Saturday, 28 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Escape

I wrote this a month after coming home, as I was making such good progress.


Trapped in the house by a wonky leg,
Always looking at the same four walls.
Walking cautious leaning on a stick,
Cannot go when the outside calls.

Physiotherapists come into my home,
Teach me tricks for how to get about.
Give me exercises, practice every day,
Giving me advice when I'm in doubt.

Walking stronger out into the hall,
Step over the sill at the front door,
Turn round backwards to get in the car,
Now I'm free to get out and explore.

Last big hurdle: learn to climb the stairs –
Practice on the bottom step for days.
Use the strong leg one step at a time,
Bedroom here I come, a cheer I'll raise.

Still walk slowly, have to take my time,
Can't do everything yet on my own.
Gaining freedom one step at a time.
Thank God I have never been alone.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Almost Back to Normal

Yesterday our son Daniel helped my husband Michael to put the bed upstairs and put the sofa back in the living room. I sleep upstairs and wash in the bathroom, and because I am upstairs I can choose my own clothes in the mornings. It's wonderful to be nearly back to normal. I still need my commode until I can climb the stairs on my own, but I am determined it won't be long.

We went out to see the stroke nurse this morning in awful rain, and coming back Michael left my cane behind. I used his walking stick to get back in the house, then he went back for it. But good came out of it because I walked successfully with an ordinary walking stick rather than a four-legged cane. I have also been taking tiny steps with no support.

I just need to get my legs stronger, and help for that comes along next week when I go to exercise therapy. I have been going to the exercise therapy gym at the doctor's for several years because of my fibromyalgia, and the exercise therapist there is marvellous. As soon as he heard about my stroke he said to get referred to him again and he would look after me. My assessment is next Tuesday (31st August) and he will work out a program of exercise, for me to attend once or twice a week. I can't wait.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Going Home

It's funny how your attitude can change when you view things from a different perspective...

There are three poems on going home that show a progression of feelings. Waiting to go home once you are well is so hard because you are so bored in hospital. Every little annoyance gets multiplied (like no one coming when you buzz) and home looks very inviting.

Going Home 1

The hours seem to pass so slow,
It's harder on my own.
While I wait for that special day
When I am going home.

So many things to organise,
And so much to arrange,
Equipment to be ordered in,
And things at home to change.

I know I'm going very soon,
But I don't have a date.
And all of this uncertainty
Makes it so hard to wait.

Each little irritation seems
A massive thing to bear.
Each hour of waiting seems to be
An hour more of care.

I think that when the date is set,
T'will be the hardest known
To bear the wait until the day
When I am going home.

This is the second of my poems about going home. Having longed for it so much, at the last minute my thoughts did a complete reversal, to my surprise. I suddenly realised how hard it could be for us to cope on our own. We would not have nurses available at the press of a buzzer. Going home became a scary prospect.

Going Home 2

As the long-awaited day approaches:
Hospital release and going home,
Suddenly a new thought rises:
Going to the great unknown.

Frustrated by the endless hours
Waiting with nothing to do,
Suddenly it's so familiar,
Safe and routine, tried and true.

Home, long-missed and fond remembered,
Now looked on with great unease.
Things have changed, my life is different.
Sudden fears begin to seize.

Unexpected feelings surface,
Want to go but fearful too.
Then appears the thought that comforts:
I am going home to you.

This is the last of the going home trilogy. First I looked forward to going home, and then I was afraid. But then came the day that it actually happened.

Going Home 3

The great day comes for new adventure –
Going home to start a new life.
Go from doctors, friendly nurses,
To just us, husband and wife.

Home, familiar, sweet-remembered,
Is an alien landscape now.
Bed downstairs with new equipment.
Find a new routine somehow.

Journey home is over-tiring,
Husband has so much to do.
But very soon we discover
How to work with just we two.

Very soon the routine settles,
Alien is familiar now.
We can start the new adventure.
Future's not so scary now.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Problems With Staffing In Hospital

We had a lot of problems in hospital because they are so short staffed and the nurses have to do a lot of non-nursing things like serve the food and pour glasses of water. A lot of patients are elderly and confused and buzz just to ask where they are and if they've had their tea yet. Many times I was upset because I pressed the buzzer and was left for some time before anyone came. If you wanted the toilet, you just had to go in the bed, and then the nurses had more work to do cleaning you up and changing the sheets. They welcomed it when we said we were lodging a formal complaint, because no one listens to them when they ask for extra staff.

Why Press The Buzzer?

Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?
Other patients need her and she's only one.
Not enough nurses to see to everyone.
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

The nurses treat us with patience and care,
But how can they minister when they're not there?
And what about the little things that ease each one?
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

How can they see to so many needs:
A pillow, a drink, a pain, a feed?
The old lady looking for her mum.
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

They put you in a pad so you can go
To the toilet when the nurses are slow.
Just soil yourself and they'll later clean your bum.
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

Better hope it's not urgent when you call the nurse,
There's too many patients, and some of them worse.
They've only got time to see to some.
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

Equipment and supplies run short,
Then there's a crisis and all is fraught.
It's lonely and frightening when no one comes.
Why press the buzzer when the nurse won't come?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Patience

I was determined that after all my suffering, especially the stuff not related directly to my stroke, future suffering would be much easier to bear in comparison. I vowed I would never be impatient again. However, when I got better, I found waiting around just as hard to bear as before. God is good, and makes the memory of bad times fade, so we do not spoil the present with pain from the past. This is great, but makes my promise hard to keep.


When I suffered, I declared:
Nothing else would make me scared.
Longest hours when not in pain,
Never would make me complain.
Patience had been learned well.
Complaint would I never tell.

But the bad is soon forgot,
So that we remember not
Hours of sickness or of pain,
So we can have joy again.
Makes my promise hard to keep –
Over little things I weep.

Help me, Lord, to keep this skill,
Learned so hard, so long, so still.
Help me, Lord, to watch and wait,
Not allow things to frustrate,
But to bear them patiently,
And always to lean on Thee.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Future

[Written in hospital]

If you are going to a place you don't know, it's a good idea to get a book about it or speak to someone who has been there, to prepare yourself for what you will find. The future is somewhere we are all going, and no one has ever come back to tell us what to expect. We guess the future based on the present and our plans, but we cannot guarantee anything. We simply hope. 'Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?' [Ecclesiastes 8:7].

Most of the time we expect our lives to go according to plan, but sometimes it changes beyond what we can cope with with minor adjustments. We have to do a major rethink. I recently had a stroke. There was no warning, and my whole life stopped. No going to work, no visiting my family and friends, no going anywhere. I completely lost control of my life. Now someone else decided when I should get up and go to bed, what I should eat. Gradually I am getting a little control, but I still can't get out of bed on my own.

The Christian faith gives a bedrock at a time when all else is shifting sand. We do not know the future, but we know Someone who does, and although He doesn't tell us what it will be, we know that He will look after us. 'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.' [Romans 8:28].

The other thing God is that He has a track record. He has always been faithful and we can rely on that for the future. Paul said, 'My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.' [Philippians 4:19]. He doesn't always meet our needs in the way we would like him to, but when we look back we can see that He worked for our good.

Jesus told us not to worry: 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life … Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? … So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.' [Matthew 6:25,27,31,32]. He was not saying we should be careless about making provision, but we should trust God for the future. Notice also the mention of what we say. Negative talk feeds our fears, whereas positive speech about trusting God feeds a positive attitude. God should be in our plans as well as in our actions. Ask Him to be with us as we plan, but then get with making the best of what comes.

The future is a scary place, especially when life takes a left turn. A reassurance that Someone is watching over it with our benefit at heart makes a big difference.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Milestones (4)

It's only 12 days since my last list of milestones, but they are coming so thick and fast I thought I had better post some more. This brings it right up to today:

Day 82 What a day! Went to Aggi's flat and didn't know she had 3 steps outside. Held on to Michael and walked up and in the door up another step. A bit hairy but I did it. Walked from the kitchen to see the bathroom, and back. Then walked out again, the first time going down steps. OK but bad leg hangs in the middle so I have to step left, then shuffle right again to have room to take the next step. Then we went to church. And I got out of the wheelchair into a seat. It was so good to be there that I cried. It was a real blessing for those who have been praying for me too. Really tired afterwards though.
Day 83 No after effects from yesterday! Physio's came and I walked up the stairs! Sat on a chair on the landing for a rest and then walked down again.
Day 84 Practiced on the bottom step. 7 repeats.
Day 85 The Physio's took me on the stairs all the way up to the bedroom! I rested on the landing and sitting on the bed and then walked down again. Then they said I can sleep upstairs because I only have to tackle one way at a time. We were stunned. I've only been home a month. Have to arrange some things first.
Day 86 Julian and family came to visit and I got up to open the door to them.
Day 87 Went upstairs and pottered around in the back bedroom then in the middle bedroom and found some things I wanted then came downstairs. It was great. My leg didn't waver once.
Day 88 Went to the door for Dan Anna and James.
Day 89 Church again.
Day 90 Commode for bedroom arrived.
Day 91 I was concerned about being too tired at the end of the day to climb the stairs, so we tried it tonight and I was fine.
Day 92 Physio's discovered I can lift my knee when laying on my back and a little when standing. Previously couldn't fight gravity. Then went out and tried out a scooter from Shopmobility. It was great. No more wheelchair in town!
Day 93 Went upstairs to wash and dress in the bathroom. Will do that in future.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: The Phoenix

This poem was actually inspired by a tv programme. I watched an old episode of 'Lewis' one evening which featured a group who used the phoenix as a symbol of what they were trying to do for people. And it got me thinking …


See flames burning their way through my life,
See all my old plans go up in smoke,
See the ashes of my life crumble.
Will this be the end of all my hopes?

Yet amid the ashes see the egg –
Symbol of the new life that can rise,
Born of fire, purified and stronger,
Looking on to where the future lies.

See my life begin again anew,
Rising like a phoenix from the flames.
New plans, new hopes, new determination.
Who knows if anything will be the same.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Not a Victim

My husband Michael was very careful to be positive in all discussions about my future. He was determined to keep me from slipping into a 'poor me' mindset. This made me think about allowing people or circumstances to make you a victim, and this poem is the result.


You don't have to be a victim
When life gets really bad.
'Victim' is an attitude
Which you don't have to have.

Sometimes life is very cruel.
Unfair troubles come around.
People take you for a fool,
Try to break your spirit down.

In your head you can be free,
Keep your dignity and pride.
No matter what externally,
You can still be strong inside.

So never be a 'victim',
Or fall in pity's way.
Keep determination,
Hold your head high today.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Night Hours

Things are going so well it's difficult to remember the hard times in hospital. The night hours could be long and lonely, not just as a result of the stroke. I suffered a lot of nausea and involuntary spasms which kept me awake. This is how I coped. I was never keen on blank verse before, but I suddenly discovered the power of it.

Night Hours

In the long hours of the night
I practice patience.
Weave each minute into the tapestry
Of time passing.

A whole night is unthinkable.
An hour may be unbearable.
But a minute I can manage.
One at a time.

Trace a pattern on the wall.
Listen to the weather through the window.
Recall long-forgotten memories.
Write poetry.

All serve to pass the time,
Tick off the minutes to build into hours.
But when all else fails
Reach out in the darkness
And hold the hand of God.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Upstairs

The Physio's came today and were so pleased with my progress that they got me to walk all the way upstairs to the bedroom! I rested on a chair on the half landing and then climbed the rest of the way and sat on the bed. After another rest I did the same in reverse. I was very tired afterwards.

The Physio's said this means I can now sleep upstairs, which was a real surprise. They pointed out that I would only have to go upstairs at night and downstairs in the morning, not do both together as I did today. When I calmed down from my delight I realised there are a few logistic problems, so it may be a while before I can actually sleep upstairs. We will have to work it out.

It does mean that I have access to the upstairs. Up until now I have had to ask Michael to fetch things, and I can't always remember where they are. So the limits of my world continue to expand.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Further Milestones

My progress continues to be remarkable. It's only 12 weeks since my stroke, and two weeks ago the physio's taught me how to get in and out of the car, and last week they taught me how to climb a stair - but I've only practiced on one step.

Well, yesterday afternoon I went to visit my daughter's new flat which is on the ground floor. What I didn't know was that it has 3 steps outside. Well, I walked up the steps! There was a hairy moment, but I did it. In the flat, the wheelchair wouldn't go in the bathroom when I had the tour, so I got out and walked into the bathroom and back. And then when we left, I walked down the steps, which is the first time I've walked down.

Added to this is that every time I go out I walk from the front room out of the front door onto the path and sit in my wheelchair, and back when I come home. Yesterday I came back, grabbed a few minutes rest and then went out again.

After twelve weeks, I went to church! Michael came too, and he hasn't been to church either because he has been too exhausted with visiting me and looking after me. I got quite emotional, because it was so lovely to be in church after the way God has looked after me - which was a problem because one of the effects of the stroke is that I can't control my emotions. I can't have a little giggle or shed a little tear, I go completely to pieces. Luckily I managed to stop before I made too much noise!

I hadn't thought what effect it would have on the people in church to see me there. Everyone has been praying for me, and I am in the notices for prayer every week. So when I arrived there was great rejoicing at the evidence of prayers answered. It was lovely to see them and to bring such a blessing.

Who knows what next!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Stroke Recovery: Milestones (3)

Progress since coming home:
Day 59 Went round the block in my wheelchair.
Day 63 Physio really good. Movement in hamstrings and lifting knee. Standing more on right leg.
Day 65 Good response in knee. Rest but no sleep this afternoon (so staying awake all day now).
Day 69 Did exercises and walked across room and back with Michael.
Day 70 Physio practiced standing without bad knee going towards the good one. Walked across room and back twice.
Day 72 The physio's showed me how to get out the front door and into the car. I'm free! And I walked to the front door and back.
Day 73 Went out in the car today to Mumbles, parked on the sea front and had an ice cream. Didn't feel tired.
Day 76 More confident in walking so walked around the room on my own.
Day 77 Physio taught me how to tackle stairs. Can't come for a week so practice on one step until can do 10 in a row. Then I can tackle our stairs!
Day 78 Practiced on step. Went to town in the car and wheelchair. Went ok. Walking in room a little.
Day 79 Walking round the room more.
Day 80 Walked round the room twice.
Day 81 Practice: 5 stairs, 2 sets of 10 knee lifts, 10 leg extensions.