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Five Years After My Stroke

It’s been a little over 5 years since my stroke. It seems like my right side is weaker than it used to be. My day-to-day activities aren’t enough to build up the strength in the muscles. The brain signals are probably weak to the muscles, and I feel it! So, the doctor has recommended pool therapy this time.
Bryan and I were thinking that pool therapy would be good for me, and we bought a 4 ft pool to set up in the backyard. We haven’t put it up yet, because there’s a lot of preparation to the yard that needs to happen before it can go up. So hopefully soon this can happen. 
In the meantime, I went to my first pool therapy session. It was so crazy! First off, walking into the pool, I realized that I had very little control of my right leg, once I was in water above my knees. I actually felt like it was right after the stroke when I was learning how to walk again. My leg was very uncoordinated, and I really couldn’t feel my leg! I spent a few minutes walking along the side of the pool in about 3 ft of water while my therapist finished with her other patient. At one point, I even wondered if I was having another stroke, because that’s how it felt! After her initial evaluation of me, we started to do a few exercises that she had to keep modifying because I just was unable to do them! She was very surprised that I couldn’t do them, and even at one point asked me if I walked with a walker or cane! Haha! No, I can walk, just not in the water! It was crazy, and so hard, that I just couldn’t believe it! It was a real challenge!
I will also be starting physical therapy in a regular therapy setting in a building. They call it “land therapy”! So one day a week for land therapy, and one day a week of water therapy.
I hope to build up my strength on my right side, and wake up the muscles that don’t seem to be getting the brain signal to work.
After we get our pool set up, I will use it daily, and do the exercises that I’m learning from going to therapy.
I enjoy going to therapy! It’s hard, and it’s very tiring, but I like it! It’s fun, in a serious way! It’s all about learning to strengthen your body, and all of the different and creative ways to make that happen.
Therapists are awesome! In the 5 years since my stroke, I’ve had quite a few Therapists, and they all have done things differently. It’s so interesting! I like to have fun, but seriously do the work. I love how they see all of the little things with the muscles and the way the body moves. They see the details, while also seeing the whole thing.
When I was growing up, we almost always had a pool. I love the water! I’ve always been a good swimmer, and have felt very comfortable in the water. This new water therapy has shown me that I have a long way to go, to feeling comfortable in the water. I have a new goal now, to get to where I feel good and coordinated and comfortable in the water. It’ll happen! Hopefully soon! It’s all good!

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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Back to Therapy

Well I’m back in physical therapy, and maybe even occupational therapy, too. 2 years post-stroke. My new neurologist is pretty amazing. He did a whole physical evaluation, you know where they press your arm and you have to resist, etc. Strength tests, I guess you’d call them. I’m pretty strong in most places. The needle pricking test was interesting. There’s still a lot of areas on my right side that are numb! I didn’t even know. I knew certain parts of my face were numb, but I had no idea that my arm and leg have numb spots, too! The bad part is my upper back. Not numb, it just doesn’t move very well on the right side. It’s because it was paralyzed for so long, it’s just very weak. My scapula is kind of frozen. The Dr was amazed at my range of motion, but I have no strength to hold the positions. There’s so much atrophy on the right side of my upper back. I guess that’s why I feel like I can’t hold my head up! He is afraid that it will just get worse. So the Dr put me back in intense therapy twice a week. It’s with different a therapist than I had before. Nothing against my other therapists, he just wanted me at the facility that he is used to sending people.
I enjoy therapy! Yes, it’s hard and tiring, but it’s really fun! She’s finding all sorts of things that I need to work on. I find myself saying a lot, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea that I couldn’t do that”! Haha! Putting one foot in front of the other heel to toe, closing my eyes and touching my nose, touching each finger to the thumb, I fail them all! Haha! Good thing I don’t really drink too much, and never drive after!! She’s also found that my abs don’t work on my right side, and I have no feeling there, either. She stretched out my right side, and I felt a pull in my hip and my armpit, but not my side! Interesting! So I need to be careful when doing stretches.
She gives me fun exercises to do at home. And I do them several times a day!! I can do them while I’m outside with the dog, in the shower, in bed, or watching TV. I told her that I was able to do the hula-hoop last week at a family party. She was shocked! We laughed, because she said that she hasn’t been able to hula-hoop since she was 13 yes old! Katie and I did it a lot through the years, so I knew I could, and I did! My therapist told me to go buy a hula-hoop and do that at home too! So I will, and that will be fun, too!
Next week I have an evaluation with the occupational therapist. They want me to go to get help with my fine motor skills. She can also help with the scapula issues. I hope to get help with my writing, too.
The neurologist referred me to a specialist at Stanford Hospital, who he thinks is going to know my blood pressure problem, and maybe why I had the stroke. That appointment is in a few weeks. Should be interesting. I’m very thankful for all of the good doctors that I’ve had. And all of the good therapists, too! Life is good!