A month of ups and downs

Firstly the down…

Amanda fell over for the first time since her stroke exactly 19 months ago.

It has always amazed me that even when she was learning to stand up and walk, she never once toppled or lost her balance. But for some reason which she cannot remember her affected leg somehow caught the leg of a dining chair and, unaware of its position, it pulled her onto the solid kitchen floor.

It was around 9.30am and she was alone in the house. Due to her short –term memory issues she initially had no recollection of what had happened. But over the next week we gradually pieced together, with the evidence of some very heavy bruising around her right knee,   she had fallen face down on her affected side. She remembers laying there for a while before managing to pull herself onto her backside and shuffling to the wall behind the kitchen door.

It was there my mum found her propped up, unable to stand, around 30 minutes later. I was called home from work and arrived to find her shocked, upset but otherwise mostly undamaged with the exception of a large dent to her confidence and apparent invincibility.

The advantage of falling on her affected side seemed to be she didn’t tense in preparation for the impact so there seems to have been no significant damage. The downside to this was that she landed heavily and so the bruising was quite dramatic and she felt sore for days after.  But this ‘soreness’ also seems to indicate more return of sensation in her right leg which, long term, is good news.

And the ups…?

I’ve mentioned Amanda’s loss of ‘executive function’ before; her current inability to plan, anticipate or participate in everyday tasks. She patiently waits to be called for dinner each night but has no concept of participating in either choosing or preparing the meal.

So I was surprised earlier this week when she navigated her Ipad to a recipe app she had been an avid user of before her stroke – Pepperplate.  She said;

“I’ve finally found this meal I’ve been wanting for ages.”

It’s a chorizo sausage chicken traybake recipe she used to make.

“How did you remember where that was?” I asked her.

“It’s been on my mind for ages.” She said.

Which is remarkable, since the concept of having a ‘mind’ in the way most of us don’t even appreciate, has mostly eluded her for the last 20 months.

I’m cooking it tonight.

In addition to enjoying cooking, Amanda has always been a keen gardener. Her support worker is encouraging her back out into the garden as they plant seeds and vegetables ready for the upcoming summer. Unfortunately aphasia has robbed Amanda of the ability to remember plant names as she used to.

This week she was watching a UK TV house renovation show. During the big ‘reveal’ at the end the home owners were admiring their new garden, but struggled to name their new plants.

“They don’t even know what agapanthus is.” Amanda commented.

It took me a few minutes to realise what she had just said.

“Erm for the last 20 months neither have you… up until just now.”

One of the tasks she really struggles with using the Constant Therapy app is identifying a location on a map, or naming a particular shop based on a picture of a shopping mall layout. The pictures are always small, full of detail and lots of words. The test is obviously to filter out the required information from its surroundings.

This week she insisted on coming into the shop to help me choose a birthday card for our daughter.

You’ll be familiar with card displays; rows and columns categorised by gender, age and the type of celebration. In essence, very busy and not dissimilar to the challenges in her app. I selected an innocuous and generic card but she stopped me.

“No, that one.”

She pointed directly into the display at a ‘Happy Birthday Daughter’ card, surrounded by all the other cards on the stand.

The whole point of the task had just been proven successfully.

 

Finally, as we move into summer, Amanda has decided to change from a hot (porridge) to a cold (muesli) breakfast. This means I can no longer break open her Voluntastrols capsules and dissolve their contents into warm milk. Instead she is taking them, as suggested by the manufacturer, with water, before breakfast.

Given I believe they have improved her cognitive ability and accelerated her stroke recovery even in the way she has been consuming them for the past 6 months, it will be interesting to see if she improves even more, now they are entering her system before, and not with, her breakfast.

I’ll keep you posted.

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