Recovering from a Stroke – A Patient’s Story
I asked our YinOva Center patient Jane to write today’s blog entry. Jane is a woman I am proud to know. Having suffered a stroke she took full responsibility for her own healing in a profound way. She sought out the best of conventional and complementary medicine in order to create her own path to recovery. She has been fearless in confronting the issues that lead to her stroke and has learned to be both gentle with herself and rigorous in her pursuit of healing. I am pleased to report that Jane has almost fully recovered. She is an inspiration and I am so grateful that she has taken the time to write about her experience and share it with you.
Stroke of Luck
Jill asked me to write about my stroke a while ago. I have made a few starts, but I have not been able to get very far. I think that is because I kept concentrating on the event. The trauma of the actual stroke as I began to write. What I would actually like to write about is how I got through it, not how devastating it was. Suffice it to say that stroke is a major traumatic event. I went from functioning normally to not being able to stand or even look at people for any length of time in the space of about 15 minutes. I experienced a profound vertigo the like of which I never wish to feel again. I could not tell or maintain temperature on the right side of my body and I could not move my left leg. When I stabilized, it was as if I was in a different body than the one I had been in for the past 47 years.
Even back then when the trauma was so new, I knew in my deepest recesses that my life was in the care of my creator. There are many manifestations of that force for us all, so I will keep my story general. I had to trust that this power was in my life and guiding me through this time. I must admit the support I got in the hospital was amazing. I had friends in my room from the beginning of visiting hours to the last minute of the permitted time. My window ledge was filled with flowers — beautiful bouquets big and small. Those flowers and visits have meant the world to me. At night when my friends weren’t there, I still had the flowers to remind me of their love and concern. That was what saw me through the first week. After six days they finally diagnosed the stroke. Until then they did not know what had happened to me exactly. The reason being is that I had a brain stem stroke and I had symptoms on both side of my body, so it did not present in a classic way. I had fun over the course of my time in rehab stumping the med students with my symptoms! I guess that leads me to the next way I got through this time. I paid attention to little things. The light on the window sill. Making sure I put make-up on every day. Having a figurine of my favorite deity with me. Joking with the nurses. I believe we have choices every day. So much depends on how I approach the smallest aspect of my life. What my choices are determine whether I grow towards the positive and love or we retreat into fear and isolation.
And the choice starts small. It is how I choose to treat the people around me, not just how I make major decisions.
Luckily one of my friends was a patient of Jill’s. She insisted that as soon as I left the hospital, I see Jill. She even tried to get Jill to come to the hospital! That was such a caring thing to do. I will always be grateful to her for her generosity. She would tell me that Bill Clinton had his mother treated with acupuncture right after her stroke. I had never had acupuncture before, just some E-stim with needles at a chiropractor’s office. I have always been open to alternative ways of healing, so I was happy to try Chinese medicine. So, within a week of being released from the hospital, I was at the YinOva center. I found such a haven of comfort and healing. My sessions with Jill were healing on many levels. I really have grown to appreciate how Chinese medicine diagnoses. I could always come to Jill with physical, emotional and any sort of issue and she would take it in and work with it. It was great that she had studied stroke prior to my seeing her and she was well aware of the process of healing I was going through.
When I left rehab, I just said yes to what ever healing was out there.
At first I was a bit nervous about mixing healing modalities. I feared that my western doctors would not want me to see Jill or explore Chinese medicine or alternative kinds of healing. Fortunately that was not the case in the least. I found all healers want me to get better. They are all there for my recovery and each of them just had their specific way of approaching the problem. I saw a physical therapist, a rehab specialist, a neurologist, my regular doctor and Jill at first. My days consisted of getting up, going to one appointment and coming home to rest. Stroke is very traumatic on the entire body, and most of the time I felt like not moving or doing anything. There is this peaceful place I went to where doing nothing, just sitting there seemed like more than enough! I learned that that frame of mind is typical for stroke survivors. I just did what I could and kept it simple. As I recovered my abilities and went from a crutch to a cane, I started in with a massage therapist to help my legs work better. I also was referred by the neurologist to an excellent cardiologist that I see to this day. I have been to a chiropractor, nutritionist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist that specializes in balance and many other healers.
I have found that they all work well together. There is no need to choose one form of healing over another. All my doctors have the best of intentions and have helped me immensely. The western doctors have helped me to see how my body actually functions and where the disfunction had occurred. My cardiologist has been able to give me the gift of knowing that the rest of my cardiovascular system is in great shape. All of my doctors have been able to refer me to other people to address specific needs I had and so we created this amazing web of support and healing for me, the likes of which I have never experienced before. It is a wonderful gift.
The great thing about Chinese medicine is that Jill was able to address systemic issues I was having. My sleep was off. I could not focus as well as I would like. My emotions would be out of whack. All because my entire nervous system was having to relearn some very basic functions. I would come in for my weekly session with Jill and over time I began to really see the difference in my sleep and outlook. Over the course of the week, it would deteriorate and I began to look forward to each session as a time to rebalance myself. It is great. Now I don’t need acupuncture in the same way, but still whenever I get out of balance, I welcome a session. The other wonderful gift that I got from Chinese medicine is that they have an explanation for what happened to me. My Western doctors have never been able to say exactly why I had the stroke. Since Chinese medicine sees the body more holistically, Jill was able to be specific with me about my stroke in a way that makes sense to me.
Looking back over the journey of my stroke I have learned so much from the event. I used to think that I could go to the doctor and turn my health over to this professional and he or she would know what is best for me. Today I know that doctors are people with the very best of intentions and the buck still stops with me in terms of my health. Doctors can support me in my healing, but they are not responsible for my recovery. At least not entirely. I have to show up and be a dynamic part of the process. Another gift I received from the stroke is that I have become so much closer to my friends and I feel so much more connected to people. Part of that comes from the deep knowledge I have that this day may be all we have. This may be it. I choose to make that a positive statement. I don’t want a lot of extra baggage around as I don’t want to leave much of a mess for my loved ones. I mean that both literally and figuratively. I have learned that amazing healing is possible in the world. Today when people meet me, they have no idea that I had a stroke. It always astonishes them. Yet I remember vividly what it was like not to be able to move my leg where I wanted it to go and to stand perfectly still and feel like the ground was rolling underneath me. Today I am fine.
And probably most importantly I have had my knowledge that I am even more deeply in the care of that creative force that guides my life. I am being taken care of both in this world and the spiritual realm. I truly believe there is not much that we cannot get through in life and keep our spirits, minds and bodies reasonably intact. AND enjoy the journey!
Yours in the light,
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