2020; Less guessing, more thinking

In the 3 months since my last post its been summer in New Zealand. We’ve entered a new year… and a new decade. Its also been the third anniversary of Amanda’s brain bleed.

But that hasn’t stopped her ongoing journey of recovery.

One of the very first things Amanda’s neurosurgeon told me the day after her stroke was that her bleed meant the right side of brain, the creative, artistic side was unaffected. With this in mind I’ve encouraged her to  make the  most of this. Earlier in the summer I suggested she might like to have  go at painting some terracotta pots.

We visited a local garden centre, raided our daughters paintbox and set up a small studio in the garage.

With the help of her support person Amanda carefully practiced before committing her designs to a couple of pots



———————————————————————————————————————————Short-term memory issues can still be a problem but we’ve come up with a useful strategy when Amanda struggles to find a particular noun –  ‘zoning -in’.

As an example she was trying to remember the word ‘table’. So we began to zone in  – “is it in the house? which room is it in? what do you do with it?” By getting her to answer, her brain can gradually work through her ‘brain dictionary’, filtering out the fog until she can picture the object, where it is and then associate it to the correct word.

With the mantra of ‘less guessing, more thinking‘ her Scrabble skills continue to improve, both in creating words from her 7 letters and finding spaces to add them to existing letters on the board.

To build on this, in addition to continuing with regular use of the Constant Therapy app, her support person has also started writing simple quiz questions which she must read, understand and then write down the correct answer to. It’s a new tactic which, despite a slow start, is still something Amanda could not have tackled even six months ago.

With the heat of the summer, the mosquitoes have also arrived. Interestingly, despite her affected right side having supposedly no feeling, she can clearly feel the annoying mozzie bites on both her right arm and leg. So feeling is there and continues to return.

To try and exploit this and also improve the circulation in both legs caused by her relative lack of movement, I bought her a Revitive machine. The mild electric current stimulates the leg muscles and in turn encourages blood flow. While the machine isn’t specifically designed for stroke recovery, the improved circulation and the ‘tingling’ sensations will hopefully continue to further bridge the nerve connections between Amanda’s right side and her brain.

I’ve worked out we need 4 things to enable natural limb use; movement, strength, control and feeling. A stroke can take some or all of these in varying degrees, and you can either work on all of them at once, or just concentrate on one aspect at a time.

Once again this highlights the reason stroke recovery can take a long time; you often cannot practice the cognitive and the physical at the same time. Neuro fatigue soon kicks in, interrupting even the most motivated person.

But then, even after 3 years, you can still be surprised…

Every morning I assist Amanda to select her clothes and make sure she makes her way to the shower at the other end of the house and steps in safely. Last week, I got sidetracked watering the garden veggies and came back into the bedroom to find her clothes laid out, but Amanda not there. Then I heard the shower turn on. For the first time she had successfully and safely sequenced the whole situation and was washing her hair by the time I walked into the bathroom.

After the Christmas break she returned to her Thursday morning social club at the local church hall, a short walk away. The group of mainly older people play card games and enjoy some gentle exercise followed by tea and biscuits. Amanda is the ‘baby’ of the group but, in semi-rural New Zealand this is her only opportunity to socialise and interact with other people during the week.

Amanda’s support worker who collects her at the end of the session has seen her confidence and skill grow with the group, particularly in their most competitive pastime – the card game Rummy.

Last week, after a break of almost 8 weeks Amanda returned and was able to anticipate moves, point out potential moves to others and confidently beat her opponents.

She continues to prove there is no such thing as a plateau when it comes  to stroke recovery.

You can still learn to multi-task and work on your Constant Therapy app while your daughter paints your toenails…



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