Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tuesday January 26 – ‘Progress’

At your OT appointment a arm brace is made for your left arm. It is designed to keep your fingers and wrist in a neutral position. Without the brace your fingers tend to curl into a fist. This can cause contracture and render the hand useless later. It also helps protect your hand. Yesterday, you left arm dropped of the arm rest of your chair and got jammed in the wheel of the chair. You knew something wasn’t right and it hurt but you were unsure where the hurt came from.

Your OT says that you should wear the brace all the time except when you are doing PT. “And when I salute.” You add with a slight grin. You ask “Can the children can draw on it.”
“Absolutely” she says.
“It is made of tough material.” You note. “It will be harder to cut my wrists now.” Your OT doesn’t crack a smile. She is a tough audience.

You have noticed the occasional movement in your left hand where it will stretch out a bit. It is random and not of your willing. The OT suggests that this movement is not the best one to encourage. You want to encourage the opposite motion. The motion that closes your palm. “So if I can crush this brace, I’m doing OK?” You said. “If you can crush the brace, you probably don’t need it anymore.” She replied dryly with a smile.

OT is coming at 7:30am tomorrow to see how you can do your personal care. And next Thursday, she will show me the right way to help you transfer. There are wrong ways and right ways and better ways to transfer. The better ways make you do most of the work. That’s what I need to learn.

She asks about the journal that you are keeping. She set the book up so that you would have to pay attention to the left margin. She placed a red line on the left to draw your eye to it. I mentioned how newspaper columns have been easier to read. She thinks you should try to read newspapers. She also mentioned that a red line can be put on your TV to help you draw your gaze to the left.

We talk about your vision. There is no way to really distinguish between left visual field cortical blindness and pure neglect. But there is a difference with outcomes. She didn’t elaborate on this point other then to say that there are strategies to get you to attend to your left. ‘Attend’ is the opposite to ‘neglect’. If you attend to your left then your left limbs may come on online better too.

The PT appointment is right after the OT. The student starts the session by putting a muscle stimulator on your shoulder to see if these muscles can be ‘woken’ up. It is at a low setting to start with. Over time the intensity and the duration will be increased. Possibly this is a machine that we will buy to use at home. The PT student explained that standing is good because weight bearing is good for strengthening and learning balance. Standing will lead to walking … maybe.

You did do a little ‘walking’ today. Actually you stood and, with cues from the PT student, you shifted your weight from one side to the other so that you could walk. You couldn’t move your left foot forward. The PT had the move it herself as you shifted your weight.

You have a long way to go. But at least you are doing it.

Over the last few days at the rehab, I have been meeting with other wives of patients. There are a few of us who have been sitting vigil by their husband’s side since their accidents. So many stories, Sad stories … the stories help me deal with my self-pity and put it into prospective.

We went for coffee at Tim’s. We found the right combination of coffee and coffeemate and sugar for the best taste. 0mg Cholesterol and 6g fat and 4 tsp of sugar for a total of 140 calories. That’s a significant improvement over the 4X4 with 560 calories, 28g fat and 120 mg cholesterol..

As we talk about you recovery and what you have to do to take charge of it, you interrupt me. “I would like to add a new word to our vocabulary.” “New word?” I echoed. “Yes a new word that tells me that I’m doing well… that I’m making any kinds of stides towards being healthy, being a good dad … any thing good. If you said the word ‘progress’. Then I know that you see it in me.”

I like the word. Progress. It a code word of sorts. A word that tells you that you are on the right track and that I’m proud of you. A word that will teach you to be proud of yourself.

It’s going to be a very important word over the next weeks and months. There will be a lot of challenges, frustrations and successes. There will be Progress.

The Chaplain visited you today. You opened up and chattered away about your stroke, about the church and the people you love at the church. You even asked if she was able to make a person a Saint. You wanted to nominate some of the people you have crossed paths with in the last few months. She admired your magic blanket. We told the magic blanket story.

You also talked about your addictions. You asked about talking to someone about dealing with stress and coping without an addiction by your side. She said that she would contact a counselor or social worker to talk with you. I’m proud of you. I whisper ‘Progress’ in your ear.

In the afternoon, we go to the coffee shop with a couple of the recreational therapist students (RT). Conversation topics were all over the place. They could see your funny side. One of the RT’s asked if you were a comedian.

At a serious moment, you told the RT students a story I hadn’t heard before. It was one of those memories that was buried deep and almost forgotten and for some reason, today, you chose to tell it. We were talking about baseball and running coach signals at the time. This must have sparked the memory.

“Back in my baseball days when I was young I was on the third base waiting for the chance to get home. I was watching the catcher closely. He was dogging it and just slowly lobbing the ball back to the pitcher each time. I realized that even though I was an average runner that I could probably make it almost to home plate while the ball was still in the air. I knew that I would already have a few steps lead off and if I took off, as the catcher’s arm was cocked back, I could probably get to within a step or two of home plate. Before the pitcher even got the ball and had time to react, I would steal home!”

Stealing home. Your hero, Rod Carew stole home. He stole home 17 times.

“Did you do it?” the RT’s asked. “No” you said “I should have – it has been a big regret of mine ever since. If I didn’t make it – I would have just been chewed out by the coach but if I made it I would have had a great story to tell for years.”

It was a regretted missed opportunity.

Just before I leave, I put a copy of the first eight weeks of the journal out for you to read. I hope that the effort of looking for the left margin will help you attend to your left. When I started the journal, I had no idea that the therapy from the journal would come from the actual physical act of reading it.

It was another tough good bye.

When I get back to Truro, I head to the rink to pick up the children. I get to watch Quinn and Tara skate about. Quinn takes great delight at falling at every opportunity he could get. He is growing up. Last year, he was extremely frustrated while learning to cross-country ski. There is such a difference in attitude between this year and last year. One year may not have increased his balance but it improved his outlook.

At bedtime there is no answer when we call you. I tell Tara that you are probably in the recreational therapy floor playing the ‘Name that Tune’ game. “What?,” she says. She couldn’t hear me because she is plugged into her ipod listening to her tunes. All the tunes she has on her ipod are the songs that you have on yours. I repeated what I said to Tara. She pulls out an earpiece, smiles and says “Name that tune? Dad will be good at that.”

After the children are in bed, I call you back. You did do well at the name that tune game. You were one of the top three. You said. The only songs you missed were country songs.

You had an idea for us to do in the evenings when you get home. “We can cuddle up on the sofa and work on the book!” You said. I cautioned you that we will have to be patient because we don’t know how the book is going to turn out. We are both learning how to be patient. You will be waiting less in the future – because you will be less dependent on people.

“I know that I have to do the recovery their way. If I don’t do it their way, then I may jeopardize the finish ... I know I can do it. The closer I get to home the easier it will get.”

I tell you that this is ‘Progress’. I can hear you smile over the phone. There will be no regretted missed opportunities here. If you could steal home right now … you would.

Last week I saw problems not possibilities. Today, I see possibilities not problems. I guess that’s ‘progress’ too.


  1. mike to gwen (in a whisper) progress
    mike to chris ... is a big cheer ... PROGRESS!!!

  2. I too agree.........Progress is a great road. Please don't let him think perfection just progress is good enough!!!