Nov 18, 2017

Go to Hell, Black Friday! aka The Top Ten Things I Am Thankful For On Thanksgiving


Right around this time of year, I often write about the misadventures of Black Friday, but I've finally learned not to participate because as a stroke survivor, I have fears of getting trampled or shot or assaulted, though it's not without basis, and one of so many stories.

Here's an example that occurred in 2011 as reported by the Huffington Post that game me pause. "A Black Friday shopper who collapsed while shopping at a Target store in West Virginia went almost unnoticed as customers continued to hunt for bargain deals. Walter Vance, a 61-year-old pharmacist who reportedly suffered from a prior heart condition, later died in the hospital. Witnesses say some shoppers ignored and even walked over the man’s body as they continued to shop." (Want to see more? Go to http://blackfridaydeathcount.com. You might be Amazon shopping this time forever after!)

Anyway, this time I am posting about what I am thankful for on Thanksgiving (in that partially made-up story about the Pilgrims and the Indians whose land we stole even though the Indians were here first. Just sayin'). Make no mistake. Those who know know me realize that my life had given me tough times, some necessary detours, to get around the shit tossed my way, and this is not a time, meaning never, to elaborate. So here are the top ten things for me to be thankful for.

1.  I am grateful that I am alive. I was close to death 8-1/2 years ago, with no thanks to my hemorrhagic stroke, but here I am, getting up and dusting myself off when another piece of crap goes flying my way. Why am I here still? As my son says, you're too annoying to die. Granted, I am pushy, and with that comes the will to live. And positivity is a part of that attitude. But the overwhelming positive side, truth be told, is, if I wasn't laughing, I would be crying, making my baggy eyes even baggier. So every day, I make a concerted effort to wake up happy, even if I'm not, because who wants to waste all that energy on being negative. (Sorry for that, but that's what's called an interior rant, aka stream of consciousness).

2.  I am grateful for my 2 sons (who shall remain nameless) who give me thoughtful insights at times when I most need it. I give them thoughtful insights, too, with the response always being, "Mom! Don't try to FIX things! You're meddlesome!" They say I am controlling, and maybe I am, less so as the years go forward. But I know they heard me and will think about my words, often later taking my suggestions. I don't say a word.

3.  I am grateful that I learned about a year ago how to successfully (the operative word) tie my shoes one-handed. This procedure, too, was borne of necessity. There just isn't somebody around at times. Video forthcoming in YouTube.

4.  I am grateful that I learned that the best Personal Assistants anticipate my needs without my saying, "Could you...." The only two that showed up for the interview in Speedboat Coffee in Portland (I was expecting eight) were Norma and Joyce #2. I couldn't ask for better. I often say, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" And I mean it.

5.  I am grateful that I learned, through my weekly sessions in counseling, not to live in the past. The sessions went on for about three years. I'm a slow learner, meaning I'm bright yet stubborn, and it took a lot of time for my counselor to break through the barrier of obstinance. Great work, T.

6.  I am grateful that I learned that I shop online just to make me feel better. Amazon Queen, they call me (not to be confused with Queen of the Amazons, a 1947 flick where a woman's husband has disappeared on an expedition into the jungle and she discovers that he has been captured by a savage female tribe. Campy, right?) After many procedures and an operation, not counting the two upcoming this month, what's wrong with a little shopping therapy! It's cheaper than "talk" therapy and at least I enjoy the online trip with laughter and total glee without ordering needlessly.

7.  I am grateful that I learned that I like a lot of plants. I mean, OBSESSIVELY A LOT! Around twenty in front of an almost floor to ceiling, three-paned window. I'm allergic to cats and I can't walk a dog, plus birds are too much work, and fish don't do it for me. But my maternal instincts are still in play, so I take care of plants. Rather, my Personal Assistant waters them, feeds them, and gathers errant leaves that have somehow fallen off. I just watch them, keeping a loving eye on the plants that never move.

8.  I am grateful that I learned about the iPhone, more than just texting and clicking an app to activate it. Katie and Jody in Pittsburgh taught me so much and now Norma and Joyce #2 have taken over. But I'm grateful also that I can text with one hand. Life is good. I got the iPhone later than most people. Read about it in my post from 2015: https://stroketales.blogspot.com/2015/01/why-i-still-have-flip-phone-aka-i.html

9. I am grateful that I am never once bored in my apartment. Between writing, reading, and going to the refrigerator or kitchen cabinet to give me an excuse once an hour to stand and move, sometimes often without hunger, I keep busy. See my post about sitting too much: https://stroketales.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-5-ws-and-h-of-getting-up-and-moving.html

10. I am grateful that I am not associated in any way with Donald Trump, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and scores of others, some of them still yet unknown, who brought shame upon themselves and anger, tears, and painful memories to their victims.

Now that we ended on a bad note, let's get back to the point. So tell me, dear reader, what are YOU thankful for? Write in the Comments section below. And Happy Thanksgiving!


Nov 12, 2017

Stroke Survivors Alert: The Way to Nap, aka It's Siesta Time!

Cornell University social psychologist James Maas coined the phrase "power nap." Just 15 or 20 minutes each day, sometimes twice a day if your day is long enough, will give you new-found energy. The reason for just 15 or 20 minutes is, any longer and it will make you groggy because your body will ultimately fall into deep sleep, and waking up during a deep sleep stage makes no sense.

The CDC says (if it isn't sleep disturbances such as nightmares from the medication or leg spasms that go on and on and, yes, on), more than one third of us are sleeping less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours each night.

"The power nap is a godsend," Dr. Maas added, sleep expert and past chair of the Psychology Department at Cornell University. "If you want to nap longer, make sure you have a solid 90 minutes. That'll allow you to get through a full sleep cycle, so by the time you wake up, you'll be back in the lighter stages of sleep and able to get up and actually feel refreshed." 

Dr. Rachel Salas, associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins, says, "Humans have a normal, natural dip, in our circadian rhythm, in the afternoon. That’s actually prime time to take a nap." Especially that post-lunch energy crash, she adds. 

 

Many experts say make the surroundings as dark as possible and use earplugs or even download a white noise app from your phone. Salas recommends an eye mask, too, because light can pass through the eyelids and still be disturbing your ability to take a nap.


The "coffee nap" has been talked about, too. The thinking is  if you drink a cup of coffee, set your alarm for 15 or 20 minutes, and take a power nap, the coffee takes about 20 minutes for caffeine to absorb into the body and then you're prepared to awake.

But Maas says, "Anybody with insomnia should never power nap, because it's going to make it worse. If you're having trouble going to sleep at night or have disruptive sleep where you're waking up in the middle of the night, the first thing you have to look at is if you've been napping during day." 

That recommendation also applies to sleep apnea. "Even a short nap can be unrefreshing if the quality of the sleep is disrupted by apnea," says Maas, who suggests seeing your doctor or a sleep specialist to rule out any underlying sleep disorders.

My problem was, I'd gotten into a bad habit. Because my Personal Assistant liked to sleep in, I started awakening at 11am and nodding off at 4am . Now I know better. Even if it's a 2-power nap day, I go to sleep at 11pm and arise at 7am. It was a hard transition getting to be an early riser--it took me about 3 weeks, but it was worth it. Carpe diem!

Oct 29, 2017

In the Hapless Wheelchair: Talk To Me When You're Talking To Me!

It was a recent HBO limited series called The Newsroom. Starring Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, a cantankerous insomniac and often narcissistic news anchor, he became involved in a scuffle with the producer (Thomas Sadowski) who calls Will a scumbag (not exactly his words--worse even), but the producer addressed Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), the news director, instead of Will, and Charlie said, "Talk to him when you're talking to him."


You got all that? It's very important that you do because of the next part of my story. If not, re-read.

So this is what happened yesterday, but it's sort of the same story that happens every time since I had the stroke. Sitting in the wheelchair doesn't help, but for long trips like Walmart or the supermarket, it's a necessity. A man or woman addresses my Personal Assistant, who travels with me because I am disabled and cannot drive. But this crystal clear-thinking woman--me--is ignored. Somehow, I become invisible, a ghost, or I am addressed in the third party.

The woman in Kohl's says, "What is it she's looking for?"

The man in Dollar Tree says, "Does she want red or blue?"

The teenager at the check-out window in Dunkin' Donuts says, "Should I make her tea iced or hot?"

"Hello," I said to myself silently. "I'm right here."

Ultimately, I got tired of the ghost role and this is how I empowered myself to do something. Big time.

I was in the Department of Motor Vehicles to inquire about the status of my identification card, aka my non-driver driver's license, which never arrived in the mail. We went up to the window and, because I was sitting in the wheelchair, my PA, who was eye level with the representative, asked about its whereabouts. The line behind us was extensive.

"I don't know. Let me check. Do you know when she applied?" asked the man.

"Three weeks ago," my PA said.

"Oh. Here it is. There was some quirk in the system and it wasn't sent out. Let me try again. Here's an Oregon certificate of residency [which I didn't have anymore] that should help her out if she's needing it. But she shouldn't. You're her driver, aren't you? And she's not going out of the country," he chuckled.

That was it. The crushing chuckle, bordering on guffaw. With the seemingly endless line in back of us, and with the wheelchair locked, I stood up straight at my full 5', 5", tired of being a ghost any longer. I turned a bit to broadcast the message.

"As a matter of fact, I am going out of the country," I lied and shouted with unabashed glee. "I'm the Goodwill Ambassador for Russian Diplomatic Affairs, appointed by the president himself. I'm leaving Friday," I said, taking the first country that came in my mind a la Trump and the title I made up as I went along, leaving the first 10 people behind me looking with a newfound admiration.

I added, "And by the way, talk to me when you're talking to me."

I sat down in the still-locked wheelchair, looking serious as ever. She unlocked my brakes and we turned and left. I was proud of my exuberant bullshit, even prouder that I advocated for myself. I willing to say that man learned a lesson. But then again, maybe not. Either way, I was overjoyed at my newfound readiness for extemporaneous speech which I didn't have ever after my stroke.

Oct 12, 2017

Hey, Hospital Administrators: Be the First to Revolutionize the Healthcare System for Stroke Survivors

I have thoughts, good ones at that, even though I had a hemorrhagic stroke and a portion of my brain cells died, never to appear again. That's all right. I compensate with little tricks that make me able to pretend I have the brain I was born with. 

But just talk, no action has been the status quo with stroke survivors, even though they contribute to one of the most disabling conditions. So I'm going to dare hospitals to do this because no hospital has done it before--revolutionize healthcare for stroke survivors. 


Hospital Administration

Greetings and with all due respect to hospital administrators. You have a difficult job, keeping the balance between doctors and nurses (some of whom are un-balanced) and the rest of the staff running smoothly, or just running. You aren't afraid of suggestions, are you? Well, then, use your smiling (albeit even if you don't feel like it) visages to approach this thought. 

Your facility could be "on the map" even more than it currently is. Be the hospital that stands out from the rest if you follow this one revolutionary suggestion for stroke survivors.


Before I tell you what "it" is, don't tell me you can't afford it because, truth be told, it's the missing piece. Doctors and RNs and the rest of the staff don't need perks, like the spreads you lay out for them, to keep them loyal. Just saving on food alone could make this idea more of a reality. If they really want to help people, and I'm sure most of them do, they'll stay put in your hospital. And your salary more than justifies my proposal. Ready?

When a stroke patient is admitted, have a psych team at the ready as soon as the patient is awake and comprehending, who reads the survivor some strict rules every day for at least a week BEFORE therapy starts. Crying will most likely happen. And that's all right. Emotional release.

Let me give you background on this thought because I've been thinking about it ever since I had my stroke eight and a half years ago. 

I was depressed (it went on for a year, less and less after that) and thus, at times, I was non-compliant. I was in a coma for 8 days and didn't talk for 5 weeks. And that was the easy part. What's the tough part, you ask? From the time I started talking, I would always ask questions at Bacharach Rehabilitation in Pomona, NJ, questions that could have been answered by the not-yet-formed psych team before I started therapy.

Instead, a question to the therapist: "What happens if I don't do leg lifts?" 
An answer from the therapist: "Just do them, ok?"
An answer from the not-yet-formed psych team: "Do everything the therapist says or else you'll be in a wheelchair longer."

A question to the nurse: "Why should I wear support stockings?"
An answer from the nurse: "Because you should."
An answer from the not-yet-formed psych team: "Do everything the nurses say or else you'd delay getting better."

A question to the doctor: "Do I really have to wear the eye patch for double vision?"
An answer from the  doctor: "Didn't you comprehend what I just told you?" 
An answer from the not-yet-formed psych team: "Do everything the doctors tell you because they're trained to give you good advice."

A psych team. For at least a week. Every day. Before therapy starts. To get stroke survivors ready to bust their asses and cooperate with the staff. Who's ready? Anyone? Anyone? Contact me through email and I'll go anywhere in the continental US to make this happen. 

I have thoughts indeed.