Friday, May 18, 2012

41st Birthday

I'm 41 today, and it's 7 months and 7 days since I had a big old stroke, so time for an update.

Vision: I had an eye test, and my eyeballs are basically the same as they ever were, which is good: there's no visual field loss or anything. I think they're slowly improving, in that the double vision seems to be gradually correcting, but boy is it slow. It will be interesting to see how well I handle the prescription swimming goggles, since at the moment with regular goggles I just let my eyes do whatever they do, as myopic as ever. My reading speed has improved, too, although it will take binocular vision to get back to where it was.

Balance and Walking: clear improvement. When I last did one of these monthly(ish) updates, I was just recovering some motor control of part of my right leg. Now the formerly missing bits of calf, quad and glute are back for sure. My right leg still sometimes declines to hold me, apparently at random, and I keep my stick handy when I go out, but I walk around the house without the stick. I've also been going to Tai Chi class, and while it is scientifically impossible to correlate any improvement in my balance with my daily Tai Chi practice, my practice has improved in that time, and so has my balance, which is evidence enough for me to keep at it.

Left Facial Palsy: I finally got to see the local speech and language therapist, who had done a bunch of homework by the second time I saw her, and had a load more exercises to try out. As a result there are tiny signs of improvement, and I feel less crazy when I can sense muscles trying to engage with no visible result. Although I'm supposed to do them in a mirror, it's pretty depressing to see nothing happen for weeks on end, so I often just do them blind, paying close attention to the sensations I feel. I suspect I'll have a lop-sided grin for quite a while.

Right Side: although my right side is clearly getting stronger, and it's been very useful to do exercises that isolate each side in the gym (i.e. dumbbell exercises have been more useful than barbells or machines, and form reigns supreme) I've developed or exposed a problem. My right hand and arm now have a tremor that is at least superficially similar to what you'd see in someone with Parkinson's. This means that while I should use my right hand as much as possible, so that I don't allow the left to compensate instead of forcing recovery, I don't want to use it if that means reinforcing the 'bad wiring' that's caused the tremor.

On the positive, however, acupuncture today (yes, I spent time on my birthday being treated to steel needles) was positive, seems to have reduced the tremor, and has left me feeling less asymmetrical. My sample size of one is sufficient for me, when I am that one.

I said to the acupuncturist that recovering from a stroke will either teach you patience or drive you mad. Last night, at Tai Chi, I was able to squat as low as the bulk of my legs would let me -- ass to ground -- and without falling over. It's taken me three months of persistent stretching, exercise, and an occasionally bruised ass to get there. There are many things left for me to do in life, but I am patient.