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Stroke Survivor - female
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Everything posted by lwisman

  1. lwisman

    Codi Braun

    From the time I was born on August 29, 1988 until 7th grade, I went to bible school every summer. I also went to church on holidays, like Christmas, and Easter, but that was it. I didn
  2. lwisman

    Angela Berg Marshall

    From the album: Member Stories

    As they struggle through their recovery, there are very few stroke survivors who don’t have chance to work with specialized health care professionals such as occupational therapists, speech therapists, balance therapists and, of course, physical therapists. These very special health care providers come to our aid when we need it most, after a stroke has knocked us down and robbed us of normal functioning. Many of us, literally, cannot move forward in our recovery without them. But what happens when a member of this critical medical team has their own stroke? Angela Berg Marshall is a Physical Therapist who experienced the unthinkable at a very unthinkable age (24 years old), but who persevered and recovered her life, as well as her professional status as a therapist. Angela’s story begins when she was a child. As Angela was growing up, she was totally unaware that she had a ticking time bomb in the left side of her brain: a massive AVM (arteriovenous malformation / huge tangle of blood vessels), had formed there when she was still in her mother’s womb. On February 15, 2001, that tangle of blood vessels ruptured and Angela experienced a hemorrhagic stroke, which left her with partial paralysis and impaired functioning on the right side of her body, as well as compromised balance. At the time of her event, Angela had been a physical therapist for only a handful of years. She was a wide-eyed, eager 24-year-old who was dedicated to helping others; she says that she took particular pride in helping stroke survivors to reach their recovery goals. Ironically, she now had to lean on the shoulders of other dedicated therapy professionals to achieve her own stroke recovery milestones. Immediately after her stroke, Angela was admitted to Genesis Medical Center in Davenport, Iowa, and spent a total of eight weeks there. This included time in the intensive care unit, as well as time spent on physical, occupational and speech therapies. She had to relearn to do the most ordinary things, such as dressing and feeding herself, and other activities of daily living that one takes for granted. She also had to relearn to walk properly with the assistance of a brace for her right ankle and foot. Once she was discharged from the hospital, Angela continued her recovery as an outpatient for an additional two months of speech therapy, plus another two years of physical and occupational therapy, until she relocated from Iowa to Indiana. During that time, and for two more years beyond that, Angela was on hiatus from her PT career. She used this opportunity to not only continue her post-stroke recovery, but to reassess what she wanted to do next with her life. Ultimately, she decided that she still had a lot to offer people as a Physical Therapist, so she set her mind to it, worked long and hard, and finally re-passed her PT licensure exam in 2005. Because of her massive stroke, Angela now functions as a “disabled therapist”, which means that she has to utilize her entire body to accomplish the same tasks that an “able-bodied” Physical Therapist can easily do. Angela continues to wear the brace for support and stability of her right ankle/foot and she has no functional use of her right hand. At the time of her stroke, Angela says that using her left side to do everything was not only a physical but a psychological challenge, as well. As a highly-trained Physical Therapist, she was used to helping others overcome their own post-stroke limitations, but now she could see first hand just how defeating it could be trying to do things with (essentially) one hand tied behind your back. This has provided Angela with an unexpected benefit, by helping her to better see things from her patients’ perspective. Now sixteen years out from her stroke, some lingering memory deficits and limited right arm function are more likely to challenge her psychologically. Other than walking her dog every day, Angela says she doesn’t do any special exercises or activities. And, even though she did at one time, she no longer has a chance to network regularly with other stroke survivors (although, during her time at the Genesis Medical outpatient facility in Iowa, she organized a stroke resource center with a Social Worker there). Angela doesn’t feel that her stroke has changed her very much; she says she continues to be a positive and outgoing person. However, she also feels that some her pre-stroke “quirks” are much more heightened now. Angela says that she is more impulsive during conversations, which can lead others to feel she isn't fully "listening" or that she is speaking (or acting) without thinking. According to Angela, re-passing the Physical Therapist licensure exam has been her greatest achievement since her stroke. She says that the majority of her patients are touched by her story, and as a result, are more open to working with her since she’s been on both sides of the therapy world. With this in mind, she feels that her stroke has been a blessing in disguise. And, although Angela is a bit far along in her post-stroke journey and recovery, she now has someone to share her victories with: about two and a half years ago, Angela finally found love and got married. She wants to remind other stroke survivors that there is no "cure" for post-stroke residuals, and that stroke recovery actually takes a life time. But, she also says that no matter how extensive or how mild the stroke, there’s still something you can always be positive about: you!! Anyone who wishes to contact Angela Berg Marshall can do so via the Stroke Network. Her user ID is: angb.
  3. lwisman

    Member Stories

    Member Stories from StrokeNet Newsletter
  4. lwisman

    Mike Purdy

    From the album: Member Stories

    If there’s anything that Mike Purdy loves it’s his vintage Mustang. He loves driving it around and showing it off. So, it’s no wonder that after his devastating stroke in 2008 that he wanted to get down to business and regain the ability to drive it once again. For thirty years, Mike was a DJ on many different radio stations in, and around, the Seattle, Washington, area. He loved his job and the excitement that it brought to his life. But all of that changed in July, 2008. The first sign of trouble was when Mike, who was home alone, suddenly lost the sight in his left eye. Alarmed, he drove himself to the emergency room of his local hospital, but when he got there, he was misdiagnosed and sent back home. After he got back to his house, he decided to work out on his treadmill. However, after walking for a bit, his stroke fully kicked in and fifty eight year old Mike collapsed and lay helpless on the floor for hours. When his daughter finally came home, she found Mike incapacitated and called 911. Mike was rushed to Swedish Hospital’s Cherry Hill Campus, in Seattle, Washington. He remained in the intensive care unit for three days, and then he was transferred to their rehab unit for physical, occupational and speech therapy. After a stint of in-patient rehab, Mike continued his therapies as an outpatient at Valley Medical Center in Renton, WA. Once the dust settled post-rehab, Mike was still left with right-sided paralysis, aphasia and blindness in his left eye. (One unusual sidebar: Mike says that although he’s been paralyzed on the right for the past eight years, a bit of movement seems to be returning to that side. He’s not sure where this will ultimately go.) But, his residuals didn’t slow him down. Mike worked really hard to regain his driving ability. As testimony to his motivation, he was finally able to get behind the wheel again in 2011 and he never looked back. Not surprisingly, Mike’s current life is an interesting mix of activities that keep him very busy. He takes his vintage Mustang to a couple of car shows each year, which is a heck of a lot of fun and brings him much satisfaction. Mike’s best placement to date: he entered his car in a show, back in 2010, and won an award for best '86-'87 Mustang. Granted, Mike’s was the only entry in that category, but, hey, he won! Mike also maintains his own website at 9.spot.club. To see his website and to learn more about him, click on the following link: http://www.9spot.club/untitled-c1bsu Mike says that building and maintaining the site has been very rewarding, and that he’ll be happy to provide anyone with starter tips, if they’re interested in building one of their own. In addition to his website and his vintage car, Mike spends his time working on a variety of other projects. He collects records, and converts songs to an electronic format so that they can be stored on mini disks. He says he also likes to help his friends out whenever he can. Right now, he’s working with several friends’ computers archiving photographs onto CD’s. And, Mike participates regularly in a special activity that has changed his whole outlook: meditation. He says that as he gets better at it, he feels better. And apparently it’s enabled Mike to see things in a different light. He’s much more appreciative of what he’s regained since his stroke. He says that he knows he could be in a wheelchair, so he’s thankful that he can still walk and drive. As his perspective has changed, Mike has come to realize something else: while a stroke can be devastating, you have the chance to get better and better. Many other illnesses and conditions don’t provide that opportunity. He’s also become more aware of how important it is to thank one’s caregivers and wants to remind survivors to be grateful for any help that they receive. Mike no longer works as a DJ, but he says that not being employed isn’t all that bad. Though he does get a little bored from time to time, it’s minimal. Socializing takes a little of the sting out of not being able to work regularly. Among other things, Mike goes to breakfast once a week with his long-time friend, Gary, and afterwards they play cards. He also attends meetings once a month at a Young Stroke Survivors Support Group in Seattle. Mike has the next act in his life all figured out. He wrote two screenplays that are his main focus now. The first one is finished, and is posted on-line. The second one needs to be completed. As such, Mike is looking for a writer to assist him in this enterprise. Anyone who wants to work with Mike on the screenplay, or anyone who wishes to otherwise network with Mike, can reach him via the Stroke Network. His user ID is 9spot.
  5. lwisman

    Angie Szymanski

    From the album: Member Stories

    It’s the most ordinary of things that sometimes turn out to be the most extraordinary of circumstances. Angie Szymanski found that out on October 4th, 2003. Angie was a young, 36-year-old kindergarten teacher with a young adult’s typically busy schedule, but her world was about to change dramatically, in the most unexpected place. She was simply going about her business, getting ready for her day by taking a shower, when midway through, she had an ischemic stroke on the left side of her brain. Angie’s family found her incapacitated, and called for help. The responding emergency medical technicians attempted to stabilize her as she was rushed to Ocala Regional Medical Center, in Ocala, Florida. There, they administered TPA (tissue plasminogen activator) to Angie to dissolve the clot that was blocking a main artery. Doctors told Angie’s husband, “Ski”, that she had a 50/50 chance to survive at this point. But, Angie bucked the odds. The clot was resolved, and after spending one week in Ocala Regional, she was transferred to Univ. of Florida Health Shands Hospital, in Gainesville, Florida, to continue her acute care hospitalization for another four days. However, her initial recovery came at a cost. Angie now had expressive aphasia, a paralyzed right arm and a right-sided foot drop. She had to use a wheelchair because her balance was severely impaired, and she was too weak to walk. So, Angie entered UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital in Gainesville to begin six grueling weeks of physical, occupational, speech and balance therapies to recover what physical capacities that she could. When she left Shands Rehab as an in-patient, Angie continued out-patient therapy there, and at another facility, Town and Country Physical Therapy, in Ocala, Florida, for an additional one and one half years. She also attended Geril Therapy (a rehab facility) in Ocala, for training and therapy using the Bioness® Saebo device. When she was ready, Angie returned to Shands Rehab Hospital for two weeks of drivers training, to regain her driving privileges, and to learn how to drive a modified van with a steering wheel knob and special foot pedal. All in all, it took her nearly two years to recover to where she is today. Angie says that in the first few months post-stroke, she experienced depression, and was psychologically crushed at having to give up both her teaching position (identity / purpose) and her driver’s license (mobility / freedom). She felt somewhat helpless that her whole life had changed, literally, overnight. But, Angie has a deep, abiding faith in God, who sustained her throughout her darkest post-stroke times and continues to give her comfort and strength every day, particularly when she feels down or overwhelmed. Angie also says that her husband, “Ski”, is her “rock”; he has stuck with her throughout all the stroke turmoil and its aftermath. As a result of her stroke, Angie had to retire from teaching kindergarten, so she concentrated on raising her two children (both of whom are now grown up): Alyssa, who is now married, and Josiah, a former Marine, who is now a student at University of South Florida, in Tampa. In fact, Angie feels that her greatest post-stroke achievement has been to see her kids grow up and become capable young adults, which has brought her much joy. There are other post-stroke accomplishments that Angie values: regaining her driving rights, and being able to drive a modified van; being able to pack away her wheelchair (although she still walks with a limp); and being able to talk, despite still having aphasia. And, in addition to regaining certain physical functions, Angie’s outlook has also changed over time. She now sees herself as a survivor, not as a victim. As such, she goes to the University of Florida twice a year to work with PT and OT therapists-in-training, and becomes a “guinea pig" for their students, giving them the opportunity to practice on a real stroke survivor. She says that this also gives her the opportunity to tell her story which, she says, is “a cool thing!” Angie used to have more networking opportunities when she belonged to a stroke survivor’s group in Ocala, however, the group disbanded. She still “networks” informally with former group members whenever she sees them around town. And, she likes to educate people about stroke whenever she can, such as when she travels or even when she’s just out and about. She tries to put these new contacts on her Facebook page, so that she can keep them up to date. In an unusual twist of fate, a few months back, Angie found herself helping out with another stroke survivor, her 59-year-old uncle, who had a stroke event near the end of 2016. She helped drive her parents where they needed to be, as her uncle recovered in the hospital, and was subsequently discharged to her parent’s care. Her uncle’s circumstances gave her new insight into what her immediate family experienced when she had her own stroke. Nowadays, Angie enjoys traveling with her husband, and is looking forward to becoming a grandmother in the future. She continues to manage her stroke residuals by doing special shoulder subluxation exercises, and exercises to offset her right-arm spasticity. Angie has some parting advice and “food-for-thought” for other stroke survivors: Stroke recovery is hard work, the hardest that you will ever do, but… Don't give up hope; keep plugging away! Try to surround yourself with good friends or support people. Believe that God let you survive to give hope to other people. Volunteer for something that you are good at; focus less on yourself. Angie Szymanski can be reached via the Stroke Network. Her user ID is: angies
  6. lwisman

    Sorry for your loss. It is difficult when a much loved pet dies. Take care.
  7. lwisman

    Thanks for sharing Sue.
  8. lwisman

    This and That

    It is been a while since I have blogged. Since I last blogged my sister went on a 10 day retreat to Colorado. Jade the cat and I enjoyed ourselves. The bad news was that just before Marge left I baked a ham, put a lot of slices in the freezer, and made ham and beans. The ham and beans were really good, but Marge left town. After getting really tired of ham and beans I froze a large cottage cheese container (three pound container.) She is enjoying them now! Keys. About a month ago the keys for the shed in the backyard went missing. We looked everywhere. Had just about decided to find someone to cut the lock. The other key, which had been missing, is the second key to my car. Again, every pants and jacket pocket was checked. Then one day I was cleaning out my pouch and found the car key. It had migrated to the very bottom. I have been in the pouch countless times, but never all the way to the bottom. Hmm…an idea worth checking out for the shed key. A friend is currently in the process of making us a replacement for the kitchen table cover – the current one is waterproof and is elasticized – they no longer sell them big enough. Anyway, when Pat came to get the old one (with hole) for a pattern there was stuff on the table. Sure enough the keys had fallen into an empty flower pot under the table. Just dig deep…. While Marge was gone I decided to put my 2017 village sticker on my car – deadline was April 30. I counted the stickers already there –six— and decided there really was not room for anymore. So I backed the car out of the garage so I had better light and went out with goo gone, razor blade, paper towels and vinegar water (to get rid of the goo gone). After a lot of elbow grease I removed three old stickers. Decided the other three could come off next year. After cleaning up with the vinegar water I put the 2017 sticker on. While I was out Sara, who lives directly across the street from us, came over to check on me. If you ever want to know what is happening in our neighborhood,, just ask Sara! Speaking of neighbors the four kids who just moved in next door were all out in the backyard playing late one afternoon this week. Jade the cat lay on her perch in the window and watched them for the longest time. Thursday I was up at 6 am to finish getting stuff together before cleaning lady, who was scheduled to come at 8. No it was not all cleaning, LOL. Anyway the person who runs the cleaning service called at 7:15 to say the cleaning lady would not be at our house until 11:30. Then at 10:15 the hair dresser called because we had 10 and 10:30 appts to have our hair cut. She said if we could get there by 10:30 she could still do both of them. We were there at 10:29. So it was a crazy day. But, the house is clean! Friday morning I woke up and immediately noticed pain in my left little finger. It was swollen, but obviously the problem was under the nail. No way to get to it. I washed it well and put on antibiotic cream. It was not helping. Figured the antibiotic cream was tainted. Saturday morning the finger no longer throbbed, but there was still pain when it was bumped. So at 8:05 I was backing out of the driveway to drive to Walgreens (about a mile from us.) Bought new cream. Within 30 minutes after putting it on I could tell the difference. Now there is only slight pain when it is bumped. Still some swelling and redness. But, looks like it is on the way to healing. My third bread machine (in twenty years) has died. Of course it died while I was making bread. This first happened a few weeks ago. I gave the machine a good cleaning and it started working again. Then it happened again this morning. Anyway I have not actually used a bread machine for baking the bread for years. I only use the dough setting and then bake in the oven. I think it both tastes and looks better. I took the ingredients from the bread machine pan and used the dough hook on my stand mixer. The bread is ok, but not near as nice as with the machine doing the kneading and heat control. Then I got on the internet and learned a lot about using a dough hook. So I think I will experiment a bit. I have thought for years a bread machine was more than I needed, but have not seen a good alternative. We shall see. Sun is shining today. Temps are only in the 50s. But after days of rain this is a nice change.
  9. lwisman

    Making your own is a great idea. I make our granola. That way I know what is going into the mixture. I found three recipes online and started experimenting. Within three tries I had a formula that works well for us. Good luck!
  10. lwisman

    Linda Agerbak

    From the album: Member Stories

    Up until she retired, Linda Agerbak had a fascinating, adventurous career that most people would envy. For over thirty five years, Linda lived and worked abroad in many exciting and diverse places: the United Kingdom, West Africa, Singapore, Malaysia, France and Lebanon. Among other things, she was a journalist, taught English classes and conflict resolution, worked at Oxford University Press, did research on conflict at an international aid agency and set up a mediation service in Wales. And, she did all these things while raising three children. However, after thirty five-plus years of traveling the world, she was ready for a change. She returned to live in the US, got a certificate in Ornamental Horticulture and began work as a landscape gardener in California. She was able to concentrate on another role as well, that of grandmother to her seven grandchildren. In July, 2013, Linda was visiting Boston to help her daughter with her new baby boy. Little did she know that, while there, her life would change forever. At that time, Boston was in the midst of a heat wave. Linda says she must have become dehydrated after taking the baby for his morning walk, because she began to pant. To cool off, she took a shower then lay down to rest. By the next morning, Linda felt a bit improved, so she decided to chat with her daughter on the front porch. They were in the middle of talking when, all of a sudden, Linda couldn’t speak. Luckily, her son was there so that he could rush Linda to Mt. Auburn Hospital, an acute care facility in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Within thirty minutes, she was under the care of a neurologist, who determined that she had an ischemic stroke on the right side of her brain. Her left side was now paralyzed and she couldn’t speak properly. Linda’s recovery and rehabilitation period was fairly lengthy. She stayed at Mt. Auburn for one week, until she was stable. She began two and one half years of rehabilitation that included four weeks at New England Rehab Hospital, in Woburn, Mass., a month at Meadowgreen Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, in nearby Waltham, four weeks of at-home therapy, using visiting therapists, and, finally, two years of therapy as an out-patient, back at New England Rehab Hospital. During that time, she received standard physical, occupational, balance and speech therapies. But, she also had Botox® injections, and used a Saebo Stretch® and a Saebo Reach®, plus ValuTrode® Neuro-stimulation electrodes, all on her left hand, and all of which had minimal effect. From a psychological standpoint, for the first months after her event, it was hard for Linda to see that her stroke was more than just a “bump in the road.” In the end, she finally accepted that this was a permanent, life-changing event. But her “new normal” doesn’t come without a hitch. She says that on the inside, she feels “whole.” But, because her fingers remain paralyzed on her left hand, she still has speech difficulties and she walks with a pronounced limp, Linda feels that people view her as a “cripple.” She’s finally able to get around without a wheelchair, and she’s able to walk around the house without a cane, but these mobility successes haven’t diminished her feeling that people continue to perceive her as “damaged.” Linda says that her stroke made her see other things differently. Since she feels she could die at any moment, she’s become very aware of unfinished business, so she made a special effort to make peace with her difficult older sister, which provided her with a sense of closure. But, it isn’t all bad. Linda knows that her “positives” outweigh her “negatives.” She says she’s grateful to be alive, and to be able to think and feel. She can’t begin to emphasize enough how her family, friends and therapists contributed to her getting her life back. In particular, her husband of fifty-one years, along with her three children, provided ongoing help and encouragement to get Linda back on her feet. She also credits her friends and members of her Quaker Meeting group with aiding in her recovery. It’s been three years since her stroke, and now, Linda fills her days with activities that enhance the quality of her life. She takes courses at her local Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, paints with watercolors, and helps out at her Quaker Meeting. She keeps physically active by going to the gym three times a week, and takes a walk on the other days. Gardening still plays a part in Linda’s life: she tends two window box planters. She’s convinced that physical labor and vocational skills, such as gardening and carpentry, are an essential part of life, and that even a simple window box can help one stay connected to the earth. And, like many stroke survivors, Linda has an on-going post-stroke goal. Hers is to be able to swing her arms when she walks. She still has to move her arms intentionally, but would like this process to become automatic. Three years out from her stroke, Linda has had adequate time to digest what happened to her, and to refine her philosophy on life and the recovery process. She points out that the brain is very “plastic”, so the sky’s the limit in stroke recovery. She advises stroke survivors to keep moving, to not be too proud to accept help and to learn from others, and to stay connected to the important people in their lives. Last of all, she suggests that survivors read the book “After a Stroke: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier,” by Cleo Hutton, which she feels provided her with many useful strategies. Linda would like to network with other stroke survivors. Anyone who wishes to contact her can do so via the Stroke Network. Her userid is: lagerbak Editor’s Note: Read The Stroke Network review of 300 Tips
  11. lwisman


  12. lwisman

    Happy Anniversary

    Monday (March 6) was the 20th anniversary of my brainstem cerebral hemorrhage. It is sometimes hard to believe it was 20 years ago. I am 66, so it is a significant part of my life. I have come a really long ways since 1997. Like many, there were no stroke risk factors in my history. The doctors did some testing, but finally declared the reason for the hemorrhage was not known. That was reassuring and scary at the same time. It is my understanding that if you have a brainstem stroke the chances of dying within a month are 90%. Needless to same I am very glad I beat the odds. I am sure I beat the odds partly because I am a very stubborn person! I also was willing to put in the many hours of therapy. Over the years I have also done a fair amount of research and tried various alternatives to promote healing. There is no panacea, but almost anything has helped. When I saw my doctor at the end of February she suggested therapy because I have problems with falling. When I first had my stroke I had no balance. It has increased, but I walk with a rollator. I sometimes walk inside my house (where everyone including the cat knows not to run into me, walk under my feet, etc.) But, I use the rollator 99% of the time. For the first time in 19 years I am back in therapy. I have completed four of ten sessions. Mostly the therapist is out to strengthen my legs and hips. I am still tired from my last session 24 hours ago! She had me walking on a treadmill yesterday. I did not think I would ever get on a treadmill again, not sure if my feet could keep up. It went very slow and I had a therapy belt around me so the therapist (who was also within arm’s reach of the off button) could help. It went ok. The house next door to us in sold after being on the market for two weeks. My sister saw Dan the old owner this morning at Costco. I read the average in the Chicago market right now is 84 days. So they were very lucky. They did have house totally repainted and new carpeting laid. So it is ready to move into. He said the family has four kids. It is not that big of a house! Last Saturday a gentleman knocked on our door saying he was talking to the neighbors because they were considering making an offer on the house next door. He wanted to know about flooding. I explained that because it has been wetter than usual the last few years the water table has risen. The only time we had a flood was when our sump pump died. We now have a backup sump pump that (so they say) sounds an alarm when it goes on. It has not turned itself on in four years. Another house on our block sold after being on the market for months. They have had lots of repair trucks and a garbage bin in the driveway for over a month. The people living there before were an older couple, who lived there when we moved in in 1999. I suspect it had been a while since improvements were made. There are people on our block who have lived her 30+ years. We had part of our privacy (one wall) replaced this week. A section had blown down. They now make privacy fences with metal posts covered in wood. That way they do not rot. A few years ago our neighbors on that side (not the house which just sold) had a party and people were leaning against our fence. Not a good thing. I wish these folk would move! Next Friday is St Patrick’s Day. My sister insists we have corn beef and cabbage. As far as I know we have no Irish ancestry. I did suggest that we wait until next week to actually buy the corn beef. Friday is our usual grocery shopping day. I talked with an old friend this week. When we lived in the same city we always went out for lunch on International Women’s Day. I thought that was a good excuse to call her. She was living with her sister-in-law and niece, but both died last year. So it is a sad time for her. She was in Concord NH. She has now moved to Portland, Maine where both of her children live. We have eaten most of our Girl Scout cookies. I know you can now buy and have them sent to servicemen overseas. But, they are a tradition and even though I would not eat them often if they were always available, they are a nice treat. We are having strange weather. We have not had an accumulating snow since Dec 17 which is very odd. We had had a few days with flakes, including yesterday. Temps have been from 20 – 70 in the last month. The daffodils are up. Hopefully it will not get too cold for them. But, daffodils are hardy and they are closed to the house. Hope all is going well with you. Spring in almost here (in the northern hemisphere!)
  13. lwisman

    I am glad you and Sarah enjoyed yourselves. I have not visited Pearl Harbor, but my parents did years ago. My Mother's brother was MIA during the Korean War and his name is on the memorial. Good to know you arrived home safely. My sister and I went to Australia in 2005. Yes, it is a long ways. We visited a number of friends and had a good time. I lived in Brussels for 10 years and made that trip many times. It is more difficult going to Europe from US than to Australia. The time difference is SO different from Australia that jet lag was not as bad. Who knew?
  14. lwisman

    Let it Snow!!

    The first snow of the season came on Sunday December 4. When I left home at 8:30 am there was no snow. When I came out of the building at 10:30 my car was covered with snow. Of course, the snow removal tool was not in the car. So I used my hand (in glove) to wipe the snow off the back window. The wind shield wipers and hot air vents finished the snow removal job. There is still some on the ground almost a week later. The temperature has dropped to the teens. We are supposed to have more snow this Saturday, Sunday and Monday. By Monday we are supposed to have received a total of ten inches over the weekend. Then the temps continue the teens with wind chill in the single digits. Time to stay home. This cold weather will apparently stick around for the next two weeks or so. Bummer. One bit of good news is that we have hired a snow removal service. In past years my sister (76) and our neighbor across the street (83) have removed the snow. He died this summer. Neither should have removing snow for several years. On Monday evening I went to a meeting. When I came home Marge was in the living room where she could see the front door. She said Jade the cat was sitting on the couch. When Jade heard the garage door open she jumped down heading to the front door. Smarter than the average cat. I finished ordering Christmas gifts this week. Isn’t internet shopping great? No crowds! On Tuesday we picked out and had our tree delivered. We discovered a couple of years ago that there is a store not far from us who will not only deliver but bring the tree inside and set it up in the tree stand. This is a whole lot cheaper than therapy if one got hurt. Plus it is a whole lot easier! You do have to take it down, but that is easier than putting up. Marge really likes the smell of a real tree. On Wednesday we decorated the tree and put up other decorations. I dropped one of the gadgets for hanging a Christmas stocking. Glued it back together. So far, so good. Sorted through the cat toy box to see what needs help. I threw out one fuzzy mouse which had lost its tail. Several toys went into the washer of Thursday. They faired ok. Replenished catnip in the toys. I discovered that I had placed several toys in the catnip. Jade was happy to have some toys saturated with catnip. I used to raise catnip outside in the summer. A few years ago a stray cat got into it and made a mess. Decided I would just buy catnip as needed. Jade does not actually go “crazy” over catnip. She is drawn to it, however. It actually calms her. Strange. On Thursday I made brownies. I was asked to make three dozen cookies for a funeral at my church on Saturday. We had cookies left from Thanksgiving (2 dozen) so I froze them. Added the brownies to the cookies. Next week I make cookies for the church again. Every year we package homemade cookies and sell boxes. They are very popular. Some people give as gifts. Others are just glad they do not have to make cookies! Usually we make about $700 which goes to missions. I will have to admit that I bought a box years ago. The problem is that I am a snob (LOL). If you are going to eat cookies I think you should use quality ingredients – like real butter and good quality chocolate. We decided that we were not interested in eating them – rather get the calories another way. Put the cookies out for the animals. The opossum particularly seemed to enjoy. On Friday my sister left at 7:30 am to take her car in to the shop. A red light (I don’t remember which one) came on so she called and they said to bring it in. She stopped on the way home and delivered my cookies to the church. She noted that the preschool kids were showing up so the place was quite busy. Friday morning the snow (which the weather folk said would come on Saturday) began. Very light small flakes. The snow last week was huge flakes. So it goes. Marge went to the grocery store. It is now 3:30 on Saturday and no snow yet. It is supposed to start some time this afternoon. Hope everyone is having a good Holiday season. Take care!!
  15. lwisman

    Gearing Up!

    It is fall and we are headed into winter. So it is time to get stuff done before the weather gets nasty. Nothing like making a doctor’s appointment and then be faced by snow! This week I saw a neurosurgeon. I had not seen one seen one since 1998. In 1998 I was told me I no longer needed a neurosurgeon. He (who did my surgery) has probably retired, and I have moved. In 2010 part of the shunt put in my head in 1997 migrated to my abdomen. It was removed. The other part of the shunt has migrated four inches and is part way down my scalp. My regular doctor was suddenly convinced I should see a neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon said removing could cause more harm than good (no surprise) and I should come back in a year. My sister was going to take me but had forgotten so was not back yet from her Weds morning meeting. So I drove myself. It was raining really hard and it was a 20 minute drive. My blood pressure was up – again no surprise. I also got my flu shot this week. Next week is dentist and mammogram. I think that is it medically for a while. We also saw the estate lawyer this week. Both of us have a will that is over ten years old. We decided since we are not getting an younger we should see a lawyer to be sure everything is in order. We have joint assents so we needed to see at the same time. My car goes in for inspection on Nov 2. So it will also be ready for winter. Early voted on Tuesday. I am a real fan of early voting. It is much, much easier. My polling place (a school) advertises it is handicapped accessible. But, you have to have someone else go it and ask for a guard to take the handicapped person to an accessible entrance. Otherwise there are steps. I find it had to believe that there are still undecided voters. I’ve known for months who I was voting for. I did go online and printed the ballot. It was very long and included lots and lots of judges. I went to the state bar association to get data. I am really tired of the battling ads. Geesh. They are obviously politically motivated often with skewed data. Our governor spent $74 million of his own money on ads. Eighty percent of the ads are for people not on a specific ballot – we even have dueling ads from another state. What a waste of money. My sister has nine political bumper stickers on her car! Our electric pepper mill died. So I bought a new one. Having an electric mill really helps. You do not need two hands. I bought a new door bell. Ours has been losing power for some time. Yes, I tried new batteries. I cannot hear it in the kitchen or in my office. If I know someone is coming I have to sit in the living room. I bought one with two receivers and is loud. Now I just have to hook it up, which is an easy task. Our fence has had a lot of problems this year. The guy who came this morning said the real problem is that the water table had risen a great deal. Global warming. At least we do not have fire! Monday is Halloween. The weather is supposed to be nice so there will probably be a lot of kids. They are always very polite. Trick or Treat is scheduled for 3 – 8. How everyone is having a good fall!!
  16. lwisman

    There’s a raccoon in a trap!!

    On Monday my sister discovered in the corner of our backyard, against the fence, an animal trap with a baby raccoon inside. Yikes! We had no idea where the trap came from. Marge called the town hall who said to call the police. The police sent out an officer. He was able to turn over the trap to see a phone number on the bottom. He asked his dispatcher to phone the company. The dispatcher left a message. Later the policeman phoned back to say the trap had been set by a company hired by our neighbors. These neighbors are reliable so it was strange that they would not tell us if a trap was being placed in our backyard. Later the police called back to say the animal removal company said that the trap had been left on the neighbor’s roof because they had squirrels in the attic. Was it the wind that blew it off? Did the mother try to set the baby loose and knocked it off? Or, something else. It was a long ways from their roof. Anyway… Problem solved. An old friend came to visit. It was good to see her. She visits about once a year. It is good to catch up. We have both known her for over 30 years. We neither have much contact with people from that era. But Jeanette does. Jade the cat has decided the bed in Marge’s office belongs to her. She spends several hours a day napping there. She first discovered that if she stands on the bed and puts her paws on the window sill she can look out. This is the only window in that direction she can get to. She spends a lot of time running around to various windows – guess she is patrolling. She also spends several hours a day on her cat perch in my bedroom. Always in the afternoon when there is lots of sun. It would be too hot for me – but I’m not a cat! On Thursday when I came in from my walk the neighbor across the street had not yet picked up her papers, which is really unusual. Her husband was diagnosed with bladder cancer several months ago and had his last radiation treatment on Monday. My sister talked to her about 9:30. Her husband was running a high fever last night and the doctor had said to watch out for pneumonia. Sara is a retired nurse and she saw that he had all the symptoms of pneumonia. She called 991. The ambulance took him to the hospital when they diagnosed pneumonia and admitted him. He is still in the hospital, but getting better all the time. We are having a heat wave here. Yesterday it was already 76 when I went out to walk at 6:30. It was 89 by nine o’clock! The high was in the 90s, but the heat index was over 100. It rained last night. Was only (!) 70 at 6:30 this morning. Because it had rained I was afraid the bugs would be out plus on Wednesday I had a nasty fall and my left shoulder should still hurts. So, I thought exercising it would be helpful. So I got on the exercise bike rather than walking. It did help my shoulder. The fall was bad enough that I stayed on the floor for five minutes, regrouping. Fortunately, I did not seem to do much damage. Falling is a problem for many stroke survivors. But, walking is key (at least for me) to keeping going… Stay cool!
  17. lwisman

    The company that owned the trap picked up the trap and raccoon. The raccoon was relocated.
  18. lwisman

    Sue, Thank you for the time you devoted to caregiver chat. I am sure it helped a lot of folks. I have to admit I am a bit jealous of you beginning spring. At this time of year I wish I lived in your hemisphere! It is getting colder and colder here. Lin
  19. lwisman

    Sue. Your presence on the board and your work on blogs have been appreciated. I feel as if I know you even though we have never met. Hope you and Sarah have a great time in Hawaii. Lin
  20. lwisman

    Fred. It does seem like the best any of us can do is to keep on keeping on. I also drive (but seldom and only locally). That bit of independence really helps. Continue to stay positive!!
  21. lwisman

    Ellis Graham Parker

    Ellis Graham Parker has a quirky sense of humor. This is evident by the pictures that he has his wife take of him, when they visit various places around Great Britain where they live. One picture shows him “talking” to a goat on a farm. In another picture, Ellis is wearing a huge grin and has his arms spread wide, as he faces the muzzle of an antique cannon head-on. But his sense of humor was put to the ultimate test in October 2003, when he experienced a debilitating ischemic stroke in his brain stem. Ellis was in bed, trying to fall asleep, when the stroke took place. The 54 year old was taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, in Blackpool, England, where he was stabilized. He was treated for two and a half more months. Once he was ready, he was transferred to Clifton Hospital Fairhaven for three weeks of physical, occupational, and balance therapies. When this in-hospital rehab was complete, Ellis was discharged directly to his home to continue recovering under the watchful eye of his wife of 25 years. Ellis said he put his oddball humor to good use all the while he was hospitalized, not only by telling funny jokes and stories, and pulling little pranks, but also by making light of his own difficult situation and reaching out to others who were in worse condition. This was not only to get himself through his own worst days, but to cheer up his fellow patients and the hospital nursing staff. In fact, he says four years after he was discharged, he paid an impromptu visit to the ward and was immediately recognized by several staff members who still worked there. (Ellis jokingly hoped that this was because he had made a good impression, and not otherwise.) Even with his sense of humor intact, Ellis still had to weather a disorienting readjustment process. He says that early on, it was a huge step to admit that his life had changed forever. It also took him a long time to accept his stroke residuals and to incorporate them into a new “sense of self.” For one thing, his entire left side was affected: arm, hand, leg, foot and face. Everything was weak and poorly responsive. For another, Ellis’ balance was seriously affected. He also had trouble swallowing and concentrating. Ellis says he learned that stroke recovery consists of very, very small steps. Any amount of progress is still progress, so he feels it pays to maintain a positive attitude throughout your recovery, and to celebrate whatever little progress that you do make. Ellis still has all of his old residuals on board. Plus, he was subsequently diagnosed with benign positional vertigo, which affects him when he’s standing and walking. He has to be exceptionally careful when navigating uneven surfaces, so he uses a cane whenever he’s out and about. To make matters worse, Ellis’ left arm and hand never did go back to working the way they should, and while this would frustrate anyone, it’s particularly vexing to Ellis, because he’s been playing classical guitar for more than 30 years. He couldn’t return to work, and was forced to retire from his job as an insurance company administrator. Ellis was determined to revisit (and redouble) his efforts making music with his guitar. But, half of his playing resides in his left hand, which has been a challenge for him to accommodate. To help him improve the strength in both hands, and to be able to hold a guitar for extended periods of time, each day Ellis does 150 wrist grip exercises on both sides. He does additional neck exercises to assist his posture. He’s hoping that this will enable him to keep up with the rigors of playing. For the last fifteen years, Ellis has been using a small, unpretentious Spanish guitar that he bought prior to his stroke. Now, using this humble instrument, he’s pushing the envelope of his on-going recovery by continuing to take on complicated guitar pieces. Here’s a link to several short video clips of Ellis playing his guitar (these were all recorded post-stroke, which took a tremendous amount of concentration and effort for him to pull off): https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=grumblemuck While Ellis says that he’s never played guitar professionally. In the early ‘90’s he performed with two classical guitar societies in Manchester and Blackburn, England. For a time after his stroke, he shared his love of music by volunteering two or so hours on Saturdays to teach “at risk” children the basics of how to play the guitar. Now, it just comes down to Ellis simply expressing himself via his favorite musical instrument, which he enjoys immensely. Music aside, Ellis also used to be an accomplished fisherman. At one time, he traveled around Great Britain and Scotland making frequent salmon fishing trips, but since his stroke, he’s had to curtail all of his fishing expeditions. This has left a bit of a hole in his schedule, but Ellis is ready to take on new, more-manageable activities. These days, he’s venturing into completely new territory and embracing a totally different “hobby”. Twelve years post-stroke, he’s decided to start networking on-line with other stroke survivors. He likes to think that although he’s physically limited, he strives to maintain a positive attitude, and a generous nature. He’d like to share the benefit of his experience with others, and to learn about other stroke survivors’ unique circumstances. Ellis would like to hear from other members of the Stroke Network. He can be contacted on The Stroke Network via his user name: eggo101
  22. lwisman

    Virginia Garlitz

    Back in 2003, Virginia Garlitz was the head of the foreign languages department, and a tenured professor teaching Spanish language, culture and literature, at Plymouth State College, in New Hampshire. She had been working there since 1972, and she enjoyed a rich academic life, sharing with others her knowledge and passion for the things that she loved. But, one day in February 2003, Virginia’s life took a disturbing turn. She was sitting in her office, talking to a student, when she suddenly became paralyzed on her left side. As she started to lose consciousness, she managed to tell the student to call “911” and, then, everything “went to black.” Virginia was taken to Mary Hitchcock Hospital, in Dartmouth, New Hampshire. There, doctors discovered a hemorrhagic stroke on the right side of her brain, caused by an arterio-venous malformation, a tangled mass of unstable blood vessels that had burst. The ruptured AVM catapulted Virginia into a coma which lasted four long months. When Virginia finally woke up in May, she learned that some things had changed in the “outside world,” while she was unconscious. She remembers the first two things that her husband told her upon awakening: one, that Plymouth State College, where she worked, was now a university, and, two, their state symbol, an ancient stone face known as the “Old Man of the Mountain,” had fallen off his cliff. Virginia says that she knew how he must have felt; she, too, had also fallen off a cliff. Once medically stable, Virginia went to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, where she received physical, occupational, balance and speech therapies from May through August, 2003. When she was discharged from in-patient rehab, she continued out-patient therapy (from 2003 through the present) at various rehab centers in Boston and Concord, Mass., and Campton, New Hampshire. Apart from standard treatments, Virginia sampled a variety of non-traditional remedies, including hypnosis and acupuncture, which gave her some relief. She also tried a Saebo® dynamic hand brace, which she no longer uses. Her paralyzed left foot was fitted with an AFO (ankle-foot orthosis), and she started using a metal cane to help with balance issues (she continues to use both to this day). Virginia’s recovery wasn’t always smooth; she had many setbacks and days when all hope seemed to evaporate. It was extremely difficult to accept that she was no longer the independent person she had been, and that she had to rely on others for everything. Relinquishing control left her frustrated and despairing. When Virginia “plateaued” in her recovery, she broke down and cried because she knew her old life was lost to her forever. But, her husband reassured her by saying, "while we may not have the same life, together we will build a new life". This made her realize that although she couldn’t control much, she could still control one thing: her attitude. Knowing her husband “had her back” enabled Virginia to start moving forward once more. (She says her husband is her “everything”: friend, lover, valet, cook, companion, cheerleader, grief counselor, essentially, her “rock”.) To keep Virginia buoyed, she and her husband crafted their own mantra, “CBW”, which stands for “could be worse”, inspired by a Spanish saying that goes, “I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet”. They invoked their “CBW” mantra whenever Virginia felt down, but, over the years, they revised the mantra from “CBW” to “CBB” (“couldn’t be better”) which more-accurately reflected their optimistic outlook. Optimism is the one thing that enabled Virginia to continue pursuing her scholarly interests in reading, writing and researching. Thanks to her many colleagues at Plymouth University, she was able to audit many college courses, including French, art history, and cultural anthropology. Now, thirteen years beyond her stroke, Virginia’s reached a point where things have settled into a satisfactory routine. While she still can’t use her left arm or hand, she says that thanks to her long-suffering husband, and the help of countless other wonderful caregivers over the years, she’s able to get around better and live a very active life. And what an active life it is. Virginia swims once or twice a week, using a snorkel mask and fins, and she plays piano with her “left-hand man,” a young piano teacher who gives her weekly piano lessons at home. She also belongs to a book group, and to a group dedicated to philanthropic and educational projects, particularly for women. She attends monthly language conversation groups in Spanish and in French. And, she and her husband travel to spend precious time with her singer-songwriter son, his wife and their two children, who live in Paris, France. Most importantly, Virginia continues to be productive, by writing and publishing articles for a Spanish journal (she says, “Thank heaven for the internet!”). As such, Virginia considers her greatest post-stroke accomplishments to be publishing two books, plus several articles, and conducting a seminar in Spain. Virginia says that while her life is satisfying, she’s still hoping for the day that her neurons can be rebuilt using stem cell therapy, like the kind they’re experimenting with at Stanford University. However, even though things aren’t 100%, she remains upbeat and wants to share some valuable advice with other stroke survivors: ● Always keep going. ● Use whatever you can to get yourself closer to what you were before your stroke. ● While it may seem so at first, a stroke is not the end of the world; there’s still a lot of life to come afterwards. ● Keep looking forward and be optimistic. ● Attitude makes all the difference; she says she’s living proof that survivors can reclaim their lives after a stroke. Right now, Virginia is in a good place. She says she’s happy, healthy and her mind is clear (even though her brain doesn't work perfectly). As she and her husband say….CBB. Anyone who wishes to contact Virginia can do so via the Stroke Network. Her user ID is PEW.
  23. Asha, Before my stroke I was able to sort out computer problems in "the blink of the eye." Now, it takes me days rather than minutes. I find if I give myself a lot of time I can usually n find the solution. I find if I work on it and then leave alone for awhile, I am able to see the solution. It is frustrating!!
  24. Congrats to you and hubby on your silver anniversary!!
  25. lwisman

    Sorry to hear about your fall. Glad you were not physically hurt. Glasses can be replaced easier than bodies can heal! I find it is difficult to tell when physical problems get worse -- is it from the stroke or just aging? I imagine we will all see continuing physical problems. Seems to be the circle of life.