Friday, November 18, 2011

Cuckoo's Broken Wing

Hi. I'm Gellie and I'm a fat fuck. Big surprise I had a stroke, huh? I've been focused for the past 5 months on rehabilitating the right side of my body. I've had oodles of support from friends, family, and even strangers. If you've read my blog before, you know I've come a long way. I know my weight is an issue but I try not to dwell on it. Most women in their early 30s want to feel sexy but that isn't supposed to be a priority for me right now. Remapping my brain is supposed to be the focus. At least that's how I've felt.

Yesterday a group of my mommy friends started a private group for moral support in exercising and eating healthy to help them lose weight. I thought it was a cool idea but I was also envious. I've grown close to these friends over the past few months and I really wanted in. But that's the sort of thing I don't get to be in because I'm disabled, right? As they kept talking I thought, "maybe having someone remind me that I shouldn't eat a hand full of goldfish crackers every time I make my kid a snack is what I need. Maybe when they workout, I can do my rehab stuff so I can at least tag along."

Ahh the glorious internet! This isn't a local, face-to-face mommy group - we're friends online. This means it doesn't matter when or at what pace they workout, because we're all in different parts of the world anyhow. Then our lovely friend who really got this going posted this:

I stared at this on my monitor for a while and realized if I take each step one at a time, modifying as I need to for my crippled ass, I just might get through it. Last night someone asked what workout are you going to do in the morning? I threw my hat in the ring and said the 100 Workout. I figured if I said it out loud (or typed it publicly in this case) then I'd have to follow through to save face. Let's face it, even at 33 peer pressure is a powerful tool.

This morning after my little one was gone to daycare, I got started. I made little notes next to each item to track how I had to modify it. It occurred to me that if use my hand to actually write my notes instead of type them, well then I'm doing therapy on my hand too! I had previously vowed to practice writing everyday until my hand learned to do it fluidly again so this was perfect!

Here's my notes:

Writing doesn't come easy, but I'm getting there.


100 Jumping Jacks
There is no way I'm capable of jumping jacks so I'll think of something to replace this and come back to it. This is obviously a cardio activity so I'll think of something along those lines. ok NEXT!

90 Crunches
 I did 50. I did 20, rested, then 10, rest, then 20. I never rested more than a couple minutes. I also can't get my right arm behind my head so I clasped my hands together on my chest. This kept my right arm from falling off to the side.

80 Squats
I friggin did it! I did 80 squats! I stood in front of the couch just in case my leg gave out and I needed to throw myself somewhere safe. I also had both of my hands holding onto my cane in front of me for balance. I kind of felt like a fat awkward cast member of Chicago. I need to get a tophat. But I digress...

70 Leg Lifts
Leg lifts are actually part of my physical therapy routine. I lied on my back and broke it down like this: Straight leg lifts, 20 repititions on right leg (bad leg) then 20 on left, then 15 on right and 15 on left. (35 straight leg lifts total.) Then I did knee-to-chest, 35 reps on each leg. Altogether it made the total of 70.

60 Jumping Jacks
Damnit. These again. First I tried stepping up and down the stairs in an effort to do something cardio. After squats and leg lifts this was a stupid idea. I decided to walk in place for 5 minutes. My good leg and hip started to hurt so instead I raised my arms in a jumping jack motion, but standing still. Here's the problem: my right arm cannot complete that motion. It can go just a little more than half way and it's never straight. It's all crooked and kind of floats around. But screw it, I did it anyways to keep my heart rate up. I went on flapping like a bird with a broken wing.

To my surprise (altough I should't be surprised because this is what OT keeps drilling into my head) my arm started to go higher and higher. I won't lie. It hurt like a mofo. I almost couldn't take it. Then I managed to get my right arm ALL the way up 3 times!! Yes! 3 times! I checked the timer which was set for 5 minutes. Apparently I screwed up and set it for 5 hours so I had already been going 7 minutes. Damnit!

50 Crunches
I did 35. I had already done 50 and my stomach was still in shock. As I was approaching 30, I realized I could feel an abdominal muscle on the right side flexing. This is a big deal. I haven't felt those muscles at all in 5 months.

40 Squats
Totally did it (still using the cane.) I seriously need a tophat. And fishnets.

30 Leg Lifts
This time I sat up and lifted my knees for 30 reps each.

20 Jumping Jacks
I stuck with the crippled cuckoo bird move. My legs needed a break.

Walk 10 Minutes
I walked and marched in place and lasted 6 minutes.

Altogether I worked out for about 1 hour 20 minutes. Then I sat at the kitchen table where the 100 Workout picture was still up on my notebook, and cried. I cried because I fucking did it. I cried because I'm one lucky bitch to have a group of women in my life that inspire and empower me in ways they probably do not know. I cried because my body felt things today it couldn't feel yesterday and that means this isn't over. I have so much more I get to do.

This post is dedicated to A.N.U.S. You know who you are ;)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Complicated Badass

Rehabilitation is not a linear process. While the big milestones are hit 1, 2, 3…the fine tuning doesn’t work that way at all. Can I walk? Technically, yes. But how far? Some days I can walk almost a whole block. Some days I can barely make it to the bathroom. Whatever I did yesterday won’t necessarily be doable today. It’s quite a mindfuck really. When I graduated to a cane recently I thought “yes! This is my next biggie! I’m almost ok again.” Pfft! Walking with that cane has been a huge challenge. While it’s a challenge I welcome and am excited to embrace, it’s also a whole other level of frustration and worry. I’ve become more vulnerable with the cane. I’ve had my leg give out a few times in the past week, and a cane isn’t much good in that situation. Luckily I only ate shit once and it was in my bedroom. My 2 year old son was the only witness, to which he shouted “Whoa! You ok, Angie?!” Apparently we’re on a first name basis now, but that’s another story.

I’m also using my right arm and hand more. There are days when I feel like most things are doable. Then I get stuck trying to open a jar or I’m the first one to a new box of cereal. Opening that plastic bag inside the box usually results in me mutilating it with a steak knife in a maniacal rage. It’s frustrating to know there are so many things I have figured out how to do but then other trivial things are damn near impossible. I think it’s those little things that make life difficult and even painful. I can give my son a bath, but I struggle like hell to scratch my own nose. It doesn’t make any damn sense.

So how is your rehab coming along?

That is a difficult question to answer. Yes, I continue to make progress. On paper if I listed what I was doing a month ago and then listed what I’m doing now, the lists wouldn’t be terribly different. It isn’t always about accomplishing new tasks. It’s how I go about each task, how fluid and how strong the movements are that show significant progress. How am I supposed to explain that? Well last week I could reach like this, and now I can reach like that. Umm…yeah ok. Fascinating.

My OT told me that the trick is to make it look easy. Fine tuning is about pretending my movements are normal, so eventually they will be normal. (That's the hope anyhow.) With normal movement, will come strength. If I keep trying to pick up a cup, eventually I'll pick it up. And the fact I kept at it, allowed my arm and hand to build up the strength to lift the cup. So, if someone asks me if I can lift a cup the answer depends on what kind of a cup! You see? It’s a damned complicated question. So far yes to plastic if small and not full, and no to glass - at least not coffee mugs or beer pints. Trust me, I'm working on it. Can I write? Ah hell, yes, I can write my ABCs but if you want a friggin essay or someone to keep up taking notes in a meeting you’re barking up the wrong tree, pal.

I was informed in OT last week that while I have a lot of fine tuning to do, there isn’t much they can teach me anymore. (OT focuses solely on my shoulder, arm, and hand.) He said that it’s clear that I’m working hard at home and he’s shown me all he can. While he gave me his “it’s not you, it’s me” speech I sat there frozen, quickly blinking away my tears. I’m not ready to let him go. No way. I can barely carry a plate from the kitchen to the table. How can he think I’ll be alright on my own?

He said he had one last test he wanted to try. If I could do it, I don’t need him anymore. He handed me a piece of string about 4 inches long, and told me to tie it in a knot using only my weak hand. He chuckled and said even people who haven’t had strokes struggle with it. OK so I’m supposed to use only the hand that I can’t even feed myself with to tie this here string into a knot. Bring it.

Reenactment of awesomeness

You know I did it! He said “You see! You’re awesome!” I’m like, “duh.” Then he said “Do it again” just as he turned to hand something to his co-worker. He turned back around and I already had my palm held out, with 2 more knots tied into it. Fine, OT. I guess I don’t need you considering I’m a badass and all.

Reenactment of further awesomeness

So that’s my latest: I’m an awesome badass that still can’t cut my own meat or put my own hair in a decent ponytail, but I can tie a knot like a mofo. Thank goodness my left hand can still lift a Long Island Iced Tea to my lips until my right hand catches up.