Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Touching Email and Thank You Readers

I received an email from a lady in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago that touched my heart greatly. No, it wasn't from this blog, but my other blog at the Cockeyed Homestead and it touched my heart at a time when I really needed it.

I have readers that have been with me for years. Only a few actually comment, but many other email me through the contact option. Sometimes, I forget what an impact my blog has on others. I'm just chatting away on things in my life. It's a saga...a never ending story that is my life. I hope to inspire, motivate, and bless others with my blogs.

I don't always know for sure even with the high hit counts in the analysis charts. Many may just scan a bit and find out it's not what they were looking for like I do when researching a subject. The internet is great for that. But to know someone is actually reading and digesting what I've written is great. To know that I've actually succeeded in my goal is awesome. It is a reaffirmation to me that I really am answering a calling by blogging.

Thank you readers.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: More Woes

It seems like of late, I've been writing about the woes of living post stroke than my usual upbeat blogs. This week is not different.

The decubitus ulcer (pressure sore) on my foot ruptured. It was my own fault. Instead of being a good girl and staying off it, I played last weekend.

It was the Big Red Apple Festival here. I'd never been before and planned on going for over a month. It was the 30th anniversary too. For this blink-your-eyes-and-it's-gone town, it was a huge deal. I had missed last year's and didn't want to miss it again.

I figured it was going to be like most of the other festivals I've been to since moving here, thirty minutes tops to see everything. I was wrong. Three city streets were closed for several blocks. Of course, I just had to see all the food vendors. Almost every restaurant and church for a three county area was represented. BBQ, gyros, hamburgers, hot dogs, homemade sausages, a variety of ices and ice creams, and baked goods galore. I couldn't decide what to eat. My mouth was drooling over all the goodies. In the end, I opted for a hot caramel apple offered by the local real estate office. I also got the mandatory 30th anniversary Big Red Apple Festival t-shirt. It was offered at a price I couldn't resist...free. I mean really! Go to an apple festival and not eat an apple?! Unheard of.

I bypassed the kid zone with their bounce houses and apple bobbing tanks, and headed for the arts and crafts section two streets over. Handmade jewelry, wood carvings, soaps, aromatherapy oils, paintings, handmade sewing projects, quilts, needle work, honey, jams and jellies, and the alpaca farm wool and alpacas booths all found me perusing their wares. Not that I had need for any of it. It was just so much fun looking at all of it.

My foot got more and more raw from walking the sloping pavement. I hobbled to Lisa's booth at the front of the row. Lisa is the coordinator for the Clarkesville Farmers Market. I'd been talking to her quite a bit this summer about opening a booth in that market next year for the homestead. I'd spent all season doing market research. I could barely take a step without pain. I knew I'd overdone it.

I was looking at her homemade, organic bug repellent when I felt the ooze start inside my sock and AFO. The callus over the blister gave way. I glanced over to my van parked across the street judging if I could make it that far. I had no choice. I walked each painfully gauged step to my van. A police officer dutifully held up traffic for me to cross the street. I apologized for taking so long as I passed him. He said they could wait for me to take my time.

I wasn't even going to try and survey the damaged foot in the car. I knew I'd never be able to put my AFO on again to walk into the house if I did. I drove home thanking God for my cruise control and only having  two red light and a stop sign before home. I left everything in the car and climbed the four steps into the house.Why didn't I take the new ramp?  The ramp is harder on my foot going up.The stairs were quicker. You see I also had to pee. I hollered at Mel yo bring the stuff in from my car as I sat down in the sofa. I pulled my shoe and AFO off. Gingerly, I pulled off my sock. The 4x4 I had folded for padding had soaked through. I peeled off the tape and as I pulled the 4x4 off the callus came with it. The gaping sore greeted me. "Hello again!"

So I'm off my feet for a days. Well sort of. I still force myself to get up, get dressed, and do the necessary bathroom visits, but otherwise I'm off my feet. I've bandaged my foot with Ameris gel and folded 4x4s. My AFO is off unless I have to walk. Six more days and counting until I can order my new shoes. I can hardly wait. Actually by the time you read this, it'll be tomorrow. Then it will be waiting until I can et them. The sore should be almost healed by then.

Even with all this pain, the festival was worth it. Sometimes, you just have to be bad and have fun.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: I've Gone and Done It Now...

I've gone and done it now. I finally got tired of the hurry-up-and-wait for others to act. I've only been talking about my waiting for what...three or four months now?

I figured waiting on Shepherds Center was just another wait time twiddling my thumb awaiting the unknown. Try doing this with one functioning thumb. I was born under the zodiacal sign of the bull. Very apt for me because I'm stubborn as a bull, and hate being patient awaiting on others. I took the bull by the horns.

I made an appointment with a neurosurgeon in the next big town (30 minutes away). Today (Tuesday) was that appointment. I apologized before I began my tale because I might get ugly in the telling. I figured forewarned is better than them thinking I was just another whinny stroke survivor boo-hooing about their life of limitations. You all know I'm NOT one of those people.

I figure I've been more than patient and cooperative for the last few years with trying everything for combating my post stroke spasticity. I've done research upon research for alternatives. I've played guinea pig for treatments, drugs, and anything anybody else could think of including electricity running through my limbs. Endured pain levels where all I could do was curl up and cry because there was no relief. It was all done in the hopes of controlling this demon which has stolen my recovery. Quite literally. I've lost what I've regained of arm and hand function because of the spasticity.

The results of the appointment...they can't help me. In this case, there was a BUT. The kind of BUTs I like. They can't help me but they will make an appointment with someone that can a functional neurosurgeon at Emory University in Atlanta. It means diving an hour, but at this point I'm grasping at straws..any straw available. Somebody on this Earth has to have the answer. These guys literally helped write the textbook on the subject.

Although in looking at the abbreviation (above) for the American Society for Stereostatic and Functional Neurology, it's ASS F(i)N(al) struck me as I first saw it. I don't know if this means they are all asses and what they say is final, or that this is the final straw for my ass. Either way, it's a shot of hope.

Now about my shoes. I've been waiting and burning up Ma Bell for months now also and still no shoes. I thought I had resolved this problem a month ago. Nope! The orthotic company still has not received the necessary paperwork as of this morning. Since I was in town for my neurosurgeon appointment anyhow, I decided to hail hell fire down on both offices until I had an appointment to get my shoes ordered. I was tired of waiting. I'm already starting on yet another decubitus ulcer forming on my AFO clad foot because of my shoes no longer supports my foot correctly. I was not my usual nice person in either office. I went to the orthotics place and picked up another set of the paperwork and hand carried it to my PCP's office. All of four blocks away. I signed in at my PCP's office. No, I didn't have an appointment, I explained to the front desk clerk, but I wasn't leaving until I got this matter resolved today. I explained why I was there too to the poor girl. She in turned called one of the nurses up to the front desk. If all else fails...pass the buck. I explained my situation again. The nurse took a no nonsense attitude and marched to the back of the office where the doctor was seeing patients.

Fifteen minutes later, the nurse returned with the filled out and signed paperwork in hand. I rose to take them from her. She shook her head and walked to the fax machine. Within five minutes, she motioned for me to join her at the desk. She told me to go to the orthotics office and make my appointment for my shoes. She was a nurse after my own heart and she did exactly what I had done in the past. Again, she apologized for the delay in getting it done, but her actions spoke volumes. I went to my brace maker and got my appointment...October 18th, my beloved husband's birthday. Two weeks after that, I'll have my shoes.

It's been a eventful/uneventful couple of months. Hopefully, not soon to be repeated.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Suunday Stroke Survival: News and Insurance Woes

I finally heard from my neurologist about getting an appointment at the Shepherd Center!!!
(Whistling and one-handed clapping)

That's the good news.
(CLUNK! The other shoe dropping)

The bad news is that they are not taking any new patients. My neurologist's office will have to call back in October or November to see if there is an opening. So I;m still waiting. But I do have a toe in the door. Sort of. With Shepherd's being one of the top spinal/brain centers on the east coast, a waiting list is to be expected. The last time I was there a couple dozen years ago, I had an 'in' (leverage). I was a spinal trauma, life flight nurse with a severe injury and they had an experimental surgery. I had doctors pulling for me. That's not the case now. Now, I'm an old (five years post stroke) stroke survivor looking for options. I understand the difference, even though I'm the same patient.

The odds of getting into the Center and having something done before the end of the calendar year is looking pretty slim. Why the push? Well deductibles for one. I've gone round and round with my medical insurance program since my Medicare kicked in back in July. Yes, my insurance is cheaper by $30 a month. My Blue Cross/Blue Shield is now my secondary insurance. They've got divisions called Pre-65 and regular medicare. It shouldn't matter, right? Medicare is Medicare and my BCBS is secondary. But because I'm not 65, by a couple of years, they only reduce my premiums by $30 instead of 66% (100 a month versus 300 a month) like at 65. It's a racket, right? Who besides me, thinks this?

I'd shop for a different policy, if it wasn't mixed up with my retirement pension. It's also terrific insurance that has a maximum out of pocket and a low yearly deductible. Yeah, I'm just griping here because there is nothing I can do about it. With my Medicare, the chances of my hitting my yearly BCBS maximum out of pocket expense ever again is nil. Which is a good thing, but a bad thing when you compare the benefits of the BCBS policy. I can foresee me spending close to the maximum each year without actually crossing the threshold each year.

I guess I've got a choice to make. Either to wait in Shepherd Center or find another neurosurgeon. The bad thing about my move to north Georgia is that I know no one that includes doctors. My years of experience and tracks records means nothing. I'm starting from scratch. Wish me luck.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Incontinence Woes

Now I know I'm not the only person living post stroke with incontinence issues. I've heard from a multitude of you. I've done pretty well getting out of diapers and just using a pad.

Being on Lasix, diuretic, for a bum heart just compounds the problem. I usually plan ahead. I'll take my Lasix two hours before I have to go anywhere. After two hours, the main effects of my Lasix wears down from a roar to a meow. But even still, I'll go before leaving home, go again upon entering a store/doctor's office, go again before heading home from shopping/ doctor's appointment, and run into the house to go again when I get home. It's somewhat routine now. Whatever I bought will have to wait until I take care of the issue. I'll leak in between and sometimes I just don't make it.

It's really embarrassing, as an adult, not to be able to control your bladder! When out in public, other people give you a wide berth especially after an accident. They look at you with that "what's wrong with you" look. Hello! does the cane, limpy walk, or one arm frozen in a 45 degree angle give you a clue? Of course, it was an accident. Who in their right mind would want to pee or worse themselves. Even at home and it's just me. I'm mortified. I dutifully clean myself up and put on fresh clothes waiting for the next accident.

No, I'm not on the self pity pot. I'm stating fact. Doesn't everyone love seeing an adult walking around in urine soaked britches? Do you look at them pitifully? Or do you go about your business? I think most of us would prefer you so the latter. You know the saying, "Sh*t happens" it's true with urine also.

Now in combination with my Dantrolene, Sh*t really happens. I was at the Farmer's Market a couple of weeks ago. I was speaking to the lady in charge of the market about setting up a stall next year. No cramps. No ominous rumble in my belly. The back door flood gates opened. There was no stopping it. It flooded my pad with poo. It ran down my legs and covered my socks and AFO. I halfway expected it to run off my shoes onto the concrete, but it didn't. I excused myself. Totally self conscious, and walked to my car. Every step was punctuating by a renewed onslaught.

I drove the fifteen minutes home wet with the goo being ground into my pores. It seemed like so much longer. At home we had the handyman and his assistant working on the plumbing. Oh great! The water is off! No shower. No flushing toilet. I'd have to use the spare gallon of water to clean off with.

I started feeling off earlier last week. I was more tired than usual. We were only preparing for a hurricane to hit us. You know the vague feeling that something is going wrong with your body but you don't quite know what's wrong. It started with a hot flush one moment and freezing the next. It was followed by that achy feeling. Not enough to stop you doing what you have to do, but just a general sort of thing. I chocked most of this up to missing my medicines one night and according to MedMD they were also side effects for the Dantrolene. I tried to ignore it. It wasn't until there was blood tinged toilet paper after wiping and the feeling like I'd been kicked by a mule in the side a few days later that I knew my problem. I didn't need a doctor or lab results to tell me I had a kidney infection.

Having to wear pads for my incontinence moments, provides a warm, moist environment for bacterial growth no matter how clean you keep yourself. The same with diapers. You have periodic diaper rashes and infections. It's so common place with me that my PCP writes a prescription with four refills every six months. I rarely notice a bladder infection because of my loss of sensation in my pubic area, but there's no ignoring a full blown kidney infection.  So this week I'm battling a kidney infection. I'm happy to report its on the mends. A few days of sulfur always stops it.. Thank God!

It's always the side stuff that goes with any diagnosed problem, like a stroke, that runs you ragged.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Quote Rings True

I happened upon a quote this week and it got me thinking.

There are several different themes and variations to this proverb, I found them researching this one, but this one struck home for me.

Most of us go through life just plodding along including me. We live each day one after another like a donkey tethered to a water wheel. It's not until we are hit/punched in the face with adversity that we get the opportunity to challenge ourselves. We have three choices: excel, or fail, or accept somewhere in the middle.

Now, nobody really wants to fail. Failures don't give you that warm fuzzy feeling and pride in your success, does it? Nah! Just the opposite. It feels like a punch in the gut by a wrecking ball. So the choices are really two: excel or accept somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the middle works until you learn to excel.

After a stroke, it feels like you've been punched in the gut. Your whole life has been turned upside down and even twisted in a kaleidoscope fashion without the pretty image. Unless you are one of the blessed few that recover everything within a month after your stroke, you are looking at adversity that may last years, or even the rest of your life.

At first, it's frustrating to relearn what you knew how to do yesterday. It's a hard, rocky road. There is no smooth, grassy lane to side step onto. You just have to knuckle down and plod on to regain even the previously simple tasks you had been doing for decades before your stroke. Learning or relearning is never easy. Just after my stroke, I compared myself to my six-month old grandson. I was having to learn to feed, speak, walk, and toilet train myself all over again.

Once the basics was relearned more or less, I entered into childhood again. There were tasks of reading, comprehension, math, cooking, and cleaning. I'm still struggling with some of these items even five years after my last stroke. All this time, I'm also battling grief over the loss of what my strokes had taken away from me. Temper tantrums, think a two-year old, stemming from frustration. This is compounded by PBA (pseudobulbar affective disorder), tremors, and spasticity added as side effects of my strokes. Nothing like kicking a horse when it's down.

I ventured into my teen years by adding driving into the mix. I reactivated my immortal and I-know-everything teen attitudes too.  This I did as a survival mechanism. I was experimenting with what I could do and doing what I wanted to do. I was testing boundaries. I added activities I was doing before my strokes like knitting, spinning, and homesteading. It's not an easy process and I'm learning/relearning as I go. This time, I without wanting to date or deal with boys/men so it's easier. I also walk to the beat of my own drummer so it doesn't matter what others think. This a positive side of approaching the teenage years again being over 50.

All of this happened in a matter of months instead of years because I'd been here before. I was a head strong with a genius level IQ before my stroke. I still am somewhere in the deep recess of my mind. It's still trying to navigate around the dead patches in my brain. As I said before, I'm still trying to perfect my relearning in all the ages like toilet training from the toddler age, tempering my adventurousness, and rebellious side, but holding onto the fun.

This journey through adversity, I have learned more than I did the first time around this life and gained a level of wisdom I couldn't have learned without it. I've always thought that death was an absence of learning. A stroked brain is the mother of relearning a different way. I've used my creativity to a level that I couldn't have dreamed was possible by figuring out how to do what I needed or wanted to do. It's cockeyed, but it's getting done. So what if it isn't done the same way everyone else does. I'm a unique individual in a world of copy cats. You know what? I kind of like it like that. Why be ordinary in you life when you can be EXTRAordinary.

Nothing is impossible.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

We Survived the Storm

Well, we survived Irma. While watching this huge storm creep up Florida at 15 mph, we were preparing for it even here in the northeast Georgia mountains.Mel saw an Amber Alert on FaceBook for the state of Florida. The whole state was buried under the storm. The winds and outer bands of the storm proceeded to us before it even made landfall near Tampa.

At 6:45 AM, it was on it's way to us, but even bouncing off the coast, it was still a category 1 hurricane. Mel and I both moved away from Orlando and southeast Georgia to these mountains expecting never to have to deal with hurricanes ever again. This storm was too big. It was picking up warm water from the Gulf and the Atlantic.

Having lived for decades threatened each year by these storms, all our preparations were made. I'd been canning like a mad woman all summer long. Food would not be an issue. Loss of power for an extended period of time would be difficult but not an insurmountable issue. We cook with gas and we had a store of charcoal. The major snag would be the freezer stuff, but I could can all the meat products in a pinch so we really wouldn't lose anything. It would just take time to do. The ice would load the coolers in the meantime for milk and cheeses. The eggs weren't washed so they were still covered in their bloom so they would keep for a week or more at 60 degrees without spoiling.

We were as prepared as we could be for the advancing storm of the century. Sort of. The new chicken coop to protect our flock wasn't complete so they still roost on our front porch. They could go underneath the porches or trailer if it got really bad. The weather service was predicting 50 mph winds even though the storm status had been reduced to a tropical storm. We figured down in our hollow we'd get maybe 40 mph winds. We shouldn't have to worry about flooding with the creek 100 feet below the house.

By nightfall, we hunkered down and were watching Netflixs when we heard a loud cracking sound soon followed by the a loud boom and vibration of a large tree falling. Yes, we felt it 1/4 mile away. The lights went out. We were ready with lanterns. We watched the trees bend and sway as the wind tried to whipped them into submission. The chickens on the porch were blown off the porch rails. The hens uttered shocked cries as the wind knocked them onto the porch. Soon they gave up trying to roost on the rails favoring the shelter of the wood pile. By the morning, they were tired, wind blown and alive none the worse given the night's events.

Also by the morning we found that while we survived the tropical storm, we were hit by tornado Flynn. Ah, come on Jo! Tornadoes don't have names. But I tell you honestly, this one did in the form of our 16-week old kitten, Flynn. He had blown through the inside of our home like a tornado during the night. Cat food food dishes were upset and their contents littered the floors. Towels had been unfolded and dragged hither and yon, candles separated from their candle sticks. The guitar case had been used  as a monkey bar. There was nothing on the end tables and two dining room tables that escaped his notice. Everything was a toy to be played with and dropped on the floor.

It took the better part of the day just cleaning up the mess he made! He was so-o-o naughty that when I went to Walmart for extra paper towels, I saw this dog coat and HAD to buy it for him. He still can't figure out how to really walk around in it yet. He'll appreciate it this winter. Flynn definitely had a flashback moment to his feral beginnings. I chock it up to him being bored out of his gourd from being inside for a day and a half because of the rain.

Anyhow, back to my tale of the storm.

We ventured outside to survey the damage. The rain had stopped around 7 AM. Branches were strewn all over the place. Mel grabbed the larger branches and limbs to clear the driveway. I grabbed the smaller one starting a pile for the debris. We made our way up the drive to the main road. We found the cause of our power outage. A large popular tree had fallen during the storm. A power line was visible underneath. Going half a mile down the main road in the other direction, an old oak tree blocked any forward progress downing even more power lines. The impact of these huge trees with the road actually broke the trees into large sections. We headed back home to work on more clean up work and await our electric company to restore power. Power was restored to our section within 19 hours. We are lucky. Over 75% of the county lost power and still 40% is still dark. After three days, we are still picking up the smaller sticks. Volunteers are still clearing trees late into the night. We've got a good start on the kindling pile for winter. This area just isn't used to tropical storms like this blowing through.

The refuse, chipped up trees, have found a new home...our garden. We've volunteered as a dump site for some tree services. Our orchard area and garden will soon be covered a two-foot thick layer of the stuff. It will decompose over winter and be ready for an additional layer of compost (chicken and rabbit manure, straw, and kitchen scraps). It'll be ready to plant in the Spring. For every cloud there is a silver lining. This is ours.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Adapting Using YouTube

As I've said, I've become a YouTube junkie since my strokes. Most videos are short and to the point. Some offer in depth details on how to accomplish certain things. There are also a pile of videos on anything you can imagine. For many, this is a untapped resource.

Now I don't think everyone that makes a video is an expert on what they are showing. Far from it. A lot of YouTube creators are novices just like me. Me, I'm Abby Normal so I enjoy quirky creativity. Otherwise known as thinking outside the box. If there was only one way to do things, let's face it as a stroke survivor, we'd be up the creek without a paddle.

I like options. I guess that's my saving Grace. I don't like things to be the same. I honestly like change as long as its for the better. I know life is about adapting to change. Otherwise, I feel like a smelly, stagnating pond yearning for a refreshing input of clean water.A chance to rejuvenate into something more. That's not to mean I welcomed my strokes. I would be certifiably nuts to want that. But still, being paralyzed, recovering, the spasticity battles, and everything else has been a challenge to overcome. I've never faced a challenge without giving the old college try of beating it. This was has been daunting. But I still haven't given up.

I watch assorted YouTube channels and think, "How can I do that?" If I reach a decision that it's impossible right now, I watch several others and see how that creator did it. If I watch enough ideas, I eventually figure out a way to do it or not. Somethings even with adaptation isn't possible without help.
sweet potatoes
Last week, I harvested sweet potatoes and left them to dry. It being Sunday, homesteaders never have a day off, it was either process them or start to losing them. I wasn't going to allow that. They weren't huge, but enough that two would make a nice side dish. We are still amending our soil for better harvests. Next year, will be better.

I wanted to leave the nicer ones whole and store them in a box for fresh baking. I do love baked sweet potatoes. I could make a whole meal with them. Meanwhile there was a slew of them which were misshapen and sliced by my shovel that had to be canned. I've never frozen sweet potatoes before so I didn't even consider it.

left whole for storage, >than 1/2 the harvest
Now as a person with one usable hand, I have extreme difficulty peeling vegetables. Most times I leave the skin on and just scrub them. But sweet potatoes have to be skinned before canning. I asked Mel to peel them and she was disinclined.  I placed them in my big 23-qt water bath canner and boiled them for 5 minutes to soften the skins. I was hoping to loosen the skins enough too peel them with my fingers. It worked. I sat by my jars and peeled, sliced, and filled my jars. After about an hour, I had filled five pints jars this way. Mel took pity on me and peeled the rest with a paring knife. Soon, my pressure canner was full of 18 pint jars of sweet potatoes. It took Mel an hour to peel all the rest. It was so much faster with her helping. Not that I couldn't have done it myself, I was getting it done. I did adapt, but allowed for expediency.

Today, it's on to the corn. I saw a YouTube video on how to make a cut corn off the cob easily with a drill and thought, I can do that.
Of course my buckets were larger than my corn device so it took so adaption for me to do it one handed. Although I could have built it.  I left it to Mel to build. Up until now, I froze the corn whole in its shuck, but now I have corn kernels and creamed corn canned too!

With YouTube I've relearned how to garden, knit, spin wool, cook, and assorted other skills I thought were lost to me forever since my strokes.

So if you've ever sat in wonder of how I do all that I do living post stroke, now you have the answer.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday Stroke Survival: Waiting and Waiting and...

Pause! Still!
This week, I'm still feeling like the Energizer Bunny on pause. I finally heard from the nurses at my PCP's office...they lost the paperwork. Geez, thanks a lot! Let me just drive an hour round trip and let me fix your mistake. No, that's not going to happen. With the big hurricane hitting Texas, gas prices here have gone up 70 cent a gallon. I made that trip once to get it for the first time. Now, it's on them. Hanger Orthotics and my PCP's office are only a mile apart.

Now, I understand I'm not my PCP's only patient. It's a huge practice with eight doctors and support staff. I'm going to let my fingers do the walking yet again on Monday.

I'm still in a holding pattern with my neurologist also. I haven't heard BOO from them yet. Yes again, another huge practice with ten neurologists and five satellite offices, but still. I've been patient. More than patient and in pain. I'm taking the full dose of Dantrolene (100 mg a day). Side effects have been irritating including
headaches (not migraine strength, but dull and constant), diarrhea, and general fatigue, but no extreme sleepiness or abnormally low heart rates at night.  The last two are a plus over the Zanaflex and Valium. But, at least it keeps my pain levels just below uncontrollable tears or screaming. So I guess it's working. I'm also thinking of buying stock in Imodium. Supposedly, the diarrhea will stop as my body gets adjusted to the medicine. Here's hoping.

If I don't hear from them, I think I may drive to my closest satellite office for my neurologist on Friday to speak to a real person. It's only fifteen minutes away instead of an hour plus one way. Put that person on the spot for answers. That poor soul. I won't be my abby normal, pleasant self. I'm never at my best in pain, although I do try. I'm tired of listening to computerized voices and leaving messages.

Question...should I go ahead and get my Botox?

The Botox is expensive and does relieve most of the spasticity pain for two months out of three, and it does improve my mobility a little at the red line dose. I know in the past when consulting other doctors for treatment, they have asked that I be Botox free for at least six months prior to being seen. I'm at the five-month Botox free month now. This my major hold up. I'm hoping for an alternative that works better now instead of next year. Decisions, decisions, and building levels of frustration.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival:When the Muse Fails

The title is taken from my writing days. I've been writing about my stroke, dealing with my strokes, living post stroke, etc for over five years now. This week inspiration fails me on what to write. I try to be inspiring, knowledgeable, comical with my own brand of  humor and insights, and a host of things with this blog. This one may be a whine rather than what I want it to be.

I guess it's just that kind of week where the hurry-up-and-waits, aggravation, and just plain busyness of life on the homestead is weighing me down to much to be inspirational. It's been a blah week.

I've been waiting on a call back from my neurologist about a referral to the Shepherds Center for three weeks now. I don't care if the appointment is three or four months away. Actually, I do because I'm in pain and limbo. But to hear nothing is aggravating! Even with my calls to my neurologist's office...NOTHING. The same thing goes with my PCP, I'm waiting on them to fill out the paperwork so my new shoes can be ordered. With the build-ups on my AFO, I have to have specially altered shoes.  Have I mentioned that I'm impatient? I don't know if it's so much as impatience as it goes against my guiding principal of treat others as you want to be treated. I wouldn't do this to someone else.

It's like dominoes lined up where one has to be set just right to they another in succession to fall. This has to happen before you can go forward. I really don't like depending on others. Because, invariably there are delays.

On the homestead front, things are progressing finally after a delayed start. USIC has done their job (earlier than expected) and marked all the cable, telephone, and electrical lines. Work can continue on the electrical and plumbing issues we have. The driveway is in making access better. The ramps are in so all my home canned goods can be stored in their proper place instead of overflowing on every table, and tucked here and there. Now, my aggravation point is medical and waiting on others to do what they should/have to do.

We've lost an Angora rabbit and hen that I've spent months healing and rehabilitation so they could continue to have a productive life. This hasn't helped lower my aggravation levels any. But then again that's part of homesteading too. It's still frustrating to see them happy and full of life one day and dead the next. I take small comfort in knowing that they were living and thriving because of my efforts.

I always analyze my view points. Am I being too critical? Do I have realistic expectations? Am I being too pushy? The answer is that I don't believe so in this case with the medical hurry-up-and-wait. I know my time schedule of wanting it done now isn't always possible. I know things take time. But is communication unreasonable? If I knew the reason for these delays, I could cope better and be less aggravated. Instead of feeling that I'm not important, my request is unreasonable, and that I'm asking the impossible. I know deep inside that this is not true, but it sure feels that way.

I guess I did find my muse after all, but it's not the text I wanted to write.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday Stroke Survival: The Ramp is In

I believe it was a month ago or longer that I mentioned that we were putting in ramps off our porches for easier access for me into the house. Well, one of them is done and it is the Taj Mal of ramps. Or at least cost wise it should be. Building materials especially pressure treated lumber ain't cheap.

I should mention that we started on the back ramp because it would give me easier access to the food storage building and the animals. Well let me say that this one ramp cost me more than I allotted for both ramps because of an addition I made to the ramp in back. So I'm stopping with the one. A deck that would allow a wheelchair or my wagon to turn around on. I will say that the finished product was nicer, stronger, and more utilitarian than I could have imagined.
porch L store room R

We held off moving my home canned goods into the storage room until the project was completed. Last night, Mel and I moved 16 cases of goods into the store room. Yes, I've been busy. The garden had a lackluster performance year because of a late cold (freezing temps in May!) followed by a blistering short lived heat wave. But I more than made up for it with local contacts. Not that anybody had a stellar year, but homesteading is a community. I traded off herb for vegetables. I even bought a few cases of produce off local vendors. Next year, I'm hoping not to have to buy anything.
Rabbits and chicken at the bottom

Among the weeds are watermelons, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, and black eyed peas. But then again, these same weeds like grasses, clover, wild plantain, wild violets, etc offer free food for our rabbits. Nothing goes to waste here. We are stock piling straw, grass clippings, cardboard, and compost for a major revamp of the garden area late fall. We are going to till it and bury the area in about 24" of this extra material. I'm also going to line the area next to the barn drive through with old, molded straw bales and trying for a living fence in the spring.

Broody/Gimpster's new home
In the rabbit hoop barn (pictured top left), our injured hen from last winter has a safe and secure habitat. She's got a cage up with the rabbits at night. During the day she has the entire 12x24 area to roam around. We set water and food down for her. She can see the other hens and roosters through the chicken wire clad pallets enough to be sociable, but isn't jumped on by the roosters and hens. I did notice that the twice daily physical therapist I did with her wasn't a complete waste of time. She bear weight on the leg to help support her after a dust bath and long enough to scratch with her fully functioning leg. It's only for a matter of
seconds, but she has adapted.  I wish all humans living post stroke like I am the same resiliency and adaptability.

Her new digs even has a nest box just for her. She still gives us an egg a day. This was her saving grace. Otherwise, she would have been culled her months ago. She's so tamed now that even one-handed me can pick her up with barely a ruffled feather. Her head and neck still bears the scars of her narrow escape from the figure with the scythe. Her comb on top of her head is a short, mangled mess instead of her once beautiful comb, but she's a keeper. Like a puppy she comes and greets me whenever I enter the rabbitry.Then, she'll hop up to me and cluck askance for treats. For the past couple of weeks, it has been deer apples that were so bad I couldn't make applesauce, apple pie filling, or apple butter with them. Out of the 65 lbs of deer apples I got for $13, there was about a 3-gallon bucket of bad apples. The chickens go nuts for these.

Well that's it for this week. Remember...
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Dealing with Pain

Since I decided to forgo Botox this round, as you can imagine, the pain that accompanies my spasticity has been a constant companion. Every waking moment it ranges between 7 to 8 and worsens while sleeping. At times, I'll hit 9 or 10 several times a night.

The neurologist I saw for the Baclofen pump, changed my zanaflex to dantrolene to see if it will work better. Meanwhile, I've boosted my oral Baclofen up to the 80 mg maximum again during the slow build up to 100 mg of dantrolene. (1 capsule a day for one week, then 2, then 3 until week four when I take it four times a day) Meanwhile, I'm painfully biding my time. So far, I'm tolerating the new drug well. No outward allergic reactions other than being tired, but no relief either. I'm currently on two pills a day.

You may be wondering how I'm managing my pain. Honestly, the best I can. When the pain level reaches 8 on the scale, I'll stop whatever I'm doing and sit. Not that sitting relieves the pain, but I can't function. I'll keep my mind deterred, somewhat, with games or blogging. I'll even window shop on the computer. Anything but sit idylly by focusing on the pain. I do this until the pain drops a level, and then I'm back at it. This week on the homestead, I'm canning cream soups and broths, and chicken since I butchered two roosters of four that needed culling. I honestly made it harder on myself by not doing this when they were 12 weeks old instead of six months. If they had been under four months old I could have just frozen them. But that's okay, I needed to make cream of chicken soup and cream of mushroom soup anyhow. So far, I've canned a case each of chicken, each cream soup, and two cases of chicken bone broth. Not too shoddy even with the pain I've been in.

This week the back ramp and deck the between the storage building and the porch went in. It wasn't cheap, but well worth every penny spent. The handyman, Ronnie, is also a certified electrician also. Double YEAH! He'll straighten out the panel box and wire the outside buildings for us. He can even handle some of our plumbing issues too. I love it! One stop shopping! I don't need the other "professionals" who won't even give me a call back. I've been waiting on the other guys for weeks. I spent over a dozen years as a business consultant, this is not how to grow a successful business. Even common sense will tell you this.

But as usual, I digress from today's topic. When I know the cause of my pain, in this case spasticity. I only baby the pain when I can't stand it and when it physically stops me from what I'm doing. Until then, I take frequent breaks, but I keep going. While I've got pain medication, I use it as a last resort. Usually when the pain makes me physically ill. Who wants to be in pain AND vomiting too? Not this gal. A 30-tablet pain prescription med will last me a year. Hot showers help, but I have an issue with them. While the showers help with the stiffness, it also raises my heart rate. Then I'm swapping muscular pain for chest pain with difficulty breathing. It's a balance game between the two. I also can't live in the shower. Biofreeze helps too. I love this stuff. I'll also add Sriacha to foods to increase my capsaicin and garlic to my diet to fight the pain internally.

When I've tried everything and it doesn't bring the pain down to manageable levels, nothing is left but to cry. But even crying does no good. I just end up with a blotchy face and s runny nose.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: It's a Go-No Go

Frustration has set in this week for me. I met with the neurologist about possibly getting a Baclofen pump to ease my spasticity instead of Botox. He told me very bluntly, that to get enough Baclofen into my spine to make the arm work again I'd never walk again. What a trade off! I had to question (about 2 seconds worth) if it was worth it. My mobility is just as important to me as getting arm function back. Granted the Baclofen pump would improve the spasticity in my lower leg and I might eventually be able to get out of my AFO and improve my mobility. It would also stop three of the medicines I take now for the spasticity, dry needling, and the Botox in the leg. It might even reduce the constant, painful cramping in my arm.

This week, I hooked grocery bags filled with a gallon of milk and about ten pounds of other groceries on my affected arm and it didn't budge! That's how bad my arm has gotten. The only time it straightens to full extension is in therapy with dry needling with electricity exhausting the muscle and the PT using a good bit of his strength. That's once a week and it only lasts for 30 minutes.

Just how bad do I want my arm function back? It wasn't the fix I hoped it would be. We discussed other options... rhizotomy or peripheral neurectomy, and central ablative procedures, such as cordectomy, myelotomy, or stereotactic procedures. The one that seemed to offer the best hope was selective rhizotomy. All surgeries carry risks especially for me with my heart condition. The other consideration is that they are all considered a permanent means of getting the results I want. There is no going back and reversing what has been done.

Not that I don't trust my neurology team, I do. But I asked for a referral to Shepherds Center. They ARE the best in Georgia for spines. They rebuilt part of my spine for me a quarter of a century ago. I'm weighing my options carefully. If anyone can tell me the ins and outs of any procedure and the best outcome, it's them. I'm still waiting on the appointment with Dr Taubin, their spasticity specialist. I should hear some time this week. In the meantime, I'm doing research. With the last increase of Botox not changing anything, I'm looking for alternatives.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Poor, Dumb Animals VS Us

You can learn a lot watching poor, dumb animals and how they adjust to adversity. Here on the Cockeyed Homestead. we've had our share of hurt critters of late. This winter we had our chickens ransacked by predators. We lost three quarters of our chicken flock due to coyotes and stray dogs. We had one hen narrowly escape being a snack in one of these attacks. After nursing her back to health, we released her back into our new flock of roosters, hens, and our three surviving hens from our old flock. This hen, Broody, wasn't left unscathed by the attack. She recovered by only regained the use of one leg. She uses her wing as a crutch. She flies short distances and hops everywhere.

Broody helping Mel
She's as happy and content being disabled. We called her Broody because she was the only New Hampshire Red that went broody last year and even hatched out one chick. We were happy she survived. She spent half the winter in a old milk crate by the wood stove. Now, Mel calls her Gimpster. She still lays eggs for us and we are waiting to see if she will go broody again this year. Not that we have a New Hampshire Red rooster anymore, the attacks killed both of them, but still she may. Broody/Gimpster has a new challenge, her disability makes her easy prey for the randy roosters in the new flock. We've had to separate her from the flock for her own safety in the rabbit hoop house.She does everything that a regular hen does except scratch. It would be kind of hard to do with only one functioning leg.

Another example is our self black English Angora rabbit, Dustin. We treated him for ear mites earlier in the summer. We treated all our rabbits when we shaved them before the summer heat sets in. Imagine wearing a thick, six-inch long fur coat in 90+ degree weather. Yikes! Anyhow, Dustin developed an ear infection. Within two hours of him starting to shake his head to wry neck or torticollis. At first we thought he was dying like his other rabbitry mate did earlier in the day because of the heat. We thought he'd had a stroke which is fairly common in rabbits. But on closer examination and putting him in an air conditioned space, I was wrong. Just an ear infection. Then was a quick trip to the Tractor Supply for an injectable antibiotic for him.

Dustin at 1 yr old
Let me just say, it was touch and go for about a week. I began doing physical therapy with the rabbit. He was our only unrelated buck. We needed him to be healthy for breeding purposes. He also had luxurious fur. To lose this buck would really set us back. Not only the price of the rabbit, but to the tune of $340 a year in fur and future offspring. But besides the monetary loss, he was Mel's only remaining Angora. He was also nearly blind now with the scarring on his corneas from the towels we placed in his basket. After two months we realized that Dustin was a lost cause for breeding ever again. The therapy did very little to help him. We had a long discussion what to do with him. He appears content and is still up for some of his old antics with his new lot in life.

Dustin still had luxurious fur as it grew back out. He needed grooming more often (3 X a week) because of the movements he made going from one part of the cage to the other was causing him to mat more. Mel said it hurt her to watch him throw/roll around in his cage.We discussed putting him down, but that would break Mel's heart also. But I told her to really look at him. He wasn't in pain. His appetite was good. He was healthy except for the head tilt. He could still lead a long life. Rabbits live almost 16 years. He was only two when this occurred. He had adjusted to this new way of getting around. He had no trouble finding his food or water dish. He was just messier going about it.

Yet another example is our newest addition to this homestead, Flynn. We found him, actually Mel and Nnyus did, when he was just 5 weeks old in our back acreage. She brought in this little feral kitten and our hearts melted. We cleaned him up, fed him, and cuddled the daylights out of him. None of our female cats wanted anything to do with him. Only Logan, our black Manx, allowed the kitten any where near him. Soon the kitten was comfortable around the household pets and us.

We began noticing that this kitten had a problem. He only hears a narrow range of sounds. It doesn't stop him though. The chickens didn't know what to make of this small, furry creature. Flynn hides under the monkey grass borders along the front walk and pounces on them. He thinks it's great fun to watch them jump straight up in the air. He'll hide again waiting on the next unsuspecting chicken. Keep in mind that the chickens are four times as big as him. He has no fear. We do startle him when we approach him from behind. Then it's his turn to jump straight up in the air. He's on the verge of flight but then he realizes it's only us.

Okay, I've given three examples of handicapped animals and how they adapted. So what's my point? Why is it so hard for human beings to adapt to challenging situations like living post stroke? Is it because we have long term memories? Is it because we are always comparing ourselves to others and the way we were? Why do we do that to ourselves? We are only hurting ourselves.

Isn't it time we stopped and learned by their example? "Well, this sucks!"Get on with living. Each day strive to do a little bit more. "Well that didn't work." Let me figure out another way to do it. Now, I'm not saying being a poor, dumb animal is better. I'm saying be smarter. Forget about the past. It does no good to dwell on it. Get busy with living. You survived your stroke as much as you didn't want to. Time to get off the self pity pot. Get moving.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: You Know You're Paralyzed, Right?

"Doh!" was my response.
This following question another patient made they made after hearing me tell my physical therapist what I have been doing on the homestead since I last saw him a week ago.

This was followed by the usual comment I hear, "You do more before noon than most people do all day!"

Yes, that's true. I operate a mini farm and homestead. To others homesteaders, I'm barely doing anything. That's true also. I'll call a homesteading friend and they will have done twice the amount of work done that day. I guess it all depends on your point of view. It really doesn't seem that much to me, but when you recite my list of morning chores most "ordinary" folks are exhausted just thinking about it.

From 4AM to 7AM, you'll find me in the kitchen. I'm starting the day's baking. Breads, rolls, breakfast pastries, and desserts for the week are prepped. I'll also eat my breakfast. Usually yogurt, homemade granola cereal, or oatmeal. Occasionally, I'll scramble some eggs and have some toast. I'll hop on the computer to play some wake up my mind games, answer and read emails, check the day's schedule, etc. I'll feed the cats and dogs, giving them plenty of ear ruffles before I head outdoors with them tagging along.

From 7AM to 10 AM, you'll find me with the chickens, rabbits, or harvesting the garden. I'll gather wild plantain, poplar and oak leaves, assorted grasses, clover, and other weeds for the rabbits. While technically their diets is complete with fodder and timothy hay, I figure the rabbits would like different things to munch on too. I sort of rotate how much of each they get per day and change it up. Each will get individual attention...mostly snuggles and nose to nose Eskimo kisses. Dustin is usually ready for his morning physical therapy session. I usually feed him first so he's ready by the time I finish everyone else. I'll gather the eggs before I head inside. I'll also set up Mel's morning cup of tea.

The chickens get the bucket full of caterpillars, beetles, and assorted bugs I find in the garden as well as their ration of fermented grains (wheat. barley, sunflower, and oats) and a commercial organic chicken  food. The chickens will also spend the bulk of their day free ranging in our wooded back acreage. I'm also setting up next rotation the fodder and fermented grains. Broody or Gimpster (as Mel calls her) gets up in the dog crate to be fed and have her alone time away from the roosters who aggravate her unmercifully. The cage door isn't latched and she lets herself out when she is ready to rejoin the flock.

All in all, our animals are pampered if not spoiled rotten.

From 10AM to 3PM, I'm baking whatever I started earlier and washing the day's harvest. Then, I'm processing the harvest. Canning tomatoes, okra, and eggplant (for right now). Black-eyed peas, herbs, or other harvest is set on trays in the oven for the pilot light to dehydrate them.

From 3PM to 5PM, I'm usually doing my off the homestead doctor or therapist visits, feed stores run (including for us), etc. Or, I'm grooming rabbits. Or, I'm helping Mel with this or that project around the homestead. I'm also prepping dinner unless I'm running late and pick something quick before coming home.

6PM to 10PM, I'm cleaning up the day's mess in the kitchen. Not that I'm not doing this during the day too. We are watching our favorite Netflix shows or watching YouTube. But I'm also knitting. Right now, I'm working on a 12" wide scarf for Mel. After that project is done, it'll be socks, baby booties for crisis pregnancy, and dishcloths.

From 10PM to midnight, I'm usually at my computer. Playing mind building or just for fun games, writing blogs, answering and reading the 50 odd emails that have come in during the day. I'll finally lay down for the night amidst the sounds of crickets, frogs, cat purrs, and an occasional coyote call.

So what do you think? I'm I too busy or just busy enough? Yes, I know I'm partially paralyzed. Yes, I know I'm living post stroke. The point is...I'm living.

Nothing is impossible.