Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What My Hand Did

Barb Polan
Barb’s Recovery
July 21 / 2015

Tom has a cousin who has a waterfront cottage in Maine. The cousin's husband had a stroke more than 10 years ago, but ended up with no disabilities as a result. Before I had a stroke, he was the only experience I'd had with a stroke survivor. What a false impression that caused.

We went to visit the cousin, her husband, and their dog (the only other Lowchen we know) this past weekend. It's a 3-hour drive, so Tom planned a rest stop at the NH Welcome Center located just before the NH state liquor store on I-95N. I need a bathroom often enough that, yes, Tom knows the locations of every rest area along any routes we travel.

I limped my way into the building, remembering to step to the right as I encountered oncoming walkers on the sidewalk. Instead of yielding to the right as most people do when encountering someone walking toward them, since the stroke, I have automatically gone left. Tom had to tell me to pay attention and step right because, for a long time,  I didn't recognize I was doing it wrong. Perhaps that is caused by my left-side neglect, which I was diagnosed with in rehab. Left-side neglect means that my brain ignores the left side of my body; for me, it means that I walk my left side into door frames, kick my left foot into furniture, and drive too close to the center line on a road. Unable to detect my left half, my brain has changed its sense of where the center of my body is.

In the restroom, there was no line and the handicap stall was at the far end. Once inside the stall, I used my unaffected hand to pull the door shut, then tried to get to the bolt to keep it closed. For the past 5 years, I have successfully closed and bolted the stall door in every public rest room I have encountered. Not this one. I tried maybe 10 times, but couldn't manage to slide the bolt.

I finally decided I'd let the door stay open while I peed - what was the chance of another disabled woman coming along in need of the stall? And if one came, she, of all people, would understand my problem. And who cared, really?

Conceding that the door beat me is just not my style, so I decided to give it one last shot. This time, though, I pulled the door closed with my unaffected hand and held it still while I whacked the bolt with my affected hand, sliding it closed.

My motion was a wild swing, entirely synergistic (the muscles working together to get the job done rather than the controlled muscles I used to have), and my fingers stayed fisted, but what a sense of accomplishment!

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