My recovery journey began two years ago on the stroke rehab ward at Bromsgrove Hospital. The first stage involved getting me to wash and shave. This wasn’t too bad. Then I was taught to stand. After that physio took me down the gym every morning to learn to walk between parallel rails. It seemed to take ages. Then I was encouraged to tie my shoelaces, but my left hand was very unsteady and I kept trying to do it the wrong way. Then it clicked and I remembered how to do it. Then I was given a walking frame and ‘made’ to walk to the gym by myself. Then came the exercise bike, then the stairs and, after all that, I was allowed home. The above took a month, but it seemed an eternity.
Once home, the Community Stroke Team came daily for a month. They gave me arm and hand exercises and taught me to move around the kitchen, squat and take things out of the fridge and cupboards. Age UK put an extra stair rail in and a seat in the shower upstairs. The Community Team taught me to go upstairs and, moving backwards at first, downstairs. I was taught how to get in and out of the shower, lower the seat and shower. They encouraged me to also use my frame outdoors. This involved overcoming fear and then starting to walk with the frame. This was painfully slow, but, after three months, I could use the frame to go down the road and back.
Then I decided I could probably cook again if I tried hard enough. I broke the task of making a cake into easy stages and, resting in between, accomplished this. I was then referred back to my old hospital for more physio...using the balance machine, using a stick to walk down the corridor and back and lots of hand exercises, culminating in using tweezers to pick up peas. At home, I found a way to put the wheely bins out by balancing them against my body and using their motion to help me totter down the drive. With difficulty, I learned to peg out clothes again (a task that has become easier and enjoyable) and built up my walking. All this took a year.
When my physio finished, I knew I had to go on exercising and joined two local exercise groups for the over 60s. There I built up muscle in my weak left leg and seated Tai Chi at the end of each session has stabilised the hand and arm. At home, I treated myself to a new food processor with a dough hook and made bread and pastry. I knead the dough a little to help exercise my weak hand and also exercise it by rolling out pastry. Then I devised a way to change the duvet and have got that down from forty five minutes to thirty minutes. This has been the main focus of year two.
Throughout the two years, post stroke fatigue also had to be battled and it still hits me every day at noon and requires an hour in bed. I have also had two cataract operations, two teeth out and got two years older. I have fallen a few times, smashed crockery, feared death and told my partner early on to ‘put me in a care home’ (he didn’t). Luckily, he stands no nonsense, made me do things and tells me off if I feel sorry for myself. We can also go on short breaks, but I still cannot go anywhere under my own steam and need help out of doors in unfamiliar places and going downhill.
All stages-of my recovery have taken grit, determination, humour, bloody mindedness, fear, anxiety, depression and lots of mistakes. I have learned patience, humility and also care for others worse off than myself. I see myself as still improving and set myself new goals and challenges. You have to adapt, but you can do things. For example, today I picked apples from our small tree using a a carrier bag. I move slowly, I am careful with steps and I conserve energy as much as possible, but I do it. I also make sure my partner has time away from me, but that is usually when I rest. I cannot yet carry food on trays, but I can wash up crockery. A new dish washer is also an asset, since I am also getting older.
I think I have summarised my road to recovery, and it has been longer than expected and full of twists and turns. I am now forging onwards and hope to be pleasantly surprised by what is round the next corner. We can do it!