Jul 25, 2016

The Motorized Shopping Cart, aka Hell on Wheels

An excerpt from my book, "The Tales of a Stroke Patient"....

The plug which led to recharging the battery was still in its socket. Using the patience I was born with, and not so much since I had the stroke, I waited for help. While I was waiting, I saw the controls: forward, backward, a wheel when you wanted to turn, and a horn. Easy enough.

The help soon arrived in the form of a teenager who was going on break.

"Could you unplug the cart," I asked, knowing he was going to do it.

"Sure," he uttered, with cigarette smoke on his breath. He probably wanted to get in a full smoke before he had to return to duty.

He unplugged the cart and wrapped the excess cord behind the unit to keep it out of my way. I tipped him though I knew it would be going for cigarettes.

By now, 15 minutes had passed and my friend was long gone from the produce aisle. Oh, well, I really was on my own. But he had the shopping list, though I had my cell phone. So I called him.

"Where are you," I inquired.

"In the ketchup aisle."

I wasn't used to sitting down while I went food shopping, so I had to raise my head a bit higher to see where the ketchup was. It was in aisle 9.

"Where were you," he asked, though I knew he really didn't care where I was, just so long as I didn't leave the store.

"You said, 'You're on your own.'" He switched topics when he knew I had him dead to rights.

"I'm going to get crackers. Which kind do you want?"

I followed close, but I lost him in aisle 17 when he said he was going back to retrieve something he'd forgotten. I couldn't make a u-turn fast enough. I went to aisle 21, the dairy section, because that's where he would wind up. String cheese was on the list.

I decided to practice the controls at maximum speed because at this point, I only used the forward button. I stayed on the same path and I counted to three. Forward (1, 2, 3). Reverse (1, 2, 3). Forward (1, 2, 3). Reverse (1, 2). I never got to 3 because a fashionable though ostentatious woman (you know the type where their poop doesn't stink?) was there in the path I had so carefully laid out for myself. Not only did I hit her on her hip, but I ran over what I thought was her recently manicured toe.

She was on the cell phone and I probably woke her up to her surroundings. She said to the person on the other end, with me sitting no more than 3 feet away, "Some crazy-ass bitch in one of those handicapped thing-a-ma-jigs just ran over my toe! She's sitting right here. And I just had a pedicure!"

I knew it. She didn't mention anything about the hip. Evidently, the toe was a priority. It would have been mine, too, before I had the stroke. At least, I understood her priorities.

She continued talking on the cell phone, going right for the string cheese. Her voice was getting shriller and louder. Oh, crap. What if my friend came back at that very moment and she demanded money for the pedicure, knowing we were together? What if the person she was talking to gave her advice, like getting my license or calling the cops?

This is what it is. A tease. If you bought the book, you already know the outcome. If you didn't buy the book, you'll always wonder for a time. Amazon is the cheapest. I'm just sayin'.

Jul 13, 2016

Stroke Survivors and Friends: 5 Ways to Not Lose Them

"If you have one great friend, consider yourself lucky." 

A wise man said that to me once upon a time. But does that statement apply to stroke survivors? Not so much, because stroke survivors are perceived as pitiable way too often.

Here's one for you, stroke survivors: you have to work at keeping friends, just like "normals" do! Surprised at my answer? Well, it's true. I had to learn the hard way, all those months sitting alone when I could have enjoyed myself.

A study was done at Academics at City University London. They found that having a stroke can negatively affect a person’s social network. Children and relatives were mostly in touch, but many stroke survivors reported that the number of friends they saw significantly declined. 

Says the study, "The City team recruited 87 stroke survivors from two acute stroke units based in London teaching hospitals. They interviewed participants at two weeks, three months and six months post stroke,and found that aphasia, a language disability that can affect talking, understanding, reading or writing, was the cause."

Dr. Sarah Northcott, Research Fellow in the School of Health Sciences at City University London, said, “Our study showed that many stroke survivors report that their social networks are badly affected. People who have aphasia are particularly at risk of losing contact with friends and their wider social network.

“We know that supportive relationships are crucial in enabling a person to adjust to life following a stroke, so it’s really important that we consider a person’s support networks during post-stroke rehabilitation."

Real data. How about that. So here are five ways to keep friends in your "social network":

1. Ask for help when it comes to going out
People love to help. (Most people, that is). Don't be embarrassed about asking for a ride, helping you traverse a  rocky terrain, or assisting you down the scary stairs. It's a win-win situation. People are gratified that they could help and you get the help you need.

2. Don't be a Debby Downer
Save your crabbiness for when you come home. I know. I know. You've had a tough day, but most people don't realize that you have to work at least twice as hard on daily living stuff, like getting dressed, taking food from the refrigerator, and arguing with people when the words just don't come as easy as they did before. Force you yourself, if need be, to smile and be pleasant.

3. Invite them over
You have to do your part. It wouldn't take much to set out a plate of cookies and drinks. Do it slowly. There's no need to rush if you start an hour or two early before your invited guests appear. It shows an interest in your friends. You have to do inviting sometimes. It can't be a one-way street.

4. Find common interests
I belong to a Writers Group that meets regularly at the library. Or maybe sports are your thing. You can run the food booth or be a scorekeeper or even a fan. Everybody loves an enthusiastic fan. Or how about asking your place of worship what speakers they have on board? There's always something to do. 

5. Get used to the people saying dumb things about strokes
I've heard them all. They were said to me. "You wanna race my 2-year-old grandson to see who gets there first?" Or how about this winner? "Did your life change for the better or worse after you've had a stroke?" Or even this: "Does the movie theater have a special rate for you people?" They don't know. That's all. Practice staying calm and let the "normals" talk, albeit moronically. If you get angry, that's 1 point for them and a possible reason to shun you forever. Keep. Your. Cool. I can't stress that enough.

Sufficient discussion, yes? Now get to work on staying social. And enjoy yourself, even if you have to force it in the beginning. Sometimes, you will have to pretend, but take my advice. Fairly soon, the socializing will come naturally. 

And most of all, don't be discouraged by, for example, a narcissistic brute who doesn't want to help in any way, who avoids you at all costs, including "friending" you, as Facebook says. 

William Hickson, a British educational writer, is credited with popularizing these poetic lines:
'Tis a lesson you should heed:
Try, try, try again.
If at first you don't succeed,
Try, try, try again.

Jul 4, 2016

Foods: The Dirty Dozen and More for Post-Stroke Survivors, aka All You Need Is "My Fitness Pal"

Go ahead, stroke survivors. Eat those to-die-for doughnuts, have yourself another salty bag of chips, drink yet a fifth glass of wine. But don't expect to be healthy if you do any one of those things in excess.

The Dirty Dozen: Foods Stroke Survivors Should Avoid was written by Sharon Maguire, a nurse at BrightStar Care, an agency that provides help for little ones as well as seniors in all but a handful of states. The article was published by Stroke-Network.com because post-stroke people should, as the title suggests, avoid the following. 

Maguire says:

1. Red meat:
It’s important to decrease fat intake following a stroke. Opt instead for lean proteins such as chicken breast or turkey burgers.

2. Whole dairy products:
High-fat milk products such as 2 percent or whole milk and full-fat cheese should be avoided. Make the switch to skim or opt and low-fat cream cheese and dairy products.

3. Butter replacements:
Some so-called ‘healthy’ foods can be high in trans-fats, such as butter replacements and margarines. They might have a lower calorie count, but that doesn’t mean that they are good for you.

4. Processed foods:
Processed foods such as frozen meals are often high in sodium (a big no-no for stroke recovery patients). Go for fresh meals whenever possible.

5. Salty snacks:
Avoid salty junk foods like pretzels to help limit your sodium intake.

6. Donuts and pastries:
Bakery goods are delicious, but not only are they often highly processed, they also are high in fat and made with rich dairy products. Swap out these items for sweet and delicious fruit items such as a light sorbet or fresh berries.

7. Fried chicken:
When selecting lean proteins, remember that it is still important to avoid eating the skin and not to go for the dark, fatty cuts. Think lean and light.

8. Whole eggs:
Eggs can be a healthy part of your diet, but they can also be high in cholesterol. To enjoy eggs in a healthy way, simply swap out the yolk for egg whites. For example, instead of having a fried egg sandwich with hash browns, go for an egg-white omelet stuffed with veggies with a side of fruit and whole-wheat toast.

9. French fries:
It’s also good to avoid foods that are cooked in oil. Instead, opt for foods that are baked or broiled. Remember, if it has the word “fried” in the description, it’s not a healthy option.

10. Lunch meat:
Some foods that seem light and healthy are actually quite high in sodium, such as lunch meat. Instead of lunch meat,  consider a light lunch option like salad, yogurt, or a veggie wrap. Or opt for a reduced sodium variety.

11. Ranch dressing:
Speaking of salad, remember that not all salad dressings are created equal. Look for salad dressings that are low in fat and calories, such as a light raspberry vinaigrette. A simple balsamic vinaigrette with olive oil and balsamic vinegar is easy to make and delicious as well.

12. Alcohol:
Be sure to ask your doctor about guidelines for alcohol consumption. He may suggest that you avoid it all together or that you only enjoy it in moderation.

I have a few more to add to the list. Cranberry and grapefruit "anything" or green tea or uneven or excess weekly levels of vitamin K (http://www.coumadin.bmscustomerconnect.com/servlet/servlet.FileDownload?file=00Pi000000bxvTFEAY) can make your INR (International Normalized Ratio), go off the charts. The INR is a blood test often given to stroke survivors to avoid clots (low INR) or bleeding (high INR). Check with your doctor for the right levels you should achieve with your INR.

But if you don't want to memorize the "Dirty Dozen," [My God! Who would!] you can go to your Apps Store and get, free of charge, My Fitness Pal (MFP).

Here's how it works: You choose what you want to lose, based on a 1200-calorie diet, and how fast you want to shed those unwanted pounds. I chose 50 pounds--2 pounds weekly--by October, taking me down to a size 8, the dress size of yore--eons of yore.

The creator of MFP, Mike Lee, doesn't want you to lose too fast because studies show if you lose too quickly, you'll regain it in a short time. So Lee bases all of that on a 1200-calorie intake. Exercise counts, too. (I do the recumbent bike for 45 minutes giving me more calories for the day). Food intake subtracts; exercise adds to what you're allowed to eat. Every thing is there by brand name, and yes, even McDonalds!

When I first started, I was out of calories by dinner because of 2 bagels loaded with cream cheese, 2 servings of pasta primavera, and a snack of 10 Oreo cookies. So, with all that fattening food literally staring me in the face, I learned to eat healthy stuff and more of it, too, like big salads with fat-free dressing (200 calories), white meat chicken breast (3 ounces at 100 calories), and most vegetables and fruits (at most, 100 calories per cup). Sometimes, I am so full that I can't even eat all 1200 calories. If I exercise, 1200+!

That's the things. A diary of food intake really makes a difference. When I record my food and exercises for the day, and I lose weight, I am rewarded by getting healthier. You won't eat or drink the "dirty dozen" because it makes sense to not.

You know what started all this weight loss stuff? Sitting on a shower chair, I had to cross my legs in the shower to wash my feet and couldn't, plus I couldn't get off the sofa in one motion. I knew it was time. Heavier people move much slower. Do you know who said that? Mostly everybody!

So how much did I lose so far? I lost 14 pounds in almost 7 weeks. Right on schedule! Let me know how it's working for you! I'll keep you updated, too.