Health Update: Thank you to my OSF-Peoria Caregivers

I don’t usually use my blog to post updates about my health, but I thought I would do so this week.  That way there is a more permanent thank you out there in the Internet world for those who helped me begin my recovery journey at OSF-Peoria.

In case folks didn’t know, this past week was Rehabilitation Awareness Week at OSF-Peoria. I received an invitation to attend after being identified as an all-star rehabilitation patient by my therapists.  It was a huge honor for me to receive such a invitation, and I want to say thank you to my adventure partner, John Nathan, for taking me.

Attending meant having an opportunity to thank everyone at OSF-Peoria who helped me during my first two months post health issues. It was a wonderful event too.  Great job to the folks who put it together!  Each day, I’m thankful to be here to have a chance to say thank you.  Some of you might know that I’m working on a book about my experience, but I anticipate it being a bit before I get it to a publishable quality. Still, I do have a draft of the whole book written, and a list of edits to make to it.  Thus, in place of having a book to share with the world in which I have written my thank you to all who were a part of my recovery, I thought I would post some photos from the rehab celebration.

My PT and OT Team. There were many more therapists that I worked with, but these two put up with me the most. ;)

My PT and OT Team. There were many more therapists that I worked with, but these two put up with me the most. 😉

Me and Niko meeting up again after our time in rehab together.

Me and Niko meeting up again after our time in rehab together.

 

Me, Heather, and Niko laughing...probably at something funny Niko said. :)

Me, Heather, and Niko laughing…probably at something funny Niko said. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The contraption that I have hanging around my neck is a remote to my Bioness, which is an electrical stimulation unit that activates my peroneal nerve that is causing my foot drop. I’ve been using it for about two months now, and it has helped me improve in my walking. It was fun to be with folks who were excited that I have it.  Of course, I was instantly SUPER nervous to walk, so didn’t walk without my cane until after everyone left, and then I let John take this video of me.

Thank you, thank you, OSF-Peoria!

Visiting My Relaxing Place

Last week, I took my first approved trip since my health issues earlier this year. I was so excited, as there was only one destination that I wanted to visit in order to take a break, Lake Vermilion, MN. The location where John and I were married, and where my family has a cabin.  Last summer I spent approximately 5.5 weeks there and felt very refreshed for the new school year.  This year, I was hoping to find peace and perspective before returning to therapy and the start of the school year in the fall.  Despite my excitement, I also admit that I quite nervous.  I knew that I would not be able to do many of the tasks I had done in the past.  Activities such as: taking walks, laying out near the water, and helping take down fallen branches were not endeavors I anticipated being able to participate in.  The whole week prior, I kept thinking to myself, “if these were the things I knew I would struggle with, what other things might I discover I could no longer do?”

The week of the trip, started with John and I attending a wedding for one of my former students.  It was great fun! IMG_1136Yes, it is true, I learned I really can’t dance now…except slow dance, which is more just me swaying back and forth, and the buffet line was something John had to help me with (I assure you, that he had no problem helping me with food). Despite these issues, I believe I appreciated more than ever before the time spent with good friends celebrating the love of two people.  Valuing time spent with others is something that has become even more important to me since January. John kept asking me if I was tired, and even when I became tired, I didn’t want to leave because I knew that the moment could not be captured again.

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The next day, John and I were off to northern Minnesota.  We get to Lake Vermilion by going through Wisconsin, which is a much prettier state than I had ever realized.

Crossing from Wisconsin into Minnesota with a view of Lake Superior

Crossing from Wisconsin into Minnesota with a view of Lake Superior

One of my favorite parts about going north during the summer is that you get to experience spring all over again.

Haven’t a clue what these flowers are, but I believe they were orange just for me!

I spent a lot of time snuggling with Lucy, which is always wonderful.

Best. Dog. Ever.

Best. Dog. Ever.

 

We often rested at the same time.

We often rested at the same time.

This was often the view I had when she sat close to me.

This was often the view I had when she sat close to me.

Again, Best. Dog. Ever.

Again, Best. Dog. Ever.

And playing games with my family.

I won more games than John, which is really all that matters. ;)

I won more games than John, which is really all that matters.

We even put a screened tent up, so that I could go outside to read and take naps.  It was wonderful.

Or, rather, my mom and John put up a tent for me to use. Thank you, thank you.

Or, rather, my mom and John put up a tent for me to use. Thank you, thank you.

And this was my view.

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Something I noticed is that due to my new environment, I could do several things one day and the next I would need to sleep quite a bit. Biologically, I knew this made sense, as I was taking in new information, and my brain was rebuilding those connections, but I didn’t expect to be so tired just from spending time walking down to our dock and back up the hill.

The day before we decided to leave, my uncle took us out on a boat ride. It was so wonderful! And, quite funny too.  🙂 Everyone kept asking me if I knew how to swim and if I could go into the water with my leg the way that it is. I found it humorous, as I’ve been swimming since I was a kid, and I haven’t forgotten. I responded by telling them that I wasn’t going to start gulping water if I did find my way into the water. This response, turned the conversation toward a boat crash. What if the boat crashed, nobody could get to me, and I would have to tread water for 20 minutes? Mind you, our boat is not the only boat on the lake, and it was July 4th weekend, so there was a decent amount of traffic. Thus, I didn’t anticipate having to wait 20 minutes for help from another boat. Furthermore, everyone on the boat knew how to swim, and I couldn’t imagine a crash in which I survived and none of them did, so I knew they would help me if I needed it. It was clear, however, that the only way I was going to be allowed to go on the boat trip would be if I wore a life vest, which I haven’t worn in forever.  So, I agreed, and my mom helped to snap me into it.

My best selfie with a life vest on.

My best selfie with a life vest on.

And the view of the lake from the back of the boat when we started the trip.

This was my view just to get us around the dock.

This was my view just to get us around the dock.

We started heading to new places and my view got better.

We started heading to new places and my view got better.

The view of the John at the front of the boat.

John's seat up front.

John’s seat up front.

We first went to check out the eagles that we can see from our dock and cabin flying around, and calling to each other.

Do you see the eagle?

Do you see the eagle?

How about now?

How about now?

We then boated around a bit, enjoying the beautiful lake before stopping at Moosebirds for an ice cream cone, and eventually heading back to the cabin.

I had the best sleep while I was at the cabin, and have struggled a bit sleeping since my return. I’m not sure that I’m necessarily surprised by this, as Lake Vermilion was the location I went to in my head whenever someone (nurse, family member, friend, etc.) was trying to help calm me down while I was in the hospital.

I cried when I had to leave at the end of the week. Both tears of happiness and sorrow. Sorrow because I don’t anticipate I will get to go there again this year, and because I recognized how much I took for granted in the past by having two functioning legs.  Happiness because I did it. I went to Lake Vermilion, and enjoyed it more than I probably have ever enjoyed it before. Yes, it was relaxing to be in the great outdoors beyond my yard and the town of Macomb, but it was extra relaxing because I was with loving family.  They helped to make my time special, and just being around them helped to restore my motivation to keep improving.  I hope next year to go with even more of my family members.

Just a few more photos of the lake from the boat.

Just a few more photos of the lake from the boat.

 

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I did it. 🙂

My Left Foot

My left ankle might not ever move again on my command, and I might not be able to spread apart or wiggle my toes.  I have foot drop.

This is a terrifying thought to me for many reasons, as well as a fact that I might need to come to accept.  Yes, I do realize that it hasn’t even been a full four months (it will be on May 6), since my life exploded (a PE, two seizures, two strokes, and cardiac arrest for an hour) in January.  And, I do know that some people get movement back a year later, and some times even two years later.  So, please don’t hear that I am giving up hope because I am not.

I have hope. hope

But, I also want to not have my expectations up too high because stroke depression is real and I don’t want to slide into it.  After all, strokes are the leading cause of long term disabilities in the United States.

I am working hard every day to accept what has happened to me, and appreciate that I am still here and still have a lot going for me.  This all means that I have a tug-of-war post-copygoing on inside of me and it is not easy.  Part of me is focused on having hope, and part of me is working on accepting what has happened to me.  I’ve been encouraged to just focus on having hope, and I try.  It is just that it is much easier for someone to say that to me than for me to do.

I struggle daily with questions such as:

It has been almost four months, why am I not back to normal? 

All of the rest of my leg has woken up, so why is my foot so insistent on sleeping?

What else haven’t we tried that we can try to get it going?

Did it just move, or did I imagine it?

There are several ways that I work through my tug-of-war:

1. I am quite protective of who I surround myself with because I need to keep having hope.  I can’t spend time being around thoughts and feelings that are negative because it is too easy for me to see my situation as negative.  It isn’t that I don’t share with those who are near me how I am feeling, which is often that I am sad, but I know that I need others to respond positively (which often means just being with me) even if I am crying.

2. I try hard to keep moving.  My older sister said to me when I first woke up in the hospital, that the best thing I could do for my recovery is to keep moving.  I am not sure I fully understood what that meant until recently, and I hear her voice in my head each time I want to just be lazy and do nothing.  I’ve also recently been exploring yoga for foot drop, although I’m terrible at it–still, I am determined.

3. I journal about my feelings related to my left leg.  I have never really spent time journaling about one specific part of my physical body before, but it makes sense for me to do so now.  Yes, my left foot and my need to wear an AFO (ankle and foot orthotic) means that I can’t be outside like I used to, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t go outside. I try to become fascinated by my leg, and notice if it shakes and consider why that might be (am I nervous, etc).  I want my left leg to remember that it is a part of my body, and needs to listen to my brain again.

4. I process through in my mind how much privilege I had when I didn’t have to think about walking, and the fact that I might be able to make a full recovery is in itself another privilege.  I still have many things going for me even if I have a physical disability the rest of my life, so I will be okay if this is “as good as it gets”.

5. I can make a cane look cool…so, who cares if I have to use it the rest of my life.  It helps remind me to stand taller, which is good for my posture.

Still…I really want my left foot to wake up.  064151-high-resolution-dark-blue-denim-jeans-icon-people-things-foot-left-ps