spiraled into!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, Jeremy!


Jeremy
June 2014

Our youngest son celebrates birthday #35 today. His entry  into our family was a gift that keeps on giving. And his growing up years were never boring for us, often hilarious and occasionally terrifying.

I appreciate the adult son, husband and father he is and the joy, laughter and thoughtfulness he continues to bring to our family. Happy birthday, Son, with all our love.