Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival~ Aggravation

What do you do when you are aggravated? I've had one of those weeks this week. To start with I'm back in OT & PT again which is great. The only aggravating part is I'm being worked into a standing schedule. I'm scheduled for 30 minutes of OT and an hour of PT. I could honestly utilize my time better in reverse with an hour of OT time.

As it stands now, the OT is working my wrist, hand and fingers with some elbow. The PT is working on the shoulder, elbow, and ankle. The spasticity is way too bad on some days that the ankle won't move. I'll know before I even get to PT that the session will be a bust on those days before we get started. The ankle is already making walking in the AFO painful. The toes will stretch up towards the ceiling and curl under at the same time. The ankle is pointed down like a ballerina in toe shoes except it rolls inward and locks into position.  Try putting compression socks over that configuration let alone putting your foot and leg into a rigid splint.

Stroke recovery is one step forward and two back. I'm beginning to think of this as the stroke two step dance movement. This blog is going to be like that today. Back and forth between good and bad.

I found when going through the hand grip test of the evaluation...wait for it...I felt my hand give a trembling movement to squeeze the therapist's hand. Better yet, she felt it to! After almost ten months I can focus really hard and get a little response in my hand. But even this small amount of movement takes tremendous effort. I'm hopeful.

Now getting back to aggravation. It used to be yelling, screaming, and punching a pillow was my way of dealing with aggravating things. For the time being, I can't do any of those things. Well I could punch a pillow one handed, but that's beside the point. Now, it's water works. Less than a year ago, weepy would have never happened or be used to describe me. It does now.

I try to pray most aggravating things away, or breathe deeply, and for the most part it still works unless the aggravation comes to quickly and are compounded like body blows to a prize fighter. Such was the case last Thursday.

It started out as a normal sunny day. Not too hot or too cold. After watching a glorious sunrise, and doing my usual morning routine, I reminded my husband I had therapy at 2 PM. He acknowledged with a nod and repeated 2 PM. We went on with our separate morning routines. Around 11 AM he asked if I would like Chinese for lunch. We'd leave around 12:30. At noon, I remind him about our lunch date and prodded him gently to get ready (sock, shoes, primp his hair). At 12:30 he decides to get up, goes to the bathroom and begins to get ready.

By 1:00 we are in the restaurant with our drinks in front of us and food ordered, and then my phone rings. It's our youngest daughter. I explain we are at a restaurant having lunch. She told me it wasn't an emergency and she'd call me later.  I figured if we hurried, I could still make my therapy appointment.

At 1:45, we finished eating and in walks our youngest daughter with toddler in tow. I explain that I have a therapy session that if I don't go now I'm going to be late. I might mention this daughter lives an hour's drive from us so we maybe see her twice a month. I hated to do it, but my therapy is important to me and a priority.

We pass the toddler back and forth for a quick cuddle and kiss from the grandparents, and we were out the door. When he started the car my husband noticed the idiot warning light for fuel was lit. No problem, I've had this happen before and know it has only hit the reserve we can still just make my appointment. It was well within the reserves range for the round trip.

No, my husband panics. We are going to run out of gas on the way and his oxygen tank is almost empty. To save time, I was going to take the car to the closest gas station less than half a mile up the road while he changed out oxygen tanks. He was hesitant about letting me drive by myself but he finally reneged.  I turned onto the main road and hit a construction crew repaving the road. <sigh> Why is it when you are in a hurry everyone gets in your way?

Finally, I pass through the destruction/construction zone and make it to the gas pump. I have five minutes to make it the fiftee- minute drive to my therapy appointment and I reach into my pocket for my ATM card for the gas, but it was not there. Where is my ATM card, I had a brief moment of panic before I remembered I had changed pants before leaving home.

I did a quick calculation of gas expended and gas left in the tank. I could make it to the rehab place and back to the gas station before I had a bone dry tank. I drove back home. Grabbing my ATM card, my husband and his oxygen, locked the door and started the drive to the rehab place.

I'm barely able to do the speed limit because of the granny driving in front of me. Yes I'm a granny too, but at least I'll drive the speed limited and not ten miles a hour slower. I glanced at the clock in my dashboard. I'm only five minutes late, but I still had eight miles to go, and five stop lights. We hit every one on red. I swear the low fuel light was laughing at me at every light.

We pull into the rehab place and I threw the shifter in park and made my way inside. I'm motioning to my husband to park the car. Now I was fifteen minutes late for my appointment for OT. I greet the receptionist who looks at the clock. By their clock there was only five minutes left of my therapy time. I told her to tell the therapist that I was here even though I knew I wouldn't have time with her.

My OT came out into the lobby and saw the look on my face. I started apologizing for being so late and began telling her why, but my aphasia ate my words. Tears started running down my cheek. She put her arm around me and took me to the back room so I wasn't blubbering in the lobby full of patients. Once seated in the back, she handed me some tissues. I was mad and aggravated, but I was crying which made me even more mad and aggravated.

 Of course my old, very concerned speech therapist came to my aid because she can speak aphasia. Not many people can, but she is truly a rare gem. Both my OT and speech therapists work almost exclusively with brain injury patients too which helps.

 Finally, I calmed down and my words came back. I somewhat haltingly told them what had gone on. Both were sympathetic and empathetic. There are some important differences between these two abilities, but having both is golden. By the time they were done with me, the water works had stopped and I was ready to begin my PT session.

My PT session was the pits. My emotional outburst caused all the muscles to tighten so my range was not good. My ankle was in high spasticity as I described above and no amount of hand work would break the brain's response. God knows the therapist did try for over an hour using every tool she had available. Finally we both gave up. We'll try again next week.

We made it to the gas station with one tenth of a gallon to spare. Am I good or what?

So how do you deal with aggravation?

Nothing is impossible if you make up your mind to do it.


  1. Hi Jo .. impossible I'd say - well no nothing is impossible, just sometimes it's mighty hard.

    I don't know - it was something I learnt very early on ... putting my mother's needs first after her strokes.

    That is something people don't realise - the importance and priorities in life ... especially at this sort of time ...

    Stress is not required and by due consideration of all around can be avoided ...

    I sure hope things get easier .. and your therapy will only help if you're relaxed once there ...

    With thoughts - Hilary

    1. Hilary, You are right on all counts. Nothing is impossible. You have to figure it out. Life is like a giant 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, you just have to figure out where all the pieces go and how. Setting priorities helps you survive. With a puzzle you find the edge pieces for boundaries first.

      Things get easier for me? Nah, not going to happen. There's just lulls where I can catch my breath. And yes, therapy only works well if I'm relaxed.

  2. I have been following your physical hell only for a short time. But yesterday I came across an interesting item on a facebook page I follow. This woman is a fermenting fool and proud of it. Well, there was a study that linked kefir (a fermented milk similar to yogurt, I think) with brain chemistry of women and how it changes it for the better. The sentence, above, where you mention your brains response to your emotions and your spasticity made me stop and think about that article. Jo, I am going to find it and send you the couldn't hurt!

  3. Found it...

    I hope it is something that peeks your interest.

    1. Thanks Debra, That must be why my lactose intolerant body handles yogurt so well. I've been on a constant diet of yogurt twice a day since before my stroke. I can't imagine what I'd be like if I didn't.


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