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New Occupational Therapy

Today I finally had my 1st occupational therapy (OT) appointment at the new place where I’m going. The therapist is a nice lady, who has years of experience, including 5 extra years of schooling to specialize in hands. The main purpose of OT is to help get back the ability to do the things in everyday life that one could do pre-stroke. The list includes things like brushing teeth, getting dressed, cooking, baking, eating, writing, all kinds of fine motor skills, and being self-sufficient. They also help you with the skills needed to work again.
Today, the first thing that she did was go over paperwork that the physical therapist had me fill out in the beginning. The way I answered the questions, she thought I didn’t need to be there. For instance, the question was can you brush your teeth? You had to answer by checking a box from 1-5, with 1 being very little, to 5 meaning yes I can without help. I answered 5. Well, today she asked the question differently than the written directions. She asked if I could brush my teeth the way I did before the stroke. My new answer was a 1. I now use my left hand to brush my teeth. Right-handed doesn’t really work. She said ahh-hah! So, we re-did all of my answers!! No, I can’t do a lot of basic functions with my right hand. I’ve learned to do them with my left hand. Sometimes not very well left-handed, either! Haha!
I guess that’s one of the post-stroke challenges. Looking fine, healthy, and self-sufficient, so everyone thinks all is fine. Until the tests start. No more fooling! She honed right in on my deficiencies! These therapists see everything! My arm dropped when I was concentrating on getting the pegs in the holes, and after I finished she asked me why my arm dropped. I didn’t know it dropped, but it’s one of my challenges doing hair, so I wasn’t surprised. We’re going to work on that, too!
Don’t get me wrong, I like being self-sufficient, and looking like I’m fine. I just want my right side to contribute to the tasks!
She got out a small saucepan and whisk, and had me pretend to whisk something as fast as I could. It was very hard. It reminds me of when I make scrambled eggs, and how hard it is to blend the eggs before pouring them in the pan. Evidently there’s a muscle in the hand and wrist that controls this movement. There lies the problem! A lot of my deficiencies are because of that specific muscle! That muscle is the one that causes carpal tunnel. I don’t have carpal tunnel, it’s just that muscle was affected from the stroke. The brain is not getting the signal there, like it was before the stroke, so it doesn’t move properly. She will have specific exercises for me to hopefully wake up that muscle.
She asked about specific issues doing hair. I told her about those, and she wants me to bring in some of my hair equipment. She’s hoping to help me get improvement. Maybe she can help me to be able to do my own hair too.
My right tricep is almost completely atrophied. She explained that is has to do with the muscles around it that stiffened up from the stroke. I do a whole lot of compensating with other muscles in order to move certain ways. The problem with that, is I can’t stay doing that long term.
So, I came home with a stretchy band to do some specific exercises. She’s no-nonsense and serious, so I know she’ll kick my butt, and I have to be ready! This is going to be an intense 6 weeks! I need it, and I’ll get all I can out of it! I’ve already seen improvement from physical therapy (PT) after a few weeks, so I’m hoping I’ll see that with OT as well! My little side stepping exercises in PT where my right foot crosses behind the left, is now at the point where I can pick up my foot to cross it!  I was initially dragging it across. It’s these small improvements that are exciting to me!
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Puppy Therapy

When I decided that I was ready for a dog, after putting my sweet 15 year old dog down in July, I had a list in my mind of what I wanted in a dog. I wanted to rescue an older female dog who was sweet and gentle, and who would want to hang out with me. The dog would have to be very nice, and definitely not a puppy! When I started visiting shelters and various dog organizations, all of the dogs had major issues that I didn’t feel prepared to deal with. I stayed searching, knowing that I would “know” my dog when I saw her.

When I was at the shelter in Santa Cruz, I saw this cute little dog, and knew it was mine. When I looked at the tag on the cage, it said 2 month old female Terrier mix. For some reason, I thought it said 4 month old. She’s actually 3 months old. Anyway, it was a puppy!! I looked back at the dog, and just said, “Well, I guess I’m getting puppy”! I never fight the feeling of knowing that there’s a bigger plan at work for me, and I just have to trust that intuition. When we went back inside to fill out papers and get a session with the pup, they informed me that someone had just called and put the dog on hold for 2 days. I wasn’t even allowed to have a session with her, because technically they owned her now that they put her on hold. So we left.

On the way home, I told my daughter that if that little puppy was meant to be ours, then she will go off hold, and we will get her. Once again, I had to trust that feeling that I know what is right, is what will be. The next night at the time the shelter closed, I called them. The puppy had just gone off of the hold  status. They opened at noon the next day, and I was there with my mom shortly after noon. I was able to get a session with her, but while waiting, I had a lady come up to me and ask me if I had my heart set on her, because she was also interested in her. I told her that I did. I realized that if I had arrived 5 minutes later, I wouldn’t have gotten my dog. When I finally was able to meet her, she leaped into my lap! Well, that’s exactly what my last dog did, and I knew this was definitely my dog! My PUPPY! It was “meant to be”!

So, we’ve had “Nilla” for about 2 weeks now. I’m in love with this little dog. Even though I never wanted a puppy, she’s so perfect! She’s very friendly, happy, playful, rambunctious, smart, and so loving. She takes at least 2 naps a day, and so I do, too! Haha!

I have realized that Nilla is actually providing therapy for me! I am her main playmate, therefore, we are outside a lot! She loves to fetch, and actually even brings it back to me! Throwing the toys, I use my right hand, which is the side affected from the stroke. She doesn’t care if I throw it weird or crooked. One of the exercises that I’ve done in therapy is to throw a small ball against the wall and catch it. So, I do that with Nilla. She has a Frisbee-type of toy that is definitely a challenge for me throw, but I do it! Squatting down to be at her level is therapy. Getting up from that squat is even better! I do that a hundred times a day, I bet! It’s got to start getting easier!

A weird thing that has affected my right side is rhythm. What I mean by that, is when you knock on a door there’s a rhythm to that knock. I don’t have that rhythm on my right side. To tap on my legs to call the pup over to me, is therapy, to get the rhythm down. Tapping my foot to call her over, I work on the rhythm. If I go slow, I can do it. If I try it  fast, it’s all confusing. But Nilla doesn’t care, and that’s what’s so perfect! Prying her little jaws open to get grass, dirt clods, rocks, and other things out, is therapy. I make myself use my right side to get the various items out! I also make myself find reasons to tap my fingers, hand, or foot.

I am thankful for my little puppy! I never thought I’d get a puppy, but I am so happy that I did! She makes me laugh so much every day!! She helps me out, without knowing that she’s helping me with things. She is constant entertainment for all of us! She’s learning the rules, and getting better every day. I am glad that I have the time to spend with her, being consistent, and turning her into the best dog ever! She’s helping me to be the best that I can physically be, and I’m hoping that maybe I can get that rhythm back! Life is so good!