Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Redefining Disabilities Project~ Post #4
4. Do you think that it’s more important to emphasize medical treatment, life skills, community integration, or a combination of these things?
I think all of it is important in varying aspects. A marriage of all of it will allow you to be successful in finding your new path. Medical treatment for a medical problem, adaptive life skills training to help you function in new adventure, and community integration to find resources to help you out along the way. And, success is what we strive for.
While in the beginning of course medical treatment is paramount. For me, it was a stroke. Strokes kill even when being treated. Continued care is necessary because the underlying cause still exists. Even if you keep your blood pressure under control (mine was at the time of my stroke), lower your cholesterol (as low as possible-genetics works against me), eat healthier and become the ideal weight, and reduce all the risk factors...you could still have another stroke. My cousin died from his stroke and he was perfectly healthy before it. So medical monitoring is essential.
Adaptive life skills help you function with your new disability or limitation. But then again, life is full of adaptations even without a disability.
I was given a leg quarter of BBQ chicken, my first nonmechanically, chopped meal, in the hospital for one meal. I was faced with the dilemma of how to eat it. If it had been separated at the joint between the leg and the thigh, it would have been an easy thing pick up each piece and eat it, but it wasn't. It was in one slippery piece. Now normally, I would pierce it with a fork and grab a knife with the other hand, I would cut it except I only had one working hand.
I could have called the aide to cut it for me, but I wouldn't have that luxury at home so I had to figure it out. I tried to cut it without holding it and ended up with it in my lap. Thanks be to God, they used bath towels as bibs. I tried putting the leg bone end in my mouth to hold it and cut it with the knife. I will say at this point, dinner knives are horrible to cut through anything. The chicken went one way, and the knife went the other making a racket went it hit the floor. Luckily the chicken only flew as far as the edge of the bedside table.
There was no way this commercially grown bird was going to beat me! After you raise and butcher a couple hundred birds, this should be easier. I should be able to figure it out. The sauce was tasty. It was in splotches on my face and hand and even up my nonfunctioning arm. The leg was juicy evident by the amount of juices flowing from where I stuck with a fork. I ended up sticking it with my fork and twisting tiny pieces of meat off the bone. And yes, I did call an aide after I'd eaten my fill to help clean up.
The next day I asked my occupational therapist what would have been the proper way to handle the chicken situation. She pulled out her catalog and showed me all the nifty utensils out there for one handed folks like me. It had been an overlooked life skill until I asked. Sometimes, you just have to ask questions to find the answer.
I might never fully recover the function I lost with my stroke, but while I'm waiting for all this therapy to pay off, I still have a honey-do list a mile long to complete. By using what I was taught and putting my own personal thinking outside the box into action, there are very few things I can't or shouldn't do. About the shouldn't dos, there are things that shouldn't be done because of safety issues. I know it's for my own protection, but I can't help pushing against boundaries.
Outside or community resources are often an untapped entity. For me, a stroke survivor stroke group, internet resources, and transportation were things I discovered in my first ten months after my stroke. In the back of my mind, I always knew they were there or something like it. I've pretty well found a wealth of resources for whatever I've needed for the things that I can't or shouldn't do.
Driving to therapy appointments and the grocery store was impossible the first few months after my stroke. I had to depend on my children. But there were times that their work schedule interfered. I found a community transport that for a small fee would take me where I wanted to go. We don't have public transport in this town. Everyone drives or takes taxis (expensive!). But driving with my left foot and adding a knob to my steering wheel made driving again possible for me. Of course I had to build my confidence up to drive alone. I also found my seat belt made it impossible to turn left far enough to see clearly on my left side. A doctor's note exempts me legally from wearing one.
You are never alone. There might be someone in the community or internet who has walked in your shoes, and may have a solution for you. I'm constantly saying, "I wish there was..." I search and behold. The answer is apparent.
But with all this information, and trial and error you go through, remember to pay it forward. What do I mean by this? You've gathered this hard won help. Now share it. That's what I do as part of my blog, peer visitations, and survivor groups. I share with others that can use the help. Don't just sit back and assume that you can't possibly be helpful to others because you are still going through the transition. You've learned more than someone just starting out on the journey. You've got a lot to offer. This is probably the most important community resource around.
This ends the fourth installment of the Redefining Disability Project. Tune in next Tuesday for another question and my answer.