Sunday, July 24, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Reality Strikes

After my April 22 stroke, my realization of the stroke’s impact on my body and mind grew gradually, for the most part. There have been several moments, however, when reality brought into sharp focus the fact that I could no longer take for granted specific capabilities that powered areas, both major and minor, of my pre-stoke life.

The most recent such moment occurred two nights ago when husband Walter and I were on the 90-mile drive to be with my mother, who was being admitted to Wesley Medical Center in Hattiesburg, MS.

It took most of the drive for me to reach the conclusion that I could not stay with my mother in the hospital as I had in her past hospitalizations. I still have mobility issues and am working to regain any use of my right hand.

A mix of caring cousins and trusted sitters-for-hire who were recommended by a family friend have eased my mind that my alert, loving 92-year-old mother is not alone. And those caring cousins are stepping in with an enormous expenditure of time and energy. What a blessing they are to her and to me!

Earlier enlightenment arrived in four installments at Singing River Comprehensive Rehab Center (SRCRC) before I had even started therapy sessions. I was in a wheelchair. I had made it to my room carrying a water bottle in the seat beside me. It rolled out, I leaned over to retrieve it and oozed out of my chair on to the floor.

I remember that the floor felt quite comfortable, smooth and cool. In fact, I pulled the wheelchair to me and laid my head in the seat. After awhile, however, it occurred to me that I would not be able to get off the floor by myself. I pushed the call button on the outside of the bed.

“How may we help you,” a crisp voice greeted me.

“I oozed out of my wheelchair,” I confessed.

I heard the voice again, quieter and rather bemused this time, “She said she oozed out of her chair.”

Nurses arrived, bombarding me with questions about how I fell out of my chair. I had no answers at that time. They eventually set me up with a tattletale, an alarm that would go off if I leaned too far. They hooked a line to my shirt. The other end was attached to a pin,which  if pulled out would set off  the little alarm box attached to my wheelchair.

I suspected that I had earned a “problem-patient” status even though everyone was still super nice. I was moved from a room near the end of the hall to new digs with just one other room between me and the nurses’ station. And every nurse or tech who walked past me issued a reminder about appropriate wheelchair behavior.

The next day I reached into my locker to flip the belt of my robe off the floor and into the locker. Hey! I was careful. i was reaching well above floor level. Okay, I am obviously a slow learner. The ooze started again. This time I recognized the well-cooked-spaghetti sensation and quickly sat all the way back in my chair. I kicked the belt into the locker as an alternate strategy.

But the reality of how little control I had over my upper body finally became absolutely clear to me as the result of my desire to take photos to accompany blog posts I was planning about my stroke experiences. One post arose from how much expressions of concern and assurances of thoughts and prayers gave me hope and joy. (Posted here.

To get an accompanying photo, I sat up in my hospital bed and spread a rainbow of get-well cards, grandkids’ artwork, and small gifts around me. When I started taking the photos I just collapsed onto my back. My upper body had just “oozed,” once again like cooked spaghetti. It was scary. I realized I could have taken a serious tumble out of the bed.

That particular deficit was almost entirely overcome during my 27 days in rehab. But I was ever conscious of how my body could suddenly “go spaghetti.”

I had arrived at the SRCRC on a weekend and had a little time before my full schedule of therapy sessions started. I was excited about the opportunity of getting to a computer.

From years of computer use, my writing process had been for words to flow from my fingertips directly and instantaneously to the computer screen to be saved into a file for fine-tuning later.

What I encountered in my first computer session as a stroke survivor, however, was that the thoughts I had marshaled so happily for a blog post just sort of shattered into fragments, tumbled away and disappeared as I tried to type with right hand only. Even my attempt at an email failed. Numerous attempts to enter the correct characters of the address never  succeeded.

I have eventually made peace with my MacBook Pro laptop. There is still no participation by my left hand, but I am able to post once again. Like most other activities post-stroke, though, anything involving the computer tires me quickly. I have been told that fatigue and sleepiness are common in the aftermath of a stroke.

That is not surprising. The brain is healing and at the same time trying to rewire itself, getting undamaged brain cells to take on the jobs of the injured cells. Go brain!

Okay, goodnight! My brain and I are going to sleep now!


  1. These accounts are fascinating to read and very informative.

    I am amazed at what you are accomplishing in the cognitive processes by writing these insightful posts that are filled with your own experiences and lessons learned. I hear a strong voice in your writing. Your word choice and idea development is clear and concise. Again, I am amazed at what you are accomplishing.

    Rest the brain. Go brain.

  2. Oh my! But you have come so very far and are doing so well!!! So you are typing with one hand? All your thoughts on this blog are so well put and readable! Way to go!!!!

  3. this is amazing you are doing these post with one hand, i just tried to type this comment with one hand and immediately lost all patience. you are doing fantastic, your post are great. we can wait on the photos. i am sure doing your post are good exercise for your brain. scary on the spaghetti body, glad is is a little better. i think you are doing super for only 3 months. keep typing and we are with you out here. i will say a prayer for your continued improvement. hope your mother is better soon

  4. You definitely have to make this a book. You take us through the journey you are taking with clarity and for someone in the same boat with you, it would be so encouraging. You paint such a clear picture.
    I know I shouldn't have but I cracked up at your choice of
    words--oozing. To ooze was totally descriptive but also showed your wonderful self humor at your condition.
    I will add your mother to my prayer list.

  5. Another intersting and informative post...and I did chuckle at the "she says she oozed out of her chair". I could only imagine the nurse's face. LOL

    Typing a post with one hand--simply awesome!

  6. Go brain!!!
    Thanks for allowing us to travel your road to recovery with you. I am learning so much and I continue to hold you in my prayers.
    I hope your Mother returns to health quickly too.
    Have a great week and I'm glad you aren't oozing anymore. (:0)

  7. One day at a time. The Recovery is slow and takes time. I mess up with my little finger and involuntarily drop things from time to time. Don't know if it is the residual effect of the stroke or aging. Never will. Hang in there. Love your oozing. Dinne

  8. oozing and going spaghetti. You have the experience and the ability with words to help others. Keep writing!

  9. You are such an inspiration, and it is great the way you share your journey with us. Every Blessing.

  10. Thank you very much for visiting my blog. I've been traveling through your blog and learning so much. A lot of people don't realize what it takes to recover from a stroke. I will be keeping you in my thoughts.