Have your ever found yourself suffering from a medical condition that you’d never given much thought before, and suddenly found that it’s everywhere?
-My dog’s got no nose. -How does it smell? -Like burnt toast. -You’re having a stroke. -Oh.
— Matt Kirshen (@mattkirshen) October 14, 2013
I’ve had one of those weeks during which there’s no escape from strokes. And it turns out that there’s useful recovery advice to be found in every story.
1. Matt Kirshen
Matt Kirshen, if you don’t know him, is a British comedian who hasn’t had a stroke. He looks like a twelve-year-old boy, for goodness’ sake! A quality he uses to get away with some pretty close-to-the-bone-material. But we can still learn some useful stroke recovery tips from the wee man.
First, and perhaps most importantly, it pays to keep your sense of humour in the wake of a stroke. That goes for both the patient and loved ones. Ridiculous things are going to happen. The patient will use his hand as a smartphone and call the Department Of Defense about the status of his Iron Man suit. Conversations like this will take place:
– What did you study at college?
– Show Business.
– No you didn’t, honey.
– Well that’s pretty effin’ obvious, isn’t it?
We’ve heard lots of stories about the absurd things stroke patients say and do, either through confusion, or because their lesions have obliterated their inhibitions. You might as well roll with it, because getting upset about every occurrence is gonna be pretty hard work.
Also, embrace social media.
Twitter was a real help to me. The hours of in-patient rehab are long, even when the staff try to keep you occupied and Mrs. Stroke Bloke is visiting before and after work to brighten every day. And 140 characters are just about as much idea as the stroke-addled brain can handle at a time. Also, looking back at my copious hospital tweets, I can rebuild the story of my stay. Which is good, if we remember the importance of a coherent narrative in the recovery process.
More recently, I’ve established a Pinterest presence. No, wait…!
I’m trying Pinterest, under the Ricky Ballboy moniker. Less like an etsy bake sale than I’d been led to believe. Could be handy, in fact.
— Ricky Brown (@ricky_ballboy) October 18, 2013
It turns out Pinterest is really handy for the stroke survivor. Remembering things always has the potential to be tricky, particularly if you’re used to juggling ephemera. It can often be done with a real, conscious attempt to hold on to the item in question, but in my case, that’s going to make my Zen river look like the Brooklyn Riviera. Now, if I come across a snippet about a movie I’d like to see, a recipe I’d like to try, or tattoo design I fancy, I can pin it, and let the thought go poohstick.
2. Andrew Marr
Friendoftheblogandrewmarr was on The One Show the other night. It was just on in the background, I should stress. Awful tat, that show. Marr struck a more relaxed tone than the one presented in the Guardian and Observer features that set my teeth on edge previously. Whether this is due to a proper Damascene conversion, or because he wanted to present the expected front, I have no idea. Maybe it was because he’s found a new interest.
Everyone’s… third favourite Scottish stroke survivor was on the show to plug his new Short Book About Drawing. Perennial blog favourite Edwyn Collins also turned to drawing in the wake of his haemorrhage. I picked up an example of his work at the record fair last week. He also drew his own latest record cover, as well as having his drawings used on wallpaper.
For me, of course, the new interest is writing. In each case, following this new interest has helped the patient retain a positivity about life. Note that for Marr and Collins, each already a creative type in one way or another, this new interest is removed from the day job. In my case, the enjoyment I’ve derived from writing and blogging even led me to plan short solo trips in the early days of recovery, to learn more about the WordPress platform. Trips that lent confidence and which I wouldn’t have made without that impetus.
3. Vladimir Romanov
What does the disgraced former owner of Heart Of Midlothian Football Club have to tell us about stroke recovery? It turns out he’s made a Saunders-esque recovery, and he is known for working miracles. Such as following through on his pledge that the Jambos would win the Champions League during the early years of his reign. Poor old Vlad’s had a rough time of it recently, as I found out when I picked up a copy of the Daily Express on Saturday. Beth likes the free gifts. Paw Broon likes the TV section. I like that they’re committing to their hilarious satire of running a Di story every day, even sixteen years after her death.
The hilarity continued on the last page. Apparently, “the man who was once the most controversial figure in Scottish football seems to have vanished after last being seen in Russia, where he was reportedly receiving treatment in a Moscow hospital for a stroke and was then seen sunning himself on a beach — an image which caused outrage in Lithuania.” When Stroke Bloke reached out to Vlad for a comment, he said:
“I think my miraculous recovery illustrates the importance of balancing a realistic worldview with the retention of aspirational but attainable daydreams. Now excuse me. Diana and I have to pick up some champagne before heading off for our skiing holiday in Aviemore.”
Late last week, I was pleasantly surprised to find a late-breaking and thoughtful comment from a fellow survivor on The Clonus Horror. Like Stroke Bloke, Steve would suffer regular leg spasms, and the more occasional whole body event. He had a suggested solution:
The good news is you can train yourself to relax your muscles and stop the spasms almost immediately. The bad news, for me anyway, that I went through this thing hundred times until I finally figured out how to stop it. And as you well know it’s a lousy way to wake up.
. . . stay positive and work with what you got and things will continue to improve.
He’s right, you know. It seems my clonus-like symptoms were more to do with residual atrophy and hyper-reflexiveness than my outstanding neurological issues, and time and diligent work on strengthening the leg have mostly relieved matters. Of course, if you or a loved one are experiencing spasms or other clonus-like symptoms, do get them checked out by a doctor.
Speaking of comments, a big welcome back to Friendoftheblogpaul. Your chances of reading something erudite, witty and/or insightful on apoplectic.me have just increased 100%. British self-deprecation stays level. Let me pass along the meat of his comeback comment:
I’m reading David Mitchell’s new book, The Reason I Jump. Mitchell didn’t write this book. He translated it. It is actually written by an autistic 13 year old Japanese boy, who is really only able to communicate via his writing. The book is amazing. If you want to read an incredible view into the mind of someone with a profound disability, and be inspired and amazed at the same time, you should read it.
Sounds like a good idea.