The Physical Impact
"A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step."
It goes without saying, the physical impact from a neurological event is much more noticeable than the emotional impact.
Due to the fact that I was in a wheelchair for the first month post-stroke, I had not viewed myself in the mirror. However, one day while in physical therapy at St. Luke’s Acute Rehab in Phoenix, a mirror was placed in front of me while I was trying to balance on the exercise ball.
WOW, was that a shock! Not only did I look 20 years older and have paralysis on the lower left side of my lip - everything about my physical appearance was totally different, not to mention my hair had not been washed in weeks!
NEW BODY VS. OLD BODY
I wondered what specifically had happened to my pre-stroke body? It took me a while to figure out the specific changes, but eventually I did. Once I discovered these I knew precisely what I needed to work on in therapy.
HAMSTRING: My left hamstring no longer functioned, thus my walking gait had changed. I now walked with a heavy-duty limp.
LEG SPASMS: Along with hamstring issues, I have had continuous leg spasms since my first day in the hospital. One of my doctors has given me an all-natural home therapy that I do regularly. More on that later.
ANKLE/FOOT: My ankle no longer functioned as it did before due to a condition called “drop foot,” which is a fairly common condition for stroke survivors. This condition displays itself on the affected foot by not lifting your foot up and out when walking. Instead, it moves down and in, so your foot drags, causing one to trip and fall.
Falling is the #1 cause of injuries and death for stroke survivors! You want to do everything you can in therapy to improve this condition. Plus, there is an excellent device that reduces this potential problem until you can regain the function of your ankle and leg called the Bioness L300 Go, which you can find out more about by clicking here or watching below.
SPASTICITY: I have learned spasticity begins in the spinal cord, not the brain, signaling your brain to “protect” these areas because they have been “damaged.” This is a “protective” mechanism, but it sure creates havoc with one’s recovery! My left hand and elbow were “locked up” as I called it at the time, possibly just like yours - right?! My elbow tended to be bent and close to the front of my body, and my hand was locked in a fist position and had to be pried open by my therapist, because…
My left tricep became non-functioning due to the stroke, and my bicep overcompensated by trying to take over the job of bending my elbow, straightening out my arm to reach, etc.; thus, they’re literally fighting each other for “control” of the movement. I continue to work on this issue in supervised therapy and at home.
EXTREME FATIGUE, CONFUSION, BRAIN FOG, MEMORY RECALL: Although these issues presented themselves during those first few months, I still experience them at times just not quite as intensely. Remember, your brain has experienced a huge trauma and it’s worn out! Sleep and rest breaks help a lot!
DIAPHRAGM: My voice changed to a lower pitch. I could no longer carry a tune. I transformed from soprano to alto overnight! Why, I wondered? I later learned it was due to the damage to my diaphragm.
EDEMA: Approximately 2 months post-stroke, I began experiencing severe swelling in my affected hand, or edema. It was extremely painful, which made it impossible to work on in therapy. I then began a series of hot and ice-cold water baths, an edema glove, and other treatments to reduce the swelling and recover the use of my hand for therapy. To say it was extremely painful, even to touch my hand, is an understatement!
All this sounds pretty dreary, doesn’t it?! Not to worry, help and hope have arrived! There are a number of devices and professionals to help you with these deficits, which I will explain in the next post.
Next week tune in for Managing The Physical Impact, where I will tell you all about how to make this process as easy and comfortable as possible!
Thanks for reading and have a great day!