July 31, 2015

Canes Do More Than Help You Walk

1) Socializing. You know how people start talking to a dog and then realize they should talk to the human holding the leash?  Strangers also talk to stroke survivors who have pretty canes.  I have stopped counting the number of times strangers have said to me "That's a pretty cane."  This gives me a chance to smile and say "Thank you, I like it too."  Little girls cannot keep their eyes off my cane with purple flowers as I walk past.  Their too young to realize it is an ambulatory device instead of a toy or a fashion accessory.

2) Transporting. It is hard to transport small objects when my sound hand is busy handling the cane.  At first I put objects in a small paper gift bag.  I held my cane and the bag's string handles in my sound hand.  The bag would swing and repeatedly hit my cane so I did not feel safe when I was walking.  Paper gift bags also fall apart with repeated use.
I found an attractive small nylon bag at Barnes and Nobles bookstore.  To keep it from swinging I attached self-stick Velcro to my cane and the bag (see the white line in the photo).  The Velcro on the bag eventually comes lose so I use a stapler to attach it more firmly.

July 26, 2015

Smart Phones and Stroke, Part 2

Problem. I used a flip phone for years so I could call AAA if my car broke down, but a trip last year to see my brother showed me I need a smart phone.  When I got to my destination the temperature gauge showed my engine was very hot.  I knew the area so I drove to the local Toyota dealer which was closed because it was Sunday.  If I had a smart phone I would have learned that a taxi service was only two miles away.  I could have left my car at the dealer, had a taxi take me back to my hotel, and waited for my brother to arrive the next day.  My brother talked about loaner cars, but they do not have the modification that lets me control the gas pedal with my good left foot. 
I decided to buy a smart phone before I took my next long trip.

Training.  It is a good thing I bought an iPhone several months in advance.  This gave me time to attend free training sessions held by Verizon.  For example, there are multiple ways to delete items in Contacts, Messages, Calendar, Notes, and Photos.  To delete you touch a picture of a trash can at the bottom left or bottom right OR touch the word delete at the bottom right, bottom center,
top right, or right side of the screen.  To make the word delete appear, you may have to touch the word edit, pull an entry to the left, or scroll to the bottom of a file.  The chaos during staff meetings at Apple must be remarkable.  I also needed several months to learn how to use Google and Google maps because using them on an iPhone is different from using them on a computer.  I finally felt comfortable using Google Maps so I was thinking of leaving my Garmin GPS at home until I could not get cell phone reception in a small town near my home.

Outcome.  Going - IF I had used the Weather Channel app while I ate lunch on my 1st day of travel I would have seen an alert that said the rain storm had flash flood warnings.  Instead I got into my car.  The storm delivered such heavy rain that I could not see the car in front of me.  I could have waited out the storm in a McDonald's instead of on the side of the road.  Visiting - My brother and I texted repeatedly so we could meet at his boat and go out to dinner.  Texting with the Siri voice command on a iPhone is easier than texting one-handed on a flip phone.  Coming home - When a severe storm slammed onto my hotel, I used Google maps to change my route home, Google to locate new hotels, and the phone function to cancel old and make new hotel reservations.

Bottom Line.  A smart phone is an essential adaptive device for stroke survivors who travel.

July 16, 2015

A Brace Man Gives Me Confidence

When a stroke survivor said "I'm vertical for one more day" I remembered how hard it was to steer a wheelchair with one hand and one foot on linoleum.  I'm grateful that I'm not pushing a wheelchair across carpeting at home.  I'm also grateful that no one has to put a wheelchair in the trunk of their car when I go out.  My grandmother didn't know how to drive so she spent a lot of time at home, but American women my age grew up owning their own car.  I get depressed if I spend several days inside.  When my five year old leg brace needed to be replaced I was glad I have easy access to an orthotist.

I had to make several visits to have my brace adjusted so it's fortunate that I live only 20 miles from Wayne's office.  My brace has to reduce the stress on my joints as much possible when I walk.  I'm terrified of hip and knee replacement surgery if I abuse my hemiplegic leg.  I'd have to go off my blood thinner for surgery and could wake up with the worst type of stroke called locked-in syndrome.  People who have a brain stem stroke as I did can be totally paralyzed including being unable to blink or move their head as well as having all four limbs paralyzed.

When I heard myself telling Wayne that a lot of my confidence in the community comes from my brace I realized why I was uncharacteristically sad when I saw him.  The brace fitting process stirred up the fears I felt when I first stood on a leg I couldn't trust to hold me up.  Those terrifying memories are still there even though I haven't thought about them for years.  I've had enough bad falls to be glad my brace keeps my ankle from collapsing when I put weight on my hemiplegic foot.  Seeing an orthotist again helped me remember how lucky I am to have good health care.

July 2, 2015

Driving is More Than Stepping on the Gas

My motto is "I'm independent but I'm slow."  However, I'll bet anyone $100 that I can cover the front windshield of my car with auto shades faster than an able-bodied person.  An able-bodied person would lose because they use accordion style (folded) auto shades where one end falls out of position as soon as you reach for the other end.  I use the kind that look like a big pair of sunglasses.
The spinner knob on my steering wheel lets me drive one-handed, but it gets super hot so auto shades keep my sound hand from getting burned.  The wire rim on these auto shades lets able-bodied people twist them into a circle when they don't need them.  It takes two hands to close them into a circle so I leave them open and toss them between the passenger seat and the door.  

Warning: I make sure the auto shades are pushed back far enough so they don't obscure my side view mirror (see arrow in photo on left).  When I have passengers I tell them to thrown my auto shades in the back seat.  It takes me 8 seconds to put my auto shades up and 4 seconds to take them down and stow them (I timed it).  Sadly I'll never win any money because I feel and look so confident that no one would take my bet.