May 28, 2020

Electrical Stimulation with NeuroMove

My hand was completely flaccid for three month after my stroke.  I did not get motion back until I started using an electrical stimulation device called NeuroMove.  Electrical stimulation strengthens muscles, but NeuroMove also has a biofeedback component.  I was able to watch a line on a monitor creep higher and higher as I thought about moving my hand.  That immediate feedback kept me focused and working hard even when I did not see movement.  When my muscle activity finally increased above the threshold line, I got a few seconds of stimulation and was rewarded with a visible hand motion.  NeuroMove would not help me until I made a sincere attempt to recruit the muscles that open my hand.  Equally important, NeuroMove would not repeat the stimulation until I completely relaxed the muscles I just used.  This added feature is important because stroke survivors have trouble both recruiting and relaxing muscles.

I tried other electrical stimulation devices that stimulated my muscles at pre-set intervals or when I pushed a button.  I could not coordinate my efforts with those devices.  In the beginning it took me 20 seconds to figure out how to recruit a muscle and up to 60 seconds to make that muscle relax.  Devices without a biofeedback component zapped me whether I was ready or not.  It was like dancing with a really bad partner who kept jerking me around the dance floor.  NeuroMove patiently waited for me.

Neuroplasticity helps stroke survivors grow new connections in the brain, but that does not mean we can find them. The biofeedback component of NeuroMove helped me find connections
I did not know I had.  NeuroMove stimulated my muscles AND helped me retrain my brain.

May 17, 2020

How I Escape from Covid-19

I have been reading e-books on Hoopla to pass the time while sitting at home during the covid-19 pandemic.  I recently reread My Antonia by Willa Cather.  This book brought back fond childhood memories of my father driving across Illinois and Iowa to visit my grandparents before there were interstate highways.  State highways built before World War II wove through miles of wheat fields that moved in the wind like ocean swells.  When we came to an intersection we could see cars for miles in all directions because the land is so flat.  One of Cather's characters described the land this way - "I wanted to walk straight through the red grass and over the edge of the world which
could not be far away."

When I moved east to New Jersey I freaked out for years when I drove on narrow state and county roads with sharp curves.  Not being able to see on-coming traffic around a bend was unnerving.  For years I also missed seeing the horizon at sunset.  I have gotten used to the closed-in landscape of the densely populated east coast, but the open vistas of the middle-west still thrill me.

I am grateful that a stunning writer who won a Pulitzer Prize helped me reconnect home with
happy memories.

May 10, 2020

Covid-19 Made Me Smarter

Currently over 4,700 covid-19 deaths in New Jersey have occured in long-term-care facilities so
I am very motivated to do what it takes to stay in my home.  For example, my cleaning lady has not come for 6 weeks because of the pandemic.  When I smelled dust and started to sneeze I felt compelled to try vacuuming until it is safe for Isabel to be in my home for two hours.

I vacuumed years ago so I already knew 2 tricks.  (1) Vacuuming is exhausting because it requires stepping forwards and backwards abruptly a hundred times so I vacuum only one room a day.
(2)  I knew tripping on the cord was a huge fall hazard.  Thankfully I can hold the cord out of my way.  I rest the cord in my partially curled hemiplegic fingers and use shoulder abduction to hold the cord away from my body.

I discovered 2 new tricks to make vacuuming easier.  (3)  I do not step forwards and backwards.
I stand still and move the vacuum forward and backwards only one arm's length.  Then I take two steps sideways to clean a two-vacuum wide path before moving forward.  Most of my falls have happened when I step backwards but I feel stable when I step sideways.  (4)  Instead of vacuuming in parallel rows the way people cut grass, I start by vacuuming around the perimeter of the room and gradually work towards the center.  Making 90 degree turns is easier than 180 degree turns.

May 2, 2020

Another Cheap Solution

Here is another example of how stroke survivors can use cheap every day items to solve problens instead of ordering equipment from an expensive medical catalogue. I love my kitchen garbage can except for 1 thing.   As it gets full, the weight of the garbage pulls the liner down.  The notch (see arrow) does not keep the liner in place.  Garbage can get caught between the liner and the can - yuk. 

Recently I saw 2 metal clips resting on my counter that I forgot to put away.  I thought the clips might hold the liner in place.  Voila - the tiny black clips next to the hinge do the job.  I am so happy.  Serendipity saved me again.  Having a master's degree in OT is not enough.

I had to do in-store shopping to find a kitchen garbage can I can use.  I discovered I cannot use a garbage can that opens by stepping on a pedal.  This mechanism requires me to slowly step on the pedal so the lid does not fly open.  My balance is not good enough to do this.  I learned garbage cans with openings in the lid that swing open when touched are small so the edges can get spattered with food - another yuk.

A model made by Hefty has a lid that hangs over the side (see arrows).  I lift the lid with the back of my hemiplegic fist so my sound hand is free to dump the garbage.