Friday, July 29, 2011

Red Rubber Ball ---Physiotherapy

I promised to try and share a bit more about my various physiotherapy and exercise efforts and it has taken me a while to get  it written down. It is hard to explain without good pictures or video so I am sorry if I am less than clear and a little long winded. (grin)

I thought I would just start by describing yesterday's physiotherapy appointment at the hospital rehab department and save the "at home" set of exercises for another post.

My physiotherapy is supposed to be working on my 3 "S"s;  Stability, Strength and Stamina. The idea is that I should not loose my balance and fall as frequently, but that if I do I will have enough strength to right myself. I am also exhausted most of the time and we want my physical endurance to improve.

Tony, my therapist, does most of the exercises along with me. He says it is good for him to get a workout too, but a lot of it is that I still can't seem to exercise and count at the same time or keep any kind of a pace on my own, but I do a pretty good job of mirroring his movements. I also have trouble with movement, lights and sound throwing my balance so watching others movement in a controlled way is good training. He occasionally has a radio on or alters the lights and  it is a source of great irritation to me, but it is all in the direction of acclimating to these stresses.

My therapist, as usual, had me start warming up by walking on a treadmill. It has only been a couple of months that I have been able to even stand upright on the darn thing because of my balance problems.

I  have had a lot of severe pain and problems with my right (good) hip as a result of my bad gait.  I also have physical damage in my left knee as well as the neuro caused problems. Tony wants me to work on my walking skills with the treadmill because there is a hand rail on both sides and I even out my stance that way. When I use my cane I lean heavily to the side and when I am using a walker I tend to lean forward too much. I can walk more upright and I self correct better on the treadmill. The other odd feature is that I can hear my left foot when it drags against the tread of the base and I can respond by picking up my foot when I hear the noise clue.

The next set of exercises was over to the parallel bars where he had me do some mild squats, again watching that I pay attention to keeping upright and my back straighter as I move. This has at least two purposes. One is to work on building up the muscles to support my weak left knee and ankle, and the second is that that kind of up and down motion triggers nasty nausea and vertigo.

Next we moved on to the double width plinth (exercise bed).
Lie on my tummy and do leg lifts going backward about 10 X per leg and do two sets. My right leg lifts high and  left leg really struggles to do anything much in that direction.
Lie on each side, with the lower leg slightly bent and lift upper leg toward the ceiling.
Lie on my back and basically pull my bent leg across in front of me in order to stretch the hip. Repeat with the other side.

The Exercise Ball is more my idea of a fun time.  I even have one at our lake cottage.  (yes I have a blog about our lake too)
I faced my therapist who was sitting on a different ball and we started rolling the balls in little circles under us. (side to side version of nausea) Next we raised one arm and lowered it, raised the other arm and lowered it. It got trickier as I tried to raise one foot at a time off the ground and I managed not to fall off the ball.  Interestingly the hard part is not lifting the weak left foot -- it is raising the right foot and trying to use the left foot on the ground for stability. Next we tried lifting a leg and straightening the knee so the foot goes out in front. Advanced moves would include lifting an arm and the opposite leg at the same time and an even more advanced goal eventually will be the same side arm and leg together.

Once again we moved on to the plinth and I laid down with the ball at my feet. I got to take it easy for a minute and wait for the world to stop spinning.  Next he had me put my legs up on the ball and I did some bridges. "Pull tight the abdomen and lift your behind off the bed while pushing the legs down into the ball to balance!".  My legs and body fell off the ball sideways and we tried again and again.

The hour long session was over and I had really earned the cup of water Tony was handing me.
I went to get myself a second cup and I tried to hold the cup with my left hand while I pulled the water cooler lever with my right.  The cup went flying and I had water all over the floor and myself. Tony got down and moped it all up while assuring me that things like that happen all the time.

I was tired and I started having major speech issues as I usually do when I get too stressed, excited or exhausted.  I needed to sit in the hospital waiting room and rest for a long time before I could be understood well enough to call a cab to take me home.

I went home and napped.

Red Rubber Ball 
is written by Paul Simon and was recorded by a group called Cyrcle.

The lyrics that run through my head when I am "playing" with that exercise ball are:

And I think it's gonna be alright
Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin' sun is shinin' like a red rubber ball

The story's in the past with nothin' to recall
I've got my life to live and I don't need you at all
The roller-coaster ride we took is nearly at an end
I bought my ticket with my tears, that's all I'm gonna spend

And I think it's gonna be alright
Yeah, the worst is over now
The mornin' sun is shinin' like a red rubber ball

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sailing Away - "Able Sail"

I had such an incredibly liberating experience when I went sailing during the Independent Living Resource Center Camp a few weeks back. What an adrenaline rush! It has been a while since I was going at a fast speed like that and I felt like a turtle who got to borrow a set of wings. Basically, I loved it and I am going to get a few free lessons very soon. 

Now, this is NOT an easy thing for someone with a balance disorder, but with issues like mine the whole idea is about challenging your system, often to the point of nausea, so that you gradually get accustomed to different movements. Sailing should be ideal therapy as you move with the wind and the water.

Unfortunately I don't have a picture of me sailing during the camp, but I did find a pretty good video explaining about disabled sailing. I will have to get someone to take a picture of me the next time I go!

"Greatness in not in where we are stand, but in what direction we are moving. We must sail sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it - but sail we must. And not drift, nor lie at anchor."
                                                                                                   -Oliver Wendell Holmes


Check out this website for the Manitoba organization that supports sailing activities for people with disabilities.
Able Sail Manitoba

They do the sailing out of a very interesting nature reserve and education space very near my home called Fort Whyte Alive, and here is their  information about their Sailing Programs.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Strawberry Picking

On Saturday morning my husband and I took our son, his wife and my three grandchildren strawberry picking in a town about an hour from our city. We choose what will probably be the hottest day this year to go sit in a sun drenched field.

I really had a very good time in spite of the temperature. We went last year and it was okay but the season was dry and it was a whole lot of picking to get even one pail and getting up and down was way too hard for me so I mainly took pictures. This year was different and the berries are amazing. It has been wet and warm in the flooding areas of Manitoba and the berries on this farm were bursting with juice.

This was the 8 month old baby's first time going "picking" and he got to taste his first strawberries ever straight off the plant. There was no stopping those grabbing little baby hands after that! Strawberries are Yummy!

Our two preschoolers were very excited and well behaved, but we were all getting overheated and I was getting exhausted and cranky fast in that kind of unusual heat.

This was the easiest picking I have ever done. I went about 6 feet out into the row and plopped down on the straw dropped my cane beside me between the rows and picked my basket full with only scooting along a bit twice.  I kind of wanted to pick even more baskets, like my son was doing, but I for once I realized it wasn't worth pushing myself and getting overwhelmed.
We paid for the berries, put them into our cooler, got in the car and drove to a nearby air conditioned restaurant to have some lunch. The kids were still hungry in spite of having tummies full of berries!

Now I have to do something with the two overflowing large baskets of berries we picked and my son has 6 baskets to deal with.
My daughters want to go raspberry picking very soon. The good news with that is you don't have to crawl on the ground and try and get back up again when you are picking raspberries. The bad news is I am not sure how long I can stand and pick, and I sure can't keep bending over to put them in a pail.
Any helpful hints? I would also love any suggestions for making low calorie jams.
Next time, I am taking a comfy lawn chair ... just in case.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Meeting Up WIth Dean

Dean from Deans' Stroke Musings and I met in person last week. He was up  in Manitoba for the Winnipeg Folk Festival and we arranged to actually get together. On Thursday, Dean came to The Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba to meet up with me and our local  group. I think he had quite the tour of Winnipeg before finding our office. I was really happy to introduce Dean to a few of my friends. He walked into the office and our staff person called out "Linda .. there is someone here to see you!" and I got so excited! We immediately had lots to talk about. It is funny to feel like you know someone when you have never met or even heard their voice before!

We decided to have breakfast on Friday and to continue our conversation. I was going to be back at Stroke Recovery early Friday morning for adapted Tai ji so we just met down the street from there at a nice breakfast place. We had a VERY long brunch but time really seemed to fly. A little longer and I think that between us we would have solved all the problems of stroke research and rehab today. We talked about blogging, camping, music and how to fit me for a kayak.

Dean, it was such a treat to meet you and have the chance to get to know each other!  Only 12 more months until the next Folk Festival!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I'm an Occupational Therapy Graduate!

 Last week was my very last Occupational Therapy appointment.

I have been with my occupational therapist at the Easy Street Program for just over 2 years now. I have had weekly appointments and I have done a phenomenal amount of homework. I can't begin to tell you all the material we covered and all the information I learned or relearned in this time. I keep saying that I have never really worked or studied so hard before in my whole life. I didn't even know I was capable of working this hard!

I have had a lot of cognitive problems.  At this point I am coping pretty well. My memory, for example, is not the same as it was, but between using memory tricks, taking notes as I go and recording little messages to myself I am really functioning pretty normally. I wish  all my cognitive problems had just gone away or I had "recovered" but the fact is I have recovered a bit and I have learned a lot of adaptive strategies.  I know that I will still keep coming up with different cognitive problems in my life but we have worked on developing the skills and techniques to allow me to solve my own problems in the future.

 We have been picking up the loose ends and making sure I was in a good place to move on with my life. We did a few more cognitive tests to check on my status as well as other evaluations and we worked on those last few worries. I now have some future plans, like job rehabilitation, and possibly even going back to college. I can keep working on developing my current strengths and learning to be the best I can with where I find myself now.

During the last month my therapist had one last project for me. I was to gather up all the occupational therapy notes and handouts from the past two years and get them organized into a resource binder that I can turn to in the future. The second week I came up with a very long list of all the different skills we had worked on, and all the different goals we had identified.  The third week I went through the previous list along with my actual papers and I tried to make categories for the papers. For week four I had my binder organized, but it became obvious that a little more refinement was necessary and I added an extra category and printed out an index page and added labeled dividers between the sections.  My binder has my handwritten notes, it had jokes, and quotes. It has handouts and worksheets and list of questions I had written out to ask my therapist. Yes, it is a resource binder, but it is also a diary that reflects so much about me and my struggles over the past couple of years.

The last page of my binder has photos of my front steps we had to show the therapist why I was having trouble getting in the house. At the beginning of this journey I would sit on my walker crying at the bottom of the stairs because I was unable to get into my own house. That seems so long ago in some ways and like it was just yesterday in others.

I wanted to give my therapist a little gift.
I photographed a little angel statue in the hospital garden.  I thought it would be meaningful to her and that it would reflect some of the issues I had worked on.  I printed it up and put it in a pretty frame. I knew that she would love it and that she will think of me in the future. I hope that she will also remember with pride what we have accomplished together.
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