Saturday, March 31, 2012

Donuts, Dietician and Peer Support Meetings

I am a co-facilitator of a peer support group at my local Stroke Recovery Association. We usually have about 7 to 10 people meet one afternoon a month in order to discuss issues related to living life after a stroke. It is great to share and so nice to talk to other people who have had similar experiences.

We usually have a  snack time. In fact it is amazing how often we share food at the stroke association functions. Last month I picked up a pack of mini chocolate covered donuts and they were met with a great deal of enthusiasm. Maybe a bit too much.  Many stroke survivors have dietary restrictions that they should be careful about. I realize that several of my members are diabetics. Others should be watching their cholesterol and just about everyone is supposed to be watching their salt intake. A few survivors have to watch for foods with potential drug interactions. Other people, like me, really should be working on reaching a healthy weight. As I watched the donuts disappear it occurred to me that I was acting as an enabler! I wanted treats and this seemed like the perfect excuse for me to indulge --- and I was taking my group down with me!

I was assigned a dietician as part of my rehab team when I first got sick, and I still see her about every 4 to 6 weeks. (I still have a lot of food and weight issues) I talked to her about this little revelation and it led to a really interesting discussion about group dynamics, snacking and healthy choices. One issue is the possibility that group members might actually be hungry. Did they eat lunch? How are their insulin levels? What is my responsibility in all this?  We talked about how occasional treats are not a bad thing and it is normal to have special foods once in a while. The important part is quantity and frequency. Once a month is not a big deal, but at the same time it is an opportunity to share a healthy snack.

My dietician and I brainstormed about some easy, inexpensive snack foods that might be good choices for the average stroke survivors diet. I came up with a few poor choices such as cheese and crackers.  I thought it would be good because it is higher in protein but it is too high in calories and too high in cholesterol and possibly sodium. I already knew the Girl Guide cookies I am supposed to be selling were not going to make the list this time, no matter how yummy they are and good the cause is.

Healthy veggie wraps were one suggestion. The idea of cheese in them was again discouraged but we discussed using some lower fat cheeses that are now on the market.  Turkey sandwiches prepared with multi grain bread and cut in quarters would be good too. Fruit with a light cream cheese or perhaps a yogurt based dip sound pretty healthy and delicious. There are some yummy and good for you muffins available at the store and she has some recipes for some healthy muffins that I will get from her next time I see her.

We had a meeting this past week and this time I brought bagels cut in smaller pieces and I provided a spread choice of light cream cheese or hummus. It certainly wasn’t donut type enthusiasm, but a few people really seemed to like trying the hummus for the first time.  Next month I think it is going to be healthy muffins or banana bread. All I have to do is work up some energy for baking!

Does anybody have other suggestions for coffee break or snack treats for a group? I would be very interested in potluck suggestions too.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring Camp

Dawn reflecting off the frozen surface of Lake Winnipeg
I went camping with my Girl Guides of Canada - Pathfinder Unit last weekend. We went to a district camping event with about 70 girls and women at a beautiful camp about an hour and a half north of our city. It has terrific grounds and indoor facilities including a pool, meeting spaces, and dining hall. The food was wonderful and we really appreciated having the staff prepare it for us instead of us cooking over a camp-stove! Camp was not exactly roughing it. 

Our small cabin for the weekend
This was supposed to be a winter camp but the unusual warm weather we had this past week made a lot of the cold weather activities we  planned  impossible.   

Snow shoeing and spraying colored food dye on snow won’t work without a reasonable amount of snow. The ground was "crusty-icy" and "slushy-muck" with several areas deeper than our rubber boots.  It was by far the worst walking conditions I have experienced in many years, and of course my little cabin was the furthest from the parking lot and the mess hall.  I stayed in a small cabin with my daughter who is also a leader, another leader, a parent volunteer and 6 teenage girls.

Solar S'mores and yucky wet slippery ground
The theme for the camp was environmental awareness.  We did activities about water filtration and keeping our waterways clean and we planted little seedlings into containers.  Our girls helped run a couple of sessions such as making s’mores (graham crackers with melted marshmallows and chocolate) in the snow using a solar oven and wide games and a scavenger hunt about recycling.  Some of my girls are still very young 12 year olds and these were huge task for them but the pride in their accomplishments was undeniable. The younger girls, ages 5 up, looked up to the BIG girls and that encouraged the big girls to try all that much harder. The 12 to 17 year old participants ran an amazing campfire for the whole group on Saturday night. They led an hour of songs by memory and the 12 to 13 year olds even made up the cutest little skit about what the animals want us to do to take care of the environment.

The main activity hall in the early morning light
I had a really hard time moving around in that miserable snow. Sleeping on a strange, squeaky bottom bunk - with a wiggly young lady on top was pretty tough too. I did have fun though. I visited with the other adults, I played in the pool and I sang my little heart out even when I had trouble remembering the lyrics. My unit made adorable no-sew, green fleece hats. I walked back and forth to see all the girls who were dispersed all over the campgrounds doing their volunteer jobs. I spent a lot of time helping the girls prep for the activities they were leading, debriefing them afterward and I even helped work on some extra program materials that were appropriate learning for the older girls. 

I got around wonderfully this year in comparison to last spring at camp. Last year I needed a walker and could barely move, but this year I was in the thick of things despite the tricky conditions!

 I must admit that Sunday morning did not go well. It was enough strain over the weekend that my affected side started to spasm and I was in a tremendous amount of pain for the last few hours at camp. The muscles in the left side of my back contracted from shoulder blade to hip and I was pulled right over to the left side and unable to straighten. Every time I moved it triggered a whole new wave but I was too uncomfortable to sit or lay down and eventually my hip and left leg started to spasm as well. The car ride home was pretty long and miserable too.  It was a bit scary for the girls to see me in that much pain and I feel pretty bad about that.  I am feeling better today, but the episode was long and severe enough to leave me feeling pretty beat up.

I was feeling pretty happy with how I am moving lately and I have become pretty lax about doing my exercises. This incident was just proof that I still need to do a LOT of work on strengthening my whole body.

Our next camp will be tenting in May. I am not sure if I should go or not. I don’t want to miss anything, but I also don’t want to risk a repeat of last Sunday. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Vocation?

I am now onto the next phase of the Vocational Rehabilitation Program. I met with my main job counselor and another man from the job readiness department.  We reviewed how I did during the computer class; we talked more about my previous work history and we talked about what we will do next. 

The plan is that we are going to find me a part-time unpaid job that I will work at for a month. They will set it up for me and will send someone with me a few times to make sure I get all the help needed for me to do okay in the work environment. It would be like job specific occupational therapy and it will give them the ability to evaluate how I am doing in terms of my interests, abilities, physical tolerance, need for job accommodations and aids, and they will assess my work habits and behavior before making further recommendations.

 We can try a few different job placements over the next few months in order to find a job that will be a good fit for me now. This will give me job experience, a chance to sort out what kind of hours I can tolerate at a real job and a job reference. It should also be part of the process of increasing my stamina further and hopefully building up my confidence a bit more in the process.

I met with the job placement coach for a second time last week. We looked at some typical job descriptions on a volunteer job bank listing and then we started pulling together my resume.
I thought it might be hard to sort out the actual details of my resume but I was not prepared for the flood of emotions it triggered. Never mind the recent lost skills and lost jobs, I was suddenly thinking of all the poor career decisions I have made in the past and about all the things I could have achieved if I had only made different choices.  People think they have forever to make changes in their jobs and their future, but a life-threatening event makes one acutely aware of what a short time we really have on this earth and the limitations that can occur because of health and life circumstances. I pretty much fell apart for the rest of the evening thinking about lost opportunities.

It is pretty scary to work on getting a new job, in a new field, at this point in my life.

The newspaper clipart is from
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