While reading over my Facebook entries from the first days of inpatient rehab, I was a little surprised that I described Strokeman as being highly motivated and working like a farm horse. I forgot that it started out that way. He did want to walk so badly! He could not wait to get started on the therapies that would get him there. It didn’t last. The hill was so steep, and the gains so slow, that it soon wearied him. But in the spirit of Scarlett from Gone With the Wind, let’s not think about that right now.
Instead, I would like to share with you excerpts from a note that was entitled, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.” The following is from that post:
There are so many parts of our daily lives that our brains and muscles do without us even being conscious of it. Watching Strokeman try to re-learn these things today really brought that home. For instance:
1. When you read, do you have to remind yourself at the end of each line to make your eyes go all the way back to the left of the page and down a line? When you look at a picture, do you have to remind yourself that there is another half of the page to your left? Strokeman has to remind himself of this every time. The good news is that he reminds himself now, instead of having to be reminded by the therapist. Next time you are looking at a book or reading, take a moment to marvel at the way your eyes automatically scan from left to right to take in all the information without you having to “think” about it. Fearfully and Wonderfully made!
2. When you go from sitting to standing, do you have to think about keeping your body centered over your feet, your back straight, your feet facing forward, your shoulders over your hips, your head up? So many movements and balances go into just standing up! And then you have to shift weight to one leg, so you can lift the other, while keeping your head straight, your hips over your legs, your shoulders back and knees locked. Then, you have to shift all that weight to the other side, keeping everything else where it belongs so that you can lift the other leg. That would be one step. All that is done, without even thinking about it! Strokeman has to keep all those things in the forefront of his mind, watching himself in a mirror, just to keep from falling over. And today, he did better than yesterday, and though he still has to make his brain think about it, his brain is learning to do all this again, either by waking up sleeping parts, or by forging new pathways in the brain. Fearfully and wonderfully made!
3. How about taking a glass in your hand and pouring the contents out? Do you have to think about making your hand go through those motions, mentally willing each muscle to do it’s job? Strokeman does. And every day we see a tiny gain in the amount of control he has over his arm muscles. I am typing away at a keyboard without even having to consider the number of muscles it takes. Fearfully and wonderfully made!
4. Finally, there is that cognitive component. Not only does the brain have to scan from left to right and read all the words in the right order (compensating for some vision loss), but then it has to come up with the answer to the question, find the right spot, and write the answer. For Strokeman, who used to teach math to his kids, design software for unmanned airplanes and remotely guided missiles, these tasks now take an amazing amount of energy. So much so that his mouth muscles start relaxing and his body loses its center and starts listing to the left. I never thought about all the muscles that are working to keep me upright and together while I think through a problem. Fearfully and wonderfully made!
I can’t express how proud I am of this man for going down to therapy every day and working like a farm horse to make these little gains. Learning to walk the first time is a monumental occasion, but even in that there is much that the mind learns on a subconscious level. There isn’t much in Strokeman’s life right now that is rote. Everything takes mental and physical effort. And yet, what a testimony to a great Creator that his brain can recover from such a violent event to relearn all these things. Fearfully and wonderfully made!
As you can see, we had much work to do. When Strokeman wasn’t at therapy, he was sleeping or eating. He continued to want me by his side at all times, so they moved a cot into his room for me to sleep on and for the next month I rarely left the hospital. When he slept, I tried to sleep as well. He kept the TV on at all times, and there was often noise going on outside the door. I began to sink into a state of exhaustion. I kept thinking they would tell me they needed me to go home, and finally they did. But that is a story for another day.