By Kathy Boncher
"I don't know" was the answer I got every time I asked how long it would take for a stroke patient to recover. When my husband, Steve, suffered a massive stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body, the elusive answers of the doctors, nurses and therapists gave me reason to think they were hiding something from me. But then I met other stroke patients, and although there were some similarities in the way their stroke affected them, there were differences in each one of them too. I learned that in each stroke patient different parts of their brains were damaged, resulting in different disabilities and variables in their recovery process. No wonder I couldn't get a straight answer as to how long it would take for recovery. They truly didn't know... no one did.
The stroke affected my husband's core balance, and he had to re-learn how to sit up by himself. He was so wobbly that three days after his stroke, it took four therapists to help him stand up. But everyday he got stronger from the intensive therapy, and I cried tears of joy the day he was able to walk twelve steps with the assistance of a cane and two therapists. Most stroke patients have extreme fatigue while recovering from stroke. This is normal, because their injured brain needs sleep to heal. Sometimes Steve was so tired that he had difficulty making it through his therapy sessions.
In addition to my husband's paralysis, his speech was slurred. He needed a feeding tube for a time, because his swallowing reflex was greatly affected and he choked on simple foods like jello. After a few weeks, he graduated to pureed foods, and by the time he left the hospital six weeks later, he was eating a normal low-salt diet. However, he had other speech deficits, a condition called dysarthria, that affected the sound and intonation of his voice. It now sounds more monotone and not as deep as it did before.
When he was discharged from the hospital, he was admitted to a nursing home for two months to continue his stroke recovery. However, the therapists there were not as aggressive, nor as skilled in treating stroke patients. But he learned how to climb steps, grasp the fingers of his left hand, move his arm, get in and out of bed, and use the bathroom by himself. After coming home, he continued with home health care and outpatient therapy for several months. He also went to the Cerebral Palsy Aquatic Center for water therapy. Now, I continue to work with him each day at home to help him recover more of his abilities. Our insurance has stopped paying for these therapies, because they feel he has plateaued. At this writing, two years after the stroke Steve had at age 59, he is progressing, but at a slower rate. The slow progress is discouraging to him, and depression is always right at the door.
Pain seems to be a constant companion, mostly in his left shoulder that's been dislocated by the weight of his dangling arm pulling it out of joint, but he wears a GivMohr sling to help correct that. He's also had several seizures which have affected his motivation and drive to get better, so he needs constant encouragement and hope. His arm and hand are not yet functional, but he is regaining more movement in very small increments. Steve can walk by himself about 275 feet with a cane before he tires, and he only uses a wheelchair for distance.
The Stroke Foundation features many new types of rehabilitation that use cutting-edge technology to help stroke survivors recover. Recovery is a life-long process, something stroke patients don't like to hear. They want to recover as quickly as it took for them to lose their abilities. But the rate and degree of their recovery depends on many factors, such as the extent of the brain injury, the success of rehabilitation, and the determination of the stroke survivor. The most improvement in recovery is made within the first 18-24 months after the stroke, so time is of the essence. However, even though the recovery process may slow down, good progress can be made for many years with continued efforts as the brain rewires itself. The key is to never give up.
Kathy Boncher is the wife and caregiver of a 2008 stroke survivor. She offers hope and encouragement to others suffering from similar disabilities. Visit Stroke Survivor Blog where she has documented their stroke recovery journey, and view the videos of her husband's ongoing stroke rehabilitation.
Article Source: strokesurvivorblog.com
Copyright (c) 2010 Kathy Boncher. All Rights Reserved.