The moment I was able to flip the bird with my left hand again felt like victory and awesomeness.
When my brain broke, I Iost the use of my left side. The technical term is hemiplegia. It is often referred as one sided paralysis. My left arm, shoulder and hands clung to my side tightly. It was painful to even try to move. My fingers were in a closed tight fist so thst my nails were cutting into my palm. Spasticity keeps my fingers stuck together as if they are bound by a thick rubber band.
It is incredibly frustrating that very simple things are so very difficult to do. Getting dressed, eating and even holding a book became impossible (thank goodness for Kindle). I had to learn a new way of dressing myself, how to put on a bra – ladies, it wasn’t easy nor was it pretty. Getting tangled in my own bra was quite interesting.
At first, I was embarrassed to ask my boys or my husband to cut up my food. I would have gone hungry. I’ve learned to order food that does not require any cutting when I am out with friends, I did not want to ask them to slice up my dinner for me. Eating a sandwich is still tricky and messy.
I am right handed so I thought that not having the use of my left would not be a big deal. Wrong! I took for granted how seamlessly my shoulders, arms and hands worked together. I live the metaphor “with one hand tied behind my back”.
Three years post stroke, I still have a long way to go for my left hand to be fully functional. I do a lot of stretching, weight bearing and fine motor skills training (picking up small and large objects etc.).
Looking back, I have made major improvements:
- I am able to tie my own shoes again! Youtube has multiple videos of one handed shoe lace tying, but they are more complicated than I preferred. I had elastic, no tie laces which were very helpful, but I wanted to tie my laces on my own. Who knew that at my age (don’t ask), I would celebrate being able to tie my own shoe laces!
- I could now keep my fingers open. This is great because: I am not hurting my own hand anymore, I could cut my own nails without someone else prying my hand open. I could get manicures! I could even cut my right fingernails with my left hand. With some modifications.
- “It puts the lotion on it’s skin” that’s with my left hand on my right arm.
- I am now able to use a can opener. The manual one. I won’t starve anymore. YAY!!!
- I could open a bottle of wine! (this should be number one on this list).
- I could turn the door knob with my left hand.
- I am now able to lift my arm up to my ear and hold it there for a few seconds without assistance.
- I could fold laundry (sshhh, let’s keep that on the d.l).
There are many things that are done day to day that for most of my life I have taken for granted . Just combing and putting my hair in a ponytail takes the coordinating action of my shoulder, upper arm, lower arm, hand and freely moving fingers. My husband has gotten really good at putting my hair up. He still needs to learn the fine art of French braiding, I also need to get my boys trained at this skill. I am happy to say that both of them have learned how to help me with my jewelry.
I am still wary around knives. Cutting veggies is scary when at any time my left fingers could slip right under the blades of a sharp knife.
Typing is literally a pain. Typing with one hand is slow and tedious. Typing with one hand and having a crappy short term memory is very, very frustrsting. I am using this program to improve my typing skills, right now I am up to 10 words a minute! WOOHOO!!! I looked into speech to text software, but the price tag left me…umm…speechless.
I have been stuck with the idea that using adaptive equipment means I am giving up. Lately, I am realizing things would be less frustrating if I adapt rather than struggle. I would be more self reliant if I use things that could aid me, rather than getting frustrated because it’s “too hard” do things. This one handed chopping board is an example.
My accomplishments are small, yet they are the steps that I build on. Eventually, my brain synapses will fire up again and make new connections. It is a long, frustrating road. Imagine traffic on the Interstate during rush hour. Or for my Bay Area readers hwy 880 anytime of the day (emirite??)
I continue to hone my gross and fine motor skills. My arm and hand moves like an amusement park claw machine. Slow, unreliable and drops things when you think you’re about to get the prize.