Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: Still Canning Post Stroke

The green bean harvest is finally done. The beans still left on half a dozen plants will be the seed stock for next year's garden. I've left the beans on the plant to die naturally. Then I'll pick the beans and shell them. I canned 100 new pint jars of green beans. Coupled with what's leftover from last year's harvest, we have enough jars to eat green beans twice a week until next year's harvest. We've been eating fresh green beans for the last two months too. It was a great year for green beans for us. All from the equivalent of two pack of seeds. I planted seeds from my 2017 seed saving efforts. So we are self sufficient in green beans. Yeah! Only about $0.30 a jar of homegrown, chemical free goodness.

 I've canned about three cases (36 pint jars) of large diced tomatoes, 2 cases each of stewed tomatoes, 2 cases of tomato salsa. I'm still picking tomatoes. I've also 12-gallon bags of tomatoes in the freezer for making sauce later on. We are almost at the end of our tomato harvest. All of this is from 14 Roma, 2 Cherokee Purple, and 2 beefsteak tomato plants. Plus we've been able to have sliced, fresh tomatoes at every meal for the past month. I'll let some of each go to seed production for the rest of the season until frost.We are now self sufficient in tomatoes too. Yeah! For diced tomatoes $0.30, stewed tomatoes $0.50, for the salsa $0.70 a jar because I purchased other tomatoes and peppers to go into it.

We grew a heirloom bi-colored corn in the orchard this year. I didn't expect much, but I harvested 34 salvageable  ears of plump corn. It was better than I expected. I've been shucking corn on the porch today and will be canning it up into pints jars. While a pint jar will hold two cups of corn and liquid, I normally will put only a cup of corn in each jar. That's about the most the two of us will eat in a serving.

I'll also be making 1/2 pint jars of my pickled corn relish about a case worth because Mel doesn't like it. Her loss is my gain. I have a few peppers leftover from putting up my tomato salsa that will go great in them. I ended up with 40 pint jars of corn. A little short for once a week eating. So almost self sufficient in corn. A Semi-Yeah! I'll buy half a case of corn this month to round out our needs, but that's better than buying two or three cases. A half case of corn is about $10 right now(about 15 ears). With the addition of the case of corn about $0.50 a jar.

The reason for bi-colored corn is Mel loves Silver Queen, a white corn. While I love yellow corn. What can I say, I hail from the plains of NE. I'm just a transplanted southerner. This compromise gives us both what we like to eat.

By gerry-rigging the corn cutter onto a bucket, I could easily take the kernels off the cob one-handed. The other side has slits in to to hold the sliding prongs. To substitute the hand pressure, I used rubber bands looped around the end of the cutter so all I had to do is push the cob through to take off the kernels. The hardest part was finding a bucket the cutter could stretch across. This 2-gallon bucket worked well. The next time I purchase a corn cutter, I'll get a longer one like the one pictured. They usually last about three seasons and become dull or break.

How do I figure our yearly intake? I calculate a meat and two vegetables for one meal a day. This is our big meal of the day. If I want to serve the vegetable once a week, then it's 52 jars. Twice a week is 104 jars needed. Leftover jarred vegetables go into a container and into the freezer. When the container is full, it's time to make a large batch of soup or Mulligan stew. I'll hold out enough for two meals and can the balance.

The idea of canning 52 jars of anything may seem pretty daunting. But I small batch can. One small canner load at a time (8 pint jars). It all adds up. Before my strokes, I thought it was nothing to can several cases of jarred produce in one day in my big pressure canner, 20 pints or 8 qts at a time. Now, all I can manage between prepping and canning is about 16 jars or one large canner load. A day's harvest equals a day or two days of canning and/or dehydrating. I don't have the energy to harvest and preserve that much a day. My foot sure won't let me especially this year with all the problems I've been having. So small batch canning it is. Perfect for harvest from a small garden.

It was far easier to do more before my stroke, but it's still doable even living post stroke. It takes more steps going to and from the breakfast nook table where I let my jars cool down and seal carrying one jar at a time. The same goes from cleaning the jars before they go into the food storage building. But I place all the cleaned jars back into the case the jars came in to carry case by case of filled jars into the store building. Little by little, it gets done.

I love going "shopping" into my storage building after the fresh eating season is done. I'll carry my market bag and pick the jars I need for the week. The same goes for my freezer. I'll "shop" and meal plan at the same time because I know what's available on the shelves. I stocked it, after all. Remember, I upcycled all my plastic bags into plarn and knitted or Mel crocheted the market bags. When I actually do go to the grocery store, I also love looking at the items and saying, "I don't need that." I'd bypass the vegetable aisle totally if the spices weren't on the same aisle. If it weren't for our dairy, cola addiction, and paper needs I could by pass the grocery store all together for the most part. I love the  wide, long handle on this pattern. I can wear it across my body to distribute the weight better, and it doesn't cut into my hand.

Isn't that grand. I used to not mind shopping too much. But now, it's a chore. Stores are too large to navigate now, especially with a bum foot. I spend more time waiting on a parking spot or motorized cart than I do shopping. It seems that everything I need to purchase is in the back of the store or some distant corner. So I'd rather not shop and instead do my version of shopping. Yes, being a one-handed canner ain't easy, but it sure beats going to the regular grocery store.

Speaking of going out and about, last weekend was the Cornelia's Big Red Apple Festival. A street fair is big goings on for this small town. This was my second year attending, but Mel had not been in the five years she's been here. I love looking at all the crafty vendor's wares. For the past two years I've had foot issues while attending. Last year was a ruptured pressure sore and this year, y'all know the story.  This year's event was marred by a additional event. One that brought home how much I've lost with my strokes.

We had just arrived. The whole downtown was full of people. We were walking down one side road full of vendors and a corn hole tournament was going on. In case you don't know, Corn hole is a game that you toss small bags of corn into  a hole in a board. The boards themselves are elaborately painted with all sorts of designs and logos. Some boards are pieces of art. Believe it or not, it takes quite a bit of skill to get a bag into the hole and the surface is heavily varnished. I was admiring the skill of the contestants and the boards.

A young woman was standing across from me. I saw her look up at the sky and go tense. When I saw her eyes roll back in head, my brain immediately registered that she was having a seizure. I was close enough to grab her, but didn't. Between my foot and balance issues, we'd both end up on the pavement. I yelled at Mel behind me, but it was too late. The woman fell straight back to the ground.

Mel had turned to see her fall. She was at her side faster than anyone else. The woman was bleeding profusely from the gash on the back of head as Mel tried to roll her onto her side. Another man tried to help, but he was rolling her onto her back. I tried to yell at him, "No, on her side!" But all that came out was gibberish. The stress of the situation kicked in my aphasia. Anyhow, Mel said it and he understood. I could see the head wound quite clearly. An artery was spurting blood. Mel put direct pressure on it while someone in the gathering crowd dialed 911. I heard the woman explain to the operator the events. She said she fell and seized. I looked at her and shook my head no. I managed to stuttered falteringly, "Seized then fell." I knew the mechanism and chain of events was important.

All this happened in a matter of seconds. I stood by helpless, frustrated, and angry in those seconds. I
knew what to do. I wanted to act and/or direct the flow of action. I had the training. I'd spent 20 years as a first responder and RN/Paramedic on ambulances and a life flight chopper. And yet, I stood on the side lines unable to help because of the aftermath of my strokes. I couldn't talk or do what needed doing.

Soon other first responders and the police came. I saw the woman was well taken care of and breathed a sigh of relief. The woman stopped seizing and she opened her eyes. As with a post seizure events, she was confused and scared. Then, she closed her eyes again. Everyone thought she had lost conscientiousness. I responded, "No, postictal," quite clearly.

It's strange the way aphasia works on the brain. I can forget how to say simple words and phrases, but medical terms I can say and write correctly. They checked her pulse and breathing. They were fine and I was right. Mel having been relieved of her duties by others stood up. Her hand were covered in blood and dirt up to her elbows. Her shirt wore the stains of her battle of moments. She was shaking from the adrenaline release.

Finally, there was something I could do. I grabbed a towel and led her to a bench. She kept saying, "I gotta..." I simply uttered soothing sounds as I cleaned up the worse of the gore. She was shell shocked. She wasn't a professional, she was a bystander doing what needed to be done. Then she jumped up and ran to a water spigot. She was scrubbing at the stains on her shirt by the time I got to her. A vendor nearby came over with two cups of ice cold apple cider.

After downing the welcomed cold juice, we continued on to enjoy the festival. I got some great ideas for a booth when we got ready to be a vendor. Mel picked up some contacts also for her dog training business from the VFW and some veterinarian clinics in the surrounding area. We even found a vet that can treat rabbits. No free t-shirts nor candied apples this year, but a wealth of contacts and information.

As a result of the orthopedist's visit, I now have another appointment with my neurosurgeon for the rhizotomy of my arm. I'll schedule an appointment with another orthopedist closer to home following the healing of the rhizotomy.

Nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Rant and I'm Pissed!

Be warned. This is far from my usual type blog. I'm so angry that I could chew nails and spit them out like a machine gun at a certain medical specialist!

I just got back from Atlanta's Emory Orthopedist.  I spent two hours driving to this appointment. Going 10 MPH on I-85 once in Atlanta on the six lane roadway. The office was in mid-town, of course. I spent a total of an hour and a half in the doctor's office and got an X-ray of my foot and ankle I didn't need. I went to the orthopedist for a lengthen of my Achilles tendon that had contracted. Tendons do not show up on x-rays. Doh!

I met with the doctor's resident first. Pretty well standard for university hospitals. No biggie. Then, the doctor came in and we chatted a bit. He asked how I came to his service. I explain my journey of months to him through this and that specialist. This doctor just shook his head and said I should ghve seen him in the first place to get my foot and and ankle fixed.

He talked about lengthening this lateral tendon and shortening that one, releasing the Achilles, and rebuilding my foot and ankle to get me out of the AFO permanently and walking normally again. Finally, something we could agree on! I asked him when and he flat told me he refused to do the surgery! Nothing like giving someone a lollipop and snatching it away!

I checked my temper and asked him why. He said he won't operate on anyone who smokes any substance.

Yes, I smoke tobacco cigarettes. I smoke around 5 a day (1/4 a pack) for a very good reason. Thirteen years ago my family practice doctor told me to. At the time, I had gone through my fourth bout of cancer. He knows all the times I've quit smoking for more than a year, I've developed some form of cancer. He actually begged me not to stop smoking again and he set the limit. Call it a cop out, or not believe it. For thirteen years I've been cancer free by following his sage advice. It's the longest period of time that I've been cancer free. Now this doctor wants me to quit smoking for six months before he'll operate?

That's not all that upsets me about this. Couldn't someone have told me his position. I dunno like when the appointment was made? A simple question like do you smoke? When I first talked to them would have let both of us know this was a waste of energy. I mean I haven't lied about my smoking with any of the doctors. It's been on my paperwork for the last four I've seen at Emory since May. I could have not wasted five and a half hours (my total time), half a tank of gas (round trip 220 miles), and the aggravation of driving in the rain in big city and interstate traffic! Oh, and fifteen minutes of HIS valuable time.

I spent the hour and a half driving home (wohoo! still raining but less traffic) fuming. Why tell me that they could fix me only to say they won't? Even if I put the cigarettes down today, it will be six months before I'd get this surgery. Oh, he added a barb to the end of our visit. He told me that the neurosurgeon probably wouldn't do my rhizotomy because of the tobacco use also. If he did, he was nuts. GRRRR!

I mean, wouldn't the neurosurgeon told me he wouldn't operate when I saw him in May? Self doubt is creeping in. This orthopedist has planted his seed of doubt. I'll have to call his team to be sure tomorrow. I can stop smoking. Putting them down and not lighting up has never been a problem for me. I went a whole month without cigarettes while hospitalized after my stroke with no ill effects.

So since May, I've been spinning my wheels on an action plan that didn't work! It's wasted my time and energy with no results. I've exhausted every avenue of hope and still in pain with no relief in sight. This doctor was cruel in his matter of fact, smug way. He dangled the lollipop and then snatched it away. It's now been six hours since I left his office and I'm still discombobulated! I really dislike people who make me feel like this. Now, I have to pray it away to get my peace back. Tomorrow is a new day. Thank God!

Nothing may be impossible but jumping through all these hoops can be exhausting.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: When Life Gives You Lemons-Lemonade or Sour Puss

I know y'all are familiar with the saying...when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, right? What happens when you get tired of making lemonade. Do you become a sour puss?

It's human nature again, right? Yes and no. Oh boy, here we go with another attitude adjustment/ point of view blog. You're gonna make me think, aren't you Jo? Yep, I am. Of course knowing that, you could not read this post, but you're already here. Why not read a spell?

Oh good! You're still reading. I've got you now, wringing my hand evilly around my spastic one. Let the mind twisting begin.

The transition from making lemonade to sour puss is your conscious choice. Just like a child, you act out when you are tired and cranky. For me, it's looking heavenward and saying to God, "Leave me alone! I'm strong enough!" Betcha didn't expect to read that.

Side note~
Often miscredited as a Biblical verses, "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger." The actually credit goes to Friedrich Nietzsche, who was an atheist and  modern philosopher who uttered the words. The same line of thought can be found in both the Old and New Testaments, but is not biblical if quoting verse. Biblical, it's in reference becoming stronger in faith after overcoming trials.

Sometimes living post stroke can be this way. You've done everything others have done, the standard tried and true method. They achieved recovery of this or that and you did not. Maybe it worked (enter your percentage), but no where near what it did for (enter other stroke survivor's name here). This comparison makes you sick with envy. It makes the lemonade you are trying to make extremely sour. There's just too many lemons and not enough sugar in the world to sweeten it like surviving a stroke(s).  It's bad enough to have one stroke, but I've had several (6) according to my latest MRI.

You'd think that if anyone deserved to be a sour puss, it would be me, but yet I'm not. As soon as I get a minimal amount of recovery from a stroke, I'll have another to set me back to square one or two again. Even though I'm in incredible, constant pain, you'll see me with a smile on my face because I've got a inner peace from the Lord. I'll still laugh and joke around with you. When the pain is the severest, I'm mostly very quiet which is totally not like me at all. Mel'll will ask me if I'm mad. I'll shake my head and tell her I'm just in pain. "You're a [wo]man than I am, Gunga Din." (Rudyard Kipling)  No, I'm not. It's really amazing what you can do when you have to. The facts are: I've had several strokes in close proximity to each other or rendunant functioning parts of my brain, I've suffered many backs to square ones even before my strokes, and still I'm fighting to recover because I survived yet another stroke. (Inject whatever trial you are going through here) If I gave up, what would I do then? I mean, I can't just sit back and twiddle my thumbs anymore.

For decades, I searched for the brass ring to stop this roller coaster life I'm living to no avail. No dietary changes, no medicine, no surgeries, or anything worked except GRACE. You see through it all, God's Grace holds me up when my knees buckle under the weight I sometimes carry. I am never truly alone. Faith that no matter comes against me, God is with me. Everything is this world will die and/or fades away. That is as it should be.

I may be a sour puss from all the lemons I've been given from time to time, but those times are short lived. It's been over a year since my last series of Botox injections and I've paid the price. Not in cash quantities, but in  the quality of my life especially over the past six months.

I've watched my forward progress grind to a halt and reverse while I sought a better way. Cut nerves can rejuvenate within limits so long as you don't sever all of them. I want a fighting chance in my war with post stroke spasticity. I want my quality of life for as long as I can have it. Even if its a trade off like more surgery. If the surgery kills me, then know I'm happy in my quality afterlife in Heaven. If I survive, I'll keep on fighting for it with the Lord by my side. If I need Him to, He'll carry me. This is my faith. This is my life. I want it and I'll have it. That's just how I roll.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: Making Plans for 2019

Is it too early to be planning my 2019 to do list? It's almost October.

All this waiting for a Baclofen pump was a waste of time. I saw the neuro- physiatrist this week. I'm not an optimum candidate for the pump. So the pump is a big NO GO. He did suggest having my contracted Achilles tendon lengthened instead. Less invasive and a better outcome is predicted. He said surgery followed by therapy would strengthen and straighten the leg. It would eventually get me out of my AFO since I had the ability to dorsey flex and evert the foot prior to the cessation of Botox.

They'll set up the appointment for me, but it means more waiting. In the beginning, I'll have to do Botox again for the spasticity, but I should recover the use of my leg and foot with time and intensive therapy. I need to build the atrophied muscles up again before that can happen. So nothing new on that front except I'm facing a surgery I did not expect. I'm just over it all.

If the recovery takes as long to heal as when I ruptured my Achilles tendon on my functioning side, it'll be a year. I was in an air boot for 53 weeks prior to and after the last time. I've tried walking with the air boot instead of my AFO and it doesn't work, but I'll leave that for them to figure out.

But can you really blame me? I was so excited and now, I want this done so I can move forward. I want to be out of pain. I want to be able to move again. So in the meantime, I'm making plans for the coming year. Actually, I'm making adjustments to my five-year plan for the homestead. I've adjusted this original plan so many times, I should just write up a new one.

According to the original plan, we should be 75% self sufficient going into our third year since I  moved here.  Hahaha! Yeah, right. In reality by my calculations, we're closer to 25%. Does anything go according to plans? It's more like the diagram. It's never a straight line. If it was my living post stroke would be hugely different than what I've been experiencing now.  One month post stroke, I had recovered my
speech, at least to make myself understood. I rarely spoke gibberish unless I was over tired. I was regaining full range of motion of my shoulder and arm. I could even move my thumb and index finger however slightly. My leg was strengthening to the point I was investigating a Walk-Aid to get out of my AFO.

If determination was the deciding factor, I was headed for a full recovery. Sure, I'd have some limitations from my stroke, but I'd have one of the lucky few that recovered after my ischemic stroke escalated into a hemorrhagic stroke who recovered almost all within the golden six months. But that's not my story. I wish it were. I'm on the squiggly  line path to recovery.

Now, I'm more patient than I was six years ago. So my strokes did accomplish something other than be a bane of my existence. Living post stroke is more fun than a barrel of monkeys...not! I used to love that game. I think I managed to link was 10 or 11, but kept trying for 12.  Living post stroke is similarly a nonstop challenge as neurons in the brain play leap frog around damaged areas to restore some sort of function. You may recover 11 (or less) out of 12 or rarely get a 12 out of 12. Nobody can predict the outcome.

My grandmother for instance, survived stroke after stroke. Seven in total over a 20-year period of time. After her first one at 76 years young, the only impairment noticeable was the AFO and cane she used.  She was even well on her way to getting rid of her cane and AFO when she had the second one. Her arm was a little bit weaker, but she still gave fabulous hugs. Each progressive stroke took away more and more ( not without a fight) until she was bedridden, blind, and speechless at the time of her death at 95.

I come from strong stock. So in spite of major surgeries in the coming months plus recovery time, I'm making homestead plans for what we want to accomplish in 2019. I'm also not kidding myself about the time to recover from the Rhizotomy. The doctor said a year of intensive therapy will only get me most of the way back to the way I was before my spasticity reached the higher levels of immobility. I'm figuring 2-3 years. I'm old and tend to heal slower. Was it really only two and a half years ago that I was wiping counters and tables with my affected arm? It seems so much longer than that, but that's life dealing with excruciating pain. When I count 6 out of 10 on a pain scale as having a good day.
Cara @ 8 weeks old

Onward to homesteading plans...
The homestead plan for 2019 includes the angora rabbitry growth. With the addition of Lil Albert (buck) and Cara (doe), we now again have a diversified gene pool to start our pedigreed, English angoras program. I'm still looking for a fawn colored doe to be purchased in 2019 also. That will give us a firm gene pool to breed with for the optimum outcome (babies) that are well mannered (grooming), excellent woolers, and the right temperament. They will also be show quality which will command a premium price point for litters. At one point, I considered keeping 15 angoras in house. I'm settling on 10.

These are high maintenance animals. With seven now, it's almost the limit of our time. Each rabbit needs socialization at least twice a day for a minimum of fifteen minutes each. They need their free play time in the rabbitry which needs to be supervised daily. Does and bucks separately for obvious reasons.  Who wants to be stuck in a cage their whole life? Especially when they have a 12x28 rabbitry to binky and scamper in, and fresh greens planted for their munching pleasure. They are groomed twice a week. It could be a simple blow out to remove humidity from their coat and a slicker brush through for tangles (15-30 minutes each)or the works (shearing, toenails, ears, eyes, etc- 3 hrs with breaks). During our one on one time, we are checking for runny noses and eyes, their droppings and urine, ear mites, fleas, and injuries.

Any troubling signs, the bunny is whisked into quarantine (smaller cage in the back porch) for closer monitoring. Mel and/or I will be with them except for a few hours each day until they are dead or recovered. So you can see why fewer rabbits is a necessity rather than the vision of 15 in house rabbits.

We will be building and stocking a separate grow out area for meat chickens. The plan is to do lots of ten birds two or three times a year. That way we don't overload the freezers, canners, pantry, and me with a dizzying amount of work at one time. Butchering two birds a day is my physical limit. The birds only need to grow for 12-13 weeks old. Killing, butchering and processing ten birds over two weeks is easily accomplished goal. So a small grow out pen will work. I may just build it myself. Why should Mel have all the fun working with power tools?

Growing our own poultry has become an imperative with all the avian viruses, hormones, antibiotics, and salmonella found in commercially raised chickens in the market today. This wasn't so important to us before Zaycon filed for bankruptcy and closed their doors. Sad to say, it's a sign of the times we live in now where family owned businesses are closing after decades of doing business. In the grocery stores, organic meats are readily available, but they are cost prohibited. Growing our own is the cheapest alternative.

We'll be planting more fruit trees and bushes/vines in the orchard in 2019. We have started fruit tree seeds and are in small pots although these won't go into the orchard until they are much bigger in 2020.  The current vegetable patch is complete. It should give use many years of produce with minimal effort. The orchard area has one more year of heavy labor.

But in 2019, we will be clearing and terracing another 1/4 of an acre. Three quarters will be designated for grain/hay/straw growth(lower tiers). The remaining cleared area will be set aside for future tiny house placements (upper tier). We figure to to start with and another one or two for the future. At least one of them, mine, will be set on a foundation rather than wheels to make access easier. It's 8x12. The only change I would make is switch the full sized bed
for a twin. It would give me more floor space. Drawer under the bed would give me ample storage and I'd be able to put my lift chair between my bed and the kitchen counter and a small desk/dining table off the bathroom side. At 102 sq ft of living space, it's all I could want or need. If I bought it on a trailer, it could be pulled by my van. This particular model has solar panels on the roof making off the grid capable. There's no room to fall. LOL Only mine will be my total expense plus things like the water, electrical and septic tie ins if needed.

By opting to build this on  a foundation, makes it easily accessible, All it would take is a paver stone patio and concrete to slope it. Speaking of paver stones, that's another project for 2018-2019. I brought from my old place a concrete mold for a walkway. The old 20x24 deck and stairs original to Mel buying the homestead is in hazardous shape. The boards are rotting and splitting. It was never sealed after it was built. We are dismantling it. In it's place we'll be building a 4' deck by the doorway and new stairs leading down to a new 20'x24' patio area. I'm thinking of embedding small river rock into the top surface for texture and color.

We do a lot of cooking and stuff three seasons a year outdoors. It will take a bunch of bags of concrete to achieve this but it will be worth it. We can do as little as one bag at a time or ten there's no hurry making the patio. Nor is replacing the landing deck and stairs, we've got the decks and ramps on the other side that was built this year for outside access to the porch. Dismantling the old deck is a priority. This will be the do until the snow flies project at the end of this year. I don't think the wood can be reused, but we'll see.

We'll be building another pallet staging area for firewood storage (for 1/2 a cord of wood at one end of the patio. This will be handy for the grill, smoker, fire pit, and the wood stove. This is a get to it when we can project for 2019-20.

I also want to set up the goat pen area beside the barn/workshop. Or, at least map it out and laying in supplies. But it's definitely a 2020 project. As you can see, plans are being made for 2019. Whether they are completed or not remains to be seen.

Nothing is impossible.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

How Do You Help a Chlld Overcome Fear?

James @ 6
My six-year old grandson learning a hard lesson in reality. He's at an age where he is understanding more about things like tragedies, catastrophic events, etc. like 9-11 which anniversary just passed. His school did a memorial. His young mind is starting to put things together too.

He watched the replay of the twin towers being hit by airplanes. He's flown on commercial airlines before. His Daddy flies all the time for work. He is presently in Afghanistan. His mother has a tripped planned for visiting her sister in Alaska next month. Their family has several trips planned in the next six months to prepare for their relocation to Ireland next summer. James is now terrified of flying.

He watched as people fell to their deaths from the towers. Even though his grandfather died, it was three years ago. These deaths of the people were horrific, not peaceful as his grandfather's was. The real concept of death and war hit him although he understood that people were gone.  His Daddy was in a war zone. His Daddy! The man that chose him to be his son unlike his brothers who were born of him. His Daddy loved him so much that he went to court to make him his so nobody could separate them ever. Yes, for a six-year old, he understood much.

 Jennifer, my daughter, let him watch the news that night. It was part of his social studies homework. The top story was about an American base in Afghanistan being bombed. There were no survivors. James, being a smart kid, knew what base his Daddy was attached to. It was his Daddy's base camp that got hit. He was inconsolable.

Jennifer immediately got on the phone and called her beloved, the reassure both of them. No answer. Jennifer called the Wives hot line. Busy. Then, she waited for her phone to ring or a knock on the door. For eighteen hours, they knew nothing. Her phone finally rung. It was David, her beloved. He and his buddy were reassigned the day of the bomb and had flown out of the base the morning of the blast. Between the flight and the check in procedures, he couldn't call sooner.

It was all too much for this little boy to handle. We've talked to him and reassured him, but he's severely traumatized. The fact that I'm in Georgia and he's in AZ isn't helping. All I can do is love him, from afar. She set an appointment for him with a child psychiatrist. In the meantime, she's cancelled her visit with her sister. The idea that he could lose both parents in plane crashes is too much for his little mind can handle or needs to cope with right now. Jenn is erring on the side of caution where  her son's long term health is concerned, I can't fault her for that.

Jennifer and David 2018
While Jennifer and David are not officially married. their wedding to make it official was planned for June 2019. In Arizona, they are considered common law married because they have lived together as man and wife for four years. They've since called off their wedding because of the current events. They will get married in Ireland when David has leave in March. She calls it eloping in Ireland. I think it's sound thinking. I'm happy for them and wish them well.

Why Ireland? Jennifer's new job as executive pastry chef starts in July. David's corporate headquarters is there. David dual citizenship (Ireland and US) and half of his family is there. Jennifer is sort of Irish by way of my beloved. Why not? Besides, it'll give me a chance to use my passport. A flight there is actually cheaper than a flight to Arizona.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survial: Beat Depression wih Forward Progress

Depression can be a killer if you let it be. Sometimes, you don't realize depression is taking over your life until you are in full fledged depression, or you look back on the episode like I have this week. Depression comes in waves. Gentle at first, and then grows in size and strength until the waves engulfs you to the point you feel that you are drowning. It washes away self-confidence, self-worth, and just about all determination or effort to change before you realize it.

I was almost to the point of being engulfed because of circumstances. Ministers are not exempted from depression. We are human too. Remember a couple of weeks ago I posted about fear being a liar and a thief? You can substitute "depression" for "fear" here. I'd forgotten to do this and was sinking fast without truly recognizing it for what it was. I was in a sticky, smelly quagmire of  despair. It happened so slowly. First one thing then another compounded it, then another and so on for months. The creeping nature of this depressive bout could easily be discounted for other things like chomping at the bit waiting, or even chronic pain. I ignored the fact that I was going into a depression   Of course, these factors played heavily into my depressed state.

Yes, I did.
Finally, I recognized it for what it was. Yes, there were extenuating circumstances like still not hearing from Emory and heightened chronic pain, but I woke up and put on my big girl panties.

I remembered I'm not alone in this fight which was feeling like someone had stole my lollipop mid lick. I had allies in my corner. I'm not discounting God, but He had my back also. Who do you think rang the alarm bell that woke me up in the first place? I had hand picked my doctors also, hadn't I? A simple phone call from them was all it took to get a rope to pull me out of the quagmire of depression. In other words, steps towards forward progress. Nobody speaks doctor like doctors. I come close, but it's not the same.

Suddenly, there was a light at the end of the tunnel and I could see the end of it. Hope was restored. Whether the Baclofen trial works or not, there is forward progress. Once the trial is over, we move forward. Whether I expect it to work is besides the point. My ultimate goal is the Rhizotomy for my arm. Relaxation of my leg can be accomplished with my increased medication and Botox if the Baclofen trial fails. It may not work as well, but it works for 45 out of 90 days. It's an option. Going this route takes longer to get results, but I get results. My major pain source is my arm.

It's amazing what a little hope does to depression. Almost instantaneously, you are doing the Snoopy dance of happiness that depression can't stand. Sure there is a long road ahead, but with a renewed spring in your step it seems doable. Depression melts away. The same goes for living post stroke. Being active in your recovery, no matter how long it takes, you have a ultimate goal in your mind and soul. It doesn't mean that you sit by the wayside and wait. You take the steps (exercises and repetition) to reach your goal while living your life to the best of your ability while you wait to reach your goal. Yes, I'm back touting the same old lines again.

Life abhors a vacuum. Depression is an equivalent to a vacuum. While depressed you are standing still. You are listening to the liar and a thief who is telling you, you can't. I'm telling you can. Can't never could.

So get off that chair and get to it. Make some forward progress today and get off that slippery slope of depression. One small step leads to another. You have to claw and crawl before you can walk or run. When facing living post stroke, we are all infants who stand holding onto something. May we continue to have the courage to let go and run.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: Snatching Victory from Defeat

When it comes to failures living post stroke, there are many. I fail to accomplish tasks all the time even after six years of living post stroke. There's not a day that goes by when I don't fail at doing  something I try to do. In part because I challenge myself each day to regain some ability or other. Zig Ziglar said...
"If you learn from defeat, you haven't really lost."
 I was first exposed to Zig in my marketing classes at college. He specializes in the area of personal development training. He also said...

You don't have to be great at something to start, but you have to start to be great at something.

Even before I was a stroke survivor, old Zig confirmed what I'd always believed.  I often refer to this here as snatching victory from defeat, and how do you know you can't do something unless you try. You are never truly defeated unless you give up.
Yes, it's very frustrating challenging yourself with a new or different challenge each day.  I usually start my day, after prayers, with something I relearned to do well. It bolsters my ego for the trial to come. Plus it reinforces the relearned skill. Whether it's beating the computer at a game of Canasta or baking bread. It's a tactile operation that puts my mind and body unto motion for the day's new challenge. 

For several months now, it's dealing  with painful spasticity and walking. Now,  I'm more apt to fall which I'm back to doing at least once a day. All it takes is an invisible piece of lint on the floor and I go boom. It feels like the early days of walking after my stroke. The 30 degree inversion of my affected foot in spite of my AFO might have something to do with this also. But I don't quit. I pick myself up and keep going. 

There's no denying that I'm finding it more difficult to get up these days too. So much so that I asked my neurologist for an MRI to see if I'd had another stroke. But, I've been there and done that already. And yes, I did.  It's just means working hard again to regain what I recovered back. My 3 cm ischemic/hemorrhagic stroke damage area has grown to 6 cm. Another set back...what's new. We figured that was partially to blame for me being on the pity pot so long too. It skewed my attitude, but it's getting back to more my normal every day. My right side is weaker again except for the spasticity. The spasticity only increased with the new brain insult.
Just my luck.

I did get my dry needling and stretching this week. The pain is more tolerable now. She actually had to needle  the base of my skull, neck, and trapezius muscles  because they were so strained from compensating for the spasticity in my arm. Just try carrying a 7 lb weight around 24/7 and see if it doesn't affect all your other muscles also.

Oh, my neurologist calling Emory worked! My appointment with the neurosurgeon is September 13th. I'm doing the Snoopy dance of happiness since they called.

The waiting is over almost. Granted, this is only the first meet and greet with the physiatrist who will do the trial for the Baclofen pump, but it's a start of the action plan the functional neurosurgeon laid out in my initial visit with him back in May. If the trial is successful the pump placement can be scheduled within a month. It's been a long time coming.

Nothing is impossible.