Here I am. And I’ve got some nice news for you all.
I left for Colorado on Saturday, 1 May, but I had already bid you all farewell a day early because I had to drop off my computer with the Apple Genius Bar to fix a couple hardware issues. Begrudgingly, I left my precious notebook with them for a full week — something I am so loath to do because I love my computer almost more than anything! — before I could share something exciting with you.
Friday 30 April I went back to see CIMT specialist occupational therapist Lori Bravi, who retested me after my three-week run of CIMT (see my experiments page if you don’t know what I’m referring to) and gave me all the numbers, the results for all my previous and the current tests. Turns out, I improved in practically all the tasks (and the ones that got slower only did by a matter of milliseconds), which was amazing to see in print. This empirical, hard evidence of my progress that’s so slow even I don’t notice it is uplifting — and so encouraging because, as I always say to everyone, you never stop getting better as long as you try!
Of course, the kicker is that you must keep trying. If I sat around doing everything one-handed for the next month or so, I’d certainly regress significantly. And a lot of us, when feeling down, or lazy, or discouraged, do that. Including myself. Especially with family members who barely see me who mistakenly think I do nothing because my improvements are so slow.
Ignore them. Ignore the feelings and the people (including your devil-on-the-shoulder) that make you feel like your journey is hopeless and too slow. Because after seven, ten, or even thirty years, improvements can still happen. I promise you.
So, besides the CIMT retesting (by the way, Lori very generously sent me a guest article she wrote on CIMT for Stroke Smart magazine, which I will post right after this), another very fantastic milestone I hit recently actually occurred on my vacation.
The trip was a seven-day tour of the American West, traversing five states: Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah. Although much of the trip took place on a cramped tour bus, we did get to disembark occasionally to take pictures, wander around, shop, and of course visit the “handwashing room,” as the tourguides would say (ha!).
Now, because I used to be an athlete (I played volleyball, sprinted and hurdled in track, danced, rowed, and did gymnastics) I’ve always had a somewhat muscular build. Given my regular gym-going while at home (officially for therapy but also for fitness and health), I’m usually pretty active. So of course when they offered us a stroll up and around Devil’s Tower in the Black Hills of Wyoming, I plunged ahead and joined everyone. The trek was not too terrible, starting out quite steep but then somewhat leveling off. But still, it was an impressive accomplishment for a stroke survivor with hemiparesis. After debating for awhile whether or not I want photos of myself up on this site (you know I’m not a big fan of “advertising” my condition), I decided it to be in everyone’s best interest to see the results if it helps them. So here’s an action shot if you need the proof!
After the whirl around the monument, we hit up Mount Rushmore, where I also explored a bit (and found goats in the process!). Yellowstone came later (we saw a bear!), and then my favorite, Arches National Park.
I bring up Arches not to make anyone green with envy for my wanderlust, but because Arches also represented one of my greatest accomplishments since my injury in 2003: I managed to hike three miles up and down the rocky Delicate Arch trail, with the help of my father and occasionally our tour guide (to whom I am quite thankful) and nothing else but what my father surprisingly said was pure “determination”!
I think most physical therapists who often deal with stroke patients would wag their fingers at me for not using an orthotic (the AFO really would have helped, but I ditched the thing ages ago in favor of strengthening my own muscles — depending on an orthotic or brace eventually can lead to muscle atrophy), simply because of safety . . . and perhaps they’re right — but there is nothing like the feeling of having achieved what everyone doesn’t want you to do, because you knew you could. And you did.
Thing is, though, that I know I could have done the hike on my own with no help — it just would have taken probably two hours or so — and we were on a forty-five minute time limit, so I enlisted my father as a sort of a crutch. Having that kind of loving and patient support really helped, and by the time I made it back to the bus the entire group gave me a round of applause, which I was totally not expecting!
So for those of you with a loved ones who is afflicted, let this be a lesson: Offer yourself as a “crutch,” whether emotionally or physically; he will appreciate it more than he can even say. With your help, he’ll be able to move mountains, or at least hike them. 😉
To our healing,