Chicago, IL. 7 July, 2003: A healthy nineteen-year-old girl is at a work conference. She used to be a cheerleader, a volleyball player. She sprinted and hurdled in track, went to England to learn how to row. She was also active in her high school drama club. Never been sick in her life, save the stomach flu once when she was eight. She’s now on school break, the summer before her sophomore year at undergrad. She’s working, and hard, this summer so she can save up enough spending money to splurge with during her upcoming year abroad in Florence, Italy. She’s made over $1000 so far and still has two months to go.
welcome to the revolution.
Suddenly, she gets a headache worse than she has ever known. Unbeknownst to everyone around her (who think she’s merely dehydrated), and to her, her brain is under attack: an abrupt, massive cerebral hemorrhage has erupted within her right frontal lobe.
Why? An arteriovenous malformation — a clumpy mess of veins and artery mistakenly connected in her brain prior to her birth — never previously discovered, perhaps because she hadn’t been to the doctor since the stomach flu, has ruptured.
She is having a stroke. A stroke that wipes out every minute movement her brain has recorded and learned since her birth, from the left side of her body.
This hemiparalysis, which affects all movement down that half of her body, has now turned this girl who was athletic and exceptionally coordinated into a handicap.
What she doesn’t know yet is that brain injuries aren’t like broken limbs that just automatically heal themselves over a fairly short period of time. Brain injuries require disciplined, consistent rehabilitation over years of therapy after therapy after therapy, and extended rest.
It changes her life completely. Not only physically — although that takes its own toll, too. No longer can she shower by herself. She needs people at her side to merely walk across a room. Countless people she doesn’t even know by name have seen her naked. She wears diapers. Can’t even tie her own shoes or put on her own clothes.
The ways in which her brain injury affect her are myriad:
*physically. She is bedridden for three weeks. Then, she uses a wheelchair and a helmet custom-made to her head.
*emotionally. Can she still look at herself with the same self-esteem of an active nineteen-year-old girl when half her body droops down and doesn’t work or even feel?
*spiritually. Not previously religious or spiritual by any means, she now must explore the power of faith: faith in herself, in the people she loves and cares about, and in something greater than her. After all, what’s more humbling than having your ability to take care of even yourself taken away in the matter of minutes, mere seconds?
*analytically. This injury requires patience and self-discipline. It also asks of her strength she never knew she had — strength that no one knows he has until he needs it because to not have it means to give up completely, to surrender your life to oblivion. She’ll have to reconsider her life priorities, pushing them all back, behind “rehab.” She has to now explore what’s truly important, something nineteen-year-olds rarely are wont to do.
*socially. She will, in the years that follow, have to reexamine the friendships she already has. Unfortunately, some will have to go because not all friendships are made to withstand this type of weight.
*psychologically. She knows what it’s like to run, to dance, to embrace a significant other with both arms. A lifetime of these memories and experiences don’t go away — rather, they are so readily available that she can’t help but remember them in comparison to her current state. Her usual energetic, positive disposition has now surrendered to sad mental juxtaposition to the past. It’s a debilitation she’s never known, and much longer lasting than any other kind of discouraging emotion she has ever experienced.
My name is Pamela, and I’m now twenty-six. This experience is still not behind me — perhaps it never will be — and I’m here to share the knowledge I have about brain injury and disability acquisition, their many effects, and also serve others as a resource for comprehensive information that they may be in search of. The purpose of this website is to spread awareness about stroke rehabilitation and therapeutical techniques, and also to relate to those who have been touched by this very common and complex ailment. A lot of what happens after stroke is a profound sensation of alienation from who you used to be and from those who used to know you. It’s almost a rebirth, and most people who haven’t experienced it personally have no idea what’s going on inside you. I’m here to let you know that you’re definitely not alone in this journey. Even if you’re just a sensitive soul looking to know what you can do for your loved one who’s recently been afflicted, I hope to be able to reach out to you and give you a little guidance and encouragement.
I am by no means an expert in neurology or the various types of malady that can plague a human brain, so most of my resources and input will concentrate on stroke and/or paralysis. However, I hope that my contributions in the other arenas of acquiring disability will resonate with those of you not necessarily searching for a resource on stroke.
The reason why I decided to put together this blog is because I feel that there aren’t any comprehensive websites that gather seemingly unlimited sources of information to reap from one place. It would have been much more time-efficient for me had someone thought to put up an extensive resource for patients to access.
Join the revolution. While I received the best rehabilitative care recognized in the United States, I don’t feel that the medical attention I was paid held enough scope. That is to say, to limit my healing to just conventional Western medicine and current upheld medical beliefs is to limit healing, period.
Over my tedious path from the hospital bed to where I am now (I’ve studied abroad twice for extended periods of time and continue to travel alone), I have explored an expansive array of various healing methods, from the most banal to the most controversial. And I’ve spoken to experts. Man, have I spoken! I now believe myself to be absolutely overwhelmed with healing options and cannot wait to share with you what’s been working. And because it is almost every doctor’s modus operandi to tell their stroke patients, “You won’t be able to get back to 100%,” personally, I believe this to be somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy. There once was a time when stroke patients were told that recuperation was impossible, and they were discouraged from therapy. I don’t know about you, but that greatly upsets me. So I’m here to start the Rehab Revolution, to encourage you to fight for what’s rightfully yours: your healing and well being — let no one take your hope or strength away. The capabilities of the human being and the human mind are limitless. Let yourself embrace that potential and shoot for it all. I will be here to root for you and keep you on track.
This website will be a culmination of all the therapy methods and neuro-research I come across and learn either personally or via books, research, and/or talking to experts. I also invite all people with a relevant perspective to guest-write for the site so you can all benefit from other perspectives. Of course, this website is not intended to replace your doctor or therapist, and I am by no means a professional medical counselor. I’m simply a positive-minded woman with a unique story to share. I believe in healing, and I hope you do too.
Feel free to contact me at revolution [dot] rehab [at] gmail [dot] com.