A Season for Revival (10 Month Update)

May 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Our Recovery Journal

It is amazing how much we can allow an external factor such as the weather to affect our mood and psyche.  A peek outside at a cold rainy morning can be a crushing blow for one’s disposition that leads to mistake prone day and a comedy of errors.  Conversely, an initial glimpse of morning sunshine streaming into the window can provide the psychological boost that is needed to catapult a day into one that is positive, memorable, and even exceptional.

The most difficult action for Jessica each day is the simple process of getting out of bed.  Removing herself from the cozy confines of her covers usually requires a bit of prompting.  Moving from a lying to a sitting position is preceded by a thorough stretching session.  Once she is seated, getting up and taking the first few steps of the day is a process made easier by sitting on the edge of the bed for a while for a bit of mental and emotional preparation.At this point in our morning routine I give Jess her glasses and open the nearest curtain.  She is pretty much blind without the glasses so this is her first opportunity to gain some visual information about her surroundings.  Jess spends those few seconds staring out the window and gaining her first impressions of what the day might bring.


First Impressions

For months, that first impression has been a less than spectacular experience.  The starting point of many of her days has been cold, rainy, and dim.  As spring finally arrived and the outside temperature warmed, Jessica has consistently had positive day after positive day.  Her mindset has been really upbeat and one can’t help but wonder how that mindset has been propped up by those first morning glimpses of the vibrant and healthy world outside her window.

Our kids play outside quite a bit, and Jessica is now able to walk out to the patio and sit in a chair to watch them.  Jessica has always felt cold and needed a blanket both in and out of the house.  It is a huge relief (for me) that the warm weather allows her to sit on the patio for a while without needing a blanket.  Her main motivation for getting better is the possibility of being a productive mom again, and we make it a point to give her every opportunity to interact with the kids.


Outdoor Fun

Our yard is a treasure trove of worms and bugs … the girls are happy to run over to mom and show her all of their discoveries.  Baby Charlotte loves her little bumblebee swing and the other day Jess had her first opportunity to make the trek up the hill to that swing to push the baby.


Pushing Charlotte in the swing is a great barometer of Jessica’s overall progress.  The fact is that she has come so far yet has so much further to go in terms of regaining her overall independence.  Removing the cane from her hand so that she can push a swing necessitates Jessica being held up by another adult.  Without a spotter, she would have trouble keeping her balance and likely fall over.  While her left hand pushes the swing perfectly, the right hand acts as dead weight for this activity.  Her brain simply doesn’t remember the correct set of instructions for what the right arm & hand need to do to push a swing.

It will take thousands of repetitions where the arm and hand are actively being moved in the action of swing pushing before Jess’ brain has the opportunity to reassess its God-given duty of directing the operation.  As the primary assistant, I can tell you that helping Jessica remain upright with (my) one hand and providing kinesthetic swing-pushing instructions with my other hand is quite a challenge.  This kind of repetition is required for her to relearn each individual action that the rest of us take for granted.  Jess has put in thousands of repetitions of turning a doorknob, flicking a light switch, and grabbing an object with her right hand.  Her brain has subsequently regained enough confidence to direct these activities without any outside help.


Fighting Against Overactive Muscles

In the physical medicine and rehab department, doctors are used to dealing with patients whose muscles are excessively tight.  The word “spasticity” means that the muscle is constantly firing at all hours of the day and night.  In Jessica’s case, the problems result from a stroke that affects her entire right side.  The range of motion in her right arm is limited and she is unable to straighten out her right leg because these right-side muscles are constantly firing.  The primary treatment for a spastic muscle is to weaken the muscle with a toxin, and Jess received toxin (in the form of botox injections) this past month.

The introduction of botox is step forward in her progress.  The leg is at a critical point right now because she is currently unable to fully straighten it.  Over the next few months, Jessica will attempt to relearn how to straighten her right leg and take a correct step.  This way, walking will put less stress on her legs, hips, and body.  She’ll have to unlearn the walking gait she uses now and retool the entire process of taking a step correctly.  Adjusting the way she gets around is our #1 challenge of the month… as is maintaining the delicate balance between assisted walking with this new technique and getting around independently by herself.


Moving Forward

Life continues onward and upward.  We subscribe to the theory that if you aren’t moving forward then you must be moving backward.  Thankfully, we continue to move forward and see every reason to hope for continued progress.  I do secretly dread the day where Jessica stops making progress.  At this time, that day appears to be far out into the future… it’s on our radar just as much as are thoughts of retirement when you’ve just begun working.  Continued thanks for your past prayers and support and for keeping us in your present and future thoughts.  Thanks especially to those who have provided food or other help during the past 10 months.  We may not have had the time or energy to thank you individually but you can rest easily knowing that your help is greatly appreciated.

Sometimes the investments that you make don’t pay off until far into the future.  When we first moved into the house six years ago, Jessica took a special interest in reviving a sickly looking dogwood tree in our front yard.  Fast forward to today and she now gets to look at that same tree in full bloom thriving in the sun right outside her window.  I get quiet enjoyment out of watching her put on her glasses each morning and take in everything that she sees out the window.  One thing I have noticed is that that her eyes almost always gravitate toward her special tree.  Simple pleasures such as this manifest themselves as unspoken encouragement.  They reinforce the idea that she can get better and overcome obstacles both large and small.  We make similar investments every day in Jessica, and I have all the confidence in the world that each one of them will have a lasting impact on her life.


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