I came home from rehab for good in Christmas of 2000. The winter was a long one of really not going much of anywhere except for physiotherapy a couple of times a week, walking in the high school in the early mornings, and the odd outing out of town for a movie with Dad. I was doing some correspondence courses to keep busy, and it didn’t do much to wear me out anyway. But one afternoon cabin fever set in, and my stroke-brain pushed me outside.
Blame it on Stroke-Brain
I believe I’ve talked before about how stroke survivors are prone to making bad decisions about what they can and can’t do with their new bodily capabilities. I call that stroke-brain. Stroke-brain doesn’t always give people accurate messages about their bodies. A woman in Penatanguishene rehab that had a room across the hall from mine was constantly trying to stand up from her wheelchair and put things up on shelves or straighten a picture. I was much more stable on my feet than she was, and I was forever trying to get her to stay put in her wheelchair and let me do whatever she was trying to do before she fell and broke a hip. Her stroke-brain just didn’t let her understand that she didn’t have the balance or the strength in her left leg to stand without support. Who knows, maybe my stroke-brain was giving me the wrong messages too.
The Great River Expedition
One day in those first months back from rehab, my stroke-brain told me that I had the balance and and strength to go for an early spring walk down to the river via the cleared area next to our house. That involved navigating snow banks, deep snow, fallen trees, and eventually a brief path through the forest. I fell several times, which made me even more determined to get to the river.
I got there and back without doing grievous harm to myself, thankfully. I thought that my father would be pleased that I could actually manage terrain that difficult.
He wasn’t. As I remember it, I ended up promising that 1) I’d take the cell phone with me every time I went outside 2) I wouldn’t try to go down to the river alone again.
I’d known that The Great River Expedition was dicey. I hadn’t realized at the time that it was actually dangerous. I do now. Now I think it was one of those times when my stroke-brain thought that my body was capable of more than it actually was, and I’m really grateful that I didn’t end up hurting myself.
Learning As I Go
Learning the limits of my new body was a learning process. I can generally tell now when something’s going to be risky, given that my balance isn’t great, and I stay away from them.
I do admit to standing on a chair to change a lightbulb, which is something I (and probably most people, when you get right down to it) shouldn’t do.
I never claimed to be perfect.