Friday, October 29, 2010

Problems with decision making?

I now have problems with some basic things like short term memory, paying attention, and sequencing. I have gotten a lot of help with these issues through Occupational Therapy but I still have a long way to go.

The current issue we are working on is my problems with decision making. In the past I would have been called decisive. I tended to be logical and fast and confident in my opinions. I tended to be a leader in many situations. My friends, after my illness, have commented about my indecision and a few actually said they were concerned because I wasn't being as "bossy" as usual. I could have taken that as a criticism of the old Linda, but I knew they meant it with love and thought of bossy as a good thing.

The hard decisions aren't so bad. If there are really clear pros or cons I am fine. If I have had preferences from the past that I remember, it is okay. Maybe there is a little lag time, but I do make decisions.

It has been the little things that really aren't important that get me hung up. What kind of tea do you want? Which direction do you want to turn on a neighborhood walk? Those now seem to be the difficult choices.

I recently told my occupational therapist, rather casually, that I had a crying meltdown in Wal-mart recently over choosing candles for Thanksgiving. Which scent to choose, which size, how many for how much money? Now, I really did not care that much one way or another, but I sure got upset when I found myself standing there, frozen like a deer in car headlights, crippled with indecision. I started crying and told my husband to forget it and that I want to go home! Bob just picked up 2 candles for $8. End of topic. He steered me to another department and tried to distract me. My therapist, T, thought we should address this as it is just plain not functional to spend my time crying and not making decisions.

She told me to come up with a phrase to repeat to myself every time I find myself freezing in order to diffuse the situation. It is "no big deal" ,"this is not a big problem"? Picking a phrase is just another version of the original problem. I went back and forth and back and forth on my phrase choices. Eventually, once cornered by T, I went with:

"It is just not the end of the world Linda!!"

OT homework for this week is to do research on the internet about decision making strategies. There is a lot out there on the topic so I will be kept busy this weekend. Doing internet research is very comfortable for me so I should learn a lot.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sore Finger... part 2

My poor finger with the lump is not getting better yet. The bad news is that it is now infected. My finger was all swollen up and red so I hurried to the doctor and got put on an antibiotic with warnings to get to the hospital if it got any worse. Sheesh.

I am still waiting to even hear from the plastic surgeon, and starting to feel really desperate. We are on to week 10 since I got the thorn in my finger!

I called up the guitar school and got myself a medical leave. Can you imagine? One lesson and I have to take a break? Here I am with a wobbly left hand and now the right hand is being miserable too.

I actually think I might be getting better use in my affected hand. You hear about constraint therapy where the good hand/ arm is restrained in some way and the patient is forced to use their bad hand and hopefully they will gain more of the use of the affected hand. I feel like I am having a version of that kind of therapy mixed with negative reinforcement for using my right hand. My middle finger is stuck straight now because it is too swollen to move and had a big lump in the joint and also I get a huge shock of pain anytime I use it or touch it ever so slightly. My affected left hand, and that is my non-dominant hand, is getting a real work out.

My balance is being challenged too. I can hardly stand to hold my cane so I am mainly going slowly and carefully with just my own two feet.

I am trying so hard to look at the sunny side of this situation.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Just what do I do around here?

My 22 year old daughter is doing a bit better after her car accident. She is in a cast after surgery to fix her broken ankle, she has broken ribs, she has stitches, and more bumps and bruises than I can count. Her life at the moment is pain killers and napping and hopping to the bathroom using a 2 wheeled walker.

Today we had the insurance adjuster from Autopac (public car insurance) come to the house to assess my daughter's health needs and help start her personal insurance claims. What a monster pile of papers to fill out! She should get 90% of her salary and expenses like the crutches and walker and ambulance bill will be taken care of immediately. Other costs and benefits will be sorted out soon.

The lady asked her what she would normally do for chores around the house and what her other responsibilities are. Emily and I were saying she does the cooking, a lot of the laundry and housework and drives me around a lot. The lady turned to me and rather harshly asked so then what do I do around here? I was kind of stunned for a minute, tried to think of something I actually do and take responsibility for around here, and I drew a blank. I told her that basically I do nothing. I guess I looked pretty normal just sitting there; you can see some problems when I am walking or trying to carry things but the short term memory loss and other cognitive problems are invisible disabilities.

Emily quickly explained that I have had a stroke and have some physical and cognitive limitations. And then she added that I can't do much without supervision. She told the woman that I can't be trusted to turn the stove or iron off and that I loose my balance on the stairs. Basically she said that she is normally responsible for me while my husband is at work.

Oh my goodness!

First, how sad that my daughter feels such an overwhelming sense of responsibility at her young age and secondly how little they trust me to cope on my own even though I am doing much better now. I did know all this deep down, but hearing it said to a stranger was heart breaking.

I do try and keep everyone else around here organized, and think I do pretty close to my fair share, but I feel pretty darn useless about now.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Very Sore Finger

I have a sore finger on my good hand. It is a real problem to me.

It started off in August when I got a little thorn in my middle finger of my right hand. I was at the cottage, gathering and cutting branches into smaller pieces to fit in the fireplace and one of the branches was a hawthorn and they really do have thorns! I thought I got it all out but it stayed irritated. I thought maybe a tiny bit was still in there and would eventually work it's way out but it just kept not healing and then it seemed to be getting more painful and bleeding easily and getting bigger. I talked to the doctor about it at my regular appointment and he said it just had to take time and heal. Two weeks later it was much bigger so I went back to the doctor.

Don't click on the following link if you get queasy very easily. It was now something called a Pyogenic Granuloma. Basically I have pea sized cluster of capillaries that are probably a benign growth. Most likely it is a weird inflammatory response to a local trauma. It is amazingly painful to touch and bleeds like crazy with the littlest bump. My doctor told his nurse to hold everything he was going to be busy for 10 minutes and went to look it up. He came back with a picture atlas of skin diseases and was all excited. Next he called in his partner saying "Hey wana see a Pyogenic granuloma?" " Oh that's what it looks like!" while they compared me to the book. They decided "Wow, it's a big one.". Hmmmmph.

First they tried burning it with a chemical cauterization and told me that I should come back the next week. Nope didn't work. Okay lets try liquid nitrogen and freeze it off. (cryosurgery) Nope, still didn't work. The next suggestion is we need to freeze it and scrape it off and out, and cauterize the bottom.

They now need to send the sample for biopsy, still assuring me it is not likely to be serious but that we do need to take care of the ugly thing. My doctor can't really do it in the office because I react very badly to local freezing, so I am being referred to a plastic surgeon. It is going to be more than a month to even see the guy and who knows when he will actually do the surgery!

I tried hard to express that the stupid thing is not just a yucky looking bump on my finger. I use a cane in that hand in order to balance and stay upright and this is actually affecting my mobility. I can't keep a good grip on the cane so now I need to go back to using my walker full time again.

I can't believe how slowed down I am because of a little sliver!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blueberry Muffins

I need to have a few regular things to bake and cook. I am still finding it harder than before to do things in the kitchen. If I can plan a few regular items, maybe I can remember the recipies better when I am cooking and maybe I can keep the ingredients around the house sothere will be less extra trips to the store for missing ingredients.

Blueberry Muffins

I like this version of blueberry muffins, but we have to avoid lemon in our house because of allergies. You can just leave out the lemon peel in this recipe.

If you have a recipe that calls for lemon juice you can use a 1/2 tablespoon of vinegar in place of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. You can also substitute equal parts of apple cider vinegar or of white wine.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My First Guitar Lesson

I had my very first guitar lesson yesterday. In fact it was my first music lesson in 35 years. I have taken my kids to many many lessons and I have paid attention but this time it was all for me. As a child I learned piano and I wasn't bad at it. Then there were all the years of accompaning my string playing kids so it is not like I haven't played an instrument in all this time.

After my stroke I tried to play the piano again and it has been an absolute failure. I even got the piano tuned hoping that would magically help. The fact is that my right and left hands are still not working at the same speed. My short term memory is also not very reliable so I keep needing to relearn any sections of the music. Another rather awful development with this stroke is that I became very sensitive to certain pitches and loud sounds, to certain lights and other strong stimuli; music has not been the soothing, joyful part of my life it once was. I have really missed turning to the comfort of my music but now my tolerance is slowly building back up again.

I am very fortunate that my left had is now working again. It is sluggish moving and to me it kind of feels like it is swollen. I have some trouble stretching it, I have a lack of strength and the other problem is that every once in a while my hand will clamp down in a death grip on objects I am holding when I least expect it. I need to use my other hand to peel my fingers off the object or poor persons hand.

The Therapy Mantra seems to be --- It you can move that body part .. do so.
If you would like more on that topic please see Peter Levine's very helpful blog-- The Stroke Recovery Blog.

My loss in ability on the piano is beyond frustrating and more than I can deal with right now. My right hand goes to fly on with the music and left hand is just out of sync with fingering.. a lot behind, and slowing down the tempo really doesn't seem to solve the issue.

Okay sooooo-
  • I am thinking Guitar is new and different and no expectations from previous performance levels.
  • I really like quiet classical guitar music.
  • We have a nice guitar of my daughters around not being used.
  • I want my hand to be moving easier
  • I NEED to work on my memory skills.

I heard of a nice , very experienced teacher at a local music school and yesterday I went to meet him for my first lesson.

So far so good. Most of it was doable, but it will require a lot of work on my part to become more fluid when playing. I think the teacher was a little surprised when he asked me what I was looking for in music lessons and I told him "Mainly therapy". He was good with that part though, and seems like a very patient man. He was having trouble working on adjusting to the fact that he had to help me get my guitar packed and up the stairs. I couldn't manage to go up and down the stairs to his studio and carry the guitar at the same time.

It had never crossed my mind that the place would not be accessible. Maybe it is just as well I didn't realize about the stairs or I would not have given it a shot, but we solved the problems one way or another.

I think guitar with my new teacher Rob is going to work out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Good Luck Vicki

I am loosing my physiotherapist.

I have been with Vicki for a very long time now and feel quite attached to her. I have come a long way with her help and she is one of few people who understand how much work I have put in and how far I have come. I understand I will be assigned a new physiotherapist soon. I guess we will start with the present and look to the future.

Vicki got a different job at the same hospital working with the outpatient program so she will not be working with the Easy Street clients anymore.

I think this is going to be a wise move for her and I wish her all the best.

Thanks for everything Vicki!
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