It Feels Wonderful!

I’m am constantly amazed at how the smallest movement can benefit your comfort level immensely! I have recently begun to lift my foot at the ankle, and it feels great.! It requires major concentration, but I can raise it up.  I was sitting in the car, and I lifted both feet. Then I thought, “Did I do that?” (But not in an Urkel voice.) So I did it over and over. I realized it wasn’t just a stretch reaction. (My right side moves when I stretch, sneeze, or cough in a reactionary way.) I was actually doing it!

It made my think of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. ‘Frozen’ stiff for a year, all he needed was oil. (Where can I get some? I use essential oils, but they don’t work that immediate.) With a sigh of relief, he said, “It feels wonderful!” He performed a spiffy little dance when he was able to move! (So will I!) 

The other day, I thought, what else can I move if I concentrated really hard? I sat out in the courtyard and tried all the parts of my right side, with much exertion, but nothing else was ‘unfrozen’ yet. (It will happen.)

I have a new trick though!

The physical therapist has jumped on it. The ankle is actually lifted by the outside muscle on your calf. (Peroneal) I’ve had electrodes there. I’ve done multiple ankle lifts. It hurts my head and jaw, due to major exertion. I need a Tylenol afterwards. I guess it’s all good. (You go ankle, make the other body parts jealous!)

Anniversary 

Sunday marks the one year anniversary of the (not my) stroke. My occupational therapist inquired if I was having a party. I don’t imagine it’s an event that warrants celebrating. (Can you see the invite… Come Celebrate at Kim’s One Year Stroke Party. Awkward.) Yeah, we could celebrate the wondrous gift of life, but I do that every day. 

I’m inclined to burn something like missionaries do at their one year mark. That idea makes me recall back to the last scene of Return of the Jedi when they burned Darth Vader. But I don’t want to lay in the fire. So what do I burn in effigy?

There is always the consuming of tasty food to (in some way) celebrate the milestone. (A reason to enjoy yummy things, I’m in!)

Please comment, and give me your opinion. How should I mark the date?

Here’s to one year of looking with new eyes and a renewed appreciation. “Cheers!” or be of good cheer. (I keep reminding myself.)


Above: My last picture before the stroke, with Whitney at the Kelly Pickler concert up at Cherry Peak.

Closure

This weekend I visited the cabin up Ogden canyon where I was staying just prior to the stroke. It was the spot I was last normal. It haunts me like a ghost of life past. I never actually verbalized my inner conflict, because I was trying to remain in denial as long as possible at the time. (Sometimes you gotta use denial for self preservation!) However, the thought was always hovering in the back of my mind, even though I was welcomed with many with open arms.

Certain sights brought back memory vignettes of the days preceding my big change almost a year ago. Picture the ballfield, spotted with family playing softball. (With my mad skills, I got a hit everytime!) There’s the corner of the yard where the night before we watched (an old family favorite) John Wayne movie outside. (Popcorn included.) I recall scrumptious meals as we all gathered together to laugh and associate. And right before, (all those who opted out of river tubing) rambunctiously played cards with the necessary drinks and snacks. All was right with the world. We were encircled by trees and the babbling water. In the company of seldom seen extended family, we shared stories, memories, and experiences. Always laughing, we enjoyed the careless serenity of the crisp outdoors.

This was the scene from a normal life that would soon come crashing down, not just for me, but all associated with me. (Kablam!) 

It’s amazing to think of one event (like a stroke) rippling out to deeply effect so many. It just goes to show you it’s expedient to live your life to the fullest now and every day after. You never know what tomorrow will bring. (Seriously, you just don’t know!) How would I have lived those final normal days? What would I have done to prepare? I feel like I was in the right place, with family.

Here’s my unsolicited, but well-earned advice: Turn off the TV or put down the phone, and give your precious time to the people you love.

The cabin will always hold treasured memories for me. (Sorry, I was responsible for ruining a wonderful family weekend. It certainly wasn’t on purpose.) But instead of dwelling on the sadness this event caused many, I will focus on the good times. I will pull aside the veil of disappointment and desperation, and I will strive to only remember the happiness and joyful times. That’s my goal. (Wish me luck!)

Swim – 6/28/17

I engage in water therapy three times a week. The floor of the pool is a treadmill, and I employ a lot of walking. I workout with other exercises also. (This pic above is my forced smile. Don’t miss the video below.) Because of the weightlessness of the water, I am able to move much more freely. It is letting me perform many motor functions I could not normally do. It is geared to help my body remember and hopefully “unthaw “and work like it is supposed to.

We have loads of fun. I’m always trying to do normal things, and I occasionally freak out my therapist Collin by doing unexpected random strokes like lunge back into a backstroke or try to float on my own. I enjoy hopping, since I can’t do that on land! We have too much fun, and he is impressed with my eighties music, movie, and superhero knowledge. We laugh most of the 45 minutes I’m in the pool. Now and then Amy has to stop the treadmill, I’m laughing too much to keep up.  One day, I was working on standing balance. My fingers tried to assist with this fast little paddling. Collin thought that was hilarious. I used to bowl the same way. (The ball will go in with a bit of body language, right?) 

Thanks to Amy for helping me get somewhat dry, then I go lay in the sun! I really enjoy ‘swimming,’ even if it’s in an exercise capacity. (Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!)

Electrodes – 5/31/17


Remember that movie scene(s), there were a few, when the mad scientist hooks electrodes to the lucky recipient (or parts of recipient,) flips the switch, and yells, ‘It’s alive!” Well today the recipient was trying to come to life. (Part of me anyway.)

As you have probably guessed, that lucky recipient was yours truly. They hooked up electrodes to my right leg above the knee, and turned knob. (It wasn’t especially painful.) It felt like someone was giving me a really hard noogie! (Not what I’d describe as comfortable.) I was supposed to kick when I felt it shock my knee. The zap into the muscle coupled my use of the the muscle is meant to stimulate the muscle to fire more. What it did was make me tired. I stood up, with help, after that, and my legs were toast. I guess electrocution will do that to you! Like Frankstein, “It’s only sleeping, waiting for new life…”

Legs – Working Wednesday 5/24/17

“Don’t pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”  Bruce Lee

Leg lifts were difficult today! The therapist had me lift my legs and pull them back, with the brace on. (So?) Well the brace was made to support my knee from hyperextending, but in keeping with its function, it limits my knee extension. Therefore they usually take it off when I do leg lifts, but not today! I had to kick my mostly paralyzed leg, and pull it back slowly. The therapist said my muscle was engaging on the way back in addition to kicking. (That’s new!) 

“Alive and kickin’!”

Eye-Rolling – Saying Saturday 5/20/17

There’s a certain guesture that says a lot more than a thousand words. A well timed eye-roll can put your emotions into words without actually speaking. It can convey disbelief, disapproval, impatience, or feelings of absurdancy. We’ve all done it. It’s what you do when there’s nothing left to say. When you’ve “had it up to here.” (As I motion above my head.) 

When I first had the stroke I was “locked in.” Meaning I was conscious, but could not move. Many wondered if I was in a vegetative state, but Darin saw my eyes roll and knew I was “home” inside. I soon began regaining movement on my left side. (Which all the doctors said would be impossible. But I’m all about beating odds!) Then I spent the next four months with a trach, and I couldn’t talk. Trying to get my point across involved many eye-rolls. In fact, I did it so often I probably saw my brain! (I’m a pro. If there’s some Eye-Rolling Championship out there, I would be a contender!)

As a mother, we get so exasperated we’ve had numerous eye-rolls throughout our maternal lives. They are key to a mother’s ophthalmic repertoire as is the stern you-better-obey glare. (Children are such a ‘blessing!’) Now that I can speak, I still incorporate many well-timed rolling of the eyes to accentuate my needs and feelings. Never underestimate the value of a quality purposeful eye-roll. “Come on and just, roll with it baby…”

Blame – Feelings Friday 5/12/17

After my stroke, I could be bitter with life in general. I could be moping around feeling all depressed. I could shake one fist at the heavens, and say, “Why me?” But I know a pint can only hold a pint not a quart. Meaning we are only given what we can handle. (Wow, that’s heavy!) I could get really deep, but I must come to grips with the plain and simple fact that this is a obstacle I can handle. (I can’t say there aren’t hard days. When I become reminded of my life before, my emotions do get the best of me.) But I don’t blame anyone or anything. It’s not anyone’s fault. Life was not meant to be fair. There is not anything I could have done, maybe monitor my blood pressure, but I had no reason to do that. I guess the moral to this post is: Don’t blame anyone for your problems. Just find a way to make the best of them. Look on the bright side. Get your blood pressure checked as often as you can! (Easy, right? She says sarcastically.)

Eddie the Eagle – Movie Monday 5/8/17


I absolutely loved this movie. At first glance the movie might evoke memories of other cliche underdog to champion movies, but it ended up being much more. We rented it at Redbox and almost watched constantly until it was due. Eddie possesses incredible amounts of heart. You can’t help but get emotionally involved. Many people are down on Eddie and his dreams, even the washed-up trainer is hard on him at first. I am lucky that way. I have a whole community of cheerleaders! I know the rehab road to walking and self-sufficiency will be a long one, but I have a wonderful support team to help me keep my head up. I have never heard, ‘you’re not good enough.’ (My family and friends are great optimistic motivators!) Eddie was awkward and untalented, but he demonstrated heart and determination. He kept trying.  I know I look pretty dorky with my limp arm, but I hope to have have as much self-trust and drive as he did. Dreams can come true. “A dream is a wish your heart makes… ” And add a dash of hard work!

Stroke Awareness – Working Wednesday 5/3/17

May is stroke awareness month. I have done some reaserch, and the numbers are amazing! Stroke the #1 cause of disability. (I’m in the club!) 80% of strokes are preventable. (I should’ve had my blood pressure checked more!) The first cause is high blood pressure, the second is lack of exercise. Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the states. (Talk about dodging a bullet!) Others include smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, heart or artery disease, and a bad diet. If you do (or may) have any of these, I would highly suggest changing your MO – method of operation. (You don’t want to have a stroke, it’s no fun! To say the least!) A stroke is a blockage in the arteries associated with the brain, thus cutting off blood flow and cutting off the oxygen and nutrients to the brain. The brain is an amazing natural marvel. Doctors haven’t got it completely figured out.

There are many different kinds of strokes that affect 800,000 people per year. Hemorrhagic is when an artery bursts and blood gets in the brain, consequencly blood flow stops. They are mostly less destructive. Ischemic is broken into two categories: Cerebral Embolism, which is a clot or blockage in the brain. (I assume that’s what I had. My blockage was in the brain stem. I had a MRI about about eight months earlier, and there was nothing to alarm them. So it developed quickly.) Cerebral Embolism is a clot somewhere else in the body that breaks off and travels to the brain. These ischemic strokes make up 87% of all strokes. Then there are TIAs. They are small strokes that usually go away, like little warning signs to a bigger stroke. Get medical attention so you can avoid a larger one. (I had these, but I was misdiagnosed with Ophthalmic Migraines. My vision would go super blurry, but they usually went away in 10 minutes or less. My head didn’t usually hurt, it was just inconvenient. I found out later they were TIAs or mini strokes.) The last is called Cytogenic “stroke of unknown cause.” It is actually an Ischemic stroke and 30% are Cytogenic. The doctors just can’t explain the cause. (Thanks, I probably fit in here, they can’t explain why my one clot in the brain stem happened so fast, and it was too dangerous to operate. So I am still blocked.) 

Since it cuts off blood and oxygen to the brain, certain pods (or controllers) in the brain actually die. (In was told I had small veins growing around the blockage so I might get some function back. Grow little veins, grow! You can do it, I have faith in you!) That pod failure results in loss of some body function depending on where it is at. Some disabilities include, one side parlyzation (which leads to walking difficulty,) muscle weakness, hearing loss, emotional instability and voice alteration. (I have these. Mine was in the left side of the brain, thus my right side is paralyzed.) But others can be vision loss, memory loss, cognitive ability, difficulty or no swallowing, uncontrolled bad behavior, or total paralyzation. (Oh, how I am grateful not to have these!)

Now that you know all about strokes, how do you avoid them? Think FAST. F for face drooping, A for arm weakness, S for slurred speech, and T for time to call 911. Other signs could be vision disruptions (that’s what I had,) understanding other’s speech, numbness on a body part or one side of body, trouble walking or loss of balance, or a sudden painful headache. If you experience one or all of these, time is of the essence. Within three hours, a medical practioner can give you a clot busting drug so you might be able to suffer decreased problems or avoid death. 

80% of strokes are preventable. The big thing to do is have your blood pressure checked often. That way, doctors can monitor your stroke risks. Don’t put it off! (Take it from a survivor!)

Wear a red ribbon for me!