Monday, April 9, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Electric Smile

Although the one-year anniversary of my April 22, 2011 stroke is more than a week away, Good Friday fell on April 22 last year, so this past Easter weekend triggered a look back at my year’s journey as a stroke survivor. More on Day 1 here. I imagine this post will be one among a number of posts that help me sort through the year’s impressions, experiences and milestones in my recovery process so far.

Thankfully, one of the least affected functions was my speech. And even though my speech was only minimally affected, I still had that weakness in the left side facial muscles that gave me a characteristic lopsided smile and a flat “stroky” appearance.
Day 14 smile

The exercises I did with the therapists and as “homework” helped strengthen the tongue and mouth muscles necessary for both clear enunciation and a symmetrical smile. Exercises weren’t the only treatment strategies therapists used during my inpatient therapy and later in outpatient therapy.

They both took me a step further with the application of electrical stimulation to stroke-affected muscles and nerves.
Day 13 speech therapy included electrodes and jolts of electricity.

Gay, my outpatient therapist, used a handheld device in addition to the adhesive electrode patches. She would dip the business end in water for better conductivity then zap a specific area that needed reawakening and strengthening on the left side of my face, especially around my upper lip.
Prepping to zap

Targeting specific facial muscles

Day 32 smile

It was fitting that my speech therapy ended with Gay. She had seen me early during my stay in intensive care right after my stroke. I remembered her visit but could remember neither hers nor any other new faces from those days in ICU. I definitely remembered the exercises she gave me, though.

I would wake up early and practice the face stretching exercises: opening my mouth wide, sticking my tongue way out, trying to touch my nose and my chin, plus doing a bunch of other facial calisthenics and articulating specific words and sounds.

Although the rest of my body was not doing much effective movement in ICU, those face contortionist exercises were extremely effective in tickling my funny bone. I posted about one experience that resulted from those exercises, memories #3 and #4 here.

Day 337 smile, March 24, 2012


  1. You've come so far on your journey following your stroke! Your smile is as beautiful as it ever was :)

    Your Easter holiday sounds like it was a delightful one, and I hope you'll share some details soon...I'd give up dying eggs any day, for some camping time in the mountains!!!

  2. Beautiful smile! Sounds like you, Gay and God made the perfect team!

  3. I am so happy you have come so far. The thick tongue I had and the drool from the left side almost drove me crazy early on.

    I had speech therapy only, either because the techniques were not so advanced or because my stoke recovery was faster.

    It doesn't matter now, but thank Goodness both of us can smile again, although I am still a bit lopsided (?).

    My best, Dianne

  4. you look fantastic, I can't beleive how much different each photo looks and the now is impressive.

  5. I literally got tears in my eyes when I saw your last photo. You are so beautiful. You look so healthy. I have been so blessed to follow you on this journey.

    God bless you as you continue to make progress, and keep smiling.

  6. Oh Linda, what a beautiful smile!!
    Your journey has been difficult but seems so rewarding too.
    Your dear Hubby and family have helped get you to where you are today but most of all I see your journey with the Lord as strengthening and growing by leaps and bounds.
    A Blessed Easter (belated) to you, my dear blogging Friend.

  7. What a beautiful smile you have! I wish I had received therapy when I had both Bell's Palsy attacks, one on each cheek. None of my doctors referred me to physical therapy. I wonder if those electrodes would have helped me. So sad about my face.

  8. Your smile is beautiful. Both your smile and your journey are truly inspirational. You are a graceful fighter. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  9. A Coffee Fusion smile! LOL


  10. Your smile is beautiful!

    Isn't it amazing what came be done these days? I'm always in amazement.

  11. You have done so well, all your hard work has certainly paid off; your smile is lovely. Keep smiling!

  12. A very special smile from a special person. Well done for all the work you have done over this past year.