There was much to be angry about when the stroke happened, but I chose acceptance as the correct response because, I reasoned, there was nothing to be done except deal with the stroke and try to recover.
There was one exception: my right arm and hand were totally paralyzed. Everything from my shoulder down to my pinky finger was dead. I could try to move my hand or move my fingers, or my forearm, but nothing happened.
I’m right-handed so this was a big problem. I’ll never forget looking at the hand, or looking at the forearm and saying, “You’re useless, you’re just useless!” Well, I figured I could put my watch on my right wrist
I couldn’t move anything, but I could feel when people touched me and that gave me hope that there was some life there. Then one day about two weeks into my stay in the Dominican Acute Rehab Unit my index finger moved – just a little bit – but it moved! I massaged it every day after that, and it moved some more.
Then one day I was scheduled for a much-needed bath when an occupational therapist named Sarah came in. She asked how I was, and I told her, “Fine, except I wish somebody would look at my hand.”
She looked at it and said, ‘’Oh, I can work on that.” Sarah had trained at the Neuro-Ifrah Center in Los Gatos and knew massage techniques that would help my hand and arm. She went down the hall to retrieve her equipment and got to work.
When she was done my arm and hand were vibrating, indicating something was going on. My physical therapist, Sally was worried, but it felt better, and from that day until the end of my stay at Dominican ARU, Sarah visited every day.
By the time I went home, my arm had moved quite a bit, and I began to have hope that my hand would recover. It was cranky about it and would only get into certain positions – none of them useful – but it was on the move.
I contacted Sarah and she has come to my home once a week since then. The progress is slow because the hand is so complicated, and it comes in spurts. For example, one morning I woke up to find my pinky happily moving in almost its full range, and another morning saw my thumb move, and on a miraculous morning saw my fingers spread out.
Meanwhile the arm continues to go from being bent at the elbow to straight with Sarah’s work and the assistance of Pete, my assigned the occupational therapist whose stretches and exercises are painful but helpful. A lot of the pain is from prior shoulder injuries, but the exercises and stretches do make slow, steady progress.
About two months later I can report that my index finger, pinky, and my thumb, all have full range of motion, and the other two fingers are starting to move. The fingers can spread, and I can pick small items up and drop them. The arm does not willingly go straight, but it’s slightly less cranky about it by the day.
I must keep in mind that as of this writing the stroke happened about 4 months ago, and my arm and hand were completely paralyzed. Progress is slow, but steady and I am grateful to Sarah and Pete for their great work.
By the way, I never did get that bath.