Advice from stroke survivor Barbara Polan:
As a stroke survivor, I have heard predictions by medical personnel and advice from other survivors, and my advice to you is summed up in what your teachers and parents taught you long ago: “Don’t believe everything you hear/read.”
Some of what I heard:
Neurologist A: “You will never walk unaided again.”
Neurologist B: “Your affected leg will never be more than a peg.”
Reality, 5 years later: Yes, I usually wear a brace (electronic) and use a cane, but I CAN walk without them; in fact I can go up and down stairs using just my cane (or a railing), and I can walk easily with just my brace and no cane. When I wake up in the dark in the middle of the night having to make a trip to the bathroom, but I can’t locate my cane, I can walk unaided to the bathroom. It’s not easy or fast – and it’s not pretty – but I get there safely and return to bed without incident. Eventually, I will be able to stride there and back – that I know. So, if you ever heard anything similar, please don’t believe it. It takes time, determination and hard work, but, as a stroke survivor, you’ve got those covered.
As for my leg being a peg, if you stand in front of me while I’m sitting in a chair, I can raise my leg and kick you.
Other things I heard, mostly from survivors, but also from well-meaning friends:
Survivor A in online forum: “You MUST try Therapy N (Fill in the blank). It worked for me and it WILL work for you.”
Former co-worker: “Here’s a link to an article that talks about a treatment that worked for every stroke patient they had.”
Reality: I have tried dozens of therapies, and conventional Western therapy (OT and PT) will not get me where I want to go. Try whatever therapy options that appeal to you, especially the cheaper ones. My favorites are aquatic therapy and mirror therapy (for my hand), but there are lots of others to choose from: music, meditation, cranio-sacral, acupuncture. Don’t make the mistake, though, of thinking that what works for one of us will work for all.
About the Author:
Barbara Polan is an editor and writer who was the general manager of a community newspaper at the time she had a stroke at 52, caused by the physical stress of rowing a gig boat in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In the 6 years since, she has written a book and blogged about her recovery from stroke, and the physical and emotional demands even everyday life takes. Read more about her progress at her blog Barb’s Recovery.