Thursday, June 10, 2010

Morning Challenge

It's summer, and our oldest, Anthony, no longer has his track or cross country team to run with, so David's on call as a running partner. Anthony wants to run at 6am. I don't know where he gets that from - certainly not his mother!

The problem with this - other than that David, a teacher, doesn't get to sleep in on his summer vacation - is that his left leg continues to need to relearn how to function every morning. Throughout the day it improves more and more as David uses it more and more, but after a night of sleep he has to start over with a nearly totally unresponsive limb.

Currently he and Anthony are working on compromises. David is suggesting a 7am running time and a walk around the block before running.

In other news, this summer we have a pool for the first time. I wonder if David might have additional improvement through lots of pool use - with all the different physical motions in the water. Time will tell, I guess.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Happy Hearts

It was two years ago yesterday that David had the heart procedure (pictured above) to repair the hole that caused his stroke. He goes in every 6 months to have an ultrasound done to make sure the device remains in place and that there are no issues, and all has been well each time. We are so thankful to God that we live in a time in which technological advances allow for this type of procedure to take place - truly amazing stuff, and we are thankful that He who knits us together in our mother's womb brings about healing as He has for David's heart!It has been David's dream to run again, really run, and he keeps working at it. He was able to run in an 8K last month at the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival. He finds that his body will cooperate with either walking or running but not both. If he is out running a lot, walking is difficult and hurts. If he does a lot of walking, running becomes difficult - must be something different enough about the two motions that cause that, and his body doesn't adjust back and forth well, but he is "on the road again." We are thankful for how far he has come and for the healing God has granted, and we also can't help but hope for more to come!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Worth Celebrating!

I don't know how many people get a chance to experience that one big moment that gives them a whole new perspective on life, but I feel like I am celebrating my second birthday (as of yesterday) because the last two years of my life seem like a bonus that I have been blessed with. They are definitely worth celebrating.

Two years ago yesterday (Nov. 2, 2007) I woke up and started getting ready for my day of work only to find myself lying on the floor 15 minutes later, unable to get up due to a massive stroke. Today I am going through the daily activities and routines of life almost as if nothing at all happened two years ago. What a blessing!

I remember that day, 2 years ago, laying there in the emergency room thinking about how things would be okay. I still had my right side, and being right handed that meant that I would still be able to write, I had my voice so I would still be able to communicate and sing, and the stroke hadn't affected my cognitive abilities at all (as far as I could tell) so I would still be able to think. Overall, things were going to be okay.

Well, God had even better plans for me. I now get to enjoy the left side of my body as well. It's not perfect. I'm really clumsy with my left hand and it still lacks feeling, my left foot doesn't always behave the way I would like it to, my sense of balance is still pretty precarious at times, and I don't have the quick movements and athletic abilities that I enjoyed so much in pre-stroke days, but I sure have a lot more than I ever would have dreamed of on that morning 2 years ago, including an extra two years of life! What an awesome gift.

I hope and pray that few of you will ever have to go through something like a stroke, and I realize that many of you out there have been through a similar life threatening experience, but I do hope that all of you can have the opportunity to look at each new day as a very special gift from God. A day to be thankful for His loving hand which upholds us through the toughest of situations and for His loving smile which celebrates with us healing, family, motion, song, joy, forgiveness and life.

All of this is worth celebrating. Every day!

Thanks for all of your love and support and prayers,

David

Friday, October 16, 2009

Touched

We were so touched tonight to open email and find that a comment had been put up on the last post - a reminder that David (and family) is still being prayed for. That means so much!

The fact that I haven't posted in over 4 months doesn't mean that everything's back to normal. It's just that if I were to post I'm afraid at this point it would sound very repetitive (and perhaps worse than repetitive?).

As we near the 2 year mark from his stroke, David has gained back so much, yet he is not where he and his doctors thought he would be by now. They were predicting 98% to 99% recovery and that he probably wouldn't notice what was missing. Though encouraging words are nice, it's a little hard when they aren't fulfilled.

I'd put him somewhere between 75% and 85%, with it quite noticeable (to David especially) what is yet missing.

As I've shared in earlier posts, David has all the major elements necessary for work and life. He works full time. He is able to be very involved in church - leading Sunday School and up front singing with the praise team. Things could have been much different, and he very well could have permanently lost the ability to do these things as well, but he didn't, and we're so thankful!

He does still have issues with balance, with sensation, and with knowing where the left side of his body is (arms and legs) if he isn't looking. We just bought a new home, and it is a 2-story house. The stairs are a bit of a challenge, especially when he is barefooted, and especially coming down the stairs. I hope that this may end up being good therapy rather than being a hindrance.

David has a strong and positive spirit, but this constant "visitor" that he doesn't want is always with him. He has a passion for running but really can't engage in that as he would like. In fact, since I last wrote he has developed some problems related to trying to run. He's developed some leg/hip/back pain, which seems to me to be related to overuse of a body that doesn't cooperate with itself like it used to.

The running is the big issue. There are more minor but constant reminders as well. I'll have to ask him why he does this, but he still puts things in his left pocket and then has trouble getting them back out since his left hand can't feel to make things out - what they are or where they are. This can be rather comical (or not) when he has put his cell phone in his left pocket and it starts ringing! There remain sleep issues as well and just other things that don't work the way they used to. Although this has been nearly 2 years he's also not quite at a point where he's just totally acclimated to this "new" body.

As we near the 2-year mark it seems strange. It seems it can't have been 2 whole years ago, but it also seems like it's been far more than 2 years ago! I guess many things in life are like that, huh?

So, as with so many recent posts I've put up, overall things are far better than they could have been, and we are truly deeply grateful for that. Yet it is hard not to be disappointed about what has been lost as well.

To those of you still reading and praying, THANK YOU SO MUCH! We trust a God of miracles, and it sure would be great to have the miracle of David being able to run again as he would like to - and whether he ever is able to or not, it would be a great gift to be able to be at total peace no matter what the final status is of his recovery.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Anniversary

I just realized today is David's one-year and seven month anniversary of his stroke. It seems like it's been much longer than just over a year and a half ago. It feels like years now!

Neither of us has written lately because it's hard to know what to write, yet this is something that is still very defining. Yes, you move on and have a "new normal," but it remains evident every day that it isn't the old normal.

I think both David and I feel that writing about things that are still issues is perhaps something that sounds ungrateful, and we certainly don't want to give that impression! David was talking with someone tonight - someone else who has had a stroke, and that person had his stroke while a college student at Berkeley. His stroke affected his memory to where he lost 70% of what he had learned in his classes prior to that, had to retake some classes and work really hard to be able to graduate, a thing he was not sure he was going to be able to do. David shared how grateful he is that his stroke only affected him "physically" rather than affecting his memory or personality - or his vision or speech. We have always been grateful for that and remain so.

David continues to maintain what he has gained back physically. He went running with Anthony tonight, about 4 miles, I think. On Easter Sunday he ran 10. He still hopes to reach his goal of running a marathon. He isn't sure he can do it, but from what I've seen I'm pretty confident he will.

I and most other people will never accomplish that, so there are a lot of ways in which he is doing phenomenally well!

There remain a lot of things that are yet missing, though, and depending on the day and the situation that can range from interesting to annoying to frustrating to depressing.

A lot depends on how tired he is. Sometimes he has pain, especially in his foot, which often feels very, very tight across the top. His toes still won't cooperate. They curl under, which causes lots of issues - making his foot always feel crooked in his shoe (you know how annoying it is to get a pebble in your shoe or something, well, imagine having your foot always feel like it's in your shoe crooked). Problems with his toes also cause him to trip when he is barefooted, especially when walking on carpet.

His balance is still affected, as is his sensation on his left side.

He learned a new card game from Anthony last week, and the goal of the game is to be the first to get rid of all your cards. David holds his cards in his left hand and grabs them with his right. He cannot tell when he is done with this game because when he removes the last card from his left hand he cannot tell it is no longer holding cards. He grabs at an empty hand a couple of times before he realizes he is out of cards. That's certainly not the end of the world, but it's weird - sometimes interesting, sometimes annoying.

He's a teacher and does a lot of work on the computer. He's always been rather a hunt and peck typist anyway, but it's extremely difficult for him to use the fingers on his left hand for any typing. He has to watch very carefully or his finger will hit the wrong key or more than one at a time. (That would be absolutely crippling to me! For David it's annoying and inconvenient but not horrible.)

There are still issues with sleep. In fact the combination of his difficulty turning over and my insomnia mean that he is (and has been for a long time now) sleeping on the pull-out sofa in the living room. We're both sad about that, but you gotta do what you gotta do, and that's what we have to do right now so that both of us have a chance at decent sleep. He has fewer positions he can choose from to sleep in. Being on his left side is painful. That too compromises his sleep. He also can't tell if the sheet or covers are bunched up under him on his left side and if so how they are and how to fix it.

If he's tired his balance is very poor. I'm afraid sometimes he's going to tip over when he first gets up off a couch and starts walking across a room.

It's amazing to me that when people do comment about how he's doing they say, "Wow! If I didn't know he'd had a stroke, I would never know. He looks totally fine." I guess I know him and his movements too well. I always see a limp in his walk and in his run, and I always notice a difference in how he "holds" his left hand and arm in comparison to how he had in the past.

We were at the beach a week and a half ago, and he tried to run on the beach. I won't even try to describe the result. He CAN run on pavement, but he CANNOT run on the beach.

Later that week we had a chance to have a little bit of time with my brother Tim who is a physical therapist, and Tim was able to explain really well what was going on and to give David some suggestions for exercises and also to give him some hope - which was an especially good thing at this point. Every so often David needs a little boost again, and it seems to me (watching from the outside) that that provided that boost.

I don't know if anyone is still checking this site, but I thought it was time to get an update up here in case there are friends and family members still checking or if someone else who's had a stroke and is curious about recovery is checking in. I hope what I've written comes across as "just the facts," as I intend it to be.

Oh, I was watching videos earlier of our family from years ago, and I saw David using hand motions when he talked. He always had hand motions that were very similar to his father's very distinctive hand motions, and I didn't realize until today that that too has changed - not entirely but in large part. He doesn't talk with his hands as much and not in the same way, which is kind of a bummer, because that was always a reminder of Dad, as if he was still somehow with us.

There are some positive changes. But when they do come they are coming more and more slowly - so slowly that they are almost impossible to notice. It's nice when something happens to bring our attention to something that has improved.

David had always been an outdoorsy guy and loved doing house and yard projects. Our fence has been falling down for - uh - longer than I'd care to admit, and he had spoken with our neighbors about working on it together summer of 2007. They sounded interested but never pursued it. Last summer David said, "I sure wish the neighbors had taken me up on this last year. I don't feel like doing it now." That's nothing he would ever have said prior to his stroke, but I can hardly blame him. He can't feel his left hand, and his balance isn't good, and he can't always tell where his left hand and leg are - not unless he's looking right at them, so a job like that would certainly take much more focus and would sound daunting rather than inviting. It no longer felt natural or appealing to do something like that. Well, something has changed in him between last year and this year. For the last couple of months he has been talking about how he is going to repair the fences this summer. There must be something - maybe physical, maybe not - maybe just a rising of his spirits - but there is something that has changed for the good in this past year, and it's probably one of those things that would have been too subtle to notice unless we'd had this to highlight it for us.

If you are still reading, would you please pray for David for continued progress. He really is in a good spot and is very grateful, but it sure would be nice to be able to make even more progress and to feel more and more like his old self - to be able to run and work with confidence and the ease he used to have - to be able to sleep like he used to. Those would be wonderful things! Thanks!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Successes on a Busy Saturday

Last Saturday was an event filled day.  Anthony and his Enochs teammates were participating in the Central Valley Science Bowl competition.  I love to watch this competition.  It is a fun "buzz in" type of competition with challenging science questions that these kids are somehow able to answer.  It's amazing!

I was a little bit disappointed that Science Bowl fell on the same morning as the Ripon Almond Blossom Festival 8k run.  8k is about 5 miles which I have been running quite comfortably the past few weeks.  I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to reenter the world of running in a crowd.  I'm not nearly as steady as I used to be (with my left leg kind of tracking in odd directions at times and every so often even scraping against my right ankle as I run) so I thought this would be a good test of whether I could handle running in a crowd of people.

I decided the night before that if it was sunny in the morning (they were predicting rain), I would run.  Well, I woke up to dry ground, so I dropped Anthony off at Science Bowl at 7:30 and drove off to Ripon for the 9:00 run.  I set my goal for 38 minutes for the run since I had been consistently running 7:40 miles in my recent runs at home, and off I went.  I felt really good that morning from the start and really had no difficulties with other runners (Yeah!).  I was excited to meet my goal, completing the race in 37 minutes 41 seconds.  I finished 48th overall out of 386 runners.  What a great feeling to be involved in such a thing once again.

I also had the pleasure of bumping into Mike Schoonover from Modesto church.  I had been wanting to talk with him sometime soon knowing that he was a runner and had experienced a stroke himself about 6 years ago.  He flagged me down before the race and we had a good talk.  He is back to running marathons again after taking a year off from running after his stroke.  I think that his situation was quite different than mine and it doesn't sound like he had the leg problems that I have had, but it was so good to hear about his recovery and return to running.

Another unexpected pleasure was running with one of the kids from my Sunday school class.  We didn't plan it this way, but our paces were almost identical and I saw him for most of the race.  I even passed him for a moment at the 2.5 mile water station (I went without), but he quickly passed me again and took his position in front of me once again.  I never was able to catch him.  This was his first time ever running the 8k and he did a fabulous job.  You'll see him a few places ahead of me on the results page.

Well, I finished the race, hopped in my vehicle and drove back to Modesto to take in the rest of the science bowl competition.  Anthony's team had great success, winning 3 of their 5 morning rounds, taking 1 of 2 spots in a lunchtime 4 team tie breaker event and making it through the first 3 rounds of the afternoon double elimination tournament between the top 8 of the 24 teams competing that day.  That is the farthest an Enochs team has ever gone in their 3 years of existence and they are looking forward to doing even more next year.

It was a fabulous day!

Thanks again for all of your love and prayers.  God is so good!

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sleep and Shoes

On Thursday I made a comment to Heidi about my sleep and she told me I should post about it. So, I will.

I had a strange sensation waking up Thursday morning, and it took me quite a while to figure out what it was that was different about getting out of bed that morning. I went to bed at the usual time the night before, my alarm went off at 6:00 AM as it does most weekday mornings, yet something was different this morning. As the day progressed, I was finally able to wrap my mind around what That difference was.  I had gone to bed, fallen asleep, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up to my alarm.  That has to be the first time in over a year that I have slept that soundly through the night (yet it was the way I often slept prior to my stroke).

I spoke in a previous post about how difficult it was to turn my body over to a new position in my sleep and that I couldn't sleep on my left side because it was so hypersensitive that I couldn't get at all comfortable.  Well, obviously this past Wednesday night I was able to make it through the night without waking up to change positions numerous times throughout the night. That is really an exciting thought (even though I have woken up to change positions the past two nights as usual). It gives me hope that I am making more small steps toward improvement over time.

I did experiment with trying to fall asleep on my left side about a week ago too, and was able to get comfortable enough to start my night of sleep that way.  I know it really happened, because I had to comb out the crazy bed head from the opposite side of my head that morning.
 
Enough about sleep.  Let me share with you a little bit about shoes.  I have been running in the old pair of shoes that I had run in for about 8 months prior to my stroke as I was training for my first marathon.  These shoes are about to be retired soon (you will see why) but have been fine for running on grass and even for my running as I transitioned to running on pavement the past few months.  I had noticed the uneven tread wear about a month ago, but a few days ago I happened to look at the bottoms of my shoes again and was amazed at the difference between the left and right foot.  So, I decided to take pictures of them and post them for you so you can get a better idea of just how different my running is on that left leg.


Here is the shoe from my right foot (the one that was NOT affected by the stroke).  Notice that the black tread of the shoe is worn quite evenly over the whole shoe.  This is especially evident on the front of the shoe as the yellow rubber underneath is exposed over time.


Now check out the shoe from my left foot.  Notice how uneven the tread-wear is on this shoe. The outside of the shoe (bottom in the picture) is really worn down, even to the point of the white layer starting to show through, while the inside of the shoe shows very little wear at all. This is due to the fact that my left leg does not extend fully with each step causing me to land on the front of my foot rather than the heel.  My foot also tends to twist with each step causing me to land on the outside of my foot rather than the center.  So, I know what it's doing wrong, but I can't figure out how to make it right.

That being said, I do have some exciting news to share.  I have been running with Anthony on Saturdays following his coach's regimen.  These have been what he calls his "short days" running up to 4 and 3/4 miles. Well, earlier this week he mentioned that his coach had changed the weekly schedule and was now making Saturdays his "long day" instead and that he was to run 10 miles this Saturday (today).  So, we plotted out a nice 10 mile course and set out with one of his classmates at 9:30 this morning and ran 10 miles.  I did it!  I wasn't sure if I could, and I was prepared to drop out and walk if I had to, but we ran as a threesome for the first 9 and 1/4 miles until they pulled away from me for the finish.  They finished in 1 hour 25 minutes and 29 seconds, and I finished another 36 seconds behind them for right around one hour 26 minutes.  This gives me real confidence to keep on running!  God is so good to me!

As a follow-up to this, I have to tell you that walking has been especially difficult for me today due to some pretty extreme fatigue in that left leg.  But it was well worth it.  =) 

 

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year and a Milestone

Here we go on a new year and I am excited about the possibilities, especially after my accomplishment this morning.  This is another one of those small things that is really BIG for me. Big enough that I am going to refer to it as a milestone in my stroke recovery.  My task this morning was to trim my fingernails (a seemingly simple task) which has been one of my greatest ongoing challenges post stroke.  Trimming the nails on the left hand is not difficult, but when I switch to trim the nails on the right hand the task becomes daunting.  One of the exercises I worked on in occupational therapy at English Oaks was to use a tweezers to pick up small pegs and put them into holes.  That was a frustrating task and I learned to put the tweezers in my right hand to see how to do the task "naturally" and then try to mirror that with my left hand.  Well this trimming of the nails has been the same kind of daunting task and I have had to apply the same right hand strategy over and over to figure out how to "naturally" hold the nail clippers to clip the nails on my right hand.  Over the past year I have experienced lots of failure at this task as the nail clipper slips all over in my hand and refuses to behave, but today I was able to mirror the grip of my right hand quite successfully and complete the trimming task quite efficiently.  The feeling that the trimmer might slip out of my hand was constantly present, but with slight adjustments I was able to carry on through the task successfully.  Yea!

My good friend and fellow teacher, Karen Rossi, has been such an encouragement to me.  For years she has been studying and advocating applying brain research and exercises that build pathways in the brain to education.  She got really excited about Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's story of recovery from a major stroke (an interview with Oprah).  Karen bought and devoured the book, My Stroke of Insight, and enthusiastically passed it on to me.  I have been reading it over vacation and can hardly put it down.  It gives the reader a whole new perspective on life and who we are as human beings.  It also is an incredible picture of the amazing healing ability of the brain.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone.  One of the things that kept Jill pushing forward in her recovery was focusing on what she could do rather than what she was unable to do.  So each little step along the way was an encouragement to her to keep on working toward recovery.  I have found this same thing to be true and really appreciate it when people take note of something that I am doing that I was unable to do a while back.  The progress is so slow now that it is easy to get caught up in the belief that there is no more healing taking place, but I know that is not the case.  Jill knew the same thing and says that she finally felt completely recovered from her stroke after 8 years!  That may sound discouraging to some, but to me that is so hopeful because it reminds me that this process can continue on for years to come!  Yea again!

Here are a few other things to celebrate:

Yesterday I went out to trim a couple of bushes that had grown too high and ended up spending a few hours pruning some major shrubbery.  I had lost my interest and or ability to do this kind of task well, but as of yesterday am excited and feel capable of such tasks.  Yea!

I have been doing some running with Anthony over Christmas vacation and have joined him in running up to 6 miles!  on pavement!  That is quite an accomplishment and has given me great hope>  It is still really quite awkward and takes a lot of concentration (my left heel will strike my right leg every so often if I don't concentrate on really placing that left foot well), but I am finding that the longer I run, the more my leg loosens up and seems to run in a somewhat more natural gate.  Yea!

Sleeping is getting to be more natural and turning over to reposition myself in the night is less of a problem.  Yea!

Jacob bought me a couple of video games for the Wii that are less dependent on me using the fine motor skills of my left hand.  Now I can almost keep up with those boys in Mario Kart racing.  Yea!

There is so much to celebrate and there are so many new possibilities as the new year unfolds. I hope that you have a chance to look back at exciting progress and look forward to endless possibilities as you look forward to the year(s) ahead as well.

God bless you all!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Interesting Experiences

Friday I had an interesting time at therapy.  I began doing my regular workout, but since the crowd was so sparse that afternoon, Steven (one of the therapists) came over to me, asked how things were going, and suggested we try a new step.  When my toes didn't respond as he had hoped they would, he hooked me up to some electrodes and stimulated the foot at the ankle to get it to lift, and along the left side  of my leg to get the toes to splay.  Then he put the device in my pocket and handed me a button to push.  He had me walking up and down the floor pushing the button each time my left foot pushed off from the floor.  Wow!  What a difference that made.  After walking like that for about 10 minutes, he disconnected me and we found that my foot quickly went back to its old ways.  Now, though,  I have a pretty good idea of what that foot should be doing and why I am tending to turn the foot out to avoid the pain of my little toe rolling under when I walk.  One of my exercises now is to stand, practice lifting the front of my foot off the ground and splay my toes.

On Saturday I took one of my most successful runs in quite a while.  I went to the local school and ran around their grassy field again, this time completing over 3 1/2 miles in 29:30.  As I ran, I really focused on keeping my foot straight and trying to splay my toes as I pushed off with my left foot.  Whenever I realized that my mind was relaxing and my leg was getting sloppy, I would focus again on what that foot should be doing and I was actually able to run further, a little bit faster, and with less fatigue.  My 3 mile time was 25:10 which is around 8 minutes and 25 seconds.  I am so thankful for the grass to run on.

Then today, Sunday, I had the most interesting experience of all.  At 3 in the afternoon I decided to take a little nap before going out  to the park with Anthony for some Aerobie golf.  I woke up 30 minutes later and almost fell down when I stood up on that left leg of mine.  It was like I was starting the day all over again with an untrained leg after just 30 minutes of rest.  I have found that mornings are the hardest times to get around as I relearn how to focus on getting that leg working properly for the new day, but I never expected to have to start over after a 3o minute nap.  The fatigue in my muscles from Saturday's run may have had something to do with it too, but it was a very unexpected discovery.  The brain is a very interesting thing.

I discovered my bin of rice in the cupboard this afternoon and am going to try to see if I can fish out the items I have buried in there from last spring.  In the spring I could not find things with my left hand (and my eyes closed) let alone tell if my hand was staying in the bin.  I made one try before sitting down at the computer and was able to not only find something (though it took a few minutes), but also was able to guess what the object was.  I'll let you know if I have any more success.

Thanks for your interest in my story and your continued prayers.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Celebrating 1 Year!

Wow! A year ago today was the day of my stroke. It seems like a pretty appropriate time to do a little writing about how far we have come, and just to look back a little bit on the events of the past year. But, first of all, I have to say thanks for coming along with us on the journey. We have felt so loved and supported through this past year by so many special people. I can honestly say that we couldn't have done it without you. As our prayer pager buzzed this morning after breakfast, I was reminded once again of all of those prayer warriors out there lifting up both me and my family. You are such a blessing to us. Your faithfulness is a testimony to your walk with Christ. Thank you!

It's hard to know just how to "celebrate" the anniversary of a stroke, but I think we kind of got the hang of it today as we did a lot of "remembering" instead. Every once in a while the conversation turned to November 2, 2007 including Heidi's comment on her blog post comparing her experience driving behind the ambulance, to our experience driving off to church together this morning as a family. God is so good! As the boys and I were reflecting on that morning a year ago, Anthony asked, "Do you think it would have made much of a difference if I hadn't hear you and called 911?" Wow, what a question. It is incredible the way that morning played out. What if I had had my stroke an hour earlier while I was sleeping and no one found me until hours later? What if I had been driving the van full of kids to school? Instead, at around 6:15 AM, as I was reaching for my shirt, I crumpled to the ground just a few rooms away from where my boys were eating breakfast in the kitchen, close enough that when I called Anthony he was able to hear me and come to my assistance. Emergency services arrived very quickly, we made the 1/2 mile trip to the hospital emergency room, and after a number of tests, I was given the clot buster medication that seemed to be the turning point in heading me in the direction of recovery.

Yesterday I joined the kids at the field behind our local elementary school and ran 2 miles. That is still the goal I am striving the hardest toward. I want to run normally again. Heidi watched me run a bit on Saturday and said it looked "way more normal" than the last time she had seen me run. Those kinds of word of encouragement are the ones I need to hear the most, because I can hardly see the improvement over long periods of time and sometimes even wonder if I am regressing. I think I am starting to figure it out though. I feel extreme fatigue in my leg after running or exercising, or even a day of teaching and being on my feet all day. They have told me at therapy that only about half of the muscles in my leg are doing all of the work, so of course I would feel extreme fatigue for a day or 2 afterward. Heidi reminds me of this when I have another one of those day of having to think so hard about each step as we walk around the block. Then I am reminded that I am not regressing, but am tired from my previous day's exercise.

I have come to realize that running the California International Marathon is NOT going to happen this December (that was the goal I set for myself), but I will make it my goal for next year. My foot continues to thump the ground pretty loudly when I run on pavement and I'm a bit wobbly, but when I run on grass it feels much more comfortable, and puts much less strain on my knee. I have also found that if I keep up with some running every few days, I experience less fatigue than when I make it a once-a-week activity.

Sleeping is another issue. My left side is still quite hypersensitive, so it is not an option to sleep on that side. Also, I used to turn over in my sleep without even thinking about it. That is not a natural thing anymore and takes some work. Especially when there are covers on top of me to get tangled in. Then there is the job of finding another comfortable position for this crazy body of mine so that I can drift back to sleep again. This was something I never would have imagined would be a problem after a stroke.

Then there is my arm and hand. It is interesting having an injury that shows no scars on the outside. My body looks completely normal (as normal as possible for me) from the outside, but every once in a while my arm surprises me. I find it somewhere, in a position where I don't expect it to be and think, "Is that my arm?" It is a really weird sensation, and is becoming less frequent than it used to be. The thing that doesn't seem to be improving is the lack of feeling in my left hand. To do things with my left hand like play the piano, keyboarding, playing video games, tying my shoes, buttoning a shirt, turning a doorknob, etc. I have to look at my left hand because I cannot "sense" what it is doing. I can feel some things with it (hot, cold, and sharp pokes), but the fine sensations are all missing, and so I need my vision to help my fingers know hat they are doing. One thing I have made improvement on is working the turn signal as I drive. That was such a natural thing for me before my stroke and became such a difficult thing after my stroke. I fumbled with that thing so much for such a long time (especially when driving in the dark), and now it has become pretty natural again. That gives me hope that there is still more improvement to come. When I can tap my left foot to the beat of a song again, I will have made another milestone.

Well, these are little things that still bother me, and I just tell people that I am greedy, "I want it all". And as long as they continue to give me hope at therapy, I will continue to work on these things and hope for improvement.

I have to admit that there are many times now that I don't even notice my shortcomings for extended periods of time.  I can get lost in my work, or a game, or reading a book and completely forget that anything is lacking.  But then I get up out of my chair and put weight on that left side and am reminded that I have quite a way to go yet.  In fact, that is how I begin every day.  The alarm wakes me from my sleep, I scramble out of bed to turn it off, and the first sensation I have is stumbling across the room on a leg that is not yet warmed up for a new day.  Just a little daily reminder of the good work that God continues to do in my life.

One last item to share on this day gives a little more perspective on how far I have come over the past year. As church came to a close this morning and one of the last songs was announced, there was that awkward feeling when everybody knows that it is a time to stand up, but no one is sure if anybody else is really going to get up. So, I stood up and everybody else got up. That' s not such a big deal unless you realize that one year ago today, I couldn't figure out how to get my brain to move my fingers and toes at all, let alone lift my whole body (and a whole church) to a standing position. God is so good!

Thank you again for your many word of encouragement and your faithful prayers on behalf of me and my family. You are such a blessing to me (us).

Here we go on year number 2! Does anyone want to join me in that marathon?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Fall 2008

Well, we're closing in on the one-year mark since David's stroke.

It's hard to know what to report. Life is very different for us all, especially for David, than it was one year ago. It's hard to tell what percentage of that is due to his stroke and ongoing symptoms and therapy work - and what percentage is that there have been other changes in all our lives.

ANTHONY is a junior in high school, the year they keep telling him is the hardest and busiest, which he is finding to be true. He's got multiple AP and pre-AP classes as well as his normal fall season activities.

JACOB is a freshman in high school, which is a big step up. He moved from a middle school of about 180 out in the country to a high school in town with 2600 students.

CALEB is in his first year of middle school. He is experiencing moving from teacher to teacher for the first time - taking algebra and all those more demanding junior high classes.

HEIDI is finishing a Master's Thesis and carrying out her research this semester - the culmination of 3 years of work.

Fall is busy anyway with cross country and soccer, so all of us have the usual busyness, but all of us also have additional adjustments and responsibilities.

Looking back over that list, I realize the fact that all that is even possible for us - given the reason for this blog - is a miracle!

BACK TO DAVID: In my last post - which was a while back now - I said I was going to give another update soon. I have found that hard to do. Things seem to shift a lot for David both physically and emotionally. I have some guesses as to why but am not entirely sure. Sometimes he feels that he is regressing physically. Sometimes he feels he is remaining in the same spot. Sometimes he feels he is making progress.

Let's see, I had put some reminders to myself in the last post. At that time we had just gone to back-to-school night at the boys' high school. There are large stairwells, and, although David can go up and down stairs quite well he found it very disconcerting to do so with lots of people around. His perception is off to where it makes it impossible for him to go up or down stairs while other people are on them - unless he is right on the side holding a railing. The other reminders all had to do with sleep, which I'll address a bit further down.

It is amazing how his spirits lift when the therapists are able to notice and point out even a little bit of progress - for instance that his foot is able to turn in half an inch further than before. Some days he will notice something he had not noticed before. Yesterday after I washed my hair he touched it with his left hand and said, "I can feel that your hair is wet. Actually, I think it's that I can feel the coolness of it rather than the wetness."

His sides remain so different in sensation that it is hard for him to sleep. He can't roll over easily. He cannot sleep on his left side because it hurts. It also just feels strange to be in bed as his left arm just feels like a wadded up towel next to him. It's also hard for him to sleep on his back because his sleep apnea is worse now that he cannot do the intense aerobic exercise he used to do. There are lots of little/not-so-little things like that. Those things are certainly relatively small when compared with where we would be had he not regained his ability to walk, but it does leave him always sleep deprived.

He is overly tired all the time, and it's hard to tell if that is due to his sleep deprivation, the busyness of our family right now, or due to the fact that he has to yet think about every step he takes. It's hard to sort it all out. But the constant tiredness makes it hard for him to feel joyful and to feel he is "living" rather than "getting by." It also makes his work hard for him, which had never been the case before either - at least not in the same way.

In all the time I've known him, I've known David to be always totally even keel on the upbeat side of things - definitely a "glass-is-half-FULL kind of guy" - no matter what is going on good or bad - even in the first few months after his stroke. One of the first things he said in ER once we realized what was going on and his left side was paralyzed is, "Well, I can talk, and I can use my right side. I have everything I need."

That comment was classic David.

His emotions had never fluctuated a whole lot in the past. Now I find them to fluctuate quite a bit. I had never really seen him "down" before - not even while hospitalized after his stroke or in the first few months of recovery.

I continue to feel we are at a strange spot - a transition spot. We have no way of knowing if there will be more progress or not. I think there is probably a struggle going on within David between acceptance and continuing to work hard to move forward (even though he doesn't see much if any progress) - and trying to make these choices in the midst of so much family busyness, which doesn't leave a lot of time for reflection. In time I think this will settle in to a more comfortable spot one way or the other, but it remains an "awkward phase" right now (for lack of a better term).

I've been told that it is often the case after a major illness (or accident) that a person goes through a time of depression. Maybe David is being impacted by a form of depression. It's just very hard to tell cause and effect right now, so we just keep putting one foot in front of the other and wait to see what the future holds.

All of what I've written above is just an overview of where we are right now - good and bad - big scale and small scale - daily life. Either David or I will probably update this on the anniversary of his stroke. (Nov. 2 - a date we'll always remember!)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Needing to Post

I need to get a new post up here. Things do continue to change with David, and I find he is commenting more about what is going on with him (inside him) than he ever had before, so I'm learning a lot that I can pass on to those of you who are still checking in and praying for him/us.

I've said this before, I believe, but it is more and more true all the time. We are in a very strange spot. There is no way to know if he will continue to see improvement, but he has to keep working hard at therapy just in case, because if he does not then he certainly won't improve. But there is something about that that makes is hard to move on with life.

I can't quite put this well.

He and I have both commented recently in ways that touch on this. In some sense (although not in all senses) we would be at a better spot if he knew this was as far as he was going to get. That would be sad, but at least if that were the case, he would KNOW where he stood, could move to the acceptance phase and re-vision his life (and also save a lot of time not going to therapy!). As it is he continues spending a lot of time and money in therapy - not knowing if it will make a difference, but not daring to stop and lose out on that chance - and because of this unknown, he also cannot quite settle into a place of full acceptance, because he is continuing to strive for something more. I'm afraid I'm not putting this well at all.

There must be a way to accept where one is at while yet striving to improve one's conditions, but we have not found that balance yet.

What follows are reminders to myself of what to comment about in the near future: sleep, stairs (at Enochs), sensation (wad), exercise/apnea.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

No Plateau in Sight

This is hard. We do need a lot of wisdom to figure out how to make this work. It is a steep learning curve.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Steep Learning Curve Ahead

How blessed we are to have summer open - and especially with the timing of things this year.

Towards the end of the last school year, David was doing less physical therapy than he is this summer. Things have shifted a great deal, particularly after our visit to the stroke specialist at UCSF. At her advice he has taken on a different type of therapy and is finding it very effective.

Currently David is doing 10 hours per week of physical therapy, and he has the time to devote to that now. As I said, we are blessed to have summer open.

David begins teaching on August 11, so he will need to figure out how to balance full time work with 10 hours of therapy. That's going to be challenging enough, but it's not just his personal schedule that is becoming busier. With the start of the new school year everything gets busier for all of us. Sports and piano lessons and youth group and all their other activities begin again for the boys - which means a lot of chauffering on the part of their parents! I also am going back to work and am finishing my thesis this semester, so it will be a busier one than usual for me, which means I can't take as much pressure off of David as I would like to in order to open up time for him to keep at the therapy (and given what my study is, it is not something that can be shifted to another semester or I would do so).

Things are going well. Life is headed in a good direction. We are busy, but the things we are busy with are good things. We just need wisdom at this point in terms of finding the balance that is going to allow David to continue to progress. David is making progress, but it has slowed to a snail's pace, and if he lets up on his therapy, his progress is going to halt or regress, especially since he spends a lot of time sitting at a desk during his work day. It is important that a way is made for him to keep it up the PT.

I think the next few weeks are going to be a steep learning curve for our whole family as we all try to make the balance work. If you are praying for us, that is our request right now - that God will guide us as we move into a very different and much busier routine - and also that we will all have patience with each other as we figure this out together! Thank you!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Update From My Perspective (David, that is)

Thanks again to my wonderful wife for doing such a great job of using her blog to get the information out to everyone about my progress since my November 2nd stroke. If you haven't read her latest update in this section posted yesterday, make sure that you do that before you read these additional comments of mine.

I have begun meeting 2 times a week with a physical therapist who specializes in athletic rehabilitation. This was suggested by my very capable therapists at English Oaks when they felt that they had reached the extent of their expertice in my case. I specifically want to get my stride back for running, so this seems to be the next step in my recovery. I was very impressed with my initial evaluation and session. We are going to start with some intense work on balance and work on building up some specific muscles that are not yet doing their part. One of the main muscles that seems to be lacking is the hip flexor (I think that's what he called it). This seems to be causing my left foot to turn out when I walk and causes the muscles on the inside of my leg to do most of the work rather than sharing equally with the muscles on the outside of my leg. MY familly is seeing me standing on one foot at a time these days quite a bit, trying to retrain my brain to learn to better balance my body, and getting the receptors in my feet to better talk with my brain to know how to do that. This is combined with some exercises that specifically work those muscles that I need to use at the same time if I am truly going to have my balance back again. I've been told that we will not begin working on improving the stride until I improve in both of these areas.

I had a major success today in that I completed my first 3 mile run on pavement since my stroke. Once I got used to the slap of my left foot on the ground as I ran, I was able to get into a pretty good rythm and completed the 3 miles in just under 24 minutes. Being able to get in good aerobic exercise like that is really what I am after. To my surprise, it didn't hurt and doesn't hurt now (2 hours afterward). I had been doing my limited runnung on grass figuring it would put less stress on my knee, ankle and foot, but my new PT highly recommends that I NOT run on grass because it provides such an uneven surface and he fears that that in itself may lead to injury. So, I am pleased with today's accomplishment.

I continue to look forward to a day when I no longer have to think about every step I take as I run or walk and it just becomes a natural occurance once again. In the meantime, I just praise God for the wonderful work he continues to do in me and pray that progress will continue. Know that I am working hard at my therapy daily and am full of hope from my recent evaluation and training. God continues to teach me patience.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

8 Months Later

Well, it's a bit more than 8 months later - and it's David's birthday today - his first since his stroke.  What a great day to celebrate!!!

I sometimes wonder if there are people other than friends and family reading this - perhaps others who have been impacted by stroke and are looking for what to expect or what to compare to - so, I'd like to post detailed specifics of what's up at this point.

There is a bit of new news to report, but for a while now we've been at a place where the daily leaps and bounds of progress is no longer happening.  When we try to envision exactly where we are we find it a strange task as we balance between hopes of what might yet will be regained and thankfulness at how much has already been regained.  We don't seem to really be able to settle into "normal" yet, because David is at a place where progress is still possible and where he is spending a lot of time working hard for it, so this yet remains quite in the forefront of our lives rather than receding into the background - even though he has come so far and can do so much and to anyone looking at him seems fine.

Some good news is that some of the fine motor skills that had not been in place are returning.  He told me the other day he was able to clip his fingernails in one minute rather than the five minutes it had been taking.  (That might sound mundane, but to us it is really exciting and evidence that measurable progress continues to happen!)  Some more good news is that David has gotten in to see a sports therapist, and it has been such a good experience.  He went for his second time this morning.  He feels good about the thorough evaluation and the direction this therapist wants to take.  

David's goal is to be able to run distance again and to be able to work towards that without orthopedic injury.  (Earlier in the year he was injuring his knee by the attempts at running he was making - to the point where knee surgery was being considered - we really want to avoid that!)  The goal is to work on correcting his stride, so that he will not injure himself.  He was told he has 80% muscle strength (mass? - not sure) on his left side and that his balance is still not where it should be, so the therapist is working with him on balance and strengthening.  Once those are at a better spot, work on stride will begin.  David is very excited and feels he is in good hands.

Insurance is not going to cover the therapy this time, but it is amazingly less expensive than we could have imagined, and it is going to be very doable financially - and very much worth it!!

We recently returned from a trip to MI.  This was the first major traveling David had done since his stroke, and it made clear to him some things that are not working that he had not realized are not working.  For instance, getting luggage off an airport carousel was very difficult and pointed out how much his balance is still lacking.  It was also difficult to haul luggage up and down stairs (they actually have stairs in Michigan!).  

He noticed some things too when joining in athletic activities with extended family - particularly dodgeball (which is played out there in a totally different fashion than how I learned it in California!).  When he tried to throw hard to get someone out it really hurt his knee very badly.  I guess he hadn't tried to "torque" like that since his stroke.  It was probably a combination of balance issues and his right side being disproportionately stronger than his left.  I don't think anyone else noticed.  He just stayed out there and started shooting baskets instead to try to free his teammates rather than trying to get people out.

The balance thing was also noticeable a few days ago when he had a minor mishap with his bike.  He's had a very swollen ankle ever since that's not improving as fast as I would think it should - or would like it to.  I think perhaps the circulation isn't as good on that side or something.  It may be that healing takes long on that side now.

He still lacks feeling on his left side.  At one point during our vacation he put his left arm around my waist and looked at me with a smile on his face and said, "Well, I can't feel ya, but I KNOW I've got ya!"  :-)

So that's where things are right now.  David is feeling very positive - recognizes some limitations that he hadn't noticed before but also recognizes the progress he's made.  He's extremely positive and excited about this new direction in physical therapy and is pleased with his therapist.

I'm just so happy that it's summer and he has lots of time to work at all this.  Hopefully he will be able to establish a good sustainable pattern before going back to teaching in August.

We are truly celebrating David's life on this very special day!!


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Currently

David had his last physical therapy appointment this morning (has been down to once a month for a while). He had a good session and also brain-stormed with his therapist about continuing therapy (as suggested by Dr. Ko and mentioned in the previous post). There is a place in town that would be appropriate for David's needs at this point, but they don't take HMO insurance (which is what we have), SO we're back to "fighting" (or trying to figure out how to fight) to get David in where he needs to be.

Yesterday David had a routine echocardiogram yesterday - done to check if his heart device is still properly in place. It is.

We continue moving ahead.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

UCSF Stroke Center Visit Results

I think I'd better break this up into about 4 parts as this is going to get VERY lengthy. That way you can more easily pick and choose what you want to read!

OVERVIEW

Our visit to the neurovascular specialist at UCSF Stroke Center today was better than we could have imagined! The doctor was clear and informative and patient. She addressed all of our questions and clarified for us some things that had confused us since all of this began. She also clarified for us the different ranges of windows for recovery we'd heard. She let us know that she has seen patients continue to improve beyond a year. That was really a joy for us to hear, as we had heard windows as small as 3 months or 6 months, and since David has plateaued he'd been concerned he would be able to progress no further - so that was probably the most wonderful thing we heard while there. She recommended further tests for him and further therapy, all of which sound very hopeful and helpful. We learned a lot of the specifics of what has happened to David, why he is experiencing now what he is experiencing now, what he should do now and in the future, and what he can expect in the future. A doctor friend of mine warned me a week ago that we probably wouldn't get much out of this appointment and said he hoped we'd have a nice dinner in San Francisco, but we learned SO MUCH. Dr. Ko was GREAT! We had a one-hour appointment, and she talked with us for an hour and 20 minutes with complete patience and calmness for all we needed. She addressed confusions of the past, realities of the present and direction for the future! We sure can't ask for more than that!!

DETAILS

There are so many details - all of which are important to us, of course, and to anyone who may be reading this and is going through something similar. It's hard to know which to include. I just scrolled down my blog a bit so that I could see what I'd already written, not wanting to be repetitive, and I see where I said that David kept getting the generic answer when asking his therapists and doctors what he could yet expect to get back: "You've had a major stroke; you may get it back, you may not." That was not the case with Dr. Ko. She detailed for us the systems that have been impacted and how they usually come back and in what order. She was very pleased and surprised to see how much strength he had regained on his left side in 7 months. 

She is also pleased that he has so much sensory perception on his left side. It is this, though, that is what caused David to think he was regressing a while back. (Those in the medical field reading this will probably find all sorts of errors as I try to write out what I heard, but I'll do my best.) While it is really good that he has sensation, some of it is leading him astray; it is also the case that his wiring is yet quite crossed. From what I understand the brain is interpreting signals as pain, say, from nerves that are sending messages about something else. She told him that some of the pain issues might be permanent - one example being that it is painful to him to have any covers - even just a sheet - over his left foot. Other sensory issues have to do with being able to use his left side without looking at it (can't use turn signals in the car without looking at what his hand is doing - certainly can't button anything without looking, and it is hard even then!). She was very encouraging about this aspect of the sensory issues (sensory ataxia)  and said he would probably, with a lot of work, be able to get his brain to rewire in this regard. She encouraged him to do as much as he could with his left hand and to watch what it was doing and really focus.

David is very disciplined and motivated, a hard worker. He can and will do this. What was so important to us today was to find out there was yet strong possibility of this coming back. He had been beginning to feel that all this work was a waste of time at this point and that he was as far as he was going to get, so the hopefulness and information we got today is spurring him on to continue working and to work harder! He now knows it can pay off. In terms of other issues relating to sensation, it is too early to tell if he is in transition, and it is on it's way back to a more normal state or if it is at the place where it is going to stay. For instance, David expresses what he senses as his left side being turned inside out, that he feels inside his body what his skin used to feel on the outside and that the outside doesn't sense what it used to. He is both overly and underly sensitive.

She was very attentive to his desire to run long distance again and gave very good advice about that. She would like to see him have more therapy. We are over what insurance will cover in terms of stroke, but she suggested we approach it as a sports-therapy issue. He needs a therapist to work with him specifically on his stride while walking and running. If this does not take place, and if he tries to train to run, he will have orthopedic injuries. She explained in detail how he can tell when he has overdone it with exercise. Regardless of whether or not he runs races again, she let him know that he must exercise every day or he will lose what he has gained.

She also talked about causes of stroke and reminded us that although the PFO (hole in heart) is likely the cause, that is not certain. She recommends he have a blood test for hypercoagulation and that he wear a heart (event) monitor for 30 days. Her statement was that she'd be more comfortable with more testing. She'd like to see this done regardless of whether he goes back to running (in which case he should definitely have it to be cleared to exercise that vigorously). If nothing shows up in these tests, we can be even more sure it was the PFO (although we can never be 100% sure that that was the cause), and if something does show up - arrythmia or hypercoagulation, then we can do something about that and further lower his risk of future stroke.

David mentioned some of his emotional "down feeling" lately, and she said that this was the time most stroke patients are prone to depression (and when many give up and therefore make no more progress). This is because there is a steep recovery rate at first but that then a plateau is reached and the improvement is so subtle that the patient, who is living with this day to day and minute to minute, can't see that there is any improvement at all. David needs those around him, doctors, physical therapists, and family, to let him know when they see any progress as a reassurance to him that he is making progress.


ON BEING DAVID RIGHT NOW

In the post after the return from Washington DC I included a 6 month retrospective I included a lot about of what David feels like right now. I've also included some of it above - such as the foot pain and the "inside-out" feeling. Before I add to that, I want to state that there are a lot of things I did not know about what David is feeling until today. He is not a complainer and often doesn't even just mention things that he's struggling with. Both of us certainly know that there are people struggling with things far more difficult than our situation and that David's situation too could be a lot worse - he could have died - he could be permanently paralyzed - so we are tremendously thankful daily for what we have, which is a LOT. I know too from personal experience with a 4-year-long bout of severe depression, which I feared to make public at the time, that there are people suffering from health struggles that they dare not share and thus can't publish like we are doing here.  Often when I write I say a prayer for people who are out there suffering silently and not in a position to experience the support that we have in this situation. So, we are thankful both for David's progress and for the ability to share this with others and to feel so supported. We certainly do not share this as complaint but rather as a record of David's/our experiences for our loved ones to read, and we hope it might also be of encouragement to others who might be experiencing something similar - letting them know they are not alone.

Along with what is in a former post and things mentioned earlier here, David also:

- cannot get things out of his pocket with his left hand
- cannot easily lock the doors at night (hard to turn the lock)
- finds himself crossing his arms a lot b/c he wants to hold his left arm with his right
- stubs toes on his left foot when walking barefoot on carpet (and trips at times)
- feels like his left shoe is an "unleveled wooden shoe"
- experiences pain when walking barefoot on textured surfaces
- has a hard time balancing, and his left arm swings out of sync with his right
- feels skin sliding over his muscles when resting his left arm on the table
- often needs to first do with his right hand what he wants to do with his left so he can copy it

This Sunday he sang in front of church for the first time (at First Ripon CRC), and he found out that when he is nervous his left leg shakes uncontrollably. I may have shared these next things already, but he sort of starts over again every morning - staggers as he walks until he's been doing it for a while - and when he sneezes his left leg goes out of control (which is especially a bummer for him, because he has allergies, so he sneezes frequently!). Today as he was driving home from UCSF, he told me it hurt to put his left hand on the steering wheel and that in setting it there he could feel all the wrinkles in the skin of his hand and fingers.

FURTHER COMMENTS FROM HEIDI

What keeps coming to mind is how happy and thrilled I am about this appointment! It was so encouraging to both of us - especially so to David. It was also just very interesting. One of the most interesting things I saw as she was testing him is when she had him put both arms straight out in front of him, palms up and then close his eyes. As soon as he closed his eyes his left arm began raising up, and his left hand began turning inward, but his right arm and hand stayed right where they had been. He continues to not have perception of where his left arm and leg are situated, which is why he needs to look at everything he's doing with that left side. It was very interesting to watch and seemed kind of like magic - levitation or something.

We're not all that old (I don't think :-), but as we have journeyed through life we have experienced some significant health issues and seen friends and family members do so as well. I am so aware all the time now of the intricate system the human body is, and how if one tiny thing goes wrong so much can be altered so significantly. Even driving back and forth to San Francisco today in the midst of all that traffic, I was so aware that one little mistake by one driver could alter or end many other lives. Every breath we take, every moment we live, every thing that we can do - seeing, hearing, tying our shoes, buttoning our shirts, speaking, having sensation, lacking chronic pain, walking, knowing where our arm is when we close our eyes, being able to snuggle up under the covers without it causing pain - every seemingly miniscule thing is a gift every moment and is something that can be lost at any time. We should not take anything for granted, and all of us - even in the midst of injury and illness - have so much to be thankful for - so much more than we do know or can know!

I think I'll take some time tomorrow to go out in the back yard and enjoy my vision by looking at the green leaves and grass and at the blue of the sky - and enjoy my ability to breathe freely in the fresh air - and enjoy my ability to feel, and to do so without pain, by running my toes through the grass.  Maybe I can get my hubby to join me so as to enjoy the ability to hear and to talk and to think and therefore to converse and to enjoy the fact that we still have each other!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Upcoming Appointment

On Thursday, June 5, David and I will be heading to the Stroke Center at UCSF to talk with a neurovascular specialist. It is a 60 minute appointment, and we are not sure exactly what to expect. What we hope is that we will get information about what is yet possible in terms of David's recovery - hoping to hear further improvement is possible. We'd also like to make sure David hasn't missed out on anything he should have been doing (or perhaps can yet do) to maximize his recovery.

We know that people are different in how their bodies respond to health situations and that in medicine not much is absolutely definite, but we do keep hoping that what David was told initially may prove to be true - that he can recover 98% to 99% of his full function. Most of what is yet missing (or problematic) is not visible to others, but he feels and experiences the continuing impact daily in many non-visible ways.

One thing that has been confusing to us throughout this process is the varying "windows" David has been given as to when his chances for continued improvement end; they have varied from as little as 3 months to as much as 2 years (with others - very few - telling us there is a chance he can continue to improve indefinitely). Perhaps it is best not to be given a definitive window, and maybe there is no such thing, but that too is one of the questions we are going to ask. I imagine if there are answers to be had, this is where we will be able to get them, so we are very excited about the week.

Monday, May 19, 2008

On the Lighter Side

In recent months, nearly every time David sees someone for the first time in a while that person says, "David, you look SO GOOD!"

I'm beginning to get concerned that people are hitting on my husband!!!

He's MINE, I tell you HE'S MINE!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Return from DC & 6 month reflection



David and Jacob arrived home at about 2am Sunday from the 8th grade trip to Washington DC. We are so pleased David was able to do this, that he is recovered enough from his stroke to take it on and that his heart repair was done early enough this spring that he was recovered from that as well - that timing having been so up in the air for so long.

I still wondered if he could really do this; afterall, he is sometimes exhausted after walking only one mile at home, because whenever he walks he needs to be very focused on making his left leg do the right thing. He did mention that being at Arlington National Cemetery was a particularly hard day with all the hills - uphill: not so bad - downhill: quite a problem.

The trip is really designed to have quite a gruelling pace, so I'm both very surprised and very grateful he did as well as he did. He came home with a very bad cold, and I think that's a result of him getting pretty run down, but it was definitely worth it to be able to realize this goal and to be able to have that special bonding time with Jacob - and also for himself personally to accomplish what he had signed on for at the beginning of the semester before all of the rest came about - a good feeling!

I'd like to add just further information about what life is like for David right now, six months after his stroke.

Things have very much plateaued for him. He remains mostly upbeat, as is his nature, but there are frustrating days when it sinks in that this may get no better. For the most part people can't tell there's anything wrong by looking at him - unless they watch him walk a reasonable distance; then there is a noticeable limp, and it is obvious that his arms aren't in sync with each other as he walks.

What people aren't able to see is that he is still missing almost all feeling on the left side of his body and that he relies quite a bit on looking at his arm or leg to get it to do the right thing. He also mentioned after returning from the field trip that it is particularly difficult to have people walking near him on his left side because he feels as if he is going to bump into them or step on their feet because that side just seems rather out of control. After coming home on Sunday he tried to do a couple of small repairs around the house, one of which required him to use a pliers to try to pry something open, and he just can't hold onto things with that left hand - kept dropping it. He also trimmed his fingernails that day - no problem doing his left hand with his right, but doing his right hand was another story. He almost gave in and had me do it, but after much perserverance he was able to do it on his own. It took quite a bit of time, though. I watched for a while but had to walk away because it was painful to watch!

Also, last year he had mentioned to both our neighbors that he was willing that summer to work with them on repairing the fences between our homes, which are more than 25 years old and basically patched up and being propped up in place right now. That sort of work had always been tremendously delightful to him. He's roofed our house on his own and in the past had always eager to be doing any kind of physical work outside. I'd always had a hard time keeping him out of trees with a chainsaw! I can't remember the number of trees he's taken out of our backyard - at least 4 or 5. I was getting to the point where I felt I'd have to tie myself to the remaining trees to protect them! His physical limitations have taken away his desire to engage in this kind of activity. In regard to the fences he has said more than once since his stroke that he wishes the neighbors had taken him up on his offer last summer as he just can't imagine being able physically to do that now - nor having the emotional drive to do that now either.

Yesterday was a down day for him, but I think it is in large part because he moved right back into work after such a taxing week and is feeling quite sick - perhaps also because he has so recently taken on things he had not tried since having his stroke and is finding they don't come about as he'd like them to. He even wondered out loud at dinner last night if he would ever have the spark inside him to be as creative and energetic as is characteristic of the faculty he works with, a spark which he always had before. Right now he feels he is just getting through the day rather than working with the enthusiasm he is used to, and that doesn't feel good to him. His place of work is filled with very vibrant people, and he wants to be a full participant in that vibrancy.

He has said though too that he thinks the reason he has been so tired since going back full time is that he'd been out or only partially in for so long that jumping back into the swing of things when everyone else was already in the middle of it may be what is making it so tiring. Being full time is quite different from being part time. I'm eager for him to have a break during summer and then to be able to begin again in the fall with a new school year, beginning again when everyone else does, being able to begin from the ground up. I'm quite sure his spark will come back! He's still David - still the man of positive spirits and strong work ethic; it's just that everything is a bit more daunting or draining yet at this point.

When he asks his therapists if he will get something back (physically) he keeps getting the generic answer: "David, you know you've had a major stroke. You may get it back; you may not." As you can imagine, that's not a terribly satisfying answer. David's appointment at the UCSF Stroke Center will be June 5. We are both hoping at that time that the specialists there will be able to give him a more specific answer, but we are also aware that maybe a more specific answer doesn't exist. Maybe it does just come down to waiting. This past Friday was the 6 month point. We've been given all kinds of windows for when he will get back all that he is going to get back, and those statements to us have varied from 3 months to 2 years. We are sure hoping it's the 2-year window that's right!

He'd initially been told he could expect to regain 98% to 99% of his function and that he probably wouldn't even be aware of the 1% or 2% that was missing. Well, he's not yet anywhere near that point, but we sure hope that's still a possibility.

All that being said, the good news is he was able to take a trip across country and keep up with and chaperone a group of junior highers on quite a demanding field trip. That's quite a milestone and quite an accomplishment I think! (Shoot! I might be even more tired if I'd been the one who'd gone, and I haven't had a stroke! It makes me tired just thinking about it!) I know there were many people praying for him as he took this on. Thank you!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Good Stuff!

We haven't had much to post lately about David's medical situation and ongoing recovery, but we got some items of good news today. He has been approved to go back to English Oaks for more physical therapy, and he has an appointment (June 5) to go to UCSF and have a 60 minute appointment with a neurovascular doctor there.

It's our hope that with these two items in the future he will be able to continue to make gains physically and may also get some more answers about his situation.

We are also thankful that his heart repair took place as early in the spring as it did, as David had been signed up to go to Washington DC with Jacob's 8th-grade class and had been concerned he might not get to go depending on the time of that procedure. He is going, and they will be leaving Saturday and coming back the next Saturday. If you are praying for us, would you please pray for David to have strength and energy necessary to take this on? It's a pretty grueling trip - on the move all the time - and he still gets tired when we walk one mile together. He's also had a cold for the last 5 weeks. I'm just a bit worried about the toll it might take on him.

So anyway, just a lot of good news - a bonding time coming up for Jacob and his dad that we weren't sure would get to come about, more physical therapy which David needs, and an appointment at UCSF.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Another First

This week marks David's first full week back at work since his stroke. To put it in perspective his last full 5-day week at work was the week before Halloween. So, this marks a new adjustment for him and us.

Insurance approval on his physical therapy ended last week. We are working on getting approval for him to go to English Oaks once a month - for feedback on progress and for suggestions from the physical therapists.

David is doing very well, and when we look back on the days when he could not even move in bed on his own we realize how far he has come, but there is a lot yet that has not come back that would be nice to have back, God willing. To give one example illustrating this, yesterday he and I went for a walk, and he apologized to me partway through, saying, "I'm sorry I'm not very communicative. I'm having to focus so much on getting this leg to do what it needs to do that I can't focus on having a conversation."

We are SO grateful for the healing he has experienced, but it is also the case that it sure would be wonderful if he could walk without having to concentrate on it so hard. We hope that can yet come.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

View the Virtual Procedure

Today was the originally scheduled date for my heart procedure.  I guess that makes it a fitting day to see the procedure virtually.  After the ASD closure device was implanted in my heart 2 weeks ago, I was given a card to place in my wallet stating that my device is "non-ferromagnetic/MRI safe up to 3.0 Tesla."  On the card was a web address for AGA Medical Corporation, the makers of the Amplatzer Occluder (click to view).  At their site I found 3 videos.  Check out the first 2!  The first one talks about the device itself, and the second one demonstrates how the device is placed in the heart.  They both gave me a much better understanding of what has been placed inside of me.  (The 3rd video is for a different device.)   

Thanks for all of your prayers!  Never once have I been able to feel that there is anything different about my heart.  It is just such a blessing to know that the most likely cause of my stroke has been taken care of.

God is so good! 

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tidbits

David just left for his first PT session since his heart repair. I'll be eager to hear how that goes. Last night he was bemoaning the fact that he had not been doing his exercises and that he likes to go in for these sessions in good shape. I reminded him of why he hadn't been doing his exercises - two incisions that needed to heal - doctor's orders to take it easy! He let me know he still would like to go in feeling more fit and on top of things.

In my last post I neglected to say that although he is back to work it does continue to be part time.

I also think I jinxed myself by saying I hadn't missed any deadlines - turns out I missed a BIGGY and have had to spend the last 2 days writing like a mad woman to turn out a 15+ page prospectus that was to have been turned in 4 months ago (right about the time of David's stroke . . . hmm . . . wonder how I missed that one?). Thankfully the grad office is being extremely gracious and patient with me. Without this prospectus I should not even be enrolled in the classes I'm taking this semester, nor can I apply to have my research approved.

David continues to experience ever-changing weirdness on his left side. It feels to him like things are worse, but it's hard to tell why that might be - if they actually are worse, if he is experiencing results of being less active in recent days, or if more sensation of some sort is returning which is causing it to feel different (but isn't necessarily truly worse). It's so hard to tell.