Thursday, September 15, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: A Rehab Happy Dance

Granddaughter Molly Kate’s happy dance in Tuesday’s post here isn’t the first happy dance that captured my attention and enthusiasm.

Paulette, one of the techs who contributed to my rehab shortly after my April 22, 2011, stroke, performed her own little happy dance that set me on a course for working through a stroke-related challenge.
Paulette, one of my rehab angels

Our acquaintance began, however, on a less happy note. She was helping me with a morning shower. At that stage “helping” meant a lot of bracing and moving me around. I had no sensory input on my left side and had no idea my left foot was effectively plugging the drain. Paulette didn’t notice the impending flood for good reason. 

Safety, especially prevention of falls, was a paramount concern in the rehab center, and Paulette had her hands full with a soapy, slippery female whose muscles were not yet receiving signals from brain cells. I imagine it was like trying to give a shower to giant spaghetti noodles.

The entire room flooded, and Paulette spent a lot of time mopping up. She didn’t hold the shower fiasco against me, and during my days in rehab she teased and kept life-affirming banter going.

Later in my rehab I had progressed to being able to stand and put weight on both feet. It was a freeing accomplishment. Techs or nurses still had their hands on me while I transferred from one surface to the other, but I was mostly supporting my own weight.

I had hit a snag that disturbed me, though. I felt like I was going backwards, at least in the mornings. Before I stood up, I would rehearse in my mind exactly what my therapists had taught me. I was having to relearn the multitude of minor adjustments that my body did automatically to maintain balance pre-stroke. If it was after lunch I would do okay, but before lunch I was just as likely to collapse with no warning that I could discern.

Then early one morning Paulette had helped me transfer to the potty. She was waiting in my room just outside the open bathroom door where she could keep an eye on me. I could see her, too, and she was doing a little jig.

“Paulette” I asked. “What are you doing?”

“I’m just getting everything to work together!” she sang out.

Of course, that was my answer! I just needed to do a happy dance to get everything working together.

The results of my revelation weren’t immediate. How does a stroke-impaired individual do a happy dance? I could barely control the necessary body parts on the left side. The answers were simple, but discerning even simple solutions were a bit beyond me at the time. I wasn’t shy about asking for help, though.

Someone suggested sitting on the side of my bed and “dangling, moving my feet around before standing. Nurses and aides intent on helping me stay safe sometimes didn’t give me time to do that before they hauled me up.

“Well, ask them to let you dangle for awhile,” Ashley, my occupational therapist advised. Well, duh. So simple; just ask. It worked. I also started talking myself through the steps I had been taught for every movement. Soon, if a new tech started to help me, the tech familiar with my habit of talking to myself would clue the colleague in: “Let her do it herself. She likes to talk herself through it.” They even started reminding me to talk myself through whatever I was attempting when I started without my verbal reminders to myself.

Later I learned that part of my problem was my left foot would drop and my ankle would roll and I would lose the little bit of control I had achieved. I had to always check that my foot was down properly before putting weight on it. Eventually my therapists started me wearing a brace to keep that foot up and stabilize my ankle. Even with the brace, however, I still have to do a happy dance “to get everything to work together” whenever I have been lying down or sitting for more than just a few minutes. And every time, I think of Paulette.

Thank you, Paulette!


  1. This story lets all of us see how we take for granted every simple little movement we do. Each of these was a great triumph for you to do. And you even managed to dance the whole time!! Attitude really is everything!

  2. This happy dance made me smile. I think there is something to talking yourself through something. It gives back a sense of independence which I am sure you needed at the time. Also, I think it had to reinforce the brain activity that you needed to get all those parts working together again.

    You continue to give your readers a peek into what it is like to go through a stroke and recovery after a stroke. Thanks for sharing. I learn from you. Be encouraged. Think how much progress you have made.

  3. Praise the Lord for the Paulettes of the world! I'm so thankful when I think of how far you've come :) I think I shall do my own happy dance!

  4. I am just very happy for you for your progress, you sound so positive and upbeat and you should do a happy dance. i think you are amazing and doing amazingly well.

  5. What a great story and how neat that there are Paulettes out there. Some people are just in the right jobs.
    I am so impressed with how far you have come and with how much humor and class you have made this journey. You are a special lady.

  6. I think you are like David in the Bible and are doing your dance before the Lord.
    A happy dance indeed...
    I think its a good reminder to all of us to prepare ourselves for the day while we dangle to get started.
    I really love this journal you are writing. Its so encouraging.
    Have a wonderful weekend and keep dancing to your soul's music.

  7. I just read your blog for the first time. I am also a retired teacher and wanted to start a blog so went to google to find some and came across yours. I read this one and then went to an older one and read Jan 30, "what I'm reading lately":One of my favorite OT verses is God’s command to Joshua as Joshua prepares to lead the Israelites into the promised land. Here it is:
    Joshua 1: 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1: 9 I pray that for you as you continue to recover! I will continue to follow you. You ahve already inspired me. I hope to inspire others through my blog too. God Bless, Bea

  8. Linda, Thank God for the Paulettes in our lives. It is so weird when your arm and leg don't respond to brain signals, isn't it? My first shower was taken sitting down on a shower stool. No drains stopped here, but I was barely aware of what was going on near my feet. I still can't dance, but owing to other health-related issues. Dianne

  9. Paulette is amazing and so are you. You make me feel better about myself.Thank you so much