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.