Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When Bad Things Happen, Make Lemonade!

Two years ago today I had a stroke. It really didn't seem like much, and I didn't even go to the hospital right away.

I felt a tingling in my left arm while I was in the shower. At first I thought I might be having a heart attack, since one of the symptoms is tingling in the left arm. So naturally I did what any mother would do. I quietly got out of the shower and got dressed. My biggest fear was embarrassing my teenage daughter by being naked when the EMTs arrived. When I started walking around, I noticed my left leg was also tingling.

I really didn't want to go to the hospital, since it was Saturday of the holiday weekend. But finally, I realized that tingling wasn't going away, so I went.

It's a good thing I went. I was there for hours, drifting in and out of sleep. They gave me all the necessary tests, and sent me off in the wee hours. It wasn't until about a week later that I realized that tingling was pretty much on my entire left side... my scalp and my torso in addition to my arm and leg. It was the most intense in my arm and leg.

I went back to school a week later for the last 2 weeks of school marathon. Somehow I had to pack my room, yet I was so tired I couldn't see straight, and I'd lost control of much of my left side. Lifting heavy boxes wasn't an option, yet I got very little help packing my classroom. I do remember falling off my ladder hard, which is probably what messed up my alignment, but I didn't find that out for another year. I did something nasty to my shoulder which makes it pretty useless for anything more than 5 pounds.

It wasn't for a couple of months that I realized the full impact of the stroke. I went to occupational and  physical therapy to develop the muscles in my arm and hand that weren't working, and work to restore my balance. I had gone as far as they could bring me on the OT, but the insurance was withdrawn before I could "graduate" from the PT.

I think one of the toughest things is that I "look fine". That may sound silly, but I think if I were looking less than fine some of my colleagues might be a tad more compassionate.

Two years later:  I still struggle with fatigue. It's gotten better than it was when I first had the stroke, but I still have trouble making it through the day, and I'm useless on evenings and weekends. I still struggle with my left arm with things like opening water bottles, ATMs, and holding onto things. I still have trouble with balance. I'm OK if I'm on a flat surface and I can watch where I'm going. That's not always easy while teaching second graders. I still have trouble lifting things, too. Much of the tingling is gone, but it's still there, especially in my arm and leg. I try to give the illusion that I'm fine, because I just don't like to be pitied or treated like I'm less than whole. But the fact is, I'm far less than what I was before the stroke.

The bad news? After 2 years, I've probably progressed about as far as I can go. I've known all along that the further away from the stroke, the less chance of getting those skills back.

But, I've chosen to make lemonade out of this. Luckily, my daughter is off in college now, so I'm back to living alone. It sounds terribly lonely, but it's not at all. It's just less responsibility after school. I like that! I do minimal cooking and cleaning during the week, since I'm usually far too tired, especially as it gets near the weekend. 

So I had to take up a hobby that didn't need me to be up and walking around. (Or dancing... like my previous hobby of musical theatre!) So I took up blogging!

In a way, I feel like blogging has given me back my life! It gives me something to look forward to every day when I drag myself out of school. I try to finish all my work at school so I'll be free and can blog, pin, tweet, and post on my facebook page. I spend a lot of time at my laptop, reading about brain research, and making materials to help students learn. It's a good life!

13 comments:

  1. Well if you hadn't reminded me, I would have completely forgotten you ever had a stroke. But I guess for you it's a different kind of Memorial Day. You seem to be in great shape, and we're all glad you a still around.

    When a you and your gentleman friend coming to visit us in Denver?

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    1. David, I have no idea when we'll be to Denver, as travel takes 2 things I don't have: energy and money!

      Sally

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  2. Thank you for sharing your story..I have to admit I had to giggle at your use of "gentleman friend"..sounds scandalous.. ;)
    I'm a big believer of making lemonade.. in fact..we'll never go thirsty in this house..lol..keep your positive outlook! :)

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    Replies
    1. Jenn,

      He thought "gentleman friend" was funny as well, but at our age, "boyfriend" just doesn't work!

      No, I'll bet you never go thirsty at your house... I love the pictures of those kids. They always look so happy!

      Sally

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  3. Thank you for this post. My grandmother had several mini strokes and then a big one on the day she was to be released from the hospital. That was yrs. ago. She is gone now after living with dementia for several years after the stroke. i never got to ask her what her body felt like when she went through this. My point is... I am more likely to have a stroke too. Your post has given me some ideas of what to watch for. I know I could read all about strokes but hearing it from a real person helps me understand it better. This is one of my biggest fears along with heart attacks. Thank you again.

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    1. Linda,

      There are so many ways strokes can happen. Everyone I've spoken to that has had one has a different story. It all depends on the part of the brain that has the blockage. My best advice is... don't wait all day like I did!

      Sally

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  4. Wow!! Thank you for the advice. I will make sure to always help people who have struggled physically (....or mentally for that matter) if they ever need any help! Looks are deceiving.......especially when serving lemonade!

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    1. gd2bqn,

      Thanks for the response! Yes, looks can be deceiving. I guess it's partially my fault for trying to look like I'm fine.

      Sally

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  5. Thanks for a fabulously inspiring and personal post, Sally! Did the stroke prompt you to start doing moer brain research, or was that always a passion of yours?
    Teaching FSL

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    Replies
    1. Madame Aiello,

      Actually, I've always been interested in brain research, but the stroke did renew that interest!

      Sally

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  6. Sally you are amazing! Thanks for inspiring me. :)

    Mary
    Mrs. Lirette's Learning Detectives

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  7. Wow. It's so admirable that you would share this challenge. My grandmother had a stroke and lost her ability to talk so I've seen what a stroke can do. I'm glad that didn't happen to you!
    My youngest son, 23, has an auto immune disease that enbrel doesn't even work for anymore. Right now he's taking shots that help him, but before that he went through a real rough year where walking hurt. To look at him he's six feet, good looking like a movie star (but humble)...you'd never know he's been dealing with so much. He's bungie jumped, sky dived, surfed down volcanos. Now he's teaching kids in Chile. He's like you. He told me "Mom, this physical stuff isn't who I am. It's just my challenge."
    I just discovered how cool you are and look forward to following you :-) Love from Sonoma, CA and btw...My BF of almost 10 years now is 60. I do call mine my boyfriend and don't want to get married, being a GF feels much more fun. It's funny these things we have w/words. btw if this comment is too long, feel free to delete it :-) Just relating to you.

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