Reflections on my Stroke of Luck and Mental Tai Chi
Revisiting Rehab: Moments with Mixed Emotions
By John A. Marshall
"Hey Arthur! Let's go take a shower." Arthur had been my Occupational Therapist at the hospital helping me relearn how to shower and do other daily tasks.
I was surprised and delighted to see Arthur walking through the lobby of the hospital Rehab Unit when NaNa and I stopped by today to drop off copies of my DVD "Tai Chi In A Chair For Folks With Strokes." I'm not sure how happy Arthur was with my shower joke as I was not a model patient. In fact, a better description of me would be a model "impatient" and Arthur was always in a hurry to stay on his busy schedule. Walking over the sliding door threshold to the Rehab lobby with my DVD's in hand for Dr. Selzer and his staff was surreal having been rolled through the doorway so many times in a wheelchair. Now, here I was 18 months later with a strong step, a heart full of thankfulness and a face full of tears for my Stroke Of Luck to have had such compassionate care from the healers here in Rehab who helped me start this new Life.
I turned away from Arthur to the comforting embrace and smiling motherly face of Teri, a volunteer in her fifties who had been my spotter while she and Gayla, my kick ass P.T., had given me the courage and confidence to take my first walk without my walker or other support.
Teri might stand 5 feet tall on her tiptoes but the strength of her loving spirit makes a giant impression on all those she helps.
Looking down the hallway from the lobby I remembered the centerline of tiles that Teri and Gayla had me follow. As I rook tiny tentative steps, Teri and Gayla told me to try bigger steps in a cadence.
I immediately flashed back on my marine Corp experience of leading my platoon in close order drill. My cadence instinctively picked up and I heard myself calling "Hut. Hut. One, two, three, four," as I marched down the hallway on that center tile line.
"Your left, your left, left, right, left." Reliving that moment now in the presence of Teri's giant, loving spirit created a time warp for me where the past and present merged into this moment of love for Teri and all of the angels everywhere who help heal their fellow humans.
Reflecting on my marching down the hallway shouting commands and calling out a cadence I must have looked and sounded like an escapee from the psyche ward.
But, pretending to be a twenty-one old fearless leader of men forced me to muster all my strength and determination to look and act like a young marine officer.
Another memorable moment demanded recall when Sandra appeared next to me with her twinkle eyes. "Twinkle" had been my nickname for her as she always brightened my day with Physical Therapy and compliments on my progress.
Sandra had preceeded me up the training stairs on my first frightening effort. With the left side of my body lagging, I was desperately grabbing and holding on to anything that gave me a feeling of security as I slowly ascended step by lop sided step. When we finally made it to the top of the steps, "Twinkle" stopped and turned to me, "Good job John," she said "You can let go of my pony tail now."
Seeing Arthur, Teri, "Twinkle" and Carrie Lee, my chi whiz P.T. partner, was an emotional mix of reliving the past pain with the immense pleasure and pride to be blessed with the present feeling of success and freedom from deep depression and P.T.S.D. of being trapped inside my broken brain and disabled body.
A study at Columbia University published online in 2013 reported that one in four stroke victims suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!
I was so happy to learn of this study because stroke stress is underestimated in treatment and the P.T.S.D. study validates the value of my DVD Tai Chi In A Chair For Folks With Strokes as a way for patients to reduce and prevent P.T.S.D.