Stroke Update 20 – First Driving

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With having had such amazing experiences lately — like being told that I don’t need rehab any more, working on my rider mower, and walking all the way around the block without my walker, but with my wife only lightly holding my gait belt — the past few days have just been getting better and better! This morning, my wife drove me to a vacant local school parking lot. There I carefully DROVE MY CAR, up and down each row, parked in a couple of different angled parking spots, smoothly shifted the car’s 5-speed manual transmission up into second and third gear, as needed, several times, stopped at all of the stop signs, backed up, parallel parked, in both directions, and stayed on the right-hand side of each row. It was the very first time I had driven since last December, but I did it like it was no big deal. My hands and feet remembered how to do everything perfectly and safely. I told my wife that it was more difficult to put on the (opposite) driver’s side seat belt, than it was to actually drive the car! And driving again wasn’t scary at all — it just felt normal. After awhile, I drove us across the street to a gas station, where I filled up the tank.

While we were there, I got a phone call from dear friend, Melissa, the grandmother/mother of my little baby friend, Mr. Peanut, and, by far, the hardest working person at the local homeless church. She needed a ride, really desperately.

So my wife drove us to Melissa’s house, where we picked up Melissa and Mr. Peanut, to take them to get some food and deliver it to a needy family that she knows. I stood up and walked the entire time, on my own, without any walker, or even a gait belt, both inside and outside. In fact, we had left them at home, on purpose. I got to see, hold, talk with (he’s babbling quite often, now), and play with Mr. Peanut for a long time. He was his usual delightedly happy and content self. Today, he gave me one of his biggest smiles again, laughed out loud, several times, grabbed one of my fingers in each of his little fists, slapped my palm with his palm, to make a handclap sound, over and over, calmly looked out the side car window, and waved his right arm up and down, quickly and repeatedly, each time I stroked his little forehead or touched his cheek.

When we finished the delivery, and dropped them both off at her house again, Mr. Peanut was sleeping peacefully, in his little rear-facing car seat, and Melissa said, “It’s so good to see you, standing and walking like this again.” I replied, “You have no idea how good it is to be standing and walking like this again!”

When we got home, I got out of the car, walked all the way down our sloped driveway, carefully walked down the really sloped apron of our driveway, got today’s mail out of the mailbox, then turned around and walked all the way back up the driveway, through the garage, and into the house, all by myself. Next time I drive, we’re going to try letting me do it through our slow-paced, local neighborhood.

I think maybe tomorrow, I’ll try piloting my interstellar space ship. 😉

Update, Saturday, 7:04 PM: What an absolutely incredible way to end an absolutely incredible three days!

Tonight, Mike was out of town, so I walked all the way around the block (86x, total). For the very first time since last December, I did it all by myself, with no gait belt and no walker!

Like my wife had reminded me to do, before I left home, I stood up straight, let my shoulders relax, let my arms hang down straight, and let them swing forward and back, naturally, to help me balance. Absolutely no problems, no pain, and no danger of losing my balance.

The only obstacle was one neighbor’s sprinklers, which were spraying stinky recycled water across the sidewalk. So, when I got to their yard, I carefully walked across the grass, into the street, around the corner, past their sprinklers, up their sloped driveway, and back to the sidewalk, to continue on my way. Without my metronome running, I could still feel that I was walking a little slower than my with-walker speed of 108 steps per minute.

One of my biggest goals since last December is finally complete — now I know that I can walk distances, outside, by myself, without any walker, gait belt, or any other help!

Update, Sunday, April 21, 8:59 AM: This morning, I woke up early, and did everything that I needed to do, without the use of my walker or any other support. It’s warm, cloudy and incredibly humid out, with a constant breeze, and with scattered showers predicted for the entire day. So, I got out and walked around the block (87x, total), for only the second time, without my walker or any other support. No issues, no pain. When I got home, I walked halfway up the driveway, then changed my mind, and walked back down the driveway, and around the block again, for the second time in a row today (88x, total), and only the third time since my stroke. The only issue I faced was halfway around the block, when my right hand reached up to scratch the side of my head. Instead of walking straight, down the middle of the sidewalk, I suddenly found myself quickly walking to my right, with my right foot stepping in the bumpy grass, off to the side of the sidewalk. Without taking the time to think about it, my muscles automatically and instantly corrected my path, and I was safely back in the middle of the sidewalk again. Lesson learned: It’s too soon to walk and scratch my head at the same time.

But, now that I’m done, if it rains all of the rest of the day, I will have already completed both of my self-imposed “daily laps.” 😉

Update, Sunday, 3:06 PM: I haven’t used my walker at all today, except to use its seat as a shelf, to store my shoes on, next to my bed.

I just got back from our fenced-in back yard. I let myself out of the spring-loaded screen door, stepped down one step onto the ground. In the back yard, I carefully walked two laps around the yard, back to the screen door, opened the screen door, and then stepped back up into the house. I didn’t have any problems or issues. I just need to go a little slower than I do on the hard, flat sidewalk, and lift my feet a little bit higher, to make sure that my toes don’t scrape past any tall grass or other obstacles that are on the ground.

Update, Sunday, 6:58 PM: I just got home from walking around the block a third time today (89x, total), this time, leisurely, following behind Mike and the dogs. It was also my third time of walking around the block today, and my fourth time, total, of walking around the block without any walker or other support.

I feel kind of like little Jessica!

I did all of my walking, inside the house, all day, totally on my own. My walker has been sitting, unused, in my bedroom, ever since late last night.

And that’s fine with me. 😉

God is good.

Update, Monday, April 23, 5:45 PM: I’m glad that I’m documenting things, because it’s getting harder to remember all of the wonderful things that have been happening to me!

When I woke up this morning, my walking, though still not smooth, was noticeably smoother than it had been last night!

I got up, took a shower, shaved, and got ready for my appointment with the endocrinologist, scheduled for later this morning.

My wife drove me to the endocrinologist’s office. We left my walker at home. I walked in, sat down, had my appointment, and walked back to the car, as though I didn’t even own a walker!

We told the nurse some of what’s been happening. She was very supportive. She said that, many stroke victims work and work, really hard, for a long time, feeling like they’re dropping all of that work into an apparent black hole, in which they see only small improvements for a long, long time. So a lot of them get discouraged, and eventually give up. But, if they can get through the many times of discouragement, and keep working, they can reach a certain level, at which, all of a sudden, they start to see massive improvements.

What she described was exactly what happened to me. 😉

Then the endocrinologist came into the room, and, for a few minutes, silently studied my recent blood glucose measurements, and the results of my blood tests, taken a few weeks ago. Then, he looked up at me. and said that all of my numbers look “really excellent.” All of the things that are supposed to be higher, were more than double what they had been two months ago. All the things that were supposed to be lower, were 1/2 to 2/3 lower than what they had been two months ago. Even my A1c, the 30-day blood-glucose level, which had been 12 point something, back when I was in the hospital, has dropped by more than half, to a very healthy 5.5. Every measurement was well within the “normal” range for where it should be.

Oh, and I’ve also lost 12 pounds since my last appointment, two months ago.

“Just keep doing what you’re doing, and cross your fingers,” he said. “What about a follow-up appointment?” I asked, as he walked out of the room. “No need,” he turned and smiled. “Call me if you have any questions, but otherwise, you don’t need any more appointments.”

So, what’s wrong with me that, one by one, my doctors and rehab people keep telling me that they don’t want to see my any more? The only appointment that I have left is one with my primary doctor, who I will finally meet, for the very first time, and that’s still two months from now! 🙂

After all of that extremely good news, my wife and I stopped by my former outpatient rehab office. There, we talked to the friendly receptionist, who remembered us, and then stopped in to “show and tell” my progress to my former occupational therapist. She had some tips for me, and told us that she would relay the good news to my former physical therapist, when he got done working with a current client.

Then we grabbed a healthy lunch, and went to our pharmacist, to try to get some small prescription bottles that have straight sides. I carefully expained to the woman behind the counter that my prescriptions from their store had all come in big, wide, 200-pill prescription bottles that have a sharp curve inside of their sides as they go up from the wider, lower part of the bottle to the narrower opening at the top. Unfortunately, that curve in the sides is deep and sharp — almost a right angle. It might work for pouring out big pills, but it keeps my 60 tiny, half-pills from flowing out of their bottles. That forces me to repeatedly turn each bottle completely upside down, to dump all of its little pills into my hand, and then carefully try to get all but one of that handful of pills back into each bottle, without spilling any of them. It’s a useless design that causes a scary, yet completely preventable problem — it could easily be solved by them using smaller, straight-sided bottles to hold tiny pills, like the kind that other pharmacies in the area have and use.

The woman behind the counter listened to all of that, and then, with a big smile, acted as if it was no big deal. She told me that they only use and have the one type of wide bottle that my prescriptions had come in. No alternatives, no suggestions, nothing. Just a big, clueless smile.

My wife and I ended up going to Walmart, and buying several little travel-size, plastic bottles, and then going home, marking each of them with the name of a medicine, and transferring all of my prescriptions to them. We also walked all through the Walmart for an hour or so, finding and buying another whole week’s worth of groceries, with me sometimes pushing the shopping cart, but mostly with me following along behind, with no support at all, while my wife chose to push our shopping cart.

When we got home, I brought nearly all of the groceries in from the car and put them all away, all by myself. Then, I filled the windshield squirter in both of our cars with new squirter fluid.

No acetaminophen for the past several days. No pain or soreness, all day today.

And also, all day, today, my walker sat at home, unused. I think I haven’t used it, or any other means of support at all, for the at least the past 48 hours.

After all of the events of the day, I took a 2-hour nap.

If Mike calls later on, I’ll walk a lap around the block with him and the dogs. If not, I think I’ve done enough today — tonight, I’ll just stay home, relax, and get ready for whatever is coming tomorrow.

Update, Tuesday, April 24, 9:03 AM: No aches, pains, soreness, or acetaminophen. I just got back from one lap (90x, total) around the block, alone, without any walker or other support (5x, total). Early on, it felt like I was walking pretty fast and smoothly, so I took out my metronome and discovered that I’m now walking, alone, at the same 108 steps per minute that I used to walk with my walker! I walked the whole rest of the block at that same speed, easily keeping to that even, back-forth rhythm.

Update, Tuesday, 6:01 PM: As soon as I heard the motorcycle, warming up next door, I knew that Mike and Annamarie were on their way somewhere, and I would be walking alone tonight. So, I got my hat and phone, and walked around the block without my walker (6x, total). Despite the fact that I took 3 naps today, my muscles must be a little fatigued, because my legs felt like they were not quite as solid as they had been this morning. But I found myself walking safely, but quickly — noticeably faster than the 108 steps per minute that I go when I walk to my metronome’s beat, so I was back home in only a few minutes.

Update, Wednesday, 9:53 AM: My wife and I just got home from a trip in which I drove us in our car, for only the second time since my stroke, last December. I safely drove myself and my extremely trusting wife, from our home, around and throughout our neighborhood, to a nearby residential neighborhood, past all of that neighborhood’s many curves, cul de sacs, stop signs, dead ends, etc., while safely avoiding all of its parked cars, dogs, squirrels, traffic, pedestrians, etc. Then we drove through several other neighborhoods, with me driving carefully and safely. According to my wife, I drove really well, and didn’t make any mistakes. It’s funny, because I knew, when I woke up today, that I was going to go driving again this morning, but I didn’t feel scared, like I had, decades ago, when I was first tested, to earn my drivers license. Instead, I just calmly looked forward to demonstrating that I could do it. After about a half an hour or so, I safely drove us back to, around, and throughout our own neighborhood, again, and then back to our home.


Update, Wednesday, 10:29 AM: It’s warm and sunny, with hot and sunny on the way. I just walked around the block without my walker or any other support (7x, total), all by myself. I turned on my metronome, and suddenly realized that I had to SLOW DOWN my walking, in order to match it to my metronome’s 108 steps per minute! I walked around the whole block at that slower, but very even, speed. Today, my strength is back!

By the way, last night, my wife put my walker back into storage. For the past several days, I haven’t used it at all.

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5 Responses to Stroke Update 20 – First Driving

  1. Hugh and Linda says:

    Praise God, praise God, praise God!!!!!!! I am so proud of you, Bob, and of xxxxxxx for being the constant rock, support and Bob-lover that she has been. I know what it’s like to be on both sides, and it takes courage, hope, faith and humor for either of them. Wish I could give you both a huge Linda hug! We’re delighted that you have stuck to this and have met, and will continue to meet your goals. Rah, rah, rah! Sis boom bah!

  2. Judith Rundell says:

    It’s amazing what God can accomplish with a willing spirit. Thanks for the lessons and inspiration.

  3. ComputerBob says:

    Hugh and Linda,
    As you can tell, I’ve really enjoyed the events of the past few days, including those that I described in this morning’s “update to the update!” Linda, I don’t know the whole story, but I know that, a few years ago, you personally went through at least one major health crisis of your own, with both grace and faith, and that, like so many in your family, you continue to be both an incredible blessing and inspiration to all of those around you. Thank you!

    You’ve been through some tough times of your own, but you’re still a happy and very inspiring person. I’m so glad to be your friend!

  4. Linda says:

    More good news, you’re getting back to pre-stroke life, wonderful. I haven’t been walking for quite a while, too cold, etc, but your updates have helped encourage me to get back out there, so thanks. Prayers for continued good news and safety as you do your “walk abouts”. Love & hugs

  5. ComputerBob says:

    Hey, the next time we see you, I’ll probably drive there! Thanks for your love and support! Some of the hardest parts of all this have been the times of isolation, loneliness, and discouragement. It really makes things easier, to know that there are people out there who care about me! 😉

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