This is an eventful week. It started with the removal of the stitches in my left hand. Yay! My hand still needs to heal a bit more before I have full use back, but I’m excited to not have those ugly black sutures yanking on my skin anymore. There was so much to tell about the whole surgery ordeal, but I’m in a good mood and don’t feel like talking about it. Here are the highlights:
It was really awful, then it drove me into a deep depression, then I got drunk with a good friend and had meaningful conversation. Then my stitches came out, and I tried to be normal. It turns out wiping my ass is now a go, but pushing a shopping cart is not. My 2 year old son has grown accustomed to helping me dress and undress. He now randomly yanks down my pants if he thinks I’m going to take a shower. We’re working on keeping the curtains closed. Oh and my awesome friend, Betsy sent me this badass shirt.
Today, June 7th, is my one year anniversary. It’s been a whole year since my stroke. I started this blog while I was still in the hospital. Last night I went back and read my original posts. I wanted to remember where I was in my head, what I felt, and how far how I had to go physically. It’s easy to get caught up in what you can’t do. Remembering my days in acute rehab puts into perspective all the ass I’ve truly kicked this past year. So these cannots I’ve got tallied in my head can go screw themselves. I’d like to point out that MS Word just suggested I change "all the ass" to "the entire ass." Clearly it does not believe there is any more ass left for me to kick. Well I disagree, fuck you very much. There is still work to be done.
I remember feeling anxious in the hospital, far more anxious than sad. Those first 8 days in the hospital were about getting stabilized. Physical therapists would come in and move my arm and leg around so I wouldn’t stiffen up, since I couldn’t move around myself. I even managed to give the Neurologist a fist bump when I couldn’t shake his hand. At that point they were easy on me, for the real work was to be done when I got transferred to acute rehab.
My first occupational therapy session in rehab was the first reality check I got smacked with. So far, all my therapy had consisted of not so much therapy, but neurochecks.
Squeeze my hand.
Push my hand with your foot.
Can you wiggle your toes for me?
Now touch your nose…
I couldn’t do most of those things. When they wheeled my wheelchair up to a giant wooden table in the gym, I was nervous but eager. The OT placed 10 little poofy pom poms in front of me.
|These are poofy pom poms. They weigh nothing. And they're stupid.|
I was instructed to pick them up, one at a time, and drop them in a shoebox. Piece of cake, right? I started to move my right arm forward, then slowly tried to raise it to the table, then…then…oh for fuck’s sake…My arm was supposed to extend to reach the pom pom. We’re talking about a few inches in front of me. I dropped my arm and I started to cry. I started to whisper “I can’t do it.” She told me to remember to breathe and try again. It took all my strength to lift, extend, open fingers, lower hand, close hand on pom pom, lift hand, move hand over to shoebox, then open hand to drop it.
Each of those steps is a completely different signal for the human brain to master. Each step required tremendous concentration and physical strain. And I had to do it again, and again, until all 10 of those motherfucking poofy pom poms were in the motherfucking box.
|More OT: The dreaded Theraputty. I had to pick marbles out of that shit.|
I’m sharing that story because it is a pivotal moment for me. It was the first time it hit me in the face just how broken I was. It was also the first time I attempted something and felt like it couldn’t be done. And yet I did it. I don’t ever want to forget that moment. It still makes me cry. Fuck, I’m crying right now. It’s not a sad cry. It’s not a cry of mourning. It’s a rally cry. I think about going from that moment sitting in a wheelchair in a gym, literally sitting on my phone in case it vibrates with a phone call from home so I can hear my son’s voice, and then I think about today. Today I’m cooking chicken parmesan from scratch, carrying my son upstairs for his nap, typing with TWO hands, and yes, even driving.
Last week my husband stumbled upon cheap tickets to the opening night of Elmo Live! We’ve never taken our son to a big event, let alone to a big arena but the tickets were too good to pass up. When I realized I would have to go to the show as a gimp with stitches in my good hand, I went into panic mode. I can’t use my cane with stitches in my hand – how the hell am I going to make it through an arena? Wheelchair access seats were confusing and a total hassle. You can’t use Ticketmaster’s automated systems for anything because there is no way to pick a crippled seat and there are no real explanations anywhere about how to go about picking one. Plus I hate the wheelchair. I’m too much of a control freak to feel comfortable with someone wheeling me around now that I've learned how to walk. I decided there was only one real choice. (Well there were two choices, but I wasn’t going to miss seeing Elmo with my kid.) The only choice I had was to suck it up and walk, really walk, unassisted. Who wouldn't at least try for their kid? I sure as hell am not going to die from walking.
|A year ago, family fun time was wheeling mom around a nursing home.|
I’ve managed to walk without my cane these past few weeks, but only short distances. I had no way of knowing how far it would be from the parking lot, through the main entrance of the Citizens Business Bank arena, to our section, and then up or down to our seats. No clue. I pictured myself bed-ridden the next day. I pictured myself having to lean on walls and railings and my husband to catch my breath. I pictured my leg locking up and my toes curling under from spasticity. I can’t explain it, but I knew I could do it. I knew it would suck, but it was doable.
Thanks to my handy dandy handicapped placard, we parked really close. I was absolutely thrilled when I made it to the entrance, walked inside, and the usher looked at our tickets and said “Oh. Your section is right there.” He meant literally RIGHT THERE. Like, right in front of us, maybe 25 feet away! Man, I got this!
We had a blast, together, our little family. I've realized over this past year that most days are going to be a challenge. Challenge isn't a bad word. Fuck that noise. I've taken a number of calculated risks because why not? It's worth it. It's do or die and I'm not dying.
I’m kicking ass, but I’m not 100% better. I will never be 100% better. I am, however always ready to try harder, push further, and kick more ass. So that’s my mission: the entire ass. One can never actually kick the entire ass, but that’s not the point. You can still kick a lot of ass. I think of my mission in the same vein as “Shoot for moon. If you miss at least you’ll land on a star.” Or however the hell that old saying goes. There’s a big ol’ fucking ass out there ready for me to kick. And mama’s got her boots on.
|June 14, 2011: Day 7 in the hospital. I couldn't hold him, so he crawled into my hospital bed.|
|June 7, 2012: After 20 tries this crappy photo was all I could get while holding him still. But I held him :)|