My name is Rick Porter, what you are going to read is a short first person account of my story so far. It takes from the beginning in December of 2010 to March 2013. I call it the halfway point.
Why Me? or you "Can't eat cereal with a fork and other things"......
"Why Me'" is a common question after a life-changing event. Sometimes God gets the blame or you don't understand. Trying to figure out where you "went wrong" can be the sole focus of your reaction to something like this.
However, it just maybe a test of your true faith. Granted, regular Church attendance and prayer for guidance to a perplexing set of problems, may make it appear as though your faith is ultimately established beyond a shadow of a doubt.
A test of your faith and your care giver's faith may be one of the methods God uses to see if your professed faith is the real thing. Do you invoke God's love and care? Or are you an individual who will use the moment as just another opportunity to debunk all things religious.
Theory often clashes with reality. How a stroke recovery 'should' go is often times diametrically opposed to how it is actually going. Prayers are often perceived as unanswered or are negatively received. As I have gone through all of this, I have seen many reactions by others. Other unfortunate individuals have acted with courage while some have simply called it a day and accepted their fate. My experience has shown me that if you persevere and adapt to the challenge at hand, your reaction will energize you and those around you with a positive attitude. Negative feedback only consigns your outcome to the trash heap of human misery, along with those trying to help.
So in closing, I have hopefully reinforced my faith and shown others how it can be done. The effort may not have the desired outcome as yet, but who knows what the next moment will bring? It is ultimately in God's hands, and your faith will see you through.
December 3rd, 2010, was just like any other day, except for some strange ailments that eventually became a ride to the hospital's ER. The determination that a clot, probably partially a result of high blood pressure, formed and led to a blockage in the brain that would affect my entire right side. In hindsight, when my walking became unsteady and a slight slur had manifested itself, a trip to the ER was in order. Waiting until the full-blown symptoms had set in (slight speech problem, drooping of the right side of my face, and not being able to move the right side), had probably only worsened what followed. The result was a very unnerving ride to the local ER and the full realization that this was not a bad headache. My trip through the hospital started a journey that would end with a discharge to another facility for more rehabilitation.
While most of the first few days are a blur, the CAT scans, MRI and the transfer to the ER Hospital bed from the Rescue Squad gurney are the things that standout. Like an episode of Grey's Anatomy, the tests and questions were all part of trying to find out what had happened. It began the necessary treatment to stabilize me and started the formation of a plan of treatment at the hospital..
The ambulance ride to the ER of a Syracuse hospital was where the first vitals were taken, and where oxygen was started. This followed the home assessment of my condition, and early treatments began. Fortunately, while this was late fall/early winter the weather played no part in the transport to the ER. Many stroke events are a result of heart problems, so I was hooked up to telemetry to keep track of my heart as a precaution. This is telemetry was continued through the first couple of days in the hospital.
My first experience along the path to a hopeful recovery from this medical event, started with the Hospital. The stay was a bridge between medical diagnosis and then therapy. Diagnosis, discovery and a medical path forward were being established. I took a trip through the Cardiac section and then the Neurological section. It eventually led to the discovery of the type of stroke and it's extent. The stroke was considered "relatively mild or small". The area of the brain that was affected was very small but the effect on my function was huge. My entire right side was impacted. Next came the implementation of medicines (Heparin, Coumadin and cholesterol and blood pressure medicines and eventually the addition of a central nervous system anti spacicitiy drug for tone control.
Rehabilitation and recovery:
After two weeks or so going through different hospital departments or wards, the recovery began after the brain swelling had gone down and medications and diet had been stabilized. The first movement of my affected right side was my hip. Being able to lift my leg while laying flat in bed, prompted a call to the duty nurse to verify that I was and could still move the leg. Sort of the beginning of the long road back.
2-North Upstate Hospital: This was the next stop, here I learned the rudimentary movements required to get out of bed into a wheel chair, leg, arm and finger exercises to keep neuropath ways open and alive. Exercising muscles to keep them flexible until voluntary and then subconscious control takes over. This where an arm splint for my lower arm and hand was used to help to prevent rigidity and help to reduce swelling by elevating the arm primarily at night. Leg exercises, dressing and hygiene were learned here. Some speech and cognitive brain functions were tested here as part of establishing the extent of the stroke that I had.
St Camillus Brain injury section or ward:
Away from the hospital and into a specialized treatment environment, more exercises and therapy (occupational, physical and speech) were begun. A daily routine of onsite inpatient activities were started. This where my first steps with a hemi-cane (small step ladder like device) were taken. This also where a 200 ft. circuit of walking at least 5 days a week was started. Stairs were also used along with parallel bars and other equipment to build muscles and to learn coordination of my arm and leg were started.
Electro stimulation and nerve training was also started here. This aided in walking and helps keep things fluid while the brain rewired itself. This was where learning to watch and engage body parts became important, since there was the fear that you could forget that you had them. I did suffer a moderate form of this "amnesia" concerning my arm and hand.
An occasional visit with the unit's psychiatrist to judge your mental state and ability to face the long road back without any baggage occurred here.
The stay here lasted 45 days. Many things were observed and the wide range of brain affected illness or injuries were observed. Many people seemed to be far worse off than I, and many appeared to have a large hill to climb as they faced their own challenges.
Home and in-home therapy:
Home after the hospital and St Camillus is where visits by the occupational and physical therapists continued. More activities for daily living were added to the mix. Some successful and others picked up with adjustments to the new constraints of doing things.
Steps and railings, pathways established to accommodate a wheelchair and cane, and the house was modified with more handrails. Bathrooms were changed to accommodate me and help me do the regular bathroom routine because of my new reality.
More walking with a quad cane were taken. More work on balance and strengthening the core muscles and legs were done. Things to keep the hand and arm limber were worked on.
Out patient care:
This involved a regular schedule of outpatient physical therapy to provide for more cane assisted walking, hand bike and leg bike work and various leg and arm exercises on a mat or bench.
Along the way various setbacks and 'starting over' happened due to sleep apnea and diabetes. While frustrated with basically a 'do over' with some exercises, we are now at what I would call the halfway point of this journey.
Epilogue Part one:
This is a condensed version of the story of things to this point. There is much more detail that can be told, but this a true story that will hopefully give an idea of the trip ahead of anyone recovering or managing the care and rehabilitation of this life changing event. Life as it used to be is gone forever. The job of adapting to and reclaiming as much as you can depends on each individual's resiliency to facing the road ahead.
I wish everybody success and hope that my story helps in some small way to that end.
Thanks for reading
© Rick Porter Copyrighted 5-6-2013