Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Have It Easy

My life has its moments, right now. Getting around is not automatic, my vision's terrible, and I can't think of a single thing that has not got harder since having a stroke; but I have it pretty easy, and there is no way I'm going to forget that.

It could certainly be easier: I might have died which would have been pretty straightforward (for me, at least) or I could have had TIAs, and already be much closer to my old level of function. I could also have been managing my blood pressure, fit and sleek, and not had a stroke at all, but that didn't happen.

Obviously I was lucky to have good friends and a supportive family; I was lucky Bret was around, and to be taken to Mount Sinai hospital, where I got great care. In fact I was, in the global scheme of things, very lucky to be eligible for the NHS* and then Medicaid, and to be living where I do. If I were in the majority of the 7 billion people in the world, I would be hosed. I'm also relatively fortunate to have had a stroke at 40, not 60 or 80, when it would be that much more difficult to recover.

When I think about what happened at an anatomical level, I definitely got lucky. Bearing in mind that at least two arteries ruptured, probably from the pressure, I was fortunate indeed that the damage wasn't to bits of the brain that control my heart, or lungs, none of which is very far away in the brain from the damage I did sustain.

I am able to walk now, and from the earliest days have been able to clean myself and use the bathroom unaided. My cognitive faculties are unimpaired, as far as is testable, and my memory seems uninjured. Each of those is significant to me; I'm confident that life would be intolerable for me if I knew that I was simple now, or had to have help wiping my arse. Arrogant, perhaps, but I would not want to live like that. Stroke makes you think of these things.

The cause of my stroke remains officially undetermined, but was most likely high blood pressure (check yours; if it's high get fit and get it treated. Now!), which was very high and is now under control. That's also lucky: hypertension is treatable, manageable and you can totally deal with it.

However I am reminded frequently of friends who don't have it so easy. People I met in recovery, or afterwards that have deficits that appall me. The teacher who spent much of her life showing kids how to read and write, and then taught other teachers, but lost the ability to write with her stroke. She spent a year having to re-learn how to write.

Then there's my friend whose strokes were the result of a rare form of a disease (one I was expensively tested for), sufficiently rare that it went undiagnosed until his third stroke. Each time he was recovering, he had another stroke, until the doctors figured out what was wrong with him. Then, to treat the underlying condition he had to take steroids that wasted his muscle. He couldn't make any physical progress.

My life has been challenging for a little while, but I have been able to look at the changes in my body and use them to keep my spirits up, even when they didn't directly relate to my recovery. I am lucky indeed that I can use my mind to fix my brain and get better.

Not everyone has it so easy.

* NHS: The UK's national health service which was fêted in the Olympic opening ceremony, but edited out by NBC; Too socialist or something.