Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survivor ~ Follow My Finger

No, I said follow my finger not pull my finger. Yep, I'm back on track again. Today's discussion is on eye tracking. We have all had this mini focus type thing run by doctors where they move their finger up, down, and every which way.

What I didn't realize until I recently asked my neurologist was I couldn't do it right after my stroke. I thought I was following her finger but I wasn't really. Every time I had to close my eyes to regain focus or turned my head were counted against me performing the activity. Even now when watching this video, I have to blink my eyes...15 months later. That shows I still have a problem.

DOH! I didn't appear to have a problem reading or so I thought. I started paying attention on how many times I had to go back and read a line of text or use my finger to read to keep my eyes focused on where I needed to be. I didn't notice it while driving because my head is always turning to get a clear picture of what is going or coming and measuring distances.

I can look straight ahead and see fine. For the first six months I couldn't look up or down without getting dizzy or disorientated. Yes, I could quickly resolve these issues with the none impaired executive function part of my brain. Now I can look down with no problem, but I can't look up the change a light bulb in the ceiling fan or snag cobwebs without feeling like I'm falling.

The same goes for scrolling text like twitter. My brain just can't handle the input from my computer screen. So for now, I've sworn off Twitter and tweets. But instead I get digest of what has been said.

Reading left to right is better because of the small screen on my e-reader. I actually have the font enlarged so that only about ten lines of text appear on the screen too.

I read books while I was in the hospital and didn't notice any problem.  But what I really wasn't focusing on what I was reading either. Ask me what I read or what happened in any of the books and I couldn't tell you. That's because I was speed or skim reading. It was a trick I learned by having to read mountains of text books, IRS Code changes every year, and hills of research I do. By having a photographic memory, now kaput, it was easy to do. I could mentally flip the pages in my mind to recall what I had read.

  I did notice the eye tracking difficulties once I came home. In part because I was having to focus more on everything because their wasn't someone available with just a push of a button. I started following my finger across each written word so my eyes wouldn't dance across the page or screen like some Fred Astaire/Ginger Rodgers musical because I couldn't make my eyes behave.

How did I achieve this ability since my stroke? I cheated and used focusing tools. A cursor, a ruler, a finger all helped me focus on one word at a time. I constantly tried to look at my left ear and then my right. No, I can't see them. Can you see yours?  But it's a focused exercise in focus. I would do one side for a ten count and then go the other direction. But even with this I can't look up yet, but I can look left and right diagonally up so that's improving too, but not straight up.

My sister had what my mother called a "lazy eye." But I remember her doing eye exercises with her every day to strengthen weak muscles. Now when I'm tired or been reading to much I find my head moving along sentences instead of just my eyes. I'll put whatever it is down and close my eyes. Usually it's about nap time anyhow so it works out.

I once told a sister in law that yes, I was now visibly handicapped, but it's the muscles you don't see that cause me the most problems. Little things like stomach, bowels, diaphragm, throat, and even eye muscles are affected too. At least that has been the way of my stroke.

Anyhow, this is something I'm still working on. At times I feel like Marty Feldman who had no control over which way his eyes pointed. Although his condition was permanent, but with God's help mine won't be. I've set a semi hard goal of changing a light bulb by Christmas. Wish me luck.

Nothing is impossible with determination.


  1. Eye tracking exercises helped me with my left side neglect. In the front passenger seat as my husband drove on a 4-lane highway. I would face straight ahead and track every red car that went by in the oncoming traffic.

  2. My eyes were my first symptom that something was wrong. I could read an eye chart perfectly, but as soon as there was motion involved, everything was a blurr. Driving was impossible. After my stroke, it was much worse. I couldn't open my eyes without throwing up. Everything felt like it was moving. I couldn't read anything as the words "danced" around the page. I spent a lot of time, money, and energy on vision rehab. It literally saved my vision. You can find a local vision provider in your area @ I was lucky enough to be right by the president of Nora. Dr. Garbus, he is amazing!!! I saw several eye specialists before finding Dr. Garbus, and they all told me yes you have brain damage that is effecting your eyes, but there is nothing that can be done...the damage is permanent. Fortunately, they were wrong!!! I saw Dr. Garbus and did the exercises a million times a day. My eyes are much better!!:) best wishes.

  3. Except for looking up it's fine now, but I expect to regain my ability to look up with time. No wonder I felt nauseous in wheel chair and stretcher rides. I had to close my eyes.

  4. I would strongly encourage you to "practice"whatever is causing the issue and not just "assume" it will improve. It might get better on it's own, but there is the same chance of muscle atrophy in your eyes as the rest of your body. Even Dr. Garbus wasn't sure how much I would improve because my eyes were not working for sooo long before seeing him. He suspected I might have quite a bit of atrophy. The rehab was really hard because of the nausea associated with any challenging eye movements. One exercise that really helped was a "stretching" of the eyes muscles. Envision a giant circle on the wall. Stretch up as far as eyes could see, head still facing forward. Move eyes slowly around the circle as far as eyes can see head still. Make sure it's not blurry, move eyes slowly. This made me feel really sick, but helped tremendously. For all of my eye exercises, I saw no improvement for several months....I was worried, but kept practicing a million times a day. Then suddenly a few months later, it all came together really quickly. I was lucky that I probably had minimal atrophy.

  5. Hi Jo .. my mother had left-sided neglect - and that was interesting to learn about ... and do what I could to help ... thankfully she knew what she could and couldn't do.

    The brain is an incredible organ .. the eyes too .. good luck with that goal - light bulb changing isn't the simplest thing on earth .. so can see the challenge ..

    Cheers Hilary


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