Friday, January 22, 2010

Sunday January 17 - A difficult struggle but a blessing

This morning we met a retired RN who had a stroke in November. She gets to go home this week. She will have been here about a month. She can walk with a walker and probably go home with a cane. “They told me that you need 50% attitude and 50% hard work. I have 60% attitude, that made the work hard easier.” She said. Her advice about the exercises was “Do them 10 times, one hundred times doesn’t help you any more and just tires you out. Just listen to the staff, they know what they are doing.”

“You have to have a realistic goal.” She said her goal was “To go home and be able to look after myself.” With her progress to date and her attitude, I believe she’ll do it. Your goals are a little loftier, you want to run a marathon. I believe that you will be able to run again.

Keeping a positive attitude is not easy. Depression in waves is normal. She pointed out that the waves of depression applies to all four of us. Gosh, I just realized that she is right. I have experienced waves of fear and doubt. I need to follow my own advice. Let the waves ride over you because like the waves at the beach, they will always recede.

We did a self-conducted toured the seventh and fourth floors. The seventh floor is for inpatients. I think most of you have had strokes or a traumatic brain injury (TBI). There is a dining room at one end of the floor and a lounge at the other end. The morning sun was pouring in the lounge. It felt good. This is where we met the lady with 60% attitude.

The fourth floor is for recreational therapy. I was introduced to this field of healing at the QE2 when you were there. At the time I couldn’t understand how recreational therapy could be of any help to you. I think I get it now. It bridges the gap between occupational therapy and real life.

Much like a good teacher, who finds a passion within a student and uses it to bring concepts to them, the recreational therapist enables you to practice some of the skills that you relearned. By doing things that you’ll enjoy it will also improve your cognitive, emotional, and social skills.

On the walls are written in large letters motivational thoughts: ‘Dream it – Do it’, ‘Keep it Simple’, and ‘Never Give Up’. There is a piano in the room too. The children played a few songs on it. Tara played a one hand version of the ‘Feather Theme” for you. Above the piano is inscribed on the wall: ‘Pause – Relax - Breathe’.

The children undertake a quick game of pool with us. It was a rather simplified game. With you only able to use you right hand and the children using an adult stick with their short arms, the playing field was fairly level. It turns out I was the best player of the game. That is a family ‘first’. With games that require any physical skill, like hitting a ball with a stick, I have always … to put it bluntly … sucked. I don’t expect to hold the crown for long.

You and Quinn played a game of table shuffleboard. I can see that you both have a long way to go before you’d make the Olympic team. There is TV room with a small library of videos, along with many games and puzzles. Once you make a few friends here, I can see you hanging out down here.

After eating lunch in the dining room of the ‘New Leaf Café down stairs on the first floor. The café is closed on the weekends but there is access to a sink and a microwave as well as tables and chairs. All the equipment and supplies that we need for an easy picnic lunch.

You had a lot of waves of sadness yesterday, You haven’t any today… until you point this fact out. I ask if your sadness is related to feeling insecure in a new place. You didn’t think so.

You are a people person. Once you make some connections with the staff and fellow patients, you will feel more at ease at the NSRC. Being transferred to the NSRC on a Friday didn’t give you much time to make and bond with the staff. This weekend, you have made some connections with patients. A gentleman in the adjacent room knows Donald. They have been friends for many years. You had not met him before but Donald had spoke of him to you and he knew of you through Donald.

This week, I think you will make some relationships with the staff and you will feel more at ease with your new temporary home.

Wayne, Juanita, Maddie and Farley came to visit in the afternoon. The Dallas game was on TV but you tore yourself away to talk with Juanita and Wayne. You revealed your secret to them. Juanita’s reaction was of shock. The expression on her face reminded me of the day she opened the fortune cookie that said she was going to be an aunt.

There were lots of questions about the deception that you pulled off for so long. Juanita’s parting words were that she’d have to think about your confession and decide if it was punishable. She has always been a bit more of a disciplinarian than me. She is an ex-smoker herself. She understands the psyche of a smoker and the things you need to do to break the habit and desire. For me I just want you to get better and never do this again.

You lived with this deception for a long time. Keeping this inside you slowly changed you. The changes were subtle, but in hindsight, I noticed them. I think the changes were because you didn’t like yourself very much because of the deception. This dislike made you withdraw from those who loved you. You didn’t think you deserved our love.

I didn’t see this until now. I thought that your passion for running was your ‘mistress’ not smoking. I had hoped that the running was your therapy and replacement for the gambling. I pointed out to you tonight that this stroke might have saved you from a bigger smoking related disease.

By baring your soul to us all, you are able to like and love yourself. Once you can love yourself, you can truly love someone else. You can be the person you want to be. No matter what the final outcome of this stroke is, I think that we can both agree that it has already been a blessing. A difficult struggle but a blessing.

At bedtime Quinn and Tara get a little philosophical about the smoking. “I’ve never thought of Daddy in the same picture as smoking.” Said Tara as she struggled with the thought. “Why would he want to smoke, it’s strange to put fire in your mouth.” Quinn said. I emphasized to them that the choice to smoke was a bad choice but you are not a bad person. I told them that you will need us more then ever to help you through this recovery. I told them that I was proud of you to share this news because it meant that you were really serious about changing and getting better.

At dinner, I tell the children that I have set my watch alarm to go off at 7:30 every night. When they hear it, it means it’s time to make a bedtime call to you to see how your days went. I hope that phone contact will keep your morale high.

Your reshaping, as you call it, is starting. Tomorrow is a “new start”. You said. “I hope it goes OK.” I remind you not to have wild expectations too soon. Your recovery has been slow so far. It’s Day 140 or five months. Everyone we’ve met so far who had a stroke is no ways near five months post stroke mark. Most patients have got here two to three months after their stroke. Your recovery will take time.

You want me to finish this entry by saying that you love me constantly like “You’re a big love pool and I am trending water.”

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