Still walking the road

SunsetThis series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

This next part are my own personal suggestions from my own personal experience. 

When you have a stroke your abilities, can and will, change. I was extremely lucky in that only my balance and vision were affected. Balance came back pretty quickly, but vision continues to be an issue. As I told the numerous doctors I saw during my stay in the hospital, it was like my eyes were fighting with each other to focus on anything. I could see things in the distance clearly, but things around what I was focusing on, or things closer to me, were difficult to focus on.

This remains an issue, although it should get better as my brain rewires itself. My true topic here is how to assist those who’ve had a stroke, when they return home. People do not like to lose their independence and, since I live alone most of the time, I was concerned others would be asked to adjust their lives to take care of me. Again, I was lucky in that this was not the case, but some short term accommodations did need to be made.

Standing for a long time or bending over was, and still is sometimes, an issue. I quickly found out that turning to the left, or laying down on my left side (the bleed was in the back left section of my brain), caused me to become instantly and overwhelmingly nauseous and it wasn’t a matter of when I was going to be sick, but how quickly I could get to the bucket. I soon learned not to do this and things got a lot better.

My suggestions; when someone you know has a stroke and is ready to return home, speak to them, speak to their doctors, speak to whomever you can, and find out their limitations. I didn’t have many. That along with my own stubborn nature, probably made people think I could do a lot more than I really could.

Things that are needed and/or greatly appreciated; prepared meals set high in the fridge so that the ‘patient’ can reheat them for themselves, but not have to bend to do so; food that doesn’t have to be cooked is also a wonderful thing ( I found Lunchmates a great idea). Lots of fresh fruit around that can be grabbed for a quick snack. Bottles of juice, Gatorade, water or whatever in the fridge so that the ‘patient’ keeps hydrated. Dropping by to do even mundane things like chat, or just sitting with them, wash up the dishes, pull weeds from the garden or, if they are able – to take them for a drive (four walls close in quickly), although I seem to spend an awful lot of time sleeping these days. Think of the patient’s personality, are there things falling by the wayside that might stress them if they saw how they looked now? I hadn’t been in my backyard for a month after my stroke, simply because I knew how overrun it would be and bending over was still a balance issue. I knew I’d want to pull weeds and clean up the gardens and not being able to would stress me out, so I simply avoided it.

If they don’t live alone, just spend time with them and allow whomever is caring for them some time for themselves. If the patient can be left alone for a while, take their caretaker out for a drive, lunch, whatever….give them some time away from care taking.

I’m now trying to do the dishes at least once a day, although the damn things can dry themselves. I’ve been in the backyard once, and picked a slew of tomatoes, lots more will be rotten by the time I get out there again but I hope to go out tomorrow with my daughter and get her to help me trim them back, and we’ll pick what we can. I’m not going to worry about it looking perfect (believe me…that’s a HUGE step for me).

The main thing when someone has a stroke, don’t assume anything. Don’t assume they can’t do anything, or they can do everything. Talk to them, and REALLY listen. I’ve always been bad for say, “Oh sure, I can take care of that.” Even when I know I’ll struggle. I have learned that, while I may still be able to do it, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. I listen to my body more, and my brain, and make sure not to push myself further than I should. I’ve had more than my share of lectures in the last month. I’ve heard you people….and I’m listening!

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The road keeps going

IMG_0017This series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

I generally don’t put truly person information on things like Facebook. Why? Because they are exactly that personal. You will never see my relationship status, as I choose to keep that personal. Those who need to know, know. I also don’t tend to put anything to do with my health. Again, personal. However, a recent question regarding a post I did make resulted in me advising people on Facebook about my stroke. Part of the reason I don’t post things like this there, is because I’m not looking for an outpouring of sympathy and I am certainly not playing the “poor me” card. I take what life throws at me and push my way through it, which can be detrimental in some ways.

I’ve had people make comments regarding how I look since the stroke (for those who haven’t seen me – I look and act the same as before). This being said, because I don’t look like anything happened to me, it’s hard for others to comprehend how it affects your brain. For me, my vision is the big thing. No, I’m visually impaired or anything, but the neurological  pathways are still rebuilding themselves and my eyes struggle to focus sometimes. Reading, and things close up, are still an issue. Driving, or sitting in a group of people and trying to focus on different faces, also an issue. Sure, I can do both, but it’s tiring and, while I don’t get a headache from it anymore, I can certainly feel the strain as my eyes work to do what they did naturally just four weeks ago.

When I left the hospital, they gave me an information package on stroke recovery. Four weeks later and I’m just starting to read through it because again, I’m unique. The majority of the information in this package doesn’t apply to me. I was advised I needed no rehab in any way, and it’s just a matter of time to allow the pathways to repair themselves. This is why I’m trying to blog every couple of days, to help my eyes relearn those pathways.

Part of the package lists signs of a stroke;

Weakness – Sudden loss of strength or sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg, even if temporary.

Trouble speaking – Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding or sudden confusion, even if temporary.

Vision problems – Sudden trouble with vision, even if temporary.

Headache – Sudden severe and unusual headache.

Dizziness – Sudden loss of balance, especially with any of the above signs.

OK, so here’s where it gets tricky; I had dizziness, headache and vision problems, but it was all put down to vertigo (which I’ve had before with an inner ear infection). My previous vertigo only lasted a day or so but I know people who have a version that lasts days, so I figured I’d moved on to that type. I was assessed with an inner ear infection – I’ll be looking into that assessment further as I get through my healing -so a stroke was the furthest thing from my mind.

My first post on this issue advised that I believe the stroke happened on July 25th. I’d have the dizziness, nausea and headache, for 11 days by this time, and it had been assumed it was all due to the vertigo. The afternoon of the July 25th I had been given a prescription provided to those with Persistent Onset Vertigo and I was waiting for that to kick in. This  is when the ongoing nausea became suddenly overwhelming and I actually did get sick. Then, no more nausea. I was still off balance, dizzy and had the headache.

To those not familiar with vertigo; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertigo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still on the road to healing

crystalThis series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

I realize I’ve made light of a very serious situation, having a stroke, but those who know me know that I’ve had a lot of difficult issues to deal with through my life and humour is a part of how I’ve made it through. To be honest, laying in that hospital bed in ER all alone, (as I mentioned in an earlier post I’d sent my partner home to get some rest), and having the doctor AND a nurse come in, I knew it wouldn’t be good news. Having the doctor say, “I wasn’t expecting to find this.” Then go on to say it may be a tumour, was scary as all hell, but I can’t, don’t and won’t dwell on the bad, I always look for the positive or the next step to make it through. I was extremely thankful when the second CT scan confirmed stroke, and not tumour, as I knew the worst was over and it was now about healing.

I ended up staying in the hospital for a total of  five days. As mentioned previously, I was extremely lucky and didn’t need any modifications to my home or aftercare once leaving the hospital. As the nurse said when I was signing the discharge papers, “If you drove yourself here, you are fine to drive yourself home.” Rest assured folks, I’ve only driven a couple of times since leaving the hospital on August 3rd and I’ve learned, and am paying attention to, my limits….as frustrating as that may be some days!

When I spoke to the doctor the morning of my discharge, I asked if I had any restrictions. He had learned my sense of humour by this time and said, “No real restrictions, just listen to your body, allow it time to heal and no contact sports.” My immediate response, “Damn, there goes my Thursday night football game!” He quickly responded with, “No roller derbies either!”

My best girlfriend had come to town the day before and we’d arranged for her to pick me out when I got my release papers. This being said, I went from laying around in a hospital bed most of the day, to laying around on my sofa most of the day. However, at least I was in my own home and starting that road to recovery.

I hope to be back on here later today, or tomorrow with some more serious information; signs to look for and a bit of helpful insight into what you can do for a friend or family member when they’ve been through this and have returned home. For now, it’s nap time!

 

Healing though writing cont.

This series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. Thank you in advance for your thoughts.IMG_20160817_144537

As I tried to get a bit of sleep in the Emergency Department, I was actually listening to those around me and realizing even more than ever the decline of our healthcare system. The majority of those behind the curtains around me, were there with issues that could/should have been dealt with by their family doctor, if they had one. Innumerable cases of flu were assessed and the fact they had to attend the Emergency Department due to the lack of doctors accepting patients, is asinine.

Anyway, after not getting any sleep, the nurse arrived at 4 am to advise they’d found me a bed. As I climbed into the wheelchair to make my way to my room I commented, “This is stupid. Who the hell is released at 4 am?” She smiled and said, “No-one, but the beds manage to not show up in the system until, whenever. ”

We made our way to the fourth floor of the hospital, and my new home for the next few days. I couldn’t wait to be somewhere quieter where I might be able to get a bit of sleep. Mind you, I’d spent the last week sleeping 16-18 per day but my body had obviously been telling me it needed the rest to repair itself. When we arrived the nurse apologized and said she had to take my vitals, again, before signing me over to the nurse here, who would also have to take my vitals. Not that I want to knock them having to do their jobs but the nurse who took over also had to ask me a series of questions. Excuse me! I’ve been up most of the night, my brain is recovering from a major shock, it’s 4:30 am and you want a freakin’ history? Whatever. I answered the questions and lay back to try to get some rest. Good luck with that one. Between my roommate snoring – she was too far away to poke to make her roll over – the call bells going off constantly, and the noisy wheels on the various carts roaming the halls, sleep was not to be had.

You soon learn the rhythm of the hospital and the lights in the hall brighten at 7 am. The nurses change shift at that time and suddenly folks start arriving. There’s the vampire from the lab to take more blood, the day nurse to check vitals, then by 8 am the gal is there with breakfast. Sadly, I hadn’t seen the dietitian yet so I couldn’t say what I wouldn’t ear and most of my first breakfast and lunch went uneaten. I’m not a picky eater but porridge and food with mayo where there is more vinegar then egg….not to my liking.

By the time breakfast arrived, the doctors were starting rounds. Well, I had the best seat in the house! The doctor would meet each nurse at a station right outside of my door and, while I avoided listening in on the info of other patients, my ears perked up as soon as I heard “Middleton”. Me being me, I figured maybe I’d overhear more than they might be willing to tell me. It never happened.

I’ve now completed some research and the first three doctors to see me, other than the one in emerg, are internists and I, was an anomaly. I didn’t fall into any of the groups likely to have a stroke; non-smoking, not a heavy drinker, no diabetes, no blood pressure issue, no cholesterol issues, no recent trauma to the head. I was a mystery…should we be surprised? Anyway, they decided I needed an MRI and MRA (MRI with dye to show the veins) before release. Sadly, I’d been admitted on a long weekend and no-one staffed that machine on weekends or holidays. My luck!

To keep me busy, there were doctors and nurses arriving throughout the day to give me various balance and cognitive tests. I really got tired of repeating them over and over but some were done daily (I was in hospital for four days) to ensure I didn’t deteriorate. By the last day I started telling them I could do the tests, and I could answer for my roommate as well. My legal name is Merri , pronounced Mary, and my roomie was Mary as well. She was born August 28th, 1932, in Croatia. She emigrated to Canada in 1957. She has one daughter and two grandchildren, one boy and one girl. She is diabetic and had issues with some of the tests due to language barriers and being able to read or write particular words in English.

During my time in hospital I also saw an intern specializing in neurological medicine, as well as a neurologist – she’s the one I get to see again after my follow-up CT scan in early September. I also met with a stroke team; occupational therapist, physical therapist, stroke nurse and speech therapist. They, and the rest of the medical staff quickly learned, I don’t let things get me down or hold me back. I was told I wouldn’t need any speech or occupational therapy and, it was suggested I use a walker they brought, for walks in the hall. My first walk, with the physical therapist and a nurse, I went twice the distance they expected me to and the nurse wandered off as she saw she wasn’t needed. My second walk, with my kids, I just rested the tips of my fingers on the walker as I didn’t want to be dependent on it. The next day the physical therapist arrived again to see if I could do the walk without the walker. Just watch me go lady! I was wearing my own pj’s, one of the items my partner brought up to me to help me cope, and while they are the most comfie things imaginable, they aren’t something to wear when you’re slightly off balance and trying to impress the therapist. However, I held the pant legs up and did a full circuit of the hallway without any help. Sure, I was still off balance a bit, but I wasn’t bouncing off the walls anymore.

The internist came by to see me shortly after this and advised that it had been decided I wouldn’t need any assistance upon leaving the hospital and we were just waiting for the MRI and MRA, so they could try to determine, why this happened to begin with. As he put it, “You don’t seem to have any major disabilities.” My immediate response, “You obviously haven’t met my family!” Sorry, folks but I’ve had two CT scans, an MRI and an MRA, they’ve found proof I have a brain and the stroke didn’t affect the smartass section!

Signing off for now. I may post more later, maybe tomorrow. We’ll see. Take care all!

 

Healing through writing

This series of blogs isn’t meant to elicit sympathy but hopefully to inform and create awareness. I do however, thank you in advance for your thoughts.

Well, it’s been almost two months since my last post and a lot of things have happened. A lot. This particular topic will be done in multiple posts, and for those who don’t already know what has been doing on, you’ll understand why shortly.

I’m someone who believes in going for their physical every other year (no health issues so yearly isn’t called for), and went for mine as scheduled July 8th. Being of a certain age, I always book an appointment for two weeks after my physical. I want to know, and track, “the numbers”. I figure if they find a problem, I want to know and address it right away. There are a lot of issues in my family; blood pressure, diabetes, hypoglycemia, etc., so I track my numbers to make sure things are good. Personally, my blood pressure has always been textbook; blood sugar – amazing; cholesterol – generally that of an 18-year old but up .3 this year. Anyway, I had the appointment for my follow-up booked for July 22nd. On July 15th, I had an odd feeling in my head – for those who feel air pressure changes, you’ll know what I mean. I put it down to that. The next morning I woke up with vertigo. Not a feeling you want to have, but I’ve had it before due to ear infections etc. It generally lasts a day and I’m good. Not this time. When I wasn’t over the vertigo by Tuesday, I called my doctor. Unfortunately, he was going on vacation the next week and he was fully booked. They said they’d put me down and call if there was a cancellation. I’m not going to go into all of the detail but, after two visits to a different doctor, things still weren’t improving.

On Monday, July 25th while standing at my kitchen sink I had a mild stroke. I believe this is when it happened anyway. Given the symptoms (which I’ve now researched some) and how I remember feeling, I’m pretty sure this is when it happened. Vertigo will give you a headache and nausea – due to the constant spinning of everything – but at this time I had an overwhelming feeling of nausea, and actually threw up.

Not even thinking ‘stroke’, I figured the worst was over. I was taking the meds the doctor gave me and had advised needed two days to take effect, so I figured I’d give the meds their time. After 48 hours I still didn’t feel any better and was contemplating taking a cab to Emergency the next morning. My sister had offered to drive 2 hour to take me but yeah, I’m stubborn, I didn’t want to put her out, and really didn’t want to sit in Emergency by myself for hours on end so I figured I’d wait one more day until my partner was here and have him take me. He works out of town and is here on weekends.

As luck would have it, he got off work early that day so when he arrived we immediately headed to the hospital. We arrived at 2pm and started, “THE WAIT”. During our four hours of waiting, he made sure I drank an energy drink, as I know I hadn’t been drinking enough fluids over the past two weeks. He also got some chicken soup for me and, when chatting with a woman who came in by herself, after us, expressed his concern and asked he if she was OK. (She’d basically curled up in a ball in the chair due to pain from a gallbladder removal she’d had numerous issues with). She was surprised a stranger would express concern, but that’s just how how he is. Me, I was sitting with my eyes shut most of the time, trying to keep the world from spinning.

When we finally got in to see the doctor, I was sent for a CT Scan. The initial diagnosis….possible brain tumour. These were my actually thoughts. “OMG! Really! Now you have to go in, do a biopsy and figure out what it is, before we even think treatment!” I also thought, “He didn’t sign up for this.” My partner and I have only been together for four months at his point. I’d send him home earlier, to just get a break and he wasn’t there when the doctor and nurse came in to tell me. Yes, I was alone when I got this news.

When he returned and I told him they thought it might be a tumour, he didn’t bat an eye. I was headed for another CT Scan, this one with a dye added to show the veins and make a clear diagnosis. The initial scan showed a 2cm area they were concerned with (possible tumour). When I got back from this scan, and they got the results, it was determined I had a stroke, a bleed in the cerebellum, the area that deals with balance and vision. Both my partner and I had the same response, “Good..now we just deal with the recovery”. They advised I was being admitted, so I sent my partner home to get some rest as I figured one of us might as well get some.

These are the hospital bracelets from my “adventure”. One red one is from Emergency, they puIMG_20160817_144445t a different one on you when you are admitted, with a different bar code; and the yellow one advises they needed to watch me as I may fall. The nurse told us if it has stripes as well, you may be violent. The picture is out of focus for a couple of reasons; to keep my information private, and to show how I currently see a lot of things when not wearing my glasses. OK, so my vision may not be quite this bad. But it’s the best I could focus my phone camera, when not wearing my glasses.

This is the end of this post. I’ll continue tomorrow. I’m trying to get on the computer a bit each day, to help things heal, and my head is telling me I’ve done enough for today.