My stroke. In April, 2011 I suffered several mini-strokes, followed by a major stroke several days later. My post stroke symptoms included, severe fatigue, limited use and movement of my left arm and leg, depression and apathy. The physical effects led to the last 2 symptoms. I was unable to walk and stand, so I was restricted to my bed, unless I had assistance.
No privacy. To use the bathroom, I would have to use the call bell to have a nurse assist me to the bathroom. They helped me drop my bottoms and help me onto the toilet. If that’s not embarrassing enough, they wait and watch because I was considered to be a” fall risk.” ( I had already ended up on the floor on a previous attempt). This was very depressing to me, because being 45 years old, it felt like I wasn’t in control of myself and I was a baby who needed his diapers changed. Who wouldn’t be depressed about that?
Am I going to be like this forever? I stayed at the hospital until the doctors were sure I was stable. I was only told I had suffered a stroke, but nobody could tell me why. I wasn’t considered to be high risk, and to this day, even my neurologist who specializes in stroke, can’t give me a definite cause. I had what was called an ischemic stoke, which in my case, was blood clot formed a blockage in my brain, which restricted blood flow to my brain and caused permanent brain damage. The mystery is the clot itself. I didn’t have high cholesterol or high blood pressure prior to the stroke, and I had no previous head trauma. So now, the main goal is to prevent me from having another stroke. I was prescribed blood thinners, and a statin for cholesterol. I will have to take these for life.
Good news, bad news. After many tests, cat scans, MRIs ,and what have you, my neurologist has determined that the clots are gone. The bad news is that brain damage is irreversible and my condition is likely permanent.
Rehabilitation. After my condition was stable, I was moved to another hospital to take part in post stroke rehabilitation. When I arrived there, I could barely stand. I could walk around 20 feet with a walker. My condition was assessed, and my post stroke therapy was formulated. Each day was scheduled with Physical therapy(concentrating on my leg), Occupational Therapy(arm and hand), and speech therapy(mind).Fortunately, my mental capacity wasn’t affected, so speech therapy was deemed too easy and was lessened from my schedule. PT and OT were difficult and challenging. In PT we worked on strengthening and “relearning” how to use my leg. In OT, I worked on my affected hand by bearing weight on that arm. We also worked on bathing, toileting, grooming, and all the my other daily tasks.
I’m going to walk out of this place. This rehab hospital was old and rundown compared to the hospital I just came from. I had a roommate too, where I had a private room at the other place. I just wanted to finish my time here and go home. This would later change as I noticed improvements in my physical abilities. If I was at home with no schedule, depression and apathy probably would have taken over and I wouldn’t have any improvement. At this hospital, I had a schedule, and my post stroke exercises set up for me. Eventually, my standing and walking improved enough where I could use the bathroom by myself, and I could transfer myself around the hospital, and enjoy my visitors outside instead of from a hospital bed.
I can’t stay ? I looked forward to my therapies because I wanted to see what else I could do. I was doing so well and was benefitting so much, they decided to extend me two more weeks. I took full advantage of my extension and worked really hard. Before I knew I, my time was up and it was time for me to go home. I really wanted to stay because I had improved so much with my walking. I was told that’s all my insurance would cover, so I had no choice. I was scared because I wasn’t sure of myself. I didn’t want to be a burden to my family, and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to motivate myself to continue my exercises. One of my final therapy sessions was a grocery shopping trip to Safeway. Using a shopping cart as support, I shopped for items at the store. I went from barely being able to stand, to shopping for groceries in three weeks. Imagine what I could do if I could stay longer. When it was my time, I walked out of the rehab hospital using only a quad cane.
The present, Two years after my stroke, I continue to go to outpatient therapy from time to time. I am able to drive, walk without any device except or a leg brace, have learned to do many things with only my right hand(which may be detrimental to my arm and hand recovery).Although many parts of my life have changed because of my stroke(stroke is also hard on those around you too, but that’s a whole other article), I’m thankful I’m still alive and able to enjoy my life. I still try to be active with my kids, I’m still trying to return to work and I’ve even built my own website as an outlet for my feelings in hope it can help others. I have been told that the brain rewires itself as you relearn how to use your body. I’m hoping the rewiring is still ongoing, and I’ll keep working at it