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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Life After A Stroke: A Confluence of Irritants

Recovering from a stroke is more than dealing with your useless hand or your shuffling leg or the fact that you can only smile with one side of your face right now. And I got off light! At least the gray matter is intact and believe me, I truly do realize how fortunate that is, especially after sharing the gym with several patients who weren't as fortunate as I was.

Aside from the frustration of bathing and dressing one-handed, and the exhaustion of trying to walk with a shaking and uncooperative leg, there are other factors I never anticipated.

I got hiccups Lots of them. I'm talking twelve to fifteen times a day. It was my brain trying to rewire its way to my partially-disabled diaphragm. A good sign, the doctors said. But soooo irritating.

My wacky diaphragm also meant I couldn't cough. I could force a shallow one, but it took serious effort. This was problematic because swallowing was difficult early on. I had to take smaller bites, swallow twice on every bite, and wash each bite down with water. Sometimes a bite missed, and it was hell trying to cough it out of my airway. That evened out by the second week, but it was rough for awhile.

The overnights were hellish more often than not. I have a problem with my body temperature, alternating between shivering and sweltering with no rhyme or reason for it other than my brain isn't processing sensory information correctly.

I'm also having a problem with spasticity. When a stroke affects your arm and leg, you think they'd just be limp and useless. Eventually they begin tightening up, even spasming. This usually takes a few weeks, but mine came on early and it came on strong. My leg and arm would be racked with cramps and muscle spasms all night long, my fingers curled into a claw and my arm so tight, we'd spend an hour or more every morning just stretching and relaxing it. I had to sleep with a splint on my elbow to straighten it, a molded form on my hand to keep my fingers spread, and a boot to keep my foot flexed. They all got rotated on and off every two hours, all night long.

The hospital bed was state-of-the-art, with an advanced design to prevent bedsores. It literally moved  beneath me every ten to fifteen minutes, so even if I somehow managed to find a comfortable position with everything strapped on my body, the bed would shift and take it from me. It also hummed loudly. I pretty much only slept out of pure exhaustion.

So yeah, it hasn't been a picnic. But it will be gotten through. It was three and a half weeks of sweat, tears, and irritation, but a lot of that is done now. Today, I am home with my kids after 28 days without them. I can walk - slowly, but I can walk. My arm can lift, and I can clench my fist and wave my index finger and pinky. I can sort-of smile and my speech sounds pretty clear unless I'm really tired. I've got a lot more outpatient therapy to go and this is going to be one hell of a hospital  bill. I'll get through that, too.

Thanks for hanging out with me, folks. I got a second shot at this life thing, and I intend to make the most of it.


  1. Been reading since your Divorce Diaries days. As useless as they are, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family!

  2. Sorry to hear all this. Best wishes.

  3. Oh Ellie, I’m just reading all of this now. I’m so sorry!!! I hope you recover well and I hope you’re getting some help!