Saturday, December 24, 2016

Loose Change and Oven Mitts

My right hand is still a disaster, ever since the stroke.

It's weird- I can still move the fingers, clearly, as I'm still typing. I just can't feel the fingers- specifically, my thumb, my index finger, and most of my middle finger on my right hand. 

I keep shaking my hand, thinking it has fallen asleep- maybe I just need to get the blood moving, and it will wake up. Nothing yet. The hand has been sleeping for twelve days.

Writing keeps me sane, but the typing part of the project is making me insane. Perhaps it is time to research a voice transcription program?

Imagine- I know the word I want to write, and I know how to spell it. My fingers strike the correct keys, but not with the correct pressure, because I can't feel the pads of my fingers. Almost every word has to be deleted and retyped, as I miss striking half of the letters in each word.

For example, just from the word "not", I might only get the "t" out of it. 

Delete, strike, miss, retype, retype, retype.

This whole thing is an exercise in extreme patience, which is not one of my God-given virtues, as anyone who knows me well can attest.

Delete, delete, strike, miss, retype.

My neurologist asks me if I want to do occupational therapy. "I have no idea," I reply helpfully. "Isn't that kind of your call?"

Truth serum. All of these seizure medications have obliterated the last pretend vestiges of any sort of filtering function. I am now a perpetual smart ass. More than usual.

The nice doctor tells me that he doesn't know if there's any point in pursuing occupational therapy, since we are still waiting for brain swelling to recede, and for blood to reabsorb. That, and the fact that my hand still moves- I just can't feel it. The deficit is sensory.

"I'd like you to practice your pincer grasp and dexterity with coins," he tells me. "You know, just use loose change."

"I'm not following," I reply. I am tired and overwhelmed, and I know I've mentioned this too many times- I am very medicated.

"Start with quarters," the doctor explains. "Practice picking them up from the table, using just your thumb and index finger. Move up to nickels. The last will be dimes, which will be the most challenging. Just keep practicing."


I keep dropping things. Invented exercises with loose change are the least of my worries. Knives, full blenders, and steaming cups of coffee are much bigger problems. Catastrophes, really.

I read about stroke recovery, and relearning to use the affected limb. One pamphlet suggests putting an oven mitt on the functional hand, to remind you not to use it, and to force you to use the afflicted hand instead. It's called Modified Constraint-Induced Therapy, or mCIT.

I have some choice words for mCIT, and the theoretical oven mitt. 

Although, I get it- I already want to favor my left hand, so I don't keep dropping and spilling everything. The idea is that the function in the afflicted hand will atrophy, if you don't use it. I am supposed to keep using this sleeping right hand, even though it continues to make more work for me, and infinitely more messes.

In this current state- I am messier than any of my three kids. Truly.

My dog, on the other hand, seems to be a huge fan of mCIT, since it vastly increases his chances of table scraps. I have taken to crouching over my dinner, reminiscent of a caricature of a caveman, hovering with my fork and my face just inches from the plate, hoping that I will stop spilling just everywhere. The dog is still hopeful.

So- today I sit, with my loose change, and my laptop. Practicing. I pretend that striking the computer keys is also useful, which it probably is. At least I am continuing to use the right hand in some sort of productive manner.

I had asked the doctor about playing the piano as well- which he encourages. I have the same problem that I do with the computer keys though- missing notes. Only I can't retype, when playing the piano.

The music is just not the same.

Deleting in music changes chord structure. Which changes everything.

I've been practicing with the quarters. It's so hard to pick up a thin coin from a table, if you can't feel the coin in the first place.

But, I can even sort of pick up the nickels, if I carefully scoop the coin onto my thumb with the side of my index finger...which of course is cheating, and isn't the point of the exercise. Adaptation, however, is an impressive and useful skill.

I have a lot more respect for stroke survivors, these days. I had no idea- and this is just one sleeping hand.

It was just one stroke. I am still mad that I had a stroke. I hope my hand comes back.

Delete. Strike. Miss.

Dimes are a total loss for now. I'm going to keep practicing.

Strength for the journey.

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