Life Af­ter Stroke

The Star (St. Lucia) - - HEALTH -

Stroke can be a dev­as­tat­ing life-chang­ing event, not only for the per­son af­fected but also for fam­ily and close friends. Stroke leaves vis­i­ble signs, whether it’s weak­ness on one side or dif­fi­cul­ties with mem­ory, speech and un­der­stand­ing.

Every day you grieve for the loss of the per­son that you knew and loved; they are alive but no longer the same. There are times when you see a glim­mer of hope and a glimpse of the per­son as he or she was be­fore the stroke; but mostly you see a per­son who has lost in­de­pen­dence. Imag­ine wak­ing up every day with your mind in­tact but with a body that re­fuses to co­op­er­ate. Or worse, with a mind that is con­fused and foggy but des­per­ate to move for­ward to­wards re­cov­ery. The most im­por­tant thing about stroke is not to give up hope.

Stroke is a sud­den at­tack on the brain and ner­vous sys­tem, ei­ther from a bleed or a clot, but it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that the brain and ner­vous sys­tem are mirac­u­lous, adapt­able or­gans; as well as help­ing us progress and learn from birth, they are also ca­pa­ble of re­pair and re­cov­ery. Although it may not be pos­si­ble to achieve full func­tion, with hard work and de­ter­mi­na­tion it may be pos­si­ble to re­gain in­de­pen­dence and build your life back af­ter a stroke.

The first thing to know is that a stroke, or cere­bral vas­cu­lar ac­ci­dent (CVA), oc­curs when there has been dis­rup­tion of blood sup­ply and oxy­gen to the brain. Once the sit­u­a­tion has been sta­bilised it is time to start on the road to re­cov­ery. Our ner­vous sys­tem is ca­pa­ble of healing and form­ing new path­ways; there is not al­ways one route to reach your desti­na­tion, much like tak­ing the back­roads when the main roads are blocked. It may take you longer to reach your desti­na­tion and there may be a few turns and bends along the way but. with pa­tience and per­se­ver­ance, you can get there.

In or­der to re­cover and move for­ward you must take ac­tion. Re­mem­ber the symp­toms and af­ter-ef­fects of a stroke are a state of be­ing, not an ill­ness.

Just be­cause you have one-sided weak­ness it is not a rea­son to stay in bed and let peo­ple do ev­ery­thing for you. You must have heard the say­ing ‘Use it or lose it’. Well, you have lost it and it’s time to find it. Un­like a mus­cle in­jury or cold that re­spond to rest, the re­sults of stroke do not. Your weak­ness is not caused by an in­jury to the mus­cle but to the brain, and we have to reteach the brain how to move and the only way to do that is to move. Do not just lay there and do not let peo­ple do ev­ery­thing for you. The more you try, the bet­ter chance you have of re­cov­ery.

If you have poor bal­ance it will only im­prove by chal­leng­ing your bal­ance in sit­ting and stand­ing. If you can­not move one side of your body it will not move if you ig­nore it and com­pen­sate with the other side. How you sit, lay and stand can all af­fect the qual­ity of your re­cov­ery.

Get up and tell your brain it’s time for ac­tion. It’s not an easy road (back­roads rarely are—some­thing you will know if you have ever driven the back­roads from Cas­tries to Rod­ney Bay) and you may need some­body to guide and lead you to your fi­nal desti­na­tion. If you are strug­gling and need a map to find your way, speak to a phys­io­ther­a­pist. Phys­io­ther­a­pists are health­care pro­fes­sion­als who can help you and your fam­ily move for­ward and find in­de­pen­dence af­ter a stroke. We can­not achieve the im­pos­si­ble but through var­i­ous skills and a large knowl­edge base we can help you achieve in­de­pen­dent liv­ing. The aim is to help you get back on your feet and re­gain the use of your body but when this is not pos­si­ble we will show you how to move and trans­fer in­de­pen­dently so you do not al­ways have to de­pend on oth­ers.

It takes time, ef­fort and per­se­v­er­ence but the aim is to re­gain in­de­pen­dence af­ter a stroke.

Kim Jack­son is a UK-trained phys­io­ther­a­pist with over 20 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence. She spe­cialises in mus­cu­loskele­tal pain and dys­func­tion in­clud­ing back pain and sci­at­ica, stroke and other neuro con­di­tions plus sports phys­io­ther­apy, hav­ing worked with lo­cal, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional ath­letes and teams treat­ing in­juries and analysing biome­chan­ics to im­prove func­tion and per­for­mance. She is regis­tered with the Al­lied Health Coun­cil and is a mem­ber of PASL. She cur­rently works at Bay­side Ther­apy Ser­vices in Rod­ney Bay, O: 458 4409 or C: 284 5443; www.bayside­ther­a­py­ser­

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