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It’s hard to believe, but I have so much news to share, that I actually dread having to type it all up. (It’s dark outside now, so I can’t see my keyboard to place my fingers correctly!)
For the past 3 days or so, I’ve chosen to magnify the difficulty of many of my home exercises, by forcing myself to do them without holding on to the kitchen counter or anything else, making my muscles do all of the work by themselves.
The results have been several huge differences, including many new sore hip muscles that I previously wasn’t using, and quickly increasing my strength and balance. But it’s also meant noticeably improved performance at my rehab appointments. Today, I not only walked another 100 yards without my walker, relatively smoothly, I also walked up and down a flight of stairs, several times, without my walker, and did about 90 minutes of balance, strength, and dexterity exercises that I had never done before. When I told my rehab worker about no longer holding onto the kitchen counter, he told me that that’s exactly what they ask people in my position to do, when they’re ready for bigger challenges.
At one point in rehab, I stood up straight, balanced on a foam cushion, without any support, while repeatedly bouncing a medium-sized rubber ball, at head height, off of a mirror, and catching it, all while reciting the alphabet out loud, backwards! Several other rehab therapists came to watch me while I did that, because, as my therapist said, no one else has ever done that before, in all the decades that he’s done rehab therapy!
Later, he asked me to hop forward on both feet, and then had to quickly stop me from actually trying to do it, and tell me that he was just kidding.
Then I completed a standardized test in which I used my left hand to pick up odd shapes of all different sizes, and place them into the properly-shaped holes. The therapist was hoping that I could do it in ten minutes, but I finished it in seven.
After rehab, we stopped and got McDonald’s for a quick lunch, then stopped at the homeless church, where Mr. Peanut gave me another big smile, and we visited with his grandma, Melissa. Mr. Peanut is 5 months old now, but he’s wearing 18-month baby clothes, and now he likes people to prop him up, so that he can sit up in his crib and look around.
Yesterday afternoon, my wife and I had a wonderful late lunch and visit with her sister and brother-in-law, Linda and Jim, who were in town from Ohio. It was great to see them again.
Tonight, before typing this, I took a shower, again, without any help, including cutting my own hair (my wife did the back), and washing my hair twice, letting my left hand slowly and gently rub my hair, as my right hand quickly and more fiercely scrubbed my scalp.
Then, I went down on both knees in our living room, and back to my feet, without my walker, several times, using a flashlight and a broomstick to successfully fish two dog bones and one tied-up sock, from underneath our huge, heavy home entertainment center. It took way too long, but I eventually did it!
As you can tell, I’m not fully “back from the dead” yet, but I’m sure working in that direction!
So that’s what’s been going on here. I love to hear from you, to hear your support, as well as to hear how you’re doing!
P.S. Guess how many hundred corrections I had to make to this entry!
P.P.S. I probably should have just turned on my office light, so that I could see my keyboard. I should have thought of that, but I didn’t — probably because my brain is currently about the size of a ping pong ball, rattling around inside my skull. 😉
More, Sunday, March 11: I’ve been using a squeeze device, and rolling golf balls in my hands, in order to increase my hand strength and dexterity. This afternoon, during a nap, I dreamed that I played my guitar again, and all of my fingers worked the way they were supposed to. After I woke up, my wife helped me unpack my older guitar (a 1978, Guild, 12-string guitar), for only the third time since my stroke, and I successfully played it for a few minutes! My left-hand fingers remembered how to press down the strings strongly and correctly, and my right-hand fingers started to “feel” the feeling of finger-picking the strings again! It wasn’t my old stage-level performance yet, but it was very encouraging to me — with more work, I’m sure that it’s eventually all going to come back! Yay! Then, I went down on both knees in our living room, again, and opened my newer guitar‘s case, to check on it. It was just fine, so I used my left leg to push me back up to my feet again.
More, Monday, March 12: In this morning’s outpatient rehab, I walked another 100 yards, even smoother than before, then did about 90 minutes of balance, strength, and dexterity exercises, including going up and down the stairway again. And, on our questioning, my rehab therapist cleared me for walking down our driveway and up and down our street, by myself, with my walker. He said that I’m making incredible progress, and that I had done even better than last time!
When we got home, we took a nap, then I woke up first, and walked down our driveway, with my walker, to get today’s mail. Then I went back inside and watched TV for awhile. After awhile, I found my sweatshirt (it was chilly and windy outside), and slowly walked all the way around the block, by myself, with my walker!
Afterward, my legs gave me signs of being tired, but there was no pain. Awhile later, they felt “all pumped up,” like super-legs! It was great!
More, Tuesday, March 13: I haven’t done this morning’s home exercises yet, but I did walk around the block, again, this morning, with my walker, all by myself!
More, Wednesday, March 14: OK, I think I might have this thing figured out. Yesterday morning, after I walked around the block, I watched TV and took a nap, and my muscles tightened up and got so sore that I couldn’t do any more exercises until last night. So, this morning, I walked all the way around the block again, for the third time total, talking to a few neighbors who drove by. When I got home, I updated and reprinted one neighbor’s resume, then immediately did all of my home rehab exercises. Hopefully, doing that will help me to “cool down” from all of my walking, and keep my muscles from getting all sore and tight like they did yesterday.
More, four hours later: It worked! I just woke up from a nap. My muscles are tired, but not sore, and I’m still able to function!
More, seven hours later: I just got back from walking around the block a second time today, along with excellent next door neighbor, Mike, and two of his dogs! Now it’s time to exercise again, to prevent soreness and tightness.
More, nine hours later: I’m done with my evening exercises now. I can feel the difference. I’m very tired, and a little sore and stiff, but not as much as I would’ve been if I hadn’t done the exercise after walking. A hot shower in the morning, before going to rehab, should help loosen me up again.
More, Friday, March 16: Yesterday, I had rehab again. I felt weaker than usual, probably because I haven’t gotten stronger, yet, from all of my walking. But the rehab guy said that I did really, really well. I walked 100 yards again, and up and down two flights of stairs, all without a walker. Then, in order to challenge me, he hooked me up to a machine with weights that pulled me back, left, and right, while I walked forwards, backwards, and from side-to-side (without a walker). It kept feeling like that machine was going to “reel me in,” and I’d end up hanging on the wall and flopping around, like a big fish.
My wife thought that there might be something wrong with one of her feet, because it felf like she was stepping on a nail. Today, the doctor took an X-ray, then told her that it was just a callus that had grown up into her foot, so he removed it with a scalpel. We’re very happy about that. Who knows — maybe after that’s all healed up, she’ll be able to join me in walking around the block.
Last night, I walked around the block again (my fifth time, total), with my walker and Mike and two of his dogs. That’s getting much easier, as I learn to quickly scan and avoid obstacles, like big cracks cars that are blocking the sidewalk, and remember to carry my weight with my legs, not my arms.
More, Friday, March 16, 1:13 PM: Wow, that was something! After my walk around the block this morning (for the sixth time, total), I relaxed, then took a nap around 11:30 AM. When I woke up awhile later, I was all sweaty, and my knees felt weak and shaky. So I took my blood glucose level. Normally, my blood glucose, before a meal, should be 85-150, and should never be in the dangerous 70s, which could cause dizziness, weakness, and possibly even death. Mine is almost always 80-120, but when I woke up from my nap, it was only 64!
So, I quickly drank a slug of orange juice, then ate a lunch of leftover pizza and barbecue ribs, with two spoonfuls of peanut butter. Within a few minutes, I felt normal again. As far as I know, that was only the second time in my life that my blood glucose level was too low. But don’t worry — we’ll figure it out.
More, Friday, March 16, 7:30 PM: I just got back from walking around the block (2nd time today, and 7th time total since this past Monday), visiting with several neighbors, along with my walker, my excellent neighbor, Mike, and one of his two dogs. His other dog, which usually joins us, was too tired to make the trip tonight. I sure know how that feels. Now it’s time for me to do my night exercises, to keep from getting all tight and sore from the walking. And, some time this past week, I started doing my home exercises without holding on to anything, AND while standing up straight. It’s a whole different type of balance to do things while standing up straight, but it’s a whole lot easier on my hip sockets.
More, Saturday, March 17, 7:15 PM: Today was kind of a slow, lazy, tired day. This morning, my wife slept in late, then we went to Home Depot, and bought parts (for $2.39), that I could use to repair my walker’s old left brake. On the way home, we swung by Ace Hardware and found a screw (for only 16 cents) that I knew would do the same job. So I bought 6 of them for a dollar, just to make sure that I had spares, in case I messed up one or more of them.
Then, we stopped and got me a chicken sandwich (it was lunch time), and also went to Walmart, where I pushed our shopping cart all through the store, as we got another week’s worth of groceries.
After 2 or 3 naps this afternoon (!!!), I repaired the brakes on both sides of my walker, better than new. Man, I don’t remember anything being as poorly designed or hard to repair as that was. It was like I needed four extra hands, just to hold everything in place, while trying to also tighten it all up. I ended up having to fix things several times, before I was finally able to do it right. I’ve never acually needed to use the brakes, but it bugged the heck ouf of me, every day, that they didn’t work correctly, even as my nemory rang with the words of my previous instructional design parter, Pat, whose advice was always, “Better is the enemy of good enough.” I guess that’s just the way I am. 😉
Tonight, excellent neighbors Mike and Annamarie, had other plans, so I took my walker around the block (8th time, total), by myself, talked to a few old neighbors, met some new ones — with their cute, happy toddler and their friendly, solid (95% muscle) dog — and now I’m relaxing and typing this update.
More, Sunday, March 18, 10:45 AM: On my walk, alone, last night, I discovered/remembered why excellent neighbor, Mike, always takes his dogs around the block counter-clockwise in the evenings. I made the mistake of going around clockwise, like I do in the mornings, and it resulted in me walking the longest, other side of the block, facing right at the blazing, boiling, blinding sun. So, this morning, I went around clockwise again (9th time, total), but it was early enough that the unrelenting sun was still low and right in my face, all the way home, on my side of the block. Where are clouds when you need them?
An hour later, my leg muscles were so tight, sore, weak, and off-balance, that I was just barely able to do my indoor exercises. It’s times like these when I remember that lunch, acetaminophen, and a nap are my friends.
More, a few hours later: Yes, the lunch, acetaminophen, and nap seemed to have done the trick. I’m back to feeling relatively strong again.
More, Sunday, March 18, 7:00 PM: I just got back from walking around the block (10th time, total) with excellent neighbor, Mike, and two of his dogs. It’s starting to get easier. Now, I have to do tonight’s in-home exercises and watch TV.
More, Monday, March 19, 11:25 AM: I already walked around the block (11 times, total) this morning, with my walker and a wide-brimmed hat. Then I worked on a huge problem with this website, by replacing an important file that I had messed up (accidently deleted) earlier this morning. This afternoon, my wife will take me to visit my young friend, Josh.
More, Monday, March 19, 3:55 PM: We went to Josh’s house and had a nice visit with him for an hour, right after lunch, for the first time since before my stroke. Then we came home, and I took a nap, and then got today’s mail, with my walker.
More, Monday, March 19, 7:00 PM: Tonight, I walked around the block (12 times, total) with excellent neighbor, Mike, two of his dogs, and my walker, again. Tomorrow, we’re expecting some severe weather, so, depending on how long that lasts, I could end up walking around the block (a 35-minute trip) tomorrow, twice, once, or not at all. But, right now, I have to go and do an hour’s worth of nighttime home exercises.
More, Tuesday, March 20, 9:40 AM: It’s overcast, extremely humid, and windy outside, with distant rolls of thunder, in anticipation of the incoming severe weather. So I just finished my morning walk around the block (13 times, total), with my walker.
There are many things I need to remember and concentrate on, when I’m going to walk around the block. Go to the bathroom beforehand. Tie my shoes with a double knot. Take two acetaminophen tablets before I leave home. Make sure that my blood glucose is high enough to avoid danger from the exertion. Wear my wide-brimmed hat. Walk standing straight up, with my weight being supported completley by my legs, instead of being hunched over, with some of my weight on my walker. Know the weather really well, and dress appropriately. Take my cell phone along, in case anything happens. Greet and interact with neighbors carefully — don’t make any sudden movements that could throw off my balance. Look ahead, to spot any potential obstacles. Look down, to spot anything that could trip me, like acorns, gravel, cracks, twigs, and high or low spots. If any vehicles are blocking the sidewalk, plan to detour onto the street one driveway before them, and then detour back onto the sidewalk one driveway after them. Try not to resent those who were so thoughtless as to park across the sidewalk. Compensate for the wind speed, direction, and temperature, so that it doesn’t blow me over, or cause me to be too hot or too cold. Compensate for the sun’s height and direction, so that I don’t have to face directly into it. Walk heel-toe, heel-toe, even though my left foot still prefers stomping down all at once. Don’t let my left knee “pop” backwards into a hyperextended state, even though I can’t usually feel it. Don’t let the ball of my left foot scrape the ground as I bring it forward — that usually indicates that I’m getting tired, so I have to consciously lift it a little bit higher as I bring it forward with each step.
Lately, I’ve noticed that my gait isn’t quite even, when I’m walking. This morning, I think I figured out that’s because my right foot and ankle have normal strength, flexibility, and balance, but my left foot and ankle have very little of any of those things. Like when I’m doing my exercises, one of them requires me to balance one each toot, for 8-10 seconds, while holding the other foot up. My right foot can do it just fine, but, as soon as I let go of the counter and stand on my left foot, I almost immediately start to fall over. And another exercise that involves rising up onto my tiptoes ten times, reveals that my right foot still does most of the lifting. So, this morning, I also concentrated on “launching” myself forward, off of my left foot, at each step, which I hope will help strengthen that foot, and help it to learn how to balance me.
Basically, all of that stuff that used to be automatic and effortless, now has to be done very purposefully, with a great deal of thought and effort. At least for now, until, with lots of time and work, it all finally becomes automatic again.
More, Tuesday, March 20, 7:57 PM: Well, we got the severe weather today, but I was inside during all of it. This afternoon, my wife and I had an early dinner with Vic from Indiana, who’s been my buddy since the late ’70s. It was great to see him again and to share stories from our lives. Vic’s going to pick me up at home tomorrow, and we’re going to go to a beach or somewhere else near here. Tonight, excellent neighbor, Mike, had other plans, but it was actually SUNNY here, after all the severe weather left, so I walked around the block again (second time today, 14 times, total) by myself, with my walker. And now I’m all done with my night home exercises. Time to relax and watch TV, then go to bed, after my bedtime snack (usually a few squares of fat-free cinnamon graham crackers).
Be sure to check back later, as I regularly edit, add things to, and change my posts as time goes on, as I think of new things that don’t need their own posts.
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