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Showing posts with label stroke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stroke. Show all posts

Six Years Ago Today


Six years ago today, I had a life changing event.  It wasn’t necessarily a good one, but it changed my life forever.

On May 29, 2010, I had a stroke.

Luckily, I look fine. You'd never know just by looking at me.

Although, honestly, sometimes I think if I were somewhat maimed or deformed, people might be a tad more compassionate. There are actually people who think I’m just lazy and using the stroke as an excuse.

I much prefer to think of myself as a fighter. Or a survivor.

The stroke affected the left side of my body. You know that “pins and needles” feeling you get when you fall asleep on your arm? That’s what I feel ALL THE TIME. When I first had the stroke, it was my entire left side. I could actually draw a line down the middle of my face. Luckily, it has subsided some, but it’s still there. I have some “hot spots": my left elbow and my left knee, where the “pins and needles” feelings are the most intense.

My left side is super sensitive now. If you brush against my left side, it’s extremely uncomfortable for me. There are many of those “touchy-feely” types that have to touch people when they talk to them. In an effort to be polite, I try not to scream, but honestly, once someone has touched my left side, all I can concentrate on is NOT screaming, and I’ve lost pretty much everything they’ve said to me.

After the stroke, I went to Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy for several months, in an effort to get certain muscles working again. We made a little progress, but there are parts that will never work again like they used to.

My left hand is unable to grip things like it used to. I can hold things for a short time, but it takes a good deal of concentration, and it starts to hurt real fast. Blow drying my hair, putting on necklaces, or going through a drive through are some of the things that are very difficult now.

I can’t lift much anymore because of weakened shoulder muscles.

I can walk just fine, but I have trouble with balance because of weak core muscles. If I walk on soft or uneven turf, or have to turn quickly, I will lose my balance. Unfortunately, when I lose my balance, I look like I've had too much to drink. It's very embarrassing, not to mention all the bruises I wear all the time!

The hardest effect from the stroke has been the constant fatigue.

Before the stroke, I used to perform in a lot of musical theatre productions. We had rehearsals several times a week, often with very physical demands. I also was in an adult tap dance group. I was busy often after school, going from one rehearsal to another performance, both on weekdays and weekends. That was my release at the end of the school day. It’s what I loved to do for myself.

Since the stroke, I have trouble getting through the school day. I wouldn’t dare make any plans for after school. When I’m done with my daily school work, I go straight home to rest and relax.

I use weekends to catch up on my resting.

Want to read a good explanation of the fatigue? Google “The Spoon Theory” at http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/category/the-spoon-theory  

I am certainly grateful that I never hesitated to enjoy life when I had the opportunities.

Luckily, I have a job I love, since I really don't do much else besides my job.

I have a wonderful man in my life who is very understanding of how tired I get.

And I found a hobby I can do sitting down: blogging!

Still Trying to be Super Woman

Five years ago today my life changed. Five years ago today I had a stroke. Most people can't tell by looking at me, but I feel the effects of the stroke all day, every day.

When it happened, I didn't even realize it was a stroke. I didn't know what was causing the tingling on my left side. You know that tingling feeling when an arm or leg falls asleep? Yes, that's what I was feeling. At first, I noticed it in my arm.  After a while I realized it wasn't just my arm, it was my whole left side. I felt the tingling in my leg, my face and the left side of my abdomen. Some of it went away after a couple of weeks, but most of it is still there. All day. Every day.

The only other symptom I felt was tired, but I thought that was just because I'd worked another hard week and needed to rest on the holiday weekend.  I had no idea how the stroke affected my muscles. I really thought I was fine. It wasn't until a couple of weeks later when the doctor recommended physical and occupational therapy, that I realized some parts weren't really working anymore. 

I went to therapy as long as insurance allowed, and got back limited use of some of the muscles, but it's clear after 5 years that I'll never get back full use of my left side.  

My left shoulder really took the brunt of it. I can no longer lift heavy objects, or aim my left arm. (Drive through s are no longer an option!) grasping things with my left hand is possible, but painful, as it puts quite a strain on those muscles.

When people touch my left arm, it's so uncomfortable that it's tough not to scream. This is tough, since most people are right handed, and I interact with a lot of caring people. It happens all the time. Most people close to me know not to touch my left side, but people forget. When it happens, I try to be polite and not make people feel uncomfortable, but all I can really do is concentrate on not screaming.

Because I lost most of the core muscles on my left side, I have trouble with balance. Stairs are difficult. Walking across softer surfaces, like grass, are tough. Uneven surfaces can be tricky. 

This was a big focus of my physical therapy, but unfortunately there's a deficit that can't be fixed. Before the stroke, I could easily do a hundred crunches, switch positions, then do a hundred more. Right now I can do ten. That's taken 5 years of work.

The hardest part for me has been the fatigue. Before the stroke, I was heavily involved in local theatre, and would often go to a 3-4 hour rehearsal on most school nights. Now, I come home from school and look forward to bedtime. 

Sometimes I have a hard time accepting that part of my life is over.

Sometimes I get discouraged because people don't understand.

Sometimes I get discouraged because I want to do so much more, like I used to. 

THIS post (The Spoon Theory) from a website called "But You Don't Look Sick," helped me explain the fatigue to others. It's worth a read to understand what many different people go through day to day.

Why am I writing this post that has absolutely nothing to do with teaching?

For a couple of reasons:
1. I hope people will be more understanding of those "invisible illnesses" that many of us struggle with. Count your blessings every time you go down a flight of stairs without holding on. Count your blessings when you have the energy to go home and cook dinner after work. 

2. Because, despite it all, I still have plenty to be grateful for:
  • I am still able to teach. I love being a teacher. I plan to continue teaching for many years.
  • If I hadn't had more "sitting time", I wouldn't have discovered the joys of blogging.
  • There are a lot of wonderful, compassionate people out there who understand and care about my struggles... and try to help where they can!
  • I have a  beautiful daughter. 

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!
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