Monday, August 13, 2012

August Update

Oops, the 10-month update is a bit late, but I promise there's no cause for alarm! Instead, with the prospect of the next update coming from back home in Queens, things are good, all things considered. Of course when "all things" includes brain damage, the devil is in the details.

Generally, I'm doing well; my Dad, stepmom and sister have been away for a few weeks, which has given me more of an opportunity to do things for myself that were once routine, but are no longer. It turns out, for example, that a tremor does not help with egg-beating, so I shan't be making chocolate souffle until I have some motor control back. Similarly, heavy shopping isheavy! And fresh fruit and veg are not light.

Even with my newly-invigorated drive to eat well, I get caught out by supermarket trickery, not sadly limited to the "2 for £3" variety either. I've been buying granola at the local health food shop, but when I saw Sainsbury's (a big chain here) own-brand kilo bag was half the price, I didn't think twice. How bad can granola be? It turns out that, relatively speaking, very bad. It may be half the price, but somehow they have managed to triple the amount of saturated fat, make it lots sweeter, and disappear the nuts. I'll be going back to the more expensive granola that won't give me diabetes, thanks.

Many things are still much slower than they were, and its been especially noticeable in the kitchen. I've avoided finding the whole process depressing by caring far less about some ingredients. Finely chopped onion? This is as fine as its getting until I can hold my knife hand still. I should cook smarter and prepare meals to eat tonight and reheat tomorrow, but I end up eating quite a lot, so that hasn't happened much. I'm also slowly losing weight, while eating what feels like a ton, which tells you perhaps how much exercise I'm getting.

Acupuncture continues to make me feel better, and is the major contributor to the improvements in my face. The paralysis thing anyway; the needles can't make me beautiful! I can feel, and just about see more muscle activity in my left face, so while it will be obvious I had a palsy for some time, I'm confident that eventually my phizog will be back to parity. I chatted with someone who'd had a stroke four years ago at 42, who had no obvious sign of the palsy he had once had, but it was soon obvious that his was due to brain swelling interrupting the nerve, rather than my case where the nerve is OK, but routes to tissue that is dead.

There's every sign that living brain tissue is taking over though, everywhere I've been affected. I'll have definitive proof that my double vision is improving when I go back for another eye exam. Either I'll need less of a prism, or I'm delusional. Unfortunately, the double vision is a binary kind of thing, like the tremor. They are both improving, but while they exist at all they make life interesting. I am a little tired of sidewalks appearing flat when they are not.

I think at this point, my brain is working to adapt itself to having a bit missing. At the same time as its putting in place new pathways to activate muscles from my right little toe to my neck, it still sends expectant impulses to brain matter that isn't there any more. I can know that I'm leaning to the right, and fully expect the neuro-muscular bit of me that learned to deal with that lean at the age of one+, but unless I do something consciously about it,  I will soon be on the floor.

Eventually, I won't have to think about it at all, but walking, for example, is still far from automatic. It's certainly smoother and faster, but I have to pay attention. Sadly this means I meander when walking and talking. Stagger would probably be more accurate. I do not chew gum.

All of which means its worth it going to the gym as much as I have been; it's been worth stretching for up to an hour six days a week. Going to Pilates class has been good for me, so has the ab workout, so has doing some Tai Chi every day. All of these things have made me work muscles in ways that they're supposed to be able to work, hard as that is sometimes, and as a consequence laid down neural paths that I will be reinforcing and one day optimizing for years to come. Getting quite buff at the same time doesn't suck, either.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Ye Shiwen, Acupuncture and Racism

I've been seeing an acupuncturist for a couple of months now, and I am in no doubt at all that it has been beneficial. I would not otherwise spring for weekly visits. Most of the benefits have been nebulous in terms of scientific data--they could all come from the haphazard results of neurological activity.

The same cannot be said about the improvement I have felt in my paralyzed face. It will inevitably take time for the feeble muscular motion that I can feel to be easily visible, since the relevant muscles have had nearly ten months off to atrophy, but unless I'm delusional, I can tie that progress directly to acupuncture.

When you realize how little is honestly understood about neurology, and that we are only just getting scanning machinery capable of tying new theories of pain to anaesthetic acupuncture, then you have to ask why acupuncture has so long been pooh-poohed by western medicine.

The question can be rephrased: given that western medicine knows very little about how the nervous system really works, why is the evidence of a technique that has been successful for several thousand years dismissed?

The only answer that I can come up with is that most of the successes were on Chinese people, and most of the practitioners were Chinese. In other words, fundamental racism.

While I was pondering the question and the inevitability of the answer, Ye Shiwen swam her amazing and inspiring races, and had her achievement sullied by the coach of Team USA, who did all but actually accuse Ye of doping.

It's worth pointing out that Ye is at the age when great leaps in performance can happen, that she has never tested positive for doping, that China's swimmers are not all doing extraordinarily well this Olympics, that Ye was less than four years old when China was doping its swim team. and that the American swim team, excellent as many of them are, is not nearly as representative of US demographics as, say, their women's gymnastics team.

Which leaves the dirtiness of racism sullying the US team. Shame.