Life After Stroke
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.baysidetherapyservices.com