Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Neuro What?

The first I heard about neuroplasticity was through a television commercial. Like most non strokees, I always looked for ways to utilize my brain to the utmost capacity. More than likely the same was true for you. I had no idea what neuroplasticity meant. I sort of assumed it meant some form of brain power training.


After my stroke, I heard the term again. Not from my rehab team, but from other stroke survivors. I still lived under the assumption that what you got back in the first six months was it and I needed to learn to live with the adjustments.

Boy, was I ever wrong!

You can teach an old dog new tricks or relearn forgotten ones. The brain is constantly developing and learning. Or in the case of stroke survivors...relearning. One of my guiding principles in life is that death is the absence of learning. As such, I made it a point to try one new thing each day. I still do even in spite of my stroke. Although the list is filled with things I used to do but haven't since my stroke because of physical limitations. It doesn't stop me from trying. I want my old life back and consider my stroke recovery my lull. It has enabled me to live outside the box with permission. Permission to think abby normal is a great thing.

My therapy exercises are still done, but I change them up with different things to challenge myself. I know me. And this is important that you know yourself. For me, I tend to get bored with doing the same thing over and over again. I thrive on challenges. Yes, it is sort of setting myself to fail, but it also gives me a chance to figure out a way to get the task accomplished. See I don't look at failure as not achieving, but a challenge to figure out how to accomplish a task.

It's using my brain power. Yes, I may try a dozen times and not succeed, but eventually I will figure out a way to get it done. After a stroke, you have to be determined to succeed.  No matter how small the achievement it should be celebrated. Celebrate it with whatever you like. For me, it's one of those blow things you get as a party favor. For the life of me I can't remember what they are called. I'll toot my own horn a bit.

It may seem egotistical, but hey, I deserve it. Go figure. I can use a word like egotistical and actually spell it right on the first go around but I can't remember the name of that blasted blow thing! Such is the way of stroke recovery.

A long time ago, I realized I didn't know it all. But that didn't mean I couldn't learn a lot of things. I was in fact practicing neuroplasticity. I was constantly reteaching this old dog new tricks. Now with my stroke, I'm slowly relearning what I once knew and trying new coping mechanisms to accomplish what my stroke impairs me from doing.

While pre-stroke I played with thinking outside the box, I now am constantly there because I can no longer use two working hands and two working feet. I use a spell/grammar checker in all things language orientated when before I abhorred it. Abhorred- another word that fell in the proper place. Now what is that blow thingie called? Think brain think. Ah, brain damage! You got to appreciate the irony of being able to instantly recall some data while losing others forever.

Thinking outside the box is a challenge. It exercises your brain. It stretches like silly putty what is impossible into something possible. There are a lot of gaps to work around in my brain. While I know it has redundant capacity for use, it does get frustrating some times. But does it stop me? No! I won't let it.

I was at my father's 80th birthday party recently and when you combine his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that's a lot of names to remember. My niece brought her brand new finance with her. He was told he'd be tested on who everyone is and what family they belonged to afterwards. Just to remind y'all... I have one biological sister and eight adopted siblings. Of my siblings, we are all grandparents now. That's a fair passel of people.

In the end we told the young man that we were joking. It's hard enough for us to remember who is who. I'm confused by my eight going on nine grandchildren, but I can always remember who belongs to whom because they act just like my daughters. This year's birthday was doubly sad with my father's rapid onset Alzheimer's and failing health. He could remember his children's names but didn't recognize them except for me.

If neuroplasticity is the way the brain stretches itself like constant relearning then Alzheimer's or dementia is the failure of neuroplasticity or antineuroplasticity. While I look forward with hope of recovery that can take place in the coming years, my father will regress farther into the antineuroplasticity.

The abilities of the brain to heal itself or not heal itself is a gray area of gray matter. It is a young science that constantly contradicts itself with the passage of time.  What is believed to be true today might be proven wrong tomorrow, but for today, I'm hoping that my brain can recover what it's lost with my strokes through the neuroplasticity models. At least it throws the door wide open  to try. Now what is the name of that blow thing?

Nothing is impossible with determination.


  1. Internet consensus is …

    Party Blowers!

    That certainly wasn't on the tip of my tongue.

  2. Uh...Party Horn? I'd have said blowy things and mimicked the sound and action, but the web isn't so good with showing that. ;-)


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