Thursday, October 24, 2013

Just a Little Heart Attack- video

I think this is a great video.
Would you recognize the signs that someone might be having a heart attack?

Remember to take good care of yourself~

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Experience a Disability

My class  participated in an assignment this past week called ”Experiencing a Disability” and this event has created a lot of reflection on my part. 
This major project required everyone in our class to pretend we had experienced a stroke that left our dominant side unusable. My class of 15, after dividing into teams of three or four, visited 7 different stations and we tried to carry out a variety of activities sometimes with further physical challenges attached.
Me in pink and two of my new friends.
I had a meltdown days before the event.  I couldn’t understand how this was all going to work for me.  Panic set in and my inner dialogue took off at top speed.
  •  I already have left side (non-dominant) weakness so if you take away my good dominant side will I wind up falling down a flight of stairs?
  •  If I have these extra disabilities it puts me facing more physical struggles than others in the class so No Fair!  
  • I already know what it is like to have a disability so why should I have to do this for marks? 
  • Will what has been an everyday reality for me and some of my friends turn out to be a joke or playing make-believe to my classmates? On the other hand, perhaps the class will get a better understanding about stroke as well as other disabilities which I am sure is the true intent of the exercise.

On reflection I realized that none of that was what my anxiety was really all about. In reality I am terrified that someday I will find myself right back in a hospital unable to talk or move again.  Having my movement or vision reduced, are the things my nightmares are made up of and that was exactly what was being asked of me with this assignment. I had to take a leap of faith and face some of my fears. I talked to the teacher and told him I needed to be sure that I would be safe and he reassured me that he would never let anyone be at risk but that I did need to participate and see how I could contribute.
On the day of the workshop my group of three started off at a station where we were to pretend to have had a dominant side stroke and that we needed to use a cane. We were told we also have vision issues so the other two got eye patches covering one eye each and I got glasses that clouded over one eye completely and left only the bottom 1/3 of one lens clear.  We were to place marshmallows in our cheek to mimic speaking difficulties. We had directions to go down to the lower level and go to the library, find a particular book and then find a video with a particular call number. Write down the name of the book and of the video using your non-dominant hand. Next go to the cafeteria and order a drink or snack.. still with marshmallows in cheek, eye patches on, using the cane and still not using one arm we had to get those drinks back upstairs.
Experience is a good teacher.  I aimed our little group straight at the elevator that is designated for disabled students, I got the librarian to help at one point and I asked for a cold drink in a plastic bottle with a lid because I know better than to carry a hot coffee in a paper cup. When we were  walking I kept my cane in my stronger hand because I wasn’t going to risk a fall while learning about disabilities.
Other activities done in the class room included putting on a shirt and doing up the buttons with the non-dominant hand. Picking up pennies with gloves that mimicked arthritis as well as playing some games like connect four and bingo wearing the gloves.  How about serving and eating Jello one handed and with an eye patch on then mixing up flour and water to make a batter? What about getting toothpaste out of its tube and onto a toothbrush or tying shoes with one hand?

 You know what? It turned out to be a good experience for the most part. All that occupational therapy and physiotherapy has paid off, because even with my weaker side I could do a lot of these activities simply because I already know many tricks of the trade for doing these things. Restricting my good hand and letting me use only my spastic left in therapy apparently has also paid off!
The final station was not as big a success for me. The goal of that one was to use a wheelchair to get to a bathroom and then without using the dominant arm and leg, transfer to the toilet and then get your pants back up and get back in the wheel chair and return to the classroom.  To begin with I did not have enough strength in my left hand to get the door open to get out of the classroom. Bad start. Trying to scoot an oversize wheel chair with my weaker, and I might add less coordinated, leg and arm was a huge issue. I got myself to the washroom stall eventually but I was unable to pull myself up to do a transfer with either hand. No pretending. I had hit my endurance limit.  I slowly worked my way back to the room wheeling using both arms and I was kind of glad to be sitting down. A guy in a wheelchair of his own gave me a  knowing and defiant glare and basically did a wheelie in front of me.. the show off. At another time I might have been embarrassed or perhaps irritated but I was too tired to give a darn at that point.

I must admit I liked hearing the other students saying it was so much harder than they expected it to be.  The next day several classmates said they had needed to nap when they got home after the workshop. Yup that is my normal daily reaction too.

My good stroke friend Dave D. likes to talk about The Lessons Learned so here we go.
  • I still have some emotional trauma issues lingering related to the brain injury but at lest I am aware of them and know I need to work on them
  • My fine motor skills on the left side are better than I thought. I’m so glad I really worked on it with guitar, typing, crochet and any other hand exercise I could find.
  • My gross motor on the left could be a whole lot better as could my stamina. I want to see what is possible so I just made an appointment with a new physiotherapist.
  • We should be willing to ask for and accept help when needed
  • I am willing to do stuff like wedge a plate of Jello against my chest in order to spoon it up one handed if that is what it takes. 
  • My class is really a great group of people.
  • I still have a lot to offer.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Do you watch "Ted Talks"?

Do you ever watch TED talks? It is a wonderful way to hear some amazing experts and inspiring people talk about a subject for 20 minutes. TED is a non-profit organization that uses the tag line-- Ideas Worth Spreading.  It began about 20 years ago with a conference to bring together people involved in the disciplines of Technology, Entertainment and Design.

Janine Shepherd, a former cross country skier suffered serious injury when hit by a truck during an Olympic training ride. She decided if she might never walk again she might as well learn to fly!  Her message is that you are not your body, and giving up old dreams can allow new ones to soar.

I hope you enjoy this talk. I found her to be inspiring and entertaining.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Theraputic Recreation Workshop

My classmates and I went to our first conference last Wednesday.

The annual local Therapeutic Recreation Professional Development Workshop was hosted in a town about an hour outside the city. As students we were allowed to register for a very low price. It was just for the day and registering for the conference also entitled us to a student membership in the in the association so it seemed like a great deal to me.

They had arranged for an optional bus to the conference site, and the bus was departing only a mile from my house so it seemed like the most natural choice. I was worried about my ongoing issues with dizziness and car sickness. It turned out that the bus trip was fine and I got to talk to some really nice people during the ride.  Unlike riding a city bus, which is constantly starting stopping and turning, this bus ride was really just one straight road with maybe three turns in the whole hour.  I could watch the road out of the front window so that was also helpful with the nausea problems. I really couldn't tolerate turning sideways or looking backward at the other participants but I still managed to have some great conversations.We arrived at the center for the workshop and lined up for the check in. We received a bag with the organizations logo and then we gathered with about 100 other people involved in the profession.  

The event started out with an inspiring key-note speaker who was an Olympian with our country's Volleyball team. She told about her struggles as a shorter person to have opportunities to play the game she loved.

Next we went to one of three break-out sessions. The one I choose was led by a life coach and was on the topic of finding your "authentic self". The idea is that people intrinsically have different styles or interests and that these continue into old age. Someone who was creative as a child is likely to prefer creative activities as an older person and someone who is competitive will still be inclined to be competitive in their older years, If you know the persons inclinations you are more likely to help them engage in the kind of leisure or rehabilitative activities that they would enjoy the most. It was really very interesting and I can picture applying some of what I learned to my Guiding efforts too.
 I took this during the hands-on section of the
 PhotoVoice session. I wonder what it might tell
 us about the workshop?
Following lunch we had another set of sessions. This time I went to a truly fascinating talk/ hands on session about something called PhotoVoice. It is a method of gaining qualitative information by encouraging a group to go out with a camera and take pictures to communicate information about a topic. One example would be to look at risk factors in a neighbourhood by giving kids a camera and asking them to take pictures about what makes them feel safe in their neighbourhood and what makes them uncomfortable. The pictures would then be discussed looking to see what the kids were relating to in their pictures. It is a powerful tool because it gives a voice to people who might not be able to share information freely and the picture gives concrete evidence that can be shown to people who have the authority to make changes. I encourage you to check out the PhotoVoice website to find out more.

 We went back to the main auditorium for something they called a Bring and Brag. Several individuals or groups got up to the microphone and showcased activity programs they had found to be particularly effective.

Bus ride back to the city, quick dinner and then by seven pm I fell asleep on top of my bed still in my clothes and stayed that way for the whole night.

I liked going to the workshop, I enjoyed meeting a variety of people who are working in this field and now I feel one step closer to imagining myself working as a Therapeutic Recreation Facilitator.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

First Course Complete

One final exam is now over and the next course with the same instructor begins Monday.  Foundation in Therapeutic Recreation was our first class and the idea was to get us exposed to different concepts about the field.

A major feature of the course was that we went to observe 7 different programs for older people and then we filled out huge sets of questions about things we observed at the location. We visited personal care homes, adult day programs and a lovely independent living facility. We talked with the Recreational Therapists running the programs about their jobs and the joys and challenges they faced in their particular work.
I was at a Girl Guide event where we had

I was really interested in seeing how the programs were handled and I could not believe how different they all were. I had fun watching a music program, and observing a really fun version of exercise combined with some cognitive prompting. (Stretch the rubber resistance band toward the west coast to Vancouver.. now let's aim toward Halifax on the east coast.)

One highlight was the hands on opportunity to help out at a day program when a petting zoo came to visit. The bunnies and chickens were carried around the circle for everyone to pet and I sat talking to several different interesting older people. I was amused to find that while my younger classmates were getting comments about yes nice and soft pets.  I was getting the older people telling me that these fancy breed chickens were too scrawny to cook and then several of them shared recipes about the best way to cook rabbits. So much for that cuddly petting zoo idea!

One of the lovely but still slightly disconcerting aspects of several of these visits was that so many of the residents looked at my cane and my graying hair and warmly welcomed me as a new participant and member of their group. I guess I look like I belong.

The final exam was not that hard but I really did need to take a lot of extra time to complete it.  Word recall is still very much an issue for me. Matching or fill in the blank questions were great and  I really don't think the essay questions went all that badly but darn that word recall problem when I needed specific terms. Somewhere in the extra time I was allowed because of my disability, I had the most of the "missing words" pop back in my mind. I was talking to one of the girls in the class yesterday about how I went to a bonfire cookout and I told her we had smore's and that I had roasted a mushroom on a stick. I looked at her confused expression and realized that I did not say "marshmallow".  I told her with a tiny touch of embarrassment...." and that  is part of what they mean when they are talking about aphasia".

 Exhaustion and stress bring on some of my symptoms that were bigger issues a year or two ago.
... Being exhausted and stressed is part of the definition of being a College Student.

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