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I'm not sure if this article is the correct one for this column but here is an extraction from my memoirs concerning my stroke which initially wiped all strength from my right hand side six years ago........I am right handed. Getting used to the conditions that fate had sprung on me was not going to be easy. I had a painful right eye and was not helping it recover because of proprioception, this meant that if I wasn't watching my hand carefully whilst doing things my thumb would poke me in the eyeball! The bathroom was fitted with handrails everywhere and taking a shower was easy. I had to use my left hand for liquid soap distribution since I couldn't cup the right. Cleaning my teeth was quite a comedy routine, It took serious concentration to ensure that the toothpaste once squeezed onto the brush got into my mouth as it was liable to end up on my nose or chin. Tooth brushing required both hands to control the action of the brush.

Dressing was slow, the left hand had to get the knack of doing up shirt buttons and other tricks the right hand had been in charge of for years. It was a few months before I offered my right hand to the keyboard. It was a disaster. My thumb did not have the strength to depress a single note. The guitar was in the same boat. I was hoping I could 'strum' it, but no such luck, the hand was too floppy and quite useless. My main exercise tools were household pegs. I carried one in a pocket all the time and could exercise at the drop of a hat. Gradually I improved to bulldog clips usually with some sort of anti-slip coating to keep them from sliding away. My wife Valerie found some old knitting needles, I got a ball of wool from a local shop and she taught me how to do pearl and plain knitting, the plan was to exercise my fingers when sitting watching TV. I hoped to make a scarf but soon gave it up since the skill of being able to knit and watch TV at the same time would take years to accomplish! She purchased a plastic ball threaded a length of ribbon through it and when out walking I would carry this in my right hand and try to crush it . The ribbon looped round my wrist so I could drop it if it became a problem. I crushed two of them to death before we found a spongy ball that would last.

I decided that it was no use trying to improve the fingers without building up the wrist, arm and elbow so I worked out an exercise routine that would work more generally. I retrieved one of my fly fishing rods from the shed and would daily spend a while practising casting in the driveway. When my hand improved to be able to hold a tool I purchased a pack of 100mm nails and every day would hammer three of them into a lump of softwood in the garden. The first time I did it I took 54 hits to sink the nail but every day after that I was able to break my record till it reached at best 12 hits. I still persist with this routine but the number of hits is inconsistent and varies between 11 and 20 depending on all sorts of factors. After sinking the nails I would throw the hammer into the air and catch it with the handle. I 'd do this at least twice to improve my co-ordination. A neighbour's daughter gave me a spring loaded hand gripper which her doctor had given her when her elbow was damaged. I nicked a 1kilo weight from my wife's kitchen scales and used this as a dead weight. So I ended up with a tray full of devices all designed to improve my muscles.

 

Every morning I would test out my finger improvement by finding how many fingers I could touch with my thumb, this got better and better till everyone was within range. The next stage was to 'snap' my fingers. Previously I could do this on all four fingers but this time the target of just using the thumb and second finger was my limit. Nine months after the stroke I started to try and play the keyboards again. Initially the strength was very weak, it was difficult to produce any volume and the fingers flexibility left a lot to be desired, but at least it was a start and I usually got about fifteen minutes playing exercise before getting too frustrated and packing it in. I spent a lot of time trying to design a plectrum that I could hold and control. . Eventually I overcame the problem by fashioning a piece of thin leather with a hole cut in it to accommodate the thumb and a plectrum glued to the end. At last I had a system that enabled me to hold a pick for longer than five seconds. Now I could get seriously into getting into shape. This I put on the internet and it went viral.

 

The left hand is most important to a guitarist and mine had lost a lot of strength so it took some while before I could hold the strings down accurately but daily practice and the fact that I'd been playing guitar for 60 years eventually paid off and I'm ready to mix music with others again. I'm hoping that this report will encourage others with the same problems to get back to playing an instrument again or others to take up a new hobby. Deigh Daviespost-19426-0-77415700-1486452437_thumb.png

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Deigh, The other night when you posted I typed in a kinda lengthy reply to your post being a guitar player of 43yrs of my 68 on earth so far but, when I hit the submit reply button it had an error was made and no topic was found??? I went back in albeit a bit frustrated and could not find your topic either?? So it was left as was. I'm kinda wary of re-typing another reply because it would almost certainly cause a meltdown on my end if I got that error message again...thats when the point of frustration that my mind's brain signal path would probably look like a jigsaw puzzle:crazy:

 

Though I may eventually give it another go, just not today!

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Will, my fault entirely. I composed the mail using another program but when I did the copy/paste trick it did not come out very satisfactory. I submitted it but was unhappy about the outcome and returned, cancelled it and tried again with some extra trickery. This was better but still no way near good enough so I returned, dumped it and started again. This time the finish was good enough and I left it. You must have read one of the dumped ones!........anyhow thanks for getting back. I'm looking forward to reading your reply.

 

My submission was extracted from a lengthy article I'd written in my memoirs about the stroke, it covers only a very small part of the efforts I made to recover the shortcomings left by the disaster, but there was no point in boring the converted but if anyone wants to get it in full my e-mail address is easily found. 

 

I am not unaware of meltdowns, they can arise easily when under pressure. Sometimes the pressure is just imagined and I kick myself afterwards.

 

Deigh

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Hi Deigh, no worries. I actually thought I remembered in your original post that there were no photo's accompanied by it so I thought you were editing during my post and I just missed you. In any event, my thoughts have been condensed down so I'll give it a quick synopsis. During my 43 yrs of playing I enjoyed it every step of the way, the guitars both acoustic and electrics, amps, settings, equipment. Just getting to the point at age about 54yrs when the aneurysm ruptured. The stroke damage was caused during surgery but there were also extenuating circumstances during transport that delayed the paramedics and was then transferred to a local ambulance service that had my inbound during morning commute and when I realized that the vehicle wasn't moving in traffic, I mentioned that if you fellas don't get me to the ER soon, I may not be arriving alive. They then realized that I was fading and detoured over to the emergency bus lanes and got me to an ER. They no sooner got me off the gurney and into a chair and I blacked out after a stabbing pain shot up the back of my neck into my brain. They drilled a hole and inserted a drain to stabilize me and relieve the pressure then was air lifted to another hospital were I underwent emergency brain surgery to embolize the bleed. Long story short, my damage is kinda permanent on the left side, especially my arm and hand that do my fretwork. I just had limited successes with 4mos of rehab, enough to squeak me back to a job that I had for 25yrs. I couldn't let that go, but it just didn't work out in the end, especially working in high voltage environments where I could possibly jeopardize other peoples safety. I've tried all kinds of therapies and treatments during my 13yrs post stroke, and my results have been unfortunately kinda negligible. Thats another reason why Alan doing this kind of therapy with stem cells has peaked my interest and still offers hope that the future may bring in medical sciences.

 

The long of it is that my left hand is best described as having wooden fingers they feel so stiff and no dexterity. Even though believe me, I've tried exercises, stretching, acupuncture/acupressure most conventional therapies. I'd give anything (well, almost anything) to have feeling or warmth back into the arm/hand. I just can't muster the strength the hold the neck of the guitar let alone do lead runs, licks, blues chops. The fret buzz is just unbearable let alone when I press my fingertips don on the strings for chord positions or lead runs, I feel small shocks at the tips of my finger when pressed onto the strings. I'm at 68yrs now and still holding out hope. All those great memories and and 43yrs I was just getting warmed up! I had many years of possibilities ahead until the unfortunate brain event. I don't hold any resentments, especially because things could always be worse, and I'm just good with still being here, even after a heart attack a couple years ago. But I will always hold fast to prayer and hope, there is always possibilities and new sciences that may open up the doors.

 

I wish you well my friend and always happy to hear of your successes playing, and your innovations. I bet we could have had some good jams together had we met at an earlier time pre-stroke. Guitars have always been in my life since I was 14yrs old pictured here goofing off with my friend and my first guitar in 1966.

 

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Thanks for that Will, fascinating reporting by you explaining your background and your attempts to pick up again. I am fortunate that the stroke left me enough to get back to playing at all. I'm also very fortunate that my 91 year old hands do not have any rheumatism or arthritis. I can use all my electric hand tools although with the new battery driven ones I've had to modify the safety button that requires me to depress with the thumb when using the first finger to power on. This action is beyond me and it is dangerous to take the left hand away from its responsibilities of securing the job. !

 

There are severe limits to my ability, the fingers of the right hand will not move fast on the piano keyboards and even playing octaves are beyond me, but to be able to play at all is a privilege which I take advantage of and never stop trying to extend my limits. Fortunately too I was not known as a singer pre stroke, there is no way I could do that now. and the thought of having to pick up and carry my guitar and amplifier, carry it to another place, set it up and play again is just beyond my imagination! I'm relying on others to come to me for any future sessions.

 

Life is grand.

 

Deigh

 

 

 

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On 1/5/2021 at 2:16 PM, will2 said:

 I'm kinda wary of re-typing another reply because it would almost certainly cause a meltdown on my end if I got that error message again...thats when the point of frustration that my mind's brain signal path would probably look like a jigsaw puzzle:crazy:

 

Though I may eventually give it another go, just not today!

Boy have I been there Will! I think my frustration wins this battle most times haha. I love that you and Deigh play guitar and can chat about it! I am a guitar playing fan!

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2 hours ago, HostTracy said:

Boy have I been there Will! I think my frustration wins this battle most times haha. I love that you and Deigh play guitar and can chat about it! I am a guitar playing fan!

Tracy, in the least I can confirm the frustration aspect. I'm not particularly fond of this new reaction but understand it better now that I hear others here having the same issues, whereas others around me try to help me with the frustrations by normal reactions like "just take it easy" or "just calm down"  They don't really understand how new this reaction is even to me and hard to explain why I do it to them...thats almost equally as frustrating! But over time they start to understand this is new behavior even for me and that I'm trying to adjust and compensate the differences.

 

I'm also happy to have company here with the guitar players. I was calculating my guitar playing years divided by our ages and I see that in my case I've played guitar 63.94% of my life, whereas Deigh has a similar corresponding figure of 65.93% playing over his age span! I know weird right?? My brain works like that sometimes, I get into the details a lot. And that can also add to my frustrations, a very active mind. Thats just another big plus being here on Strokenet is that I'm in good company:smile:

 

At some point in the future I may post up some of my guitar gear and/or stories over the years. I currently have an ongoing thread topic on another forum I belong to about guitar gear and experiences that has been running for several weeks with lots of great feedback, photo's, and gear from the members there. 

 

Deigh, you're so fortunate and blessed that you can still play and make up for small deficits by your creating work-arounds like your pick holder design. I'm reminded of your comment about carrying your guitar/amp these days. Just the other day trying to walk thru my back door I lost my balance but corrected myself and looked up to catch my wife looking and she commented, I had no idea that you have this much trouble some days! I'm certainly not as active as I once was pre-stroke in the least but, balance wise it's a total change. People cannot see that in you by just a passing glance or even just by talking to them, we appear quite normally functioning. But when we walk sometimes they really being to see that it's way more difficult to us than a plausible explanation about our condition, I would imagine it almost gives the appearance of having one drink too many :cheers:

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 "just take it easy" or "just calm down" .  

 

I know exactly what you mean by people throwing those quotations at you. Trouble is that they mean well and it is not easy to get annoyed with them. Equally upsetting is those who finish up my sentences for me. I used to get very upset at people saying "You look well", again with the  best of intentions. To my surprise I found this was a common reaction by other stroke survivors. I have a friend who overcomes this by greeting me with "You look terrible!" That's what friends are for.

 

I'm amazed by your mathematics.  I was petty fair with calculations but seem to have lost that skill and when I play scrabble with my wife she frequently has to correct my addition when scoring. 

 

I live in a country where things are easier to deal with, Recognising my slight limp it is not unusual for passing motorists to stop and wave me across the road at intersections when doing my daily walks. I walk unaided but carry a stick when in crowds and this does give others a warning of my fragility. Crowds do frighten me a bit still but I do not avoid them if they are friendly. 

 

I'd like to take a look at that guitar forum you frequent, it seems very sociable. I 'm a member of one but it is very business-like https://www.jazzguitar.be/forum/ . Have a look at it and you will see what I mean.

 

Take care, there are not many of us left!

 

Deigh 

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Willis I LOVE the photo!!

 

My kids had lessons for two years. 

 

Apparently Carrah didn't have time anymore and wouldn't go, and Connor wouldn't go without her...

 

Oh well.

 

Because they have the basics I'm really hoping they'll take it up again.

 

💚👑

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3 hours ago, GreenQueen said:

Willis I LOVE the photo!

My kids had lessons for two years. 

Apparently Carrah didn't have time anymore and wouldn't go, and Connor wouldn't go without her...

Oh well.

Because they have the basics I'm really hoping they'll take it up again.

 

💚👑

Thanks for the compliment. In those days I was quite the Dennis the Menace, a very rambunctious kid. Though I did however turn out pretty ok, it would take it's share of hard knocks to get me there. I'd also mention that it's very likely that at some point sooner or later Carrah or Connor will pick the guitar up again for another go, and maybe it'll stick with them. I believe that I mainly stuck with it was just about most of my neighbors growing up played or had bands to play in. I did, mine was called the  "Invaders". Two of my bandmates who were brothers had a father who was a excellent Advertising Agency expert and his creativity knew no bounds. He actually built us a 2-person flying saucer based on that movie series the "Invaders" with Jan Michael Vincent back in the early 60's. We could leave our bands equipment at their house and practice whenever we wished. They had a piano and a dum set they purchased and their Mom would play piano and Dad the drums..that was really cool at the time. 

 

Encourage them but let them find the attraction, and if they do it may last a lifetime like me or Deigh have. I know I'd still be playin' if I could.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Deigh, just wanted to quickly check in with you and confirm that you did get the personal message with the link provided that you requested? I sent it a week or so ago.

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Thanks Will, yep I got the link but havnt pursued it yet, Will have some spare time over weekend to do it.

 

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