Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: The Queen of Abby Normal with Attitude

This week I made triple berry jam the way my grandmother used to without pectin. I found out last year that Mel does not favor strawberries. That was after we planted a dozen strawberry plants. So we harvested raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries last summer, as well as strawberries. I put about a quart of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries into the freezer for this triple berry delight jam just for her.

While my latest A1C was 5 (optimal), I still basically eat like a diabetic. In other words limited refined sugars. I've been doing combat with my blood sugar since my stroke bottomed out my blood sugar. In one evening, I went from an insulin dependent diabetic to just the opposite...hypoglycemic (low blood sugar). I even eat two fun sized candy bars a night so my blood sugar doesn't bottom out while I sleep. Not that I mind. :o) But still my A1C comes out at about 4.6 or 5 every three months. Go figure! Don't try this at home folks. I'm the Queen of Abby Normal. All hail the queen. No doctor can figure it out. I'm just thankful. I make my strawberry jam without sugar.

In some ways, I feel abnormal about a lot of things I do. I knew my quirkiness suited me well while writing, but in real life, I was just different. My mental acuity was higher than those around me.  As a child, I'd rather sit with my elders and absorb what they had to say rather than be with others my own age. Kids my own age had nothing to teach me. At 16, I was doing college level course work and going to seminars to be happy.

Now as an older adult, I chose to go backward in time to homestead. Even being partially paralyzed from multiple strokes hasn't slowed me down much. Sure life would be a lot easier without the paralysis or spasticity, but I'm still doing. Even though, I believe, nobody in their right mind would choose to have a stroke. Life happens and it's not always good. There are situations beyond our control which happen. It happens to everyone worldwide. So what saves a person like me from total despair? My attitude. I don't believe there is nothing I can't do. No matter what if I want to do it. Nothing is bigger and stronger than my Father in Heaven. Being His child shouldn't I be able to do it too? I believe so.

So I use quantitative words for my shortcomings like "yet" when I say I can't do something like keep my inverted foot straight to walk without my AFO. "I can't walk without my AFO yet." I believe I will one day. I try to do it daily. This morning it was "Nope, not yet." That doesn't mean tomorrow I won't. Until then, I'll just keep trying.

That's not to say I don't get frustrated with this waiting game. I honestly do. I'm also childish and want everything NOW! So how do I deal with the situation? I could sit and pout. I could throw a temper tantrum. I could yell at the world. I could do a lot of things that will not help me at all. I'll do something for someone else. Then I don't feel so useless. I don't sit on the self-pity pot any longer than necessary. In this case, make my triple berry delight jam for Mel. At other times, it's knitting baby booties for the crisis pregnancy center. Believe me, I've made a lot of booties this year. I take what I can do and to downgrades what I can't. It feeds my ego and my sense of accomplishment. It makes me feel not useless.

Yes, I'm the Queen of Abby Normal with attitude. All hail the queen! Won't you join me?

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Time for a Change

I wanted to ask y'all some advice. I've been on a Zanaflex, Baclofen, Botox, and even valium regime since my stroke for high tone and spasticity. They have even recently upped the dose to 500CC of Botox with the extra 100CC going into my arm. Needless to say, I've spent a small fortune on this. But still, the spasticity level and pain it causes is increasing. All of this is beginning to feel like a losing battle and I hate it.

Before my spasticity progressed to moderate, and then to severe, I had voluntary movement of my elbow and two of my fingers. Now, even with all of this and weekly dry needling sessions, I can't  extend my elbow and have nothing voluntary in the fingers at all. My ankle no longer supports me without inverting. According to my OT and PT, I'm doing everything I should and can do. I've hit a major frustration point in this. I feel like I'm up against a brick wall and can no longer chip away at the mortar holding it together.

Is it time for a change???

What works for others with this condition? I understand this neuro-spasticity  is a mystery. My therapists and neurologists have talked at great lengths about the subject. I'm not taking just their words for it either. I've done quite a bit of research on the subject myself over the years. A lot of neuro deficits from my strokes, I can fight to recovery from. But this part I'm having trouble with. I'd call it quits and be okay with it if it wasn't for the pain that goes along with it.

I live and want to live life to the fullest, and I can't do it in pain. Having fibromyalgia just makes it worse. Pain, any pain, is amplified ten fold at a minimum. I've dealt with my condition for over a decade. I discount my pain levels mentally with meditation and stubbornness.I refuse to be held down and stop moving. This stubbornness isn't without its own set of problems. I do take everything slower on flare days, but I just don't lay in bed all day. I get up and do to the best of my ability in spite of the pain. In some respects I do not feel "lucky" that sensory nerves were not damaged by my strokes. I could honestly use some relief from all this hurting. But then, I also want to be a zombie taking this or that pain killer either. Aging hasn't helped. That in itself brings a whole host of other problems.

So I believe it's time for a change. After five years, there's got to be a better solution. I've been looking into baclofen pumps. Do any of my readers have one? I've got a few questions for you...
How long have you had it?
Are you satisfied with the results?
Would you do it again?
How weak does this IT unit make your functioning side?
How well does it work on your upper limb? Everything I've read said not very well. This is my main issue with it.

Having a pump is said to work better than the oral medication because it is delivered directly into the spine. This isn't a cheap option since the surgery alone is $30+K. The medicine to refill it has to be bought every 4 weeks (for a smaller unit) to up to every four months. It can cost up to $500 per refill. That's not my cost between Medicare and BC/BS. I expect to still pay out of pocket for some of it though.

I'm not a vain person so having the unit bulge my abdomen doesn't matter. If it works...then it's priceless. I'm not expecting miracles here. I'm desperate.The decision is still at least five months away for me. It will be my Christmas present to myself for a happier New Year if I decide to do it. I found a neurophysicist, at Shepherd Center, that performs this procedure 45 minutes from when I live, just north of Atlanta, so commuting will not be a problem for follow-up appointments and therapy. Like I said I've been researching it for a couple of years.

On the other hand, maybe just change up my drugs. But in everything I've read, I'm already on the most common ones. With my history of drug allergies, that's a scary proposition. But also given my history with general anesthesia and my heart stopping, that's even scarier. Mind you, I'm not a 'fraidy cat. I have some serious risks, but risk factors are weighed against the my decreasing quality of life.

As I've said before, I was well on my way to full recovery of my arm and leg before the spasticity set in so bad. The dry needling even with an electrical current running between the needles only gives me about 16 hours of relief from the pain and only 12 hours of relief from the muscle spasms (done weekly). That's with Botox 500CC 4 times a year), and 3 muscle relaxers, at almost maximum doses, that I take daily. I'm just tired of fighting this losing battle. If something doesn't work... fix it!

Nothing is impossible

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

I know. I know. I got the title backwards, didn't I? But after a stroke and living post stroke for more than five years, it sure feels like it. I hear you all now. "Whoa! This doesn't sound like the Jo we usually read." But just hold on a minute. You know that's fixing to change. Or at least you hope, right? Or you are sighing and saying, "Jo's on the pity pot again."

I'm in this weird mood, so be forewarned. I can get very retrospective at times like this. What's the reason behind this mood, you may wonder. I've been people watching again...mostly Mel.

What we thought was a sprained wrist turned out to be a broken one. Her dominant right wrist. I've been watching how she is handling it. She's never had a serious illness, broken bone, stitches, or anything medically wrong with her in all her life. That's almost sixty years folks. Other than depression, she's led a charmed life until one night she tripped over her TV tray. As she puts it, "I couldn't break my wrist by doing something cool. I had to do it by doing something stupid."

But really, isn't that always the way?

So I've been doing a comparison between how we each handle the one handed life. We are kindred spirits and alike in attitude. So it's been interesting. Nothing shows true attitude like how you handle adversity. Of course unlike me, she has use of her fingers and can pull the splint off. She does this more than she should. Especially in times of frustration until pain causes her to put the splint back on. She's a grown woman, I should only advise her once on what to do. After that, it's her choice. So I've been watching her for the past couple weeks.

At first, I listened to her moan and groan about typing one-handed. She's writing a dystopian novel. Yes, I understand that particular hardship. As the picture suggests, Mel a charter member. This where we differ. Instead of first trying to figure out how to do something, she'll gripe about it first. I order to nip it in the bud now, I hold up my right arm and say, "Hello!!!??" There isn't anything she can say that I haven't said a million times over the past five years. She'll be in the splint for two to four more weeks. It couldn't have happened at the worst possible time. We're busiest on the homestead this time of year. But it has been and interesting observation.

It's not that I don't empathize and sympathize about her struggles. I can and do. But I listened to this for a couple of weeks of how she couldn't do anything, before I started with tough love. She had to get up and do. Between us we have two working hands. Granted they are both our left hands, but still. Two crafty women, like we are, should figure out how we can get things done.

Sort of like this
Our current project is the new rabbitry and chicken areas. These two areas are built with pallets and cattle panels. The biggest and hardest part is digging the holes for the post supports. She gets on one handle and I do the other one. Having hard, compacted clay to dig in isn't making this a quick process. We are managing two holes a day but we are getting it done. We had one 24' wall complete before I left for home. That's a major accomplishment. Now we have to do the other side. Mel figured out she could push the handles open without causing pain so she planted some 4x4x4s while I was gone. All it took was me giving her a kick in the pants to get her started.

Before I left for home we were watching Netflixs and doing assorted tasks. I am knitting baby bunny rattles for the local crisis pregnancy center and Mel was rolling cigarettes. Yeah, I know. I know. But I pick my battles. The pain of using her fingers got to her and she was messing up the cigarettes. She shaking her head, tears rolling down her cheek and she was whispering, "I can't. I can't do it."

I looked over at her and told her to clean up her mess and stop for the night. We'd had a full day of animal care, one of our buck Angoras toenail ripped open one of his testicles. We had to do minor surgery. Her holding him and me doing the cutting and closing to neuter him. Three drops of morphine had him totally sedated while we worked. Well, he'll be a good wool producer, but not a breeder. We switched off doing therapy exercises on the other buck, Dustin. We had dug two holes and placed four panels for the rabbitry. We had dinner and cleaned up afterwards. We were both exhausted. I told her...
  We can only do what we can to the best of our ability and no more. As much as we'd like to do more or do better, that's the honest truth. You can only strive to do better. Never when too tired or frustrated. When those two factors are in play, you will only fail. So take it easier on yourself.

So are you feeling like defeat is being snatched from the jaws of victory? Maybe, it's your point of view. A defeatist starts a sentence with 'I can't.' A moderate starts a sentence with 'I'll try. An achiever starts a sentence with 'Watch me.' Sure first attempts and maybe the first ten times you'll fail at the attempt. Eventually, you will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Traveling this Weekend, But...

After the fiasco of the past few weeks, we are finally moving forward in building our homestead. We've been two women with only a functional left hand. Mel sprained her wrist and was in a split. She's getting a small taste of what I go through each day living post stroke.

For our YouTube audience, it's been a long absence from any new video productions. When we ain't doing nothing, there's no sense in videoing it. Sure I've been canning, but it's not something they can't see or learning on fifty other sites. As far as cooking videos, I haven't made anything worthy of videoing because I've been canning. The rain has kept us indoors as much as possible. So no building, animal updates, or gardening stuff. Still we have to get back into video making mode again.

The hardest part of building these new structures is digging the holes for the 4x4 posts. Each structure has 12 of them. It takes Mel a week with the post hole digger to do twelve. We cut the 8' posts in half so the 4' are anchored two feet into the ground for added stability. These will allow the pallets to be screwed into them. We don't want the predators gaining access. We'll be stapling chicken wire to the outsides of the pallets also to hold the little ones in. This will allow the rabbits to run around the large enclosure while we groom them. 24'x10' is plenty of room for them to scamper and binky to their heart's content. We'll also be seeding an area, not enclosed by the tarp, with rabbit yummies like Timothy, orchard, rye grasses, and clover for them to "free range" in. Straw will be under the cages. We decided to reuse the smaller cages we built for the bucks. They just don't need as much room. The new larger 24x36x24 cages will be for the does. Building this five-plex (15 feet long) was an adventure and a half. We put in the drop down nest boxes and a shelf that a momma rabbit can hop on to for getting away from the babies. Yes, they are the Taj Mahal for the does. We are reusing the old hutches as grow out cages and quail cages.

We are now entering the second stage of our rabbitry. The breeding/ pedigree part of raising Angoras. This last year has been spent getting to know our rabbits and get them on a grooming schedule. I still need to get another buck to replace Keiran who died last month and another doe for meat rabbits.The quail are our next expansion animal into homesteading. We spend a year with each animal before getting the next. The next big jumps are to goats and then Guinea hogs.

As for me this weekend, I have been summoned home. I've honestly not been home since Thanksgiving. The reason is simple bad weather and my health. I have a triple A (Aortic Abdominal Aneurysm) growing. My cardiologist is concerned but it isn't big enough to warrant surgery. That doesn't mean it won't blow, but it's unlikely. Knowing quite a bit about these things, I've felt like I have a time bomb in my belly and been afraid to go anywhere especially not 6 hours on the interstate. My dad called me. He and his wife are celebrating their Silver Wedding Anniversary. I honestly think it has been longer. I haven't added it up, but he says it's their silver, but he has Alzheimer's too. It's actually their 28th. I broke out my calculator. I'm just happy he remember she's his wife. He often forgets and searches for my mother.

Another new area for our expansion is a grain trial where the old rabbit hutches are and bush hogging the orchard. Whether we plant the orchard this year or not all depends on timing. We still have the driveway and house to fix when I return to the homestead. That was my main focus for this year especially after being stuck up to my axle in mud and snow this Spring and winter. New pipes from the well to the house has to be installed. The fool that built the original system used a flexible hose and only buried it about 6" underground. We had numerous breaks and water freezing before it gets to the house. It has to be fixed properly. I'll gladly pay someone else to dig the trenches and lay the pipe. It's too big of a headache for me and Mel to do it. I want it done right.

With the new rabbitry and chicken hoop shelters going up, it's time for the electricians to come in and do their stuff. Wow, we can even have air conditioning in the main part of the house this summer! Not that I minded doing without last year. It's not like South Georgia up here. The humidity isn't as great or the temperatures as high. You'd think that Mel being from Orlando would be used to the heat, but she's spoiled and loves her air conditioning. We are so different in our heat and cold tolerances. Hers is a very narrow range about low 80s and she's comfortable. I'll be the first one in shorts and a tank top while she's still in the long sleeves. My comfort range is between 69 degrees to 85 degrees. I'll be in t-shirts until the temperature drops into the low 50s.

Well that's about it. Remember,
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Lending a Hand

Just because you've had a stroke, it doesn't mean you can't participate and help others. I offer a hand in doing everything. I can only offer A hand because my right hand is paralyzed and spastic. But still, that doesn't stop me.

We recently moved all the angoras out of the present day rabbitry. No, I didn't actually totally move the rabbits by myself because I need my one functioning hand to support me going down the step. That didn't stop me though. Mel got them out of their cages and handed them down to me. I held them like you would cuddle a baby against your chest. They love to be cuddled and felt secure even with my lopsided gait. I had opened the hutch doors before we got started so it was a quick trip around the corner, popping them into their new cage, and fastening the spring lock before getting the next one. Think through the process twice and then do. It saves time and frustration.

Then came the hard part that Mel thought I couldn't do at first. Removal of the cages and litter trays. shredded insulation, rat nests, rabbit poo that had gotten as hard as a ball bearing. I'm still doing the supporting, carrying, and setting down the cages and litter trays to manage the step.

It's one thing moving these into the rabbitry but a whole 'nother thing moving them out. In moving them in, I just had to support them, walk to the door, set it down, climb the step and hold them while Mel attached the chain. In taking them down, the cages had almost a year's worth of rabbits living in them. Poo was stuck to the bottom where I couldn't reach to clean them. Rats had built nests under the litter trays and in the insulation in the walls.
 Now, I'm slipping and sliding on rabbit poo ball bearings, baby rats, and dodging grown rats scampering to get away while removing these things and so is Mel. I'm high-stepping trying to keep my footing. The last thing I want to do is fall into this mess. Flashes of scenes from Willard danced in my head. Do y'all remember that movie from 1971 or the remake in 2003 or Ben in 1972? Now, I'm not terribly afraid of mice and rats, but still, those movies still give me the willies. You get the idea.

We decided to pull all the wall boards down too after we removed the cages. What a mess the rats made. There was no way I'd be using it for food storage in this condition. I hit upon a brilliant solution to drive them all out and possibly kill them. If not kill them, at least neurologically impair them. Bug bombs. We set off two in the 8x12 storage shed. The results were as I expected. The ones left in the building 100% of the babies were dead, about 75% left of the adults were dying or had some nervous disorders (easy to catch and kill). The other 25% scampered out when I opened the door. Hopefully, they'll die later. We scoured the building with bleach, soap and hot water. Toilet brushes work great for this purpose. I ended up wearing a mask because of the fumes.

I'll admit Mel, with two hands and an able body, did more than I did, but with a job this big, even my one-handed-self was helping. So now all the insulation is stripped, beams and siding are cleaned and sanitized. I'm just waiting for the rain to stop to the call the electrician to rewire it with proper lighting and a separate, a dedicated circuit for the building. It will enable us to run the air conditioning, lights, and plug in the new freezer without tripping circuit breakers in the house. Then we'll put in the new foam insulation and paneling up. We'll add rat traps just in case too.

It will be ready for food then. I've been canning quite a bit, mostly dry beans so they'll have a proper home. With just two of us in a household, cooking kidney beans, limas, or any dried beans is almost ridiculous to do for one meal for us. A pound of dried beans makes four meals unless it bean soup. It also takes hours. This way, it's simply open, heat and eat it. It only takes about an hour and half total to do fourteen jars in a canner. A little time now and a little time later. No, I don't lift the canner with hot stuff in it. That would be nuts with one hand. The best part is, it's about 35 cents a jar. Of course, if you bought the jars for this it would be more.

My point is. Don't be afraid to lend a hand if you've only got one functioning hand. It can be invaluable. An extra hand is better than none. So what if you only have one like me. We get the job done. That's what is really important.You never know until you try. Remember, not all first attempts are successful. Keep trying and figure out how to make it work. It has taken me dozens of failed attempts before I succeed at something to make it look easy. Don't give up.

Nothing is impossible.