Going It Alone

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As I sit here this morning thinking about my busy day ahead, nay, weeks ahead and having to move once more, I realize my six and a half year anniversary is nearing – the anniversary of my brain pop, my blow-out, my near death experience. I call it many things, most unprintable — the medical profession calls it a brain aneurysm — but like the rose, by any other name, it still stinks.

I think about where I am today and where I was the weeks after May 29th, 2001. I lay unconscious in a hospital, totally paralyzed on my left side, and everyone ready to write me off. I was told I would likely not be able to use my left arm and hand again, or walk without a full leg brace and quad cane, never mind hike, climb, or do something like drive a car.

Today, I can do all of those things – without a leg brace or a quad cane, although I do need a walking stick for long jaunts. I was also told the hole in my brain was immediately where the brain operates eyesight and I would likely lose mine. I don’t even wear glasses.

I was told that since my brain was flooded with blood and sustained damage, to not to expect to do any of the things I used to do. The bloody barrage soaked the right side of my brain and that by itself was going to render me disabled. Handicapped. Crippled. No longer able to do anything, so don’t waste time trying. Oh sure, do therapy and see small gains, and so not worsen, but I was told not to set my goals too high or expect to regain my abilities 100 percent because I would only be disappointed.

That wasn’t going to happen.

The thing is, I didn’t approach my life that way before, so I certainly wasn’t going to cave and start doing things that way. I would sit in my hospital bed in rehab and wait for someone to come around to wheel me to therapy, wishing all the while that I could do something – anything — while waiting for my hour at the gym room.

I was eager to get started. Since I worked out everyday at home before being hospitalized, the wait was unbearable! I asked them if I could bring the dumbbells back to my room from the therapy room and the answer was no because they were needed in the gym. Besides, they didn’t want me to tire myself. Sigh! I was tired all right – tired of the inactivity I had to endure!

Finally, out of desperation, I had my husband bring my dumbbells in from home. I sat in my chair in the corner of my room and worked my arm. There was also Debi, an aide/friend/confidante who brought me the mop from behind the janitors’ door at night so I could do lifts with it while sitting on my bed.

In the space of five weeks I got my fingers moving and gripping, and then my hand working. Not long after that, my arm. My doctors were astounded! My therapists weren’t. They said they knew if anyone was going to be able to come back from something like this, I was, because I had a good work ethic and I didn’t accept no for an answer. I never believed the doctors and I never believed I wasn’t going to get better. That’s not a brag – that’s a simple fact. It’s also my point.

The medical profession continues to make one large mistake over and over again. They treat patients as case histories or tend to fit them into what they believe is how it should go, based on what has gone before – the textbook case.

“Let’s see, kinda like case 732b and a little like case 81c with a dash of F459 thrown in, so I guess we can’t expect anything different from this person, even though she’s an entirely different human being in entirely different circumstances and with a major kick ass attitude!”

My main doctor, who’s a very highly respected neurosurgeon (and cool guy) not just in the United States, but also internationally, would kid with me from time to time, saying he was going to have my picture put on the side of buses in Pittsburgh as his poster person for recovery. I would kid back, telling him to throw away his books and write his own books based on observations of his patients like me and he would have plenty of poster persons.

The lesson here is we should never limit ourselves, nor should we allow others to limit us, least of all our doctors and physical therapists. I lived all by myself in Vegas for nearly a year and today I still spend a lot of time on my own. I doubt I’d be able to do this had I listened to the naysayers.

I was so fortunate to have good, understanding therapists that understood my mindset. Thanks guys and girls, you know who you are. Because of your support, I’m continuing to have an active life, and while maybe not 100 percent, I do a pretty mean 95 percent.

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