Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ The Balloon and Dart Game

Living post stroke is like the carnival game of balloons and darts. You know the one I'm talking about, where you pop three balloons with darts and win a prize?

I have carnival on the brain because the county fair is coming to town next week. Every store, radio station, and television program is running ads for it. Actually, I plan on missing it again as I have for the past twenty years. It's a waste of money for me because I can't ride the rides and the games are rigged towards losing.

So why do I say living post stroke is like this game?

It's almost impossible to break a balloon let alone three to win. I know darts. I have a dart board in my Playhouse. One of those electronics things with all the bells and whistles. I used to play and win in tournaments also. The varying factors in this game are...
  • The balloons can move depending on the wind.
  • You are trying to break a round, air filled balloon with a sharp pointy object that displaces air as it flies.
  • How many balloons have been broken. The more that are broken the more they move. So faster is better for success.
  • It's a game of chance and the odds aren't in your favor.
With recovery after a stroke...
  • Where your stroke happened in your brain.
  • In recovery, you are trying to get new pathways for muscles to function properly.
  • The longer time that passes between the stroke and recovery is more difficult. So faster is better.
  • Recovery after a stroke, is a game of chance and for total recovery, the odds aren't in your favor.
The variances between your stroke and your recovery are endless. That's why professionals use the term, "Every stroke is different." I know I hate the term with  passion. But some variances include...
  • High tone or flaccid
  • Amount of damaged area and nonfunctioning parts.
  • Spasticity versus no spasticity.
  • Re-education time and timing.
I ask every therapist I meet which is worse high tone or flaccid. Immediately they say
flaccid until they work with me with high tone and spasticity. They readily agree it's a toss up. While many have worked with high tone and spasticity before, they say mine is the extreme and the pattern is stubborn to break. They can break the pattern momentarily but when they try to move it, it goes back into high tone or reverts to the spasticity pose when released. They get frustrated after weeks of trying. I get frustrated by this variance.

The amount of damaged part of my brain is relatively small by most stroke standards (2 cm), but the amount of paralysis is equaled to a much larger one. The ratio is skewed. I should have only minimal loss, except I have full paralysis on my right side. It also affected areas that should not have been affected by location like my diaphragm and peritoneal area, but it did. There go those variances again.

It is easier to recover loss without spasticity. Thirty-nine percent of all stroke survivors get spastic muscles. I'm one of the unlucky few.

Re-education and timing is the last one I've listed. It may take 24 hours to see results or it could take years. I'm fallen into the years category. While some area of my speech came back within a week, others took a month or still unresolved to date. There is less word searching or saying the proper word, but aspects are still there in my speech. While reeducating my brain how to stand and take a step properly came back within a few short weeks, the ability to walk without hobbling or without an AFO is still waiting to be resolved. What I did yesterday is not what I can do today. There is absolutely no guarantee on  progress. It's like an improper air to gas mixture in a car... sputtering and running rough, if it starts at all.

It takes hundreds if not thousands of repetition to gain recovery that will last or do them and not gain at all. This is perhaps the most maddening variance of all. It's like popping those balloons, success is not in your favor. So why do it? The chance of success. I may not like the odds but somebody has got to win for the game to continue. It might just be me.

Nothing is impossible with determination.


  1. Great analogy JoAnn!
    “The Impossible” by Joe Nichols has kept me going from the beginning.
    All we have is hope that today is the day our brains wake up and recognize all the work we’ve done allowing our fingers and toes to uncurl and our foot to land flat.
    The entire world as we know it has been built on the impossible.


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