May is “Stroke Awareness Month”

When I was actively lecturing on the warning signs of stroke and the need for immediate medical attention, I would get letters from people.  Lots of letters.  Letters that said thank you for teaching the warning signs of stroke.  It is so important to know when to call 911 – because everyday heroes are the ones that can change the outcome for a person having a stroke.

An excerpt from my book “Highs, Lows, and Plateaus: a path to recovery from stroke”

“It is very important for everyone to recognize the signs of stroke, because stroke strikes anywhere, anytime, across age, ethnicity, and socio-economic groups. I have never known anyone who planned on having a stroke. But, I know a lot of people who survived with minimal deficit because someone else recognized the signs and sought help. Unfortunately, in my field of work, I also know a lot of people whose symptoms of stroke went unrecognized. Remember, according to our national statistics, fewer that 7 percent of stroke victims get to the hospital in time for emergency intervention.

The odd thing about a stroke is that the person having a stroke often does not fully realize that anything is wrong. When asked if they are o.k. the person having the stroke quite often says they are fine or makes up a reason to explain their behavior. Remember, it is the brain that is under attack – and this is the same brain that is supposed to be identifying that something is wrong! A brain under attack is going to have to rely on someone else to identify the problem and seek help.”

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Acceptance: a quote from “Highs, Lows, and Plateaus: a path to recovery from stroke”

The physical recovery from stroke is only part of the story. There must also be an emotional recovery: for all of the survivors of stroke – not only the one whose brain was injured. … I have found that those who survive a traumatic event, such as a stroke, must go through a grieving process that is sometimes very similar to dealing with the death or loss of a loved one. This grieving process includes: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

In my opinion, it is important to grieve the loss of life, as you once knew it. The stroke took away a lot, but you survived. It is o.k. to experience the process of grieving and to acknowledge that Acceptance is part of healing. To me, acceptance doesn’t mean giving up. It means being at peace with where you are at the time, while striving to be where you want to be. With the acceptance that life has changed, you will thrive. You will continue the journey through the highs, lows, and plateaus until life again is joyful and meaningful.

A lovely woman, C.M., once told me that her stroke had allowed her to have two lives: the one before her stroke and the one after. She said that she thought the one after her stroke was better because it was more loving, more accepting, and slower. She felt that in the second life she had been encouraged – not criticized; applauded for her accomplishments – not put-down for her failures. She accepted herself and she accepted her challenges. Because of that, she just kept trying to get a little bit better each year. And she did – just keep getting better, accomplishing more, and changing the lives of those around her. The stroke had not robbed her of life. It had given her a different one.

Highs, Lows and Plateaus upcoming VIDEOS

I have heard from a lot of people now that they would love to see some videos to accompany the Stages of Recovery that I talk about in my book.  These stages were defined by a Swedish Physical Therapist, Signe Brunnstrom (1966, 1970), who described the process of recovery following stroke-induced hemiplegia. The Brunnstrom Approach, emphasizes the importance of encouraging movement within the synergistic pattern of movement that evolves post-stroke. As the stroke survivor improves, the exercises change.

I have spent quite a bit of time working out a series of exercises to help progress clients through the Stages of Recovery.  Keep a look out for upcoming videos and feel free to share them!

In the past, I have been stymied at Stage 5 and not sure how to help promote individual movement of the fingers.  Recently, I have had the opportunity to demo the Music Glove by Flint Rehabilitation and am very excited about the potential to rediscover finger movement: https://www.flintrehabilitation.com

Look forward to more to come.  DOWNLOAD SLIDES 03-15

Stroke Camp – La Jolla

I had the pleasure of attending Stroke Camp last week in La Jolla California.

@http://www.strokecamp.org/

I went as a volunteer and also to promote my new book, “Highs, Lows, and Plateaus: a path to recovery from stroke.”

@http://www.amazon.com/Highs-Lows-Plateaus-Recovery-Stroke/dp/1491862319

I can honestly say that I gained so much more than I gave!  It was a weekend of laughter and camaraderie ~ a weekend of sharing and supporting ~ a weekend of gaining strength from each other.  I met some amazing people and have so much respect for the stroke survivors and their loved ones who live each day with the struggles of stroke, and yet they turn those struggles into moments of inspiration and strength.

As anyone there can attest, I cry very easily.  Sometimes I tell people that I have “dry eye” and that the lubricating tears are just a side effect of the disorder.  Not true.  I just cry easily.  My daughter says it is because my heart sometimes brims over as tears.  At stroke camp, I did not cry tears of sadness.  Instead they were tears of release, of celebration for the strength of the human spirit.

Every day we hear about the pain and suffering and cruelty of our world.  What I experienced was only love and respect. That is what we need to be shouting from the mountain tops.  Not our differences, but our similarities ~ as people. From that we gain strength. Cheers to the Entire Team from “Stroke Camp”.  You are everyday heroes !

Progress in 2014

2014 was a good year… now cheers to 2015!

I wanted to highlight a few successes that some of my clients had in 2014:

K. received a new dynamic ankle brace and is now walking more than ever.  He reports that he can feel the muscles in his weak leg getting stronger, and he can walk over uneven ground, up /down stairs easily and finally can say that he enjoys walking again.

C. is using her fingers again!  Not quite two years post stroke and she is able to use her hand to help her with all kinds of daily activities.  She has returned to work full-time and has also gotten back in the routine of being “mom” in her family now. It was hard having her daughter and husband take care of the baby, but she is back. This year, is dedicated to fine motor control in those fingers!

E. became independent in transferring into the shower, is driving his own van, and is learning to walk again.  Not bad for someone who is not even three years post injury to his cervical spinal cord.  No need for an electric chair because he can push himself in his new lightweight chair and feels he is getting stronger (below the level of lesion) every day.

S. returned to work full time, is using her right hand for typing and is talking up a storm!  She and her family have fought hard.  Still a ways to go until this young woman feels satisfied with her recovery, but I have no doubt she will get there.

M. barely survived his stroke, but he is getting better every day.  He can stand independently, transfer for showers and walk short distances.  Mostly delayed now by distorted vision that makes it hard to move, but he is having a surgical procedure this week that hopes to improve his vision.

Just a few successes.  Would love to hear from others about the Highs, Lows, and Plateaus of recovery.

Cheers to 2015!

Focus should be on “partially complete” versus “incomplete”

Rehab gyms across the country, such as SciFit and ProjectWalk are changing the scope of recovery following spinal cord injury and stroke. Rather than focusing on the deficits and problems left by the injury, their focus is on the potential for neuroplasticity and learning within the human central nervous system. Movement recovery depends on a demand for use. Rehab professionals should embrace a change from speaking of the negative “incomplete” and focusing on the positive “partially complete”. This is the only way we can change the dialogue around recovery.

I would love to hear from survivors who have continued to improve and reach their goals despite a negative prediction set by many health care providers.