Sunday, November 15, 2020

Eleven Year Journey to Acceptance


The following is an article originally posted on the now discontinued website called StrokeNet. They published a monthly newsletter. Their articles are still very useful today. With the permission of their then editor, Lin Wisman, I am able to repost them on my site. 

Jim Sinclair, the author of this article, was a member of the StrokeNet staff.

Eleven Year Journey to Acceptance
By Jim Sinclair

As I am approaching the eleventh anniversary of my strokes later this month, it seems like a good time to take stock of my present stroke circumstances. I have always felt that in my particular situation dealing with the physical effects was a lot less formidable task than dealing with the mental aspects of the strokes. My first awareness that I had experienced strokes came when I realized that my left arm and hand had changed into what I thought was lead.

Although I could not move that arm or hand, it was not long before the little finger on that hand started to twitch. Somehow that twitch came with a confidence that if something has even the smallest ability of movement, efforts can be undertaken to enhance that ability to a far more advanced level of functioning. First it was that twitch and then very, very gradually there was movement in each of the fingers of that hand, which was slowly followed by movement of my left arm.

Hundreds of hours of physiotherapy and occupational therapy resulted in strengthening that hand and arm into fully functioning appendages. I don’t recall having that same lead like feeling in my left leg which was also paralyzed, but I do recall my first post stroke physiotherapy session in a neurosciences unit. After packing my newly replaced right hip with sandbags to restrict movement the physiotherapist asked me to wiggle the big toe on my right foot. Following that achievement I was asked to try to wiggle the big toe on my left stroke affected foot.

To the surprise of both of us it moved. Following this seemingly miniscule victory about ten days post stroke, gradually expanding therapy activities over three months resulted in my gaining pretty much full use of my left side. The very last physical effect to be overcome was the paralysis in the left side of my face. At this point (11 ears post stroke) my physical deficits are minimal when things are going as they should. Whenever an opportunity arises I try to open jar lids with my left hand.

Usually it works, but at times I need to use my right hand with my left hand bracing the jar. It is of little consequence that I occasionally fumble slightly when picking up small items with my left hand. When I am tired or frustrated my left leg will drag a little. At almost 11 years post stroke the most major persistent physical issue remains to be fatigue. At times my cognitive functioning is not quite what I would like it to be.

When I learn that I have misinterpreted information or that my thinking is incorrect, these can lead to confusion and frustration; which can in turn influence my physical functioning much in the same way as fatigue and overtiredness. I believe that making a full recovery refers to attaining a quality of life which is meaningful and satisfying given our present circumstances. I consider myself to be fully recovered with any residual stroke effects being simple annoyances.

My strokes themselves were an event that occupied only a microsecond of my life but resulted in very dramatic changes in my life, including changes in my personality. Early on in my recovery much of my focus was on dealing with these changes. A decade later I don’t think I am even aware of what these changes entail. I only know that most of the time everyday life is as just as good as it was over more than a decade ago.

In fact, being a Canadian snowbird celebrating Thanksgiving in Canada in October and US Thanksgiving in November allows me to be doubly thankful for all the positives in my life. This appreciation of all that is positive is enhanced by my awareness that in the early afternoon of December 24, 2003, the medical professionals attending to me believed that I was not going to survive past that day.

I remembering that there was a period that I could not sit in a wheelchair without slumping over. I remember that there were periods of time when I felt very confused. I remember times when I struggled with being easily overwhelmed by the environment around me. These experiences accentuate the positive nature of my current quality of life. Like many stroke survivors, I had a very difficult time the first two years when it felt almost impossible to view my life and stroke issues in anything other than very negative terms. I believed that life was not the way that it was supposed to be.

After these many years, I have finally accepted the notion that stroke is not something we ever get over; it is something that we learn to live with and adapt to. During this eleven year journey life became much better once I came to truly believe that the way the things are at any given moment are the way they are meant to be at that particular moment.

Copyright ©December 2014
The Stroke Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 492 Abingdon, Maryland 21009
All rights reserved.

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