Thursday, 29 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Milestones (2)

Here's some more of my progress, up to when I went home:
Day 26 Did lots of speech therapy exercises and got my vocal range from 13 notes to 15.
Day 27 Physio tried to make my chair sitting easier and gave me tips on laying on my side.
Day 28 Good physio walking with a tripod cane.
Day 29 Physios got me walking with tripod cane in my room out to the corridor.
Day 30 Washing and dressing assessment good – put my own knickers on and washed my legs.
Day 31 Physio - walking with tripod cane unassisted except for positioning my foot. Have strap to keep my foot up.
Day 35 At home physio will not be every day and only for 6 weeks. Good to stay to take advantage of physio every day, but weigh that against morale. Physio convinced I will do well anyway as I am so determined.
Day 36 Practiced transfer between bed and chair on my own. Can do most except get my bad leg on the bed. Fitted for splint on arm to wear at night.
Day 37 Went down to the flat and practiced on the bed. Can get in on left side but not on right, but they have gadgets they will show me. Bed lever on left works well. Can manage without on right.
Day 41 Walked from bed all the way to the doors for the men's side.
Day 43 OT practice transfer to commode – good. Good walking practice with physio.
Day 45 Commode in room so I can go by myself.
Day 49 Walked all the way from my bed to the couch in physio and over half the way back.
Day 52 Home.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Milestones (1)

On the advice of my best friend, I kept a diary of my progress after my stroke. I still keep it every day. Here is the record for the first 25 days. A little explanation: a Stedy stand is a clever piece of equipment for moving patients from place to place, for example to take you to the toilet. It has a platform you stand on and then a seat folds down behind you and you wedge your knees against a panel in front, so if you only have one leg working you can't fall.

Day 1/2 Got up in chair using Stedy stand already. My hips good and brain clear. Failed swallow test first day but passed second, so allowed to drink and progress to eat.
Day 3 Really impressed with me at physio and speech therapy.
Day 8 First speech therapy – lots of exercises.
Day 9 My knee straightened on its own and my arm stretched more than yesterday.
Day 11 My leg moved!
Day 20 Out in chair for 4 hours. More movement in leg and less tightness in arm.
Day 21 Physiotherapy brilliant and I walked a long way in a stand!
Day 22 First writing practice legible.
Day 23 Physio walking and standing. Getting it sussed.
Day 24 Physio on standing and reaching.
Day 25 Michael took me out in a wheelchair for the first time.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

23rd Psalm

Many people find the 23rd Psalm a great comfort. The reassurance of God's constancy and care is a lifeline in all the situations we meet. We hold on to the images of green pastures and still waters, of oil overflowing and goodness and love following.

But in all the uplifting words we must remember that it is promising help in trouble – which means there will be trouble. The table is spread in the presence of enemies, and the rod and staff comfort in the valley of the shadow of death. Some Christians think that they should be protected from troubles, but Jesus said, 'In this world you will have trouble.'

He went on to say, 'Fear not, I have overcome the world,' which is a great comfort like that in the 23rd Psalm, but it does not promise to prevent the troubles. We must not let it shake our confidence when troubles come. An old saying in motivational circles says, 'Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.' The same applies to troubles. How can you enjoy the table spread before you if you're watching your enemies?

The sheep get through their troubles by keeping their eyes on the Shepherd.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Escape From The House

I have escaped from the house! We went for a drive to Mumbles today and parked on the sea front and had an ice cream. It was so good to go out, and it was relatively easy.

The weather finally stayed fine for the physiotherapists' visit yesterday, and they taught me how to negotiate the sill at the front door, and how to get in and out of the car. And I managed to walk to the front door and back!

The secret is to put the wheelchair outside the front door, rather than trying to negotiate it over the sill with me in it. I walk to the front door and just need help to get my right foot over the sill, then I turn round and sit in the wheelchair. The secret to getting in the car is to get out of the wheelchair and turn backwards to the car and sit down. Then I have help to get my feet in.

We are now making plans for where we want to go. And as you can see, my walking is getting more confident. Praise God!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: One Small Step

Had physiotherapy again today, which went very well. Concentrating on walking, and although I am currently rather nervous, they assured me that I will be walking confidently in the end. What a great relief. My knee has started working, so I don't have to hitch from the hip so much.

Here is another poem about physiotherapy, this time about learning to walk and what it meant to me. Until you have lost the ability, you can't imagine how it feels to be up on your own feet and moving under your own power.

One Small Step

Learning to walk again.
The minute details of muscle and balance,
Learned and mastered,
One move at a time.

Straighten the knee.
No, straighten the knee.
Hold it there, but not too straight.
Don't let it give – pure willpower.

Oh the joy of standing!
Looking people in the eye –
Not a cripple for that moment.
Taking charge.

Stand up straight,
Shoulders down, bottom in,
Now transfer your weight,
And keep that knee straight!

Can it take my weight?
Can I keep that knee straight?
Am I stable enough?
For one small step.

One small step.
Like Armstrong's giant leap.
The start of something big.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Speech Therapy

Having written two poems about physiotherapy, I set my mind to writing about speech therapy. The exercises, both massage and spoken (and sung!), are truly beneficial.

Speech Therapy

You take it for granted until it's gone:
To ask for what you want.
You know the words but they won't come out,
Try to speak and you can't.

If you're lucky your speech is only slurred
And still your mind is clear.
And now you have to figure out
How to make the words appear.

Along comes the friendly speech therapist
To show you how it's done.
Massage your face to wake it up,
They even make it fun.

Take your time to enunciate clear,
Practice all the word lists,
Sing your scales to improve your pitch,
Listen to your therapist.

They'll help you every step of the way,
To talk and keep in touch.
At last you can make yourself understood.
So thank them very much.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Learning to Walk

I have just had a stroke and am learning to walk again. This involves not just getting the muscles working but I have to learn to do consciously what I have done instinctively since I first walked as a baby. It’s a bit like when I learned to drive. I had to do different things with each foot, had to steer with one hand to change gear with the other, and had so many things to look out for, that I thought I would never get the hang of it. But as I practiced, things got better until some of them became automatic and I could devote more of my attention to other things.

We think that walking is just putting one foot in front of the other, but that is the least of it. Having got the foot forward, you have to straighten the leg carefully so as not to lock out the knee, then shift your weight onto it. Your weight must be transferred not just sideways but forward, so that you do not fall backwards. With a bit of luck, now you take a step. The balance also involves the position of your upper body and your hips, all of which you have to consciously monitor and adjust while especially paying attention to your leg, because if you take your attention off it for a second the tension will go and it will give way. And you thought walking was easy!

I expect that, like driving, it will get easier and my instinct will take over eventually, but I would not be surprised if I can never take it for granted again. And I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it would do us all good to walk at a slower pace and think about things more. Maybe it would do us all good to go back to basics on other things too and look at how they really work and think about how we are doing.

Think about relationships for example. At the beginning they are new and frail and we have to pay them a lot of attention. Such little things can spoil them. You have to learn more about each other each day. You come to realise how precious the other one is to you and you nurture the relationship carefully. But how does it look further down the line? Different I hope. But have we come to take too much for granted? Think for a moment about how it was in the early days, and think WHY it was. If this is important are you taking the same care? It would be wise to take a look at yourself, even if you think the other person is at fault, before words are said that may spoil it forever. Maybe their behaviour is a reaction to a change in you. Maybe you don't even realise the change.

This can be applied to all relationships: our parents, our children, our friends, even our relationship with God. He will patiently forgive our neglect, but not forever. Is he still the most important thing in your life? Does it show? Let us learn to walk again with care and attention to detail, and make sure we are doing it right.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: Physiotherapy

Light-hearted thoughts about physiotherapy. The pain is manageable, as they seek to find the limits to your movement and to encourage the muscles to stretch further. As soon as it hurts, they back off and seek to find another way. But it is important because this is how you will get your mobility back.


Come to physiotherapy
It's as easy and A-B-C
We'll get you fixed up just you see
But it's more like A-B-Ouch!

Ouch! We'll stretch that muscle so tight
Ouch! Make those limbs put up a fight
Ouch! Work hard and get it right
Not much fun this A-B-Ouch!

But in physiotherapy
Lies your chance of normality
Just work hard and you will see
It's worth A-B-Ouch!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: On Being There

Written in hospital:

We look to God and ask Him to keep us from, 'all the ills that flesh is heir to', but Jesus said, 'In this world you will have trouble.' We cannot know why he allows some things to happen to us and protects us from others, but James in particular lays down some general principles about the development of character through trials and perseverance [James 1:2-4]. It is easy to overlook also that in the many commands in Scripture to help the suffering, that means someone, even 'good' people, has to be suffering for us to do so.

So suffering will come to all of us in some measure and it is counterproductive to ask why this particular suffering and not that. There are three ways in which we can profitably respond when suffering comes: draw near to God, learn and grow, and allow others to serve.

When I had my stroke and I lay helpless in the doctors' hands, my mind reached out and begged God to fix it. He didn't, but in yielding to His will I felt wrapped in safety. I understood the 'peace which passes understanding' [Philippians 4:7], because in those hours when I could have died, when I had no idea how disabled I would be, or even if I would have enough sense to comprehend, let alone worry about the impact on my family, I didn't once feel scared. It didn't make sense at all, but I was safe. For that, I am immeasurably grateful.

Now the crisis is over I have to get the best out of it. There is a truth that sometimes we are sent trials to refine us, but it can be counterproductive to tear yourself apart looking for faults. Paul famously said that God works in all things for the good of those who love Him [Romans 8:28]. Whether the suffering was sent for a purpose or just happened, seek to get the most benefit from it. Maybe you can learn more patience, more sympathy, or reassess your priorities. Maybe it will result in a whole new approach or just changes within. When you draw near to God, let Him show you.

And He can do the same for others, through your suffering. Today's world says, 'Be independent, don't let your weaknesses show.' But suffering is a chance to reach out to one another and learn and grow together. Don't deny others the blessing of helping you. Don't deny family and friends the comfort of feeling useful and showing their love for you [Galatians 6:9]. They may find new qualities and resources in themselves and there will be a special bond between you.

'In this world you will have trouble,' but let us throw it back in defiance and use it to build.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Stroke Recovery: The Tunnel

Here's the first poem I wrote in the early days after my stroke:

The Tunnel

I've driven down a tunnel
And I can't get out.
I don't know how I got here,
But there's no doubt
Although right now I'm a bit lost,
I've got to work it out.

My hand doesn't work,
That can't be right.
I'll make a joke but what's this?
To speak is a fight.
My leg's gone too, now I'm
In the tunnel with no light.

But into hospital,
Doctors get busy:
X-rays, Cat scans,
I'm in a tizzy.
Then it's over
And it's down to physi-o.

I'm still in the tunnel,
But now I can see
The lie of the land
And where I want to be.
There's a light shining,
Soon I will be free.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Stroke & Stroke Recovery

To all my friends and blog followers: for anyone who doesn't know, I had a stroke 11th May. I was in work, at 9.30, when it happened and I was very lucky that my team leader immediately called the first aider, and he recognised the signs and immediately called the ambulance.

There is a new treatment which breaks up clots, but it has to be given within 3 hours of the stroke. Thanks to the quick thinking in work and the efficiency of the doctors in Morriston Hospital, they gave me the treatment after 2 hours 50 minutes. It did not save my arm and leg, but who knows what else may have been affected without it?

My speech was slurred but is well on the way to recovery, my right leg lost all movement but is coming back and I have started taking a few steps, and I lost all movement in my right arm which has not yet recovered. But it could have been so much worse. Especially, my brain function was not affected at all, for which I praise God.

In the long hours in hospital, I began to write poetry on my mobile phone. I have written poetry before, but occasionally. Now it poured out of me, 23 poems to date. Verse, doggerel, blank verse. About my stroke, my treatment, my faith, and totally random things like the rain outside my window. I plan to share some of them with you in future.

A dear friend says I should write a book, and maybe I will. I also wrote some Christian articles about suffering, which I hope may help other people. So watch this space.