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.

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!

The Highs and the Lows

It seems that each week, I hear from someone who has been told by their doctor “not to expect any further recovery.” Most recently, I heard this from a young man who had an incomplete Spinal Cord Injury only a few months ago! Such a statement by a doctor is utter non-sense, so I ask myself “Why would someone say that?”. What I have decided is that health care professionals play it safe by not promoting any form of expectation from their patients. If someone is told they will never do anything again, and then they accomplish something they are pleasantly pleased… in fact, they feel that they have beat the odds.

I think we need to let people expect more. We need to instill hope through information and education and resources. No false promises, but rather the opportunity to believe in the power of neurorecovery and the strength and resilience of the human spirit.

Well two months after meeting that young man, he has already made tremendous gains and yet the words of his doctor still haunt him. It will take a long time to diffuse the negativity of comments that are destructive to the potential of hope, handwork and neuroplasticity.

Who I am

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I fall under a lot of different labels.  Professionally, I am referred to as a Specialist in Neuro-Rehabilitation – and I am especially interested in neuroplasticity, which is how the brain changes and recovers from injury.  My labels include physical therapist, neurophysiologist, mom, wife, sister, friend, costume creator, elementary school tutor, pickle ball player, trail builder, gardener, skier, hiker and a whole bunch more.

I just published a book:  Highs, Lows, and Plateaus: a path to recovery from stroke.  To learn more about my professional self – read this book.  Thing is, my professional self kind of sums up my personal self.  I love to learn and I love to share what I learn with others!  I really do believe in the power of self and personal resilience.

As a mom, I have tried to help my daughters bloom and as a wife I have tried to be a best friend to this really fun, smart guy.  One of my daughters has Ulcerative Colitis.  She was diagnosed at age 13 and we are determined to beat it.  She also just wrote a book – so proud of her.  Very inspiring story called,   I’mpossible: my personal journey of living with Ulcerative Colitis. 

When I am not working or being a mom, I love helping out at our local schools.  For the middle school – which is a performing arts charter – I sew costumes for the spring musical put on by the 7th and 8th graders.  This is really rewarding because at the start of the rehearsals, the kids are shy and walk with rounded shoulders – many of them hiding behind their own selves.  But by the time the curtains are drawn on opening night those kids have transformed into proud, confident young people!

At our local elementary school, I tutor kids who have difficulty learning to read and write.  I use all of the brain games I know from my professional work and that has been really successful!  The kids learn to read and write and their lives are changed.  That is cool.

To blow off steam, I love to garden and work on a long trail that I have built (with help from a neighbor I hired). The trail weaves from our house to a creek at the bottom of the canyon. Using a weed whacker, shovel, and pick-ax are great not only for the body but also for the mind.  I also love to hike with my dogs, ski, play pickle ball, and host parties at our house.

I am so fortunate that my days are spent doing what I love.

 

My inspiration for writing “Highs, Lows, and Plateaus”!

The brain is amazing and the strength and resilience of the human psyche is equally as amazing.  In writing this book, I hoped to provide a framework for understanding the stages and process of recovery to inspire stroke survivors and their families to move along the path of recovery. There will be highs, lows and plateaus.  It is a long path, but the resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me.

It is not at all uncommon to hear a doctor or other health care provider tell families that most recovery takes place in the first six months.  That is true, but most of the swelling and irritation of the brain decreases allowing the brain to recover some function.  Also, in the first few months, patients tend to have the most intensive rehab.

Unfortunately, too many survivors are told that they have reached a “plateau” in their recovery. Often it sounds like a bad word – like something terrible has happened. Nobody wants to hear that they have “plateaued”!

This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy: “Since improvement is not expected, let’s not work toward more improvement.”

To this I say, BUNK!!  Our knowledge base has increased, the tools available for rehabilitation have proliferated, and our society has come to expect more.

A plateau is not a bad thing. A plateau is a point in the recovery when the nervous system has reached a stable state.  The nervous system is consolidating its’ learning and preparing for the next stage of recovery.

This book summarizes a series of lectures that I have presented for many years to health care professionals.  I have found that they listen with great intent but then do not share the information with the people who need it the most – stroke survivors and their families.  So, with in writing this book, I wanted to help people to understand the process of recovery and to provide them with resources to direct their own recovery. I wanted to engage the reader in a conversation, to empower them with information, and to provide hope and inspiration.