Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: It's a Go-No Go

Frustration has set in this week for me. I met with the neurologist about possibly getting a Baclofen pump to ease my spasticity instead of Botox. He told me very bluntly, that to get enough Baclofen into my spine to make the arm work again I'd never walk again. What a trade off! I had to question (about 2 seconds worth) if it was worth it. My mobility is just as important to me as getting arm function back. Granted the Baclofen pump would improve the spasticity in my lower leg and I might eventually be able to get out of my AFO and improve my mobility. It would also stop three of the medicines I take now for the spasticity, dry needling, and the Botox in the leg. It might even reduce the constant, painful cramping in my arm.

This week, I hooked grocery bags filled with a gallon of milk and about ten pounds of other groceries on my affected arm and it didn't budge! That's how bad my arm has gotten. The only time it straightens to full extension is in therapy with dry needling with electricity exhausting the muscle and the PT using a good bit of his strength. That's once a week and it only lasts for 30 minutes.

Just how bad do I want my arm function back? It wasn't the fix I hoped it would be. We discussed other options... rhizotomy or peripheral neurectomy, and central ablative procedures, such as cordectomy, myelotomy, or stereotactic procedures. The one that seemed to offer the best hope was selective rhizotomy. All surgeries carry risks especially for me with my heart condition. The other consideration is that they are all considered a permanent means of getting the results I want. There is no going back and reversing what has been done.

Not that I don't trust my neurology team, I do. But I asked for a referral to Shepherds Center. They ARE the best in Georgia for spines. They rebuilt part of my spine for me a quarter of a century ago. I'm weighing my options carefully. If anyone can tell me the ins and outs of any procedure and the best outcome, it's them. I'm still waiting on the appointment with Dr Taubin, their spasticity specialist. I should hear some time this week. In the meantime, I'm doing research. With the last increase of Botox not changing anything, I'm looking for alternatives.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Poor, Dumb Animals VS Us

You can learn a lot watching poor, dumb animals and how they adjust to adversity. Here on the Cockeyed Homestead. we've had our share of hurt critters of late. This winter we had our chickens ransacked by predators. We lost three quarters of our chicken flock due to coyotes and stray dogs. We had one hen narrowly escape being a snack in one of these attacks. After nursing her back to health, we released her back into our new flock of roosters, hens, and our three surviving hens from our old flock. This hen, Broody, wasn't left unscathed by the attack. She recovered by only regained the use of one leg. She uses her wing as a crutch. She flies short distances and hops everywhere.

Broody helping Mel
She's as happy and content being disabled. We called her Broody because she was the only New Hampshire Red that went broody last year and even hatched out one chick. We were happy she survived. She spent half the winter in a old milk crate by the wood stove. Now, Mel calls her Gimpster. She still lays eggs for us and we are waiting to see if she will go broody again this year. Not that we have a New Hampshire Red rooster anymore, the attacks killed both of them, but still she may. Broody/Gimpster has a new challenge, her disability makes her easy prey for the randy roosters in the new flock. We've had to separate her from the flock for her own safety in the rabbit hoop house.She does everything that a regular hen does except scratch. It would be kind of hard to do with only one functioning leg.

Another example is our self black English Angora rabbit, Dustin. We treated him for ear mites earlier in the summer. We treated all our rabbits when we shaved them before the summer heat sets in. Imagine wearing a thick, six-inch long fur coat in 90+ degree weather. Yikes! Anyhow, Dustin developed an ear infection. Within two hours of him starting to shake his head to wry neck or torticollis. At first we thought he was dying like his other rabbitry mate did earlier in the day because of the heat. We thought he'd had a stroke which is fairly common in rabbits. But on closer examination and putting him in an air conditioned space, I was wrong. Just an ear infection. Then was a quick trip to the Tractor Supply for an injectable antibiotic for him.

Dustin at 1 yr old
Let me just say, it was touch and go for about a week. I began doing physical therapy with the rabbit. He was our only unrelated buck. We needed him to be healthy for breeding purposes. He also had luxurious fur. To lose this buck would really set us back. Not only the price of the rabbit, but to the tune of $340 a year in fur and future offspring. But besides the monetary loss, he was Mel's only remaining Angora. He was also nearly blind now with the scarring on his corneas from the towels we placed in his basket. After two months we realized that Dustin was a lost cause for breeding ever again. The therapy did very little to help him. We had a long discussion what to do with him. He appears content and is still up for some of his old antics with his new lot in life.

Dustin still had luxurious fur as it grew back out. He needed grooming more often (3 X a week) because of the movements he made going from one part of the cage to the other was causing him to mat more. Mel said it hurt her to watch him throw/roll around in his cage.We discussed putting him down, but that would break Mel's heart also. But I told her to really look at him. He wasn't in pain. His appetite was good. He was healthy except for the head tilt. He could still lead a long life. Rabbits live almost 16 years. He was only two when this occurred. He had adjusted to this new way of getting around. He had no trouble finding his food or water dish. He was just messier going about it.

Yet another example is our newest addition to this homestead, Flynn. We found him, actually Mel and Nnyus did, when he was just 5 weeks old in our back acreage. She brought in this little feral kitten and our hearts melted. We cleaned him up, fed him, and cuddled the daylights out of him. None of our female cats wanted anything to do with him. Only Logan, our black Manx, allowed the kitten any where near him. Soon the kitten was comfortable around the household pets and us.

We began noticing that this kitten had a problem. He only hears a narrow range of sounds. It doesn't stop him though. The chickens didn't know what to make of this small, furry creature. Flynn hides under the monkey grass borders along the front walk and pounces on them. He thinks it's great fun to watch them jump straight up in the air. He'll hide again waiting on the next unsuspecting chicken. Keep in mind that the chickens are four times as big as him. He has no fear. We do startle him when we approach him from behind. Then it's his turn to jump straight up in the air. He's on the verge of flight but then he realizes it's only us.

Okay, I've given three examples of handicapped animals and how they adapted. So what's my point? Why is it so hard for human beings to adapt to challenging situations like living post stroke? Is it because we have long term memories? Is it because we are always comparing ourselves to others and the way we were? Why do we do that to ourselves? We are only hurting ourselves.

Isn't it time we stopped and learned by their example? "Well, this sucks!"Get on with living. Each day strive to do a little bit more. "Well that didn't work." Let me figure out another way to do it. Now, I'm not saying being a poor, dumb animal is better. I'm saying be smarter. Forget about the past. It does no good to dwell on it. Get busy with living. You survived your stroke as much as you didn't want to. Time to get off the self pity pot. Get moving.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: You Know You're Paralyzed, Right?

"Doh!" was my response.
This following question another patient made they made after hearing me tell my physical therapist what I have been doing on the homestead since I last saw him a week ago.

This was followed by the usual comment I hear, "You do more before noon than most people do all day!"

Yes, that's true. I operate a mini farm and homestead. To others homesteaders, I'm barely doing anything. That's true also. I'll call a homesteading friend and they will have done twice the amount of work done that day. I guess it all depends on your point of view. It really doesn't seem that much to me, but when you recite my list of morning chores most "ordinary" folks are exhausted just thinking about it.

From 4AM to 7AM, you'll find me in the kitchen. I'm starting the day's baking. Breads, rolls, breakfast pastries, and desserts for the week are prepped. I'll also eat my breakfast. Usually yogurt, homemade granola cereal, or oatmeal. Occasionally, I'll scramble some eggs and have some toast. I'll hop on the computer to play some wake up my mind games, answer and read emails, check the day's schedule, etc. I'll feed the cats and dogs, giving them plenty of ear ruffles before I head outdoors with them tagging along.

From 7AM to 10 AM, you'll find me with the chickens, rabbits, or harvesting the garden. I'll gather wild plantain, poplar and oak leaves, assorted grasses, clover, and other weeds for the rabbits. While technically their diets is complete with fodder and timothy hay, I figure the rabbits would like different things to munch on too. I sort of rotate how much of each they get per day and change it up. Each will get individual attention...mostly snuggles and nose to nose Eskimo kisses. Dustin is usually ready for his morning physical therapy session. I usually feed him first so he's ready by the time I finish everyone else. I'll gather the eggs before I head inside. I'll also set up Mel's morning cup of tea.

The chickens get the bucket full of caterpillars, beetles, and assorted bugs I find in the garden as well as their ration of fermented grains (wheat. barley, sunflower, and oats) and a commercial organic chicken  food. The chickens will also spend the bulk of their day free ranging in our wooded back acreage. I'm also setting up next rotation the fodder and fermented grains. Broody or Gimpster (as Mel calls her) gets up in the dog crate to be fed and have her alone time away from the roosters who aggravate her unmercifully. The cage door isn't latched and she lets herself out when she is ready to rejoin the flock.

All in all, our animals are pampered if not spoiled rotten.

From 10AM to 3PM, I'm baking whatever I started earlier and washing the day's harvest. Then, I'm processing the harvest. Canning tomatoes, okra, and eggplant (for right now). Black-eyed peas, herbs, or other harvest is set on trays in the oven for the pilot light to dehydrate them.

From 3PM to 5PM, I'm usually doing my off the homestead doctor or therapist visits, feed stores run (including for us), etc. Or, I'm grooming rabbits. Or, I'm helping Mel with this or that project around the homestead. I'm also prepping dinner unless I'm running late and pick something quick before coming home.

6PM to 10PM, I'm cleaning up the day's mess in the kitchen. Not that I'm not doing this during the day too. We are watching our favorite Netflix shows or watching YouTube. But I'm also knitting. Right now, I'm working on a 12" wide scarf for Mel. After that project is done, it'll be socks, baby booties for crisis pregnancy, and dishcloths.

From 10PM to midnight, I'm usually at my computer. Playing mind building or just for fun games, writing blogs, answering and reading the 50 odd emails that have come in during the day. I'll finally lay down for the night amidst the sounds of crickets, frogs, cat purrs, and an occasional coyote call.

So what do you think? I'm I too busy or just busy enough? Yes, I know I'm partially paralyzed. Yes, I know I'm living post stroke. The point is...I'm living.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Making Do and Getting Help ~ Ranting

It really irks me to no end when I have to ask for help for something I used to be able to do before my strokes. When I was sixteen I rebuilt my first automobile engine. By thirty, I could rewire a house and do major plumbing repairs and installations. It helps being the daughter and sister of a certified electrician, plumber and welder (my dad) and four brothers who are H&A installer/repair. I watched and learned. They even taught me hands on. Having a contractor son in law and being a lay carpenter was added to my skill set. There was not much I couldn't build or repair. Then my stroke changed all of that.

I mean pre-stroke, I could literally do it all. A Jill of all trades. Just like my father was Jack. Now, I have to call someone to do it because I can't safely. You know me. I'm not opposed to taking some risks. I almost relish it. Now, living post stroke everything is weighed against safety versus doing. If it were just a matter of falling, it would be no big deal. Heck I've done that too many times. Only some have been mentioned here. Ya, ya, I'm getting older too. But it really irritates me to have to pay someone else to do something I know how to do. This is life living post stroke and I dislike it intensely.

I just received the estimate on the new driveway. It is actually cheaper by several grand than I estimated. I'll admit this is one area that it's cheaper and easier to have someone else do it. I didn't relish the idea of moving and spreading 120 tons of gravel. I don't know anyone who would if they had a choice.That much rock is hard to imagine much less put it where it needs to go. I mean two tons of pea gravel didn't seem like much when I built my shade garden at my old place, but I did it. Er, um twenty years ago.Ten years is a whole lot of age on this body now. The young man who owns the company was eager to please and I'm happy I chose him for this project.

But the electrician and plumber? I mean really? This is what gets me. I could have trenched, laid pipe, and done all this electrical stuff myself if I had a working body. What I wanted were easy tasks. Instead, I'm paying someone else $65 an hour to do it. It's killing me. I'm talking their language, because I've done it all before. My father and I even dug a shallow well, connected the pump, and set up the sprinklers in their 1/4 acre garden. It's not rocket science, it's only manual labor. I've never been afraid of a little hard work.I'm still not.

My driver's side door handle broke off. It literally broke off in my hand as I went to get into my minivan two weeks ago. I, of course, landed on a thick grassy area beside the driveway with the most padded part of my body still holding onto the plastic part. Nothing hurt but my pride. Then came the ordeal of climbing in through the passenger side, around the engine hub, and into the driver's seat before I could go anywhere. With the outside handle broken, I go through this ordeal every time I drive. Getting out from inside is no problem. I just leave the window open when I get where I'm going to reach in and open the door. Of course, I'm saying a quick prayer it doesn't rain while I'm inside wherever I'm going.

How hard is it to change an automobile's door handle? Pfft! It's a no brainer. Pull the door panel, disconnect and reconnect a couple of wire (electronic everything in the door) and a couple of screws. Except I can't finagle my body to do it. I did try. I had to call someone else to fix it. No mechanic or parts store in town had a replacement handle.  Worse yet, the closest Toyota dealership was three towns over. I made an appointment with them to replace the door handle. I get there as scheduled only to find the handle is on back order and wouldn't be in the dealership for two weeks. So in the meantime, I was stuck with going into my vehicle from the passenger side. To add insult to injury, the charge for the handle and for the labor to install it...$322!

Talk about add on expense to having a stroke. I could watch millions of dollars (if I had it) trickle away just because I can't do any more. I make do and do what I can, but when I can't because my body won't let me is ridiculous! I'm just ranting here because I can. Call it the hidden cost of living post stroke. If I was an ordinary person without my skill set, it wouldn't bother me so bad. But I've never been ordinary.

Nothing is impossible.
But in this case improbable.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Why Me, God?

You ever ask, "Why me, God?" as it pertains to your having a stroke? Most people do. Or, something along those lines of thoughts or rantings? I have to say that I have never asked this knowing there HAS to be a reason, but that doesn't make living post stroke any easier for me either.

Yes. It's that time again. I was hit in the face with this yet again by a stroke survivor this week. I'm still doing ministry work as a stroke survivor to other stroke survivors. So I'm addressing it here too. This person was also quick to laud their Good Works. I'm a good christian. I go to church every week. I say my prayers. I have a in dwelling Spirit. I help the poor and down trodden. I not only talk the talk, but walk the walk... the list was longer but you get the point.

(I'm using the male pronouns here though it could easily be a female)
I understand that the person is a "good" person by his actions and deeds. I also recognized he is going through the grief process (anger) over losing half the function of his body. Until this stroke, he had a very physically active, healthy life. He is still a young man, 36. He was "struck down" in his prime like so many suffering hemorrhagic strokes. By all accounts (risk factors), this shouldn't have happened to him, but it did. It happens.

How can I, a mere mortal, make this person understand that God didn't do this to him? Sometimes especially just after a stroke, the survivor isn't really looking for an answer to his question. He is asking someone to listen to him vent. This was the case this time. But later, when he is truly searching to an answer, I'll be there also. Far be it from me to know exactly why God allowed this to happen to him. I know that the doctors can tell him why medically what happened, but spiritual matters are out of most physicians' league. It takes a doctor of another sort, like me, to help them wade through the quagmire of doubts, faith, and finding answers in a book that's millennia old.

After a while, asking God for the answer feels like HE isn't listening. But HE is.

I know the pat answer is, "You aren't ready for an answer," or "It's beyond our understanding." Yeah, I've heard this too many times from ministers over the years too. I don't use these phrases. If I don't know the answer I'll say so. I believe it's better to be honest than offer some trite phrase. In their defense, they mean well. I'll pray about it and wait for the answer. you may also notice I rarely quote Bible book, chapter, and verse. I do this on purpose. Not because I can't back up what I'm saying with them, but the message is more important than the reference source here.

Sometimes, the answer comes years later. Sometimes, the answer comes in little snippets over time. Sometimes, when you least expect it, it will be a revelation that you didn't realize until you think back on it. Sometimes, it's answered in a loud, booming voice saying, "Not now!" (This personally irritates me and He knows it) It's no big surprise that patience is not one of my easily learned virtues.Sometimes, the answer comes in the form of a total stranger. I never know how God will answer my question, but He always does. It takes faith and patience. There hasn't been a burning bush since Moses.

Most times when I'm asking (yelling) for God to answer me, I don't have a quiet, listening spirit. I'm usually in the midst of turmoil. Isn't that when most people call of Him? I'm guilty of this too. I'm angry, hurt, or desperate. You too? Whew, glad it's not only me. It's like talking to an irrational person. Why waste the energy? They are too busy in the midst of whatever it is to really hear anything. Even in prayer, my mind and heart are in a jumble. Often, I receive an answer right before I fall asleep or when I awake. That's when my mind is the quietest. On rare occasions, it's while I am listening to the radio. (I listen to a christian music station) I remember once, I received an in Walmart from a stranger waiting in the checkout line. I don't think she even knew what she was saying. The point is that you have to be receptive. You may not even know you received an answer until much later an have an AH-HA moment.

What is your reason for "Why me, God?"? I dunno. For every event there are dozens of reasons why this happened to you in particular. That's being honest. I don't know all the particulars of my strokes. I do know He needed me here doing what I'm doing. How do I know? I have peace in my spirit and have gained abundant blessing in my life. The ever present encouragement I receive and souls that He's retained continues to grow as this ministry grows.

Nothing is impossible.